Saturday, September 6, 2008

A Matter of Identity


The Remnant Church and Babylon

The doctrine of the Investigative Judgment is inextricably linked with the self-identification of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as the remnant church of Bible prophecy. It is taught that the first angel of Revelation 14 is announcing the inauguration of the Investigative Judgment. Adventism was, and still is, the only church on Earth that has ever taught this odd doctrine. It follows, in the egocentric interpretation, that the second angel of Revelation 14 excludes all other Christian churches by labeling them Babylon. This leaves only Adventists in the running as the faithful remnant since they answered the call to bear the announcement of the judgment. This is further sealed in their thinking by the third angel’s allusion to “the saints who obey God’s commandments." No one else could fit the bill. Only the SDA’s were preaching the “Investigative Judgment” and the Sabbath (the commandments of God). Thus was born the self-proclaimed Seventh-day Adventist remnant church of Bible prophecy.

The remnant mentality has been a problem from the beginning and has resulted in an aura of arrogance and isolation. Listen to the official SDA 13th fundamental belief “…in the last days, a time of widespread apostasy, a remnant has been called out to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus. This remnant announces the arrival of the judgment hour, proclaims salvation through Christ, and heralds the approach of His second advent. This proclamation is symbolized by the three angels of Revelation 14; it coincides with the work of judgment in heaven and results in a work of repentance and reform on earth.”

One of the most lamentable consequences of Adventist teachings is the nearly total isolation of its members from the rest of the body of Christ. Even the name, Seventh-day Adventist, is a blatant rebuke to all Sunday-attending churches.

“The name Seventh-day Adventist is a standing rebuke to the Protestant world. Here is the line of distinction between the worshippers of God and those who worship the beast and receive his mark. The great conflict is between the commandments of God (i.e. Sabbath-keeping) and the requirements of the beast.”40 V4, p 54

One would think it was the cross. Instead it is Sabbath-keeping. From the onset, a line has been drawn in the sand and the battle engaged by Adventists against the church of Christ. How can one be a part of the body of Christ while believing that all churches that honor the Lord’s Day are Babylon? Consider this statement, “The churches would not receive the light of the first angel’s message, (that Christ would return in 1844), and as they rejected the light from heaven they fell from the favor of God. They trusted in their own strength, and placed themselves by their opposition to the first message (that Christ would return in 1844, an obviously erroneous message) where they could not see the light of the second angel’s message (that those who didn’t accept the Investigative Judgment were Babylon). But the beloved of God, who were oppressed, answered to the message, Babylon is fallen, and left the fallen churches.”40 V1 p 140

Because there has been less emphasis on some of the more objectionable Adventist beliefs in the last decades, it has been tempting to believe that the church was changing until I read an article in Adventist Review by General Conference president, Jan Paulsen, who was reinstalled in 2005. I have included only excerpts of the address that pertain to this study and emphases are mine. You can read the whole article by following this link:
http://www.adventistreview.org/2002-1524/story3.html.

Hopefully you find this as disturbing as I do. It was suffocating to read these views after experiencing non-Adventist churches where God was working in power. It seems arrogant and ignorant to dismiss all other churches by saying that: they do not believe in the soon return of Christ; we would graciously accept them in our denomination without counting their former church membership against them; we would be much better off if non-Adventists were not to preach in Adventist pulpits; that we are to remain separate and not move an inch toward becoming one with the Body of Christ; in the end they will be one of the two great super powers that come against God’s people (Adventists); we have said very charitable things about them; should he join one of them he would give up his entire spiritual life and salvation; our purpose in interacting with other Christian communities is to witness to our faith. What faith is that? What arrogance! Would you be able to freely share this document of official Adventist position with your non-Adventist Christian friends? If not, then why not stand up and openly challenge these attitudes and beliefs?

The article follows:

From April 29 to May 8, 2002, some 45 church leaders gathered to consider the topic, "Theological Unity in a Growing World Church." The group was comprised of General Conference personnel, most of the presidents of the world divisions, and several scholars. The conference was called by the General Conference and organized by the Biblical Research Institute.

General Conference president Jan Paulsen gave the keynote address. After its presentation the assembled leaders requested that it be printed in the Adventist Review and also be made available for distribution as a stand-alone publication. We have therefore prepared Pastor Paulsen’s address, "The Theological Landscape," as an insert in the Adventist Review and arranged for extra copies to be printed. Members desiring a copy of the address should contact the Biblical Research Institute, 12501 Old Columbia Pike, Silver Spring, Maryland 20904-6600. -- Editors.

I wish to reflect on the theological landscape as I see it, with primary reference to our church and our mission. I realize that this could be almost never-ending; therefore, you will understand my need to be selective. And also, while I will give some pointers that will indicate directions, as I see them, a number of my observations will simply be by way of identifying the issues, stating why I think they are important to us, and why they should be addressed.*

I focus on 10 areas:

1. The Second Coming--Do We Still Believe?

The preaching and teaching of the eschaton is neither paranoia nor gloom--nor is it pessimistic. We believe that the world as we know it is not repairable and is not survivable. This is not the general Christian view of the world. And when it comes to preaching and teaching eschatology, I believe it's not a prerequisite that all things be perfectly clearly understood in order for the reality of the last things to be declared and accepted by faith. And by "last things" I'm referring primarily to the ongoing ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, to the second coming of Christ, and to judgment.

2. The Question of Identity


There are many things we have in common and can do in common with Christians of other churches, but we are Christians of a very specific identity. That identity is reflected in teachings, in what we value, and in our quality of life. I wonder: Have we become or are we becoming more recognizable as "Christians" than we are as Seventh-day Adventist Christians? And is it possible that this is something we'd like to see happen and, therefore, are being deliberate about projecting ourselves in this manner? To the extent that this is so, what is it that has brought us to this point? Is it a consequence of "theological mobbing"? Is it a consequence of an inferiority complex? Is it a consequence of just wanting to blend in better? While I am not suggesting that our pulpits should be closed and that a speaker from another spectrum of the Christian community should never be seen addressing one of our gatherings, there are times when I am genuinely perplexed and puzzled as to why such a person was invited and what he or she had to say that one of our own could not have done as well and with less confusion. Are we about to fall victim to something that we are not defining or would prefer not to spell out? I am speaking about our readiness to protect our identity.

For the fact is that within the larger Christian world and culture in which we as a church exist, we do have a very specific identity, which we lose to our own destruction.
So the question that every Seventh-day Adventist has the right to ask is: Do we continue to profile as we should the Adventist identity--from our pulpits, in particular, but also in the classroom and in our journals? Or is it possible that we don't even talk about it as leaders or in our professional ranks? When was this an item on the agenda of your executive committee or board?

3. Interchurch Relations


Maybe this is the point at which we should look at our relationship with other Christian communities. I've often asked the question Has our stand on ecumenism changed? Has it softened, and do we, consequently, need to change our basic prophetic scenario?

The answer, emphatically, is no. We've consistently held that we shall stand apart and be separate from the organized ecumenical movement. And we have stated openly our reasons. Since the early days of our movement we have stated that we foresee in Scripture two super, geopolitical powers gaining prominence in the latter days, and we have stated which two political and religious powers these would be. In this context we shall stand apart because that is the only way we can be faithful to our mission and identity. Faithfulness to who we are and why we are is critical. There is no change in our being separate; neither do we need to change our basic prophetic scenario.


On the other hand, as our church has grown and spread widely, we have felt that much is to be gained by fine-tuning our communication links and contacts with other churches. This is why we send and invite observers to various church meetings. This is why, on selected occasions, we have engaged in conversations with theologians and leaders of other churches. These are precious opportunities to witness to one's faith and belief.


Nevertheless, I underscore again that it is vital that we keep our separate identity. While we must always be ready to give a reason for our faith, we do this with humility, respect, and honesty. And we continue to see ourselves as the historical remnant gathering the faithful remnant from any and all corners to the purposes of God.

4. The Idea of "Remnant"


Among other issues that I believe must be specifically attended to in our development as a church is the very question "What is the church?" Is it identical to the question "What is the Seventh-day Adventist Church?" We have made some very generous statements about other Christian communions, some even written into our policy book. These are genuine and sincere statements. They surface particularly when we sit in conversation with other Christian groups. And yet we hold that we are something special. The remnant language comes into use, although often with hesitancy--we are not sure just how we should say it. I suspect there are many in our church who are not at ease with this idea, and who have not reconciled it in their own minds. We shun the perception of being arrogant, and we don't want to come across as being overly exclusive, but at the same time we believe that being Seventh-day Adventists has direct bearing on our salvation; that while a believer can be saved as a Catholic, I would risk my whole spiritual life and salvation were I to leave what I am now and join any other community.

Also we hold that the Adventist community is an instrument for salvation in God's hands such as no other. We hold these things, but we stop short of saying that you have to be a Seventh-day Adventist in order to be saved.


The fact is that one cannot as a disciple step out of what one is today and go back into a state of less knowing and less understanding. Anything other than that would be disobedience and would, in my view, jeopardize one's life with the Lord. Obedience to the Lord is always obedience where one is--in time, in culture, in experience, and in history. And salvation is contingent on that obedience.

So we conduct evangelism among and gladly receive converts from other Christian communions. Discovery and discipleship compel us to do so. And we do this without sitting in judgment on what they were before.

5-8 omitted as non-contributory

9. Involvement With Society


I am asked, and it is a fair question: "Are we detecting in you a shift in vision and focus away from the straight preaching of the Word to some kind of 'social gospel'?"

The answer is no. Our understanding of the Word and of our doctrines, particularly as formulated in our 27 fundamental beliefs (all of them!) is clear, and our obligation to preach them is equally clear. There is no shift away from anything in this respect…

10. Living With Differences


There is some theological polarity in our church. Whether they be to the right or the left, reactionary or liberal, they are there. What should we do about it? Anything?

Eschatology and apocalyptic preaching--which are part of the treasured heritage of our church--will produce strongly held and very focused convictions. A further word needs to be said about our being "loyal to our heritage and to our identity." Some would have us believe that there have been significant shifts in recent times in regard to doctrines that historically have been at the heart of Seventh-day Adventism.

Take specifically our understanding of judgment and Christ's ministry in the heavenly sanctuary and the prophetic messages in which these teachings are contained. Some are suggesting that since the 1980 (Glacier View) meetings, the very teachings that the church affirmed that year at those meetings have been abandoned, and that the church has essentially moved to accept the very positions it rejected then. Such a claim is a distortion of reality, and nothing could be further from the truth. The historic sanctuary message, based on Scripture and supported by the writings of Ellen White, continues to be held to unequivocally. And the inspired authorities on which these and other doctrines are based, namely the Bible supported by the writings of Ellen White, continue to be the hermeneutical foundation on which we as a church place all matters of faith and conduct. Let no one think that there has been a change of position in regard to this.

The question to which the church should constantly be sensitive is: Have we been loyal to "who we are and why we are"? Preserving our identity has to do with the integrity of our church. Faithfulness to the Lord and to the reasons for which He caused this movement to arise cannot be compromised. If we drift, it is not the "brethren" (whether on the left or the right) who will hold us accountable, but the Lord Himself. And ultimately that is what really matters.

Jan Paulsen is the president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, with offices in Silver Spring, Maryland.


The Fountainhead

These separatist attitudes, voiced by the highest leader of Adventism, are a perpetuation of those found in the writings of Ellen White in statements such as the one below from A Word to the Little Flock. This small booklet was edited by James White and withdrawn from publication for decades because it contained heretical teachings by Ellen White that were later dropped by Adventism. When it was published again, all of the parts that the church no longer taught were deleted. There was such an outcry at the suppression of the heretical writings that you can now find the entire, unedited version on the website given above for the White Estate. The parts that were deleted were things that EGW claimed to have been shown to her by an angel. The quote below was not removed and is nearly identical to things that can still be read in The Great Controversy.

It is particularly disturbing to realize that she claims to have seen in vision that an angel came and carried her from Earth. There is a difference in saying “I believe the Lord is saying…” as opposed to giving an elaborate, detailed “vision” in which an “angel” comes and carries one to the Holy City. The authoritarian stance of such a statement is patently manipulative when the message is not true.

Again, the emphasis is mine and original errors are not corrected.



“We felt an unusual spirit of prayer. And as we prayed, the Holy Ghost fell upon us. We were very happy. Soon I was lost to earthly things, and was wrapped up in a vision of God's glory. I saw an angel swiftly flying to me. He quickly carried me from the earth to the Holy City. In the city I saw a temple, which I entered. I passed through a door before I came to the first vail (sic). This vail (sic) was raised, and I passed into the Holy Place. Here I saw the altar of Incense, the candlestick with seven lamps, and the table on which was the showbread, etc. After viewing the glory of the Holy, Jesus raised the second veil, and I passed into the Holy of Holies. [HEB. 9:1-24.]

“In the Holiest I saw an ark; on the top and sides of it was purest gold. On each end of the ark was a lovely Cherub, with their wings spread out over it. Their faces were turned towards each other, and they looked downwards. [EX. 25:18-22.] Between the angels was a golden censor. Above the ark, where the angels stood, was an exceeding bright glory, that appeared like a throne where God dwelt. [EX. 25:20-22.] Jesus stood by the ark. And as the saints' prayers came up to Jesus, the incense in the censor would smoke, and He offered up the prayers of the saints with the smoke of the incense to His Father. [REV. 8:3,4.] In the ark, was the golden pot of manna, Aaron's rod that budded, and the tables of stone which folded together like a book. [HEB. 9:4.] Jesus opened them, and I saw the Ten Commandments written on them with the finger of God. [EX. 31:18.] On one table was four, and on the other six. The four on the first table shone brighter than the other six. But the fourth (the Sabbath commandment,) shone above them all; for the Sabbath was set apart to be kept in honor of God's holy name. [ISA. 58:13,14.] The holy Sabbath looked glorious--a halo of glory was all around it. I saw that the Sabbath was not nailed to the cross. If it was, the other nine commandments were; and we are at liberty to go forth and break them all, as well as to break the fourth. I saw that God had not changed the Sabbath, for He never changes. [MAL. 3:6.] But the Pope had changed it from the seventh to the first day of the week; for he was to change times and laws. [DAN. 7:25.]

“And I saw that if God had changed the Sabbath, from the seventh to the first day, He would have changed the writing of the Sabbath commandment, written on the tables of stone, which are now in the ark, in the Most Holy Place of the Temple in heaven; [REV. 11:19.] and it would read thus: the first day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God. But I saw that it read the same as when written on the tables of stone by the finger of God, and delivered to Moses in Sinai, "But the seventh day is the Sabbath of the Lord thy God." [EX. 20:10.] I saw that the holy Sabbath is, and will be, the separating wall between the true Israel of God and unbelievers; and that the Sabbath is the great question, to unite the hearts of God's dear waiting saints. (my comments: again, I thought it was the cross) And if one believed, and kept the Sabbath, and received the blessing attending it, and then gave it up, and broke the holy commandment, they would shut the gates of the Holy City against themselves, as sure as there was a God that rules in heaven above. I saw that God had children, who do not see and keep the Sabbath. They had not rejected the light on it. And at the commencement of the time of trouble, we were filled with the Holy Ghost as we went forth [HO. 6:2,3.] and proclaimed the Sabbath more fully. This enraged the church, and nominal Adventists, as they could not refute the Sabbath truth. And at this time, God's chosen, all saw clearly that we had the truth, and they came out and endured the persecution with us. And I saw the sword, famine, pestilence, and great confusion in the land. [EZE. 7:10-19. 2 ESDRAS 15 5-27] The wicked thought that we had brought the judgments down on them. They rose up and took counsel to rid the earth of us, thinking that then the evil would be stayed. [2 ESDRAS 16:68-74.]

“ I saw all that "would not receive the mark of the Beast, and of his Image, in their foreheads or in their hands," could not buy or sell. [REV. 13:15-17.] I saw that the number (666) of the Image Beast was made up; [REV. 13:18.] and that it was the Beast that changed the Sabbath, and the Image Beast had followed on after, and kept the Pope's, and not God's Sabbath. And all we were required to do, was to give up God's Sabbath, and keep the Pope's, and then we should have the mark of the Beast, and of his image.

“ In the time of trouble, we all fled from the cities and villages, [EZE. 7:15, 16. LUKE 17:30-36. SEE CAMPBELL'S TRANSLATION.] but were pursued by the wicked, who entered the houses of the saints with the sword. They raised the sword to kill us, but it broke, and fell, as powerless as a straw. Then we all cried day and night for deliverance, and the cry came up before God. [LUKE 18:7,8.] The sun came up, and the moon stood still. [HAB. 3:11.] The streams ceased to flow. [2 ESDRAS 6:24.] Dark heavy clouds came up, and clashed against each other. [2 ESDRAS 15:34,35.] But there was one clear place of settled glory, from whence came the voice of God like many waters, which shook the heavens, and the earth. [JOEL 3:16. HEB. 12:25-27.] The sky opened and shut, and was in commotion. [REV. 6:14. MAT. 24:29.] The mountains shook like a reed in the wind, and cast out ragged rocks all around. The sea boiled like a pot, and cast out stones upon the land. [HAB. 3:8-10. ISA. 2:19-21.] And as God spoke the day and hour of Jesus' coming, [EZE. 12:25. MARK 13:32.] and delivered the everlasting covenant to His people, [EZE. 20:37. HEB. 12:22-25.] He spoke one sentence, and then paused, while the words were rolling through the earth! [JER. 25:30, 31.] The Israel of God stood with their eyes fixed upwards, listening to the words as they came from the mouth of Jehovah, and rolled through the earth like peals of loudest thunder! It was awfully solemn. At the end of every sentence, the saints shouted, Glory! Hallelujah! Their countenances were lighted up with the glory of God; and they shone with the glory as Moses' face did when he came down from Sinai. (interesting in relation to II Cor 3:5-15) The wicked could not look on them, for the glory. [WIS. SOL. 5:1-5.] And when the never ending blessing was pronounced on those who had honored God, in keeping His Sabbath holy, there was a mighty shout of victory over the Beast, and over his Image.”42 pp 18-19

The mindset of superiority, rampant in Adventism, has its origin in statements such as this: "I saw the state of the different churches since the second angel proclaimed their fall (in 1844). They have been growing more and more corrupt . . . Satan has taken full possession of the churches as a body . . . Their professions, their prayers and their exhortations are an abomination in the sight of GOD."40 V1 p 189 (again, part of a “vision”) Is it surprising that Adventists don’t more comfortably interact with other Christian communities?


The False Prophetic

Living Hope Ministries, http://www.lhvm.org/, has produced some remarkable videos regarding the problems in Mormonism. It deeply touched me as I watched Mormon scientists grapple with the evidence that Joseph Smith’s writings did not have theological integrity. The anguish in their spirits was evident on their faces. They were struggling to come to terms with the implications of their findings to their lives. They showed a graphic of a Mormon Temple built on a foundation of The Book of Mormon. In the following screen the temple exploded because it was built on an invalid foundation. As I watched the faces of the scientists and felt their pain I thought to myself, “Why don’t they just leave. If The Book of Mormon is false, then there is no Mormonism.” But then the answer came to me in the faces of my family and friends. I know why they don’t just leave. Mormonism is who they are. Without it they would not know how to define themselves because it is their identity. Without The Book of Mormon all they would have left would be the Bible. Then they would just be Christians like everyone else.

It was a stark revelation that caused a deep ache in my heart. I realized all too clearly that the same could be said for Adventism and the "red books." Without Ellen White there would be no Adventism. All they would have left is the Bible, rendering them no different from anyone else. For an Adventist, raised to believe that they are the remnant church of Bible prophecy, the only true church, just being a Christian is not enough. It is the very idea of being the remnant that keeps them tied to their heritage. They are special. I can remember thinking how fortunate we were to have a prophet because she had given us more revelation than other Christians had. It is this special knowledge that sets the group apart – and above. Few are willing to give up that status.

As the church has faced the crisis of plagiarism in White’s books, there has been a lot of rationalization to justify her unattributed “borrowing." If literary borrowing were the only issue, then, perhaps, the cultural customs of the time could account for some of the “borrowing." But all of us who grew up in Adventism know that is not the real issue. She claimed that she was shown these things in vision. She claimed that angels took her to scenes which she described in great detail. It wasn't until many years later that it was discovered that these experiences had been copied from others’ works. She had the Lord or angels telling her things that the supernatural beings later had to correct because they were in error. Is this not what God decried thru the prophet Jeremiah? “’Therefore,’ declares the LORD, ‘I am against the prophets who steal from one another words supposedly from me.’” Jer 23:30 (NIV) Many other examples have been cited by various authors who estimate that nearly 80% of the material she presented as original was actually derived from her personal library.

Before Adventism denounces Mormonism they had better closely scrutinize their own foundations. The doctrine of the Investigative Judgment cannot stand the test of scripture. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is built on the foundation of the Investigative Judgment. If the roots are rotten then the trunk cannot be good. If the trunk is rotten then the branches, leaves and fruit will be flawed as well. The church’s foundations consist of false prophecy. “Then the LORD said to me, ‘The prophets are prophesying lies in my name. I have not sent them or appointed them or spoken to them. They are prophesying to you false visions…’” Jer 14:14 (NIV) “’I did not send these prophets, yet they have run with their message; I did not speak to them, yet they have prophesied.’” Jer 23:21 (NIV) "I have heard what the prophets say who prophesy lies in my name. They say, 'I had a dream! I had a dream!' How long will this continue in the hearts of these lying prophets, who prophesy the delusions of their own minds?” Jer 23:25-26 (NIV)

We are to test the prophets by this simple injunction, “You may say to yourselves, ‘How can we know when a message has not been spoken by the LORD?’ If what a prophet proclaims in the name of the LORD does not take place or come true, that is a message the LORD has not spoken. That prophet has spoken presumptuously.” Deut 18:21-22 (NIV) By this standard, Ellen White is a false prophet. Jesus did not return to Earth in 1844, nor did Jesus begin the work of an Investigative Judgment in that year. Probation did not end in 1844 nor did Jesus give false information in a vision that later had to be corrected.

Persecution Mentality

Throughout history religious persecution has been a common thread among groups on the edges of mainstream society. But instead of scattering and demoralizing the members, it tends to bind them together more closely. They feel the interdependence of fighting for a “noble cause” and develop a sense of being called and chosen. Seventh-day Adventism is no exception. From the beginning, this group of fervent believers was marginalized and rejected. Instead of causing them to rethink the positions they had espoused that were contrary to 1800 years of Christian belief, they responded by considering themselves to be the champions of truth. They became, in their own collective thinking, The Remnant, The Chosen, the church of Bible prophecy, the heirs of the covenant, the true Israel, the proclaimers of “present truth." This status was confirmed to them by having a “prophet” who had “visions” and “dreams” and encounters with angels and with Jesus Himself. She was given knowledge that had been given to no other group and it cast the group as the final players in the final drama of Earth’s history. They alone would carry the gospel to the world and endure the time of trouble. Most especially, all other Christians who did not espouse their take on the Sabbath would persecute them. Finally a death decree would be issued that would give permission to any citizen to hunt them down and kill them.

These commonly held and rarely divulged beliefs have been kept very quiet in SDA dialogues with other religious and secular groups. Most Christians have never heard the more unsavory details of the rather bizarre teachings of Ellen White. They are subjects that never come up with “non-Adventists." Speaking of them openly is tantamount to betrayal. But this persecution-minded, exclusive, isolationist society is jealously protective of its reputation and appearance to the outside world. Most non-Adventists do not understand the closed nature of the social structure of Adventism. Many SDAs exist almost exclusively within the borders of its institutions. Parents are strongly urged to send their children to SDA schools so that they will not be exposed to beliefs that might undermine their indoctrination. They frequently live in Adventist communities, some of which don’t even deliver mail on the Sabbath, but on Sunday instead. They do business with other Adventists, work in Adventist institutions or businesses and, of course, attend Adventist churches. Their friends and social contacts are Adventists and their activities are usually centered in the church they attend. The mention of certain towns of origin identify a person as being Adventist, just as mentioning Salt Lake City evokes the likelihood of being Mormon. Some of those towns are Loma Linda, CA; College Place, WA; Angwin, CA; Battle Creek, MI; Lincoln, NE; Collegedale, TN; Silver Spring, MD; Keene, TX; Berrien Springs, MI; and La Sierra, CA.

Unfortunately, the separatist attitudes have made it more difficult for there to be much modifying influence of Christians upon Adventist people. There is often suspicion and, at the least, the conviction that the surrounding Christian churches do not have “the truth”. Some of the more progressive Adventist ghettos like Loma Linda have made connections into the surrounding Christian community. But even they do not expose the dissonant doctrines at the foundations of the Adventist Church.

Though many have not read some of the early statements of Ellen White regarding the dangers posed by Christians toward Adventists, the culture of isolation persists. To illustrate the origins of the isolation, one rather long quotation that exemplifies the internal attitudes of the founders will follow. When I attended Adventist schools, the underlined portion of the quotation was required memorization (like a Bible memory verse) in all Adventist schools. Those students are now the parents of the current generation of Adventist students. While I suspect that many schools no longer require the memorization of long passages of Ellen White’s writings, the mindset of those who did commit them to memory is passed on to their children. I have inserted some comments that are bracketed [] for those who are not familiar with the meaning of some of the phrases and allusions in the text.

"The same masterful mind that plotted against the faithful in ages past is still seeking to rid the earth of those who fear God and obey His law [the Sabbath]. Satan will excite indignation against the humble minority who conscientiously refuse to accept popular customs and traditions [Sunday church attendance]. Men of position and reputation will join with the lawless and the vile to take counsel against the people of God. Wealth, genius, education, will combine to cover them with contempt. Persecuting rulers, ministers, and church members will conspire against them. With voice and pen, by boasts, threats, and ridicule, they will seek to overthrow their faith. By false representations and angry appeals they will stir up the passions of the people. Not having a "Thus saith the Scriptures" to bring against the advocates of the Bible Sabbath, they will resort to oppressive enactments to supply the lack. To secure popularity and patronage, legislators will yield to the demand for a Sunday law. Those who fear God cannot accept an institution that violates a precept of the Decalogue. On this battlefield comes the last great conflict of the controversy between truth and error. And we are not left in doubt as to the issue...

"By the decree enforcing the institution of the papacy [Sunday law] in violation of the law of God, our nation will disconnect herself fully from righteousness. When Protestantism shall stretch her hand across the gulf to grasp the hand of the Roman power, when she shall reach over the abyss to clasp hands with spiritualism, when, under the influence of this threefold union, our country shall repudiate every principle of its Constitution as a Protestant and republican government, and shall make provision for the propagation of papal falsehoods and delusions, then we may know that the time has come for the marvelous working of Satan and that the end is near. As the approach of the Roman armies was a sign to the disciples of the impending destruction of Jerusalem, so may this apostasy [the passage of a Sunday law] be a sign to us that the limit of God's forbearance is reached, that the measure of our nation's iniquity is full, and that the angel of mercy is about to take her flight, never to return. The people of God [those who keep the Sabbath] will then be plunged into those scenes of affliction and distress which prophets have described as the time of Jacob's trouble. The cries of the faithful, persecuted ones ascend to heaven. And as the blood of Abel cried from the ground, there are voices also crying to God from martyrs' graves, from the sepulchers of the sea, from mountain caverns, from convent vaults: 'How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?'

"The Lord is doing His work. All heaven is astir. The Judge of all the earth is soon to arise and vindicate His insulted authority [the Sabbath]. The mark of deliverance will be set upon the men who keep God's commandments [the Sabbath], who revere His law, and who refuse the mark of the beast [Sunday observance] or of his image.


"God has revealed what is to take place in the last days, that His people may be prepared to stand against the tempest of opposition and wrath. Those who have been warned of the events before them are not to sit in calm expectation of the coming storm, comforting themselves that the Lord will shelter His faithful ones in the day of trouble. We are to be as men waiting for their Lord, not in idle expectancy, but in earnest work, with unwavering faith. It is no time now to allow our minds to be engrossed with things of minor importance. While men are sleeping, Satan is actively arranging matters so that the Lord's people may not have mercy or justice. The Sunday movement is now making its way in darkness. The leaders are concealing the true issue [Conspiracy], and many who unite in the movement do not themselves see whither the undercurrent is tending. Its professions are mild and apparently Christian, but when it shall speak it will reveal the spirit of the dragon. It is our duty to do all in our power to avert the threatened danger. We should endeavor to disarm prejudice by placing ourselves in a proper light before the people. We should bring before them the real question at issue, thus interposing the most effectual protest against measures to restrict liberty of conscience. [Hence the strong participation in issues of religious liberty including Liberty Magazine, opposition to prayer in schools and no stand on the issue of abortion.] We should search the scriptures and be able to give the reason for our faith. [Most memory verses from the Bible learned by students in school and Sabbath school support uniquely Adventist beliefs.] Says the prophet: "The wicked shall do wickedly: and none of the wicked shall understand; but the wise shall understand."42 pp 451-2

Please notice the language that is quite authoritative and similar to biblical usages. There are quotations from the Bible that seem to legitimize the allegations. Also notice that she makes it the blood of the martyrs calling from the ground "How long, O Lord, holy and true, dost Thou not judge and avenge our blood on them that dwell on the earth?" not the souls under the altar in Heaven as the Bible says. This is to counter the biblical teaching of our spirits going to be with the Lord at death, replacing it with the Adventist teaching of soul sleep. Adventism has developed an entire lexicon of Adventist Speak. Common usages among Christians do not mean the same things at all when used by an Adventist. These substitutions will be the subject of the next and final section.
Summary

The spin-offs from the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment examined in this chapter have had far-reaching relational consequences to the Adventist people. They have tended to keep them isolated and separate from members of the body of Christ. Not only is Seventh-day Adventism the remnant church of Bible prophecy, singling them out as unique and chosen, but all others who proclaim the gospel are Babylon. There is a strong belief among SDA people that if they leave Adventism there would be nowhere else to go since any Christian church they would attend would not have “the truth." This has fed into a persecution mentality that has served to further distance them from non-Adventist churches. It is taught and believed that in the end there will be a Sunday law forcing them to “keep” Sunday as Sabbath. “Sunday-keepers” will eventually hunt them down and kill them believing they are doing the work of God. Many are reticent to interact outside of Adventist communities because the “other” has been painted with such black tones.


It is, however, the dependence on Ellen White’s writings as “a continuing and authoritative source of truth which provide for the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction”( #18 from the “28 Fundamental Beliefs”) that would cause many to characterize the Seventh-day Adventist Church as a para-Christian cult. The current General Conference President of SDAs recently stated that “The historic sanctuary message, based on Scripture and supported by the writings of Ellen White, continues to be held to unequivocally. And the inspired authorities on whom these and other doctrines are based, namely the Bible supported by the writings of Ellen White, continue to be the hermeneutical foundation on which we as a church place all matters of faith and conduct. Let no one think that there has been a change of position in regard to this.”


It cannot be the Bible and the Bible only – plus another “continuing and authoritative source of truth." It cannot be the Bible and the Bible only as “supported by the writings of Ellen White." It must be the Bible and the Bible only that forms the basis of all belief and doctrine. Below are criteria commonly used to identify para-Christian cults.27 Ch 17 It is a composite of criteria commonly agreed upon by a number of experts.27 p 274 These groups are not in the category of cults that are threats to society like those started by Jim Jones and David Koresh, but instead differentiate groups from true Christian denominations. A majority of these apply to most para-Christian cults. Some will fit some groups and some will fit others. Not all have to apply for them to be regarded as a cult and included in the books on cults. See how many you think apply to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.


15 Characteristics of a para-Christian cult

1. Claim to extra-biblical revelation: "We have a special message from God that other churches haven't been given."

2. Exclusive salvation: "We alone are saved. Others are lost unless they come to the understandings of God that we define."

3. Persecution complex: "The rest of the Christian world will persecute and even attempt to kill us because of our distinctive beliefs about 'truth'."

4. Defective Christology: "Jesus died for our sins, but we must also keep all of the commandments or other specified requirements or we will not be saved."

5. Doctrinal ambiguity: "The truth doesn't have to make sense."

6. Presumptuous leadership: "We know what is best for you and if you don't comply with what we say you are not fully accepted by God."

7. Segmented interpretation of the Bible: "These verses are more important that others and carry more weight. And we define which verses those are."

8. Denunciation of other Christians: "All the other churches are wrong but ours. They are just nominal Christians."

9. Limited eschatology: "Jesus is coming only for those who hold to our teachings, because our teachings are the only true teachings in Christendom."

10. Messianic complex; "We are God's only hope to save the world."

11. Denial of the triune nature of God. "There are not three distinct persons in the Godhead."

12. Denial of the deity of Christ. "Christ was not God." Did you know that Ellen White taught that Jesus is Michael the Archangel? Multiple quotations from her could be cited that deny the divinity of Christ. The church as a whole has moved away from the teaching that Christ is not divine and now fully supports His divinity.

13. Denial of the personality of the Holy Spirit. "The Holy Spirit is an inner influence."

14. Denial of Christ's bodily resurrection. "Jesus was raised in His spirit only."

15. Denial of Justification by faith. "We are saved by the death and resurrection of Jesus, but we must also obey the law because if we don't it is an indication that we are not really saved."

Faith or Fear? Table of Contents

The Next and Final Chapter: The Clear Word reveals a blatant example of the distortions necessary in order to make the Bible consonant with the Investigative Judgment and its derivative doctrines.

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