Saturday, September 6, 2008

Millerism Revised: The Birth of Adventism


Ellen White’s Unwavering Support


It doesn’t take a seminarian to conclude that William Miller’s hermeneutical methods were flawed. It is so obvious that an elementary school child would be able to identify the faulty reasoning and conclusions in those 15 proofs. This makes it even more disconcerting that the woman accepted as the prophet of Adventism, endorsed him and his methods so highly. Listen to her words about Miller. “I saw that God sent his angel to move upon the heart of a farmer who had not believed the Bible, and led him to search the prophecies. Angels of God repeatedly visited that chosen one, and guided his mind, and opened his understanding to prophecies, which had ever been dark to God's people. The commencement of the chain of truth was given him, and he was led on to search for link after link, until he looked with wonder and admiration upon the word of God. He saw there a perfect chain of truth…

“As he followed down the prophecies, he saw that the inhabitants of earth were living in the closing scenes of this world's history, and they knew it not... As John the Baptist heralded the first advent of Jesus, and prepared the way for his coming, so also, Wm. Miller and those who joined him, proclaimed the second advent of the Son of God.” 37 v 1, p. 128-9

This is a perfect chain of truth? “God guided his mind?” “God sent his angels to lead William Miller to conclude that Jesus would return to Earth in 1844”? “Of all the great religious movements since the days of the apostles, none have been more free from human imperfection and the wiles of Satan than was that of the autumn of 1844.”35, p. 401 It must be reiterated that Miller’s “heralding” of the Second Coming was in error. Jesus did not come. When John the Baptist announced the incarnation, Jesus came.

She also said, “God led the mind of Wm. Miller into the prophecies, and gave him great light upon the book of Revelation… But at the right time, God moved upon his chosen servant, who with clearness and in the power of the Holy Spirit, opened the prophecies…Angels of God accompanied Wm. Miller in his mission.”40 v1 pp131-2 And regarding William Miller’s powers of reasoning she said, “William Miller possessed strong mental powers, disciplined by thought and study; and he added to these the wisdom of heaven by connecting himself with the Source of wisdom.”35, p. 335

Because Miller failed to realize that the calendar goes from BC –1 directly to AD +1, his first prediction of the Second Coming was October 22, 1843.25 When that day came and went, he returned to the drawing board and recalculated, coming up with the new date of October 22, 1844. When it was seen that he was in error in this calculation, Ellen White claimed that is was a test from God to see if people were serious in their commitment. Notice to what they were meant to commit. It was to the correctness of the “prophetic periods” which history, more accurate translations, and correct exegesis have proven to be nonsense. “I saw that God was in the proclamation of the time in 1843. It was His design to arouse the people and bring them to a testing point, where they should decide for or against the truth. Ministers were convinced of the correctness of the positions taken on the prophetic periods, and some renounced their pride, and left their salaries and their churches to go forth from place to place to give the message.”37 v1, p. 133 She says, “I have seen that the 1843 chart was directed by the hand of the Lord, and that it should not be altered; that the figures were as He wanted them; that His hand was over and hid a mistake in some of the figures, so that none could see it, until His hand was removed.”33, p. 74


We are asked to believe that God caused William Miller to come up with a spurious date for the Second Coming, covering the error with His hand, thereby obscuring (rather than revealing) truth. It is her assertion that God guided William Miller to the final conclusion that Jesus would return to Earth on October 22, 1843, by repeatedly sending angels to instruct him. And further, God caused Miller to arrive at an erroneous date (1843 instead of 1844). The obvious should be noted again, that on neither date did Jesus return to Earth. If the Holy Spirit had led him, would He not have led him into truth as the Bible promises He will do?



October 23, 1843


On October 23, 1843, speculation was over. Christ had not come. Enter: Hiram Edson. The day after the “Great Disappointment,” the seeds of the Seventh-day Adventist Church were planted out in a cornfield. Edson related his experience this way:

“After breakfast (on October 23) I said to one of my brethren, ‘Let us go and see, and encourage some of our brn [brethren].’ We started, and while passing through a large field I was stopped about midway of the field. Heaven seemed open to my view, and I saw distinctly, and clearly, that instead of our High Priest coming out of the Most Holy of the heavenly sanctuary to come to this earth on the tenth day of the seventh month, at the end of the 2300 days, that he for the first time entered on that day the second apartment of the sanctuary, and that he had a work to perform in the Most Hoy before coming to this earth… [For reference sake I am going to insert Hebrews 9:12 & 13 here. “He did not enter by means of the blood of goats and calves; but he entered the Most Holy Place once for all by his own blood, having obtained eternal redemption.” Heb 9:12-13 (NIV)]

“…My comrade inquired, ‘Why I was stopping so long?’ [sic] I replied, ‘The Lord was answering our morning prayer; by giving light with regard to our disappointment.’ I talked these things to my brethren…

“Br. Hahn and myself [sic], held a consultation with regard to the propriety of sending out the light on the subject of the sanctuary. We decided it was just what the scattered remnant needed; for it would explain our disappointment, [No matter that it did not agree with scripture.] and set the brethren on the right track. We agreed to share the expense between us, and said to Crosier, ‘Write out the subject of the sanctuary. Get out another number of the Day Dawn, and we will try to meet the expense.’ He did so, and the Day Dawn was sent out bearing the light of the sanctuary subject. It fell into the hands of Elders James White, and Joseph Bates, who readily endorsed the view; and it was shown in vision to EGW to be the light for the remnant.”22 p 126



Establishing the Foundation

O. R. L. Crosier became the scribe who published the “vision” that explained the great disappointment. His version of the explanation was published in The Day –Star Extra, Feb 7, 1846 p. 41 and is also available in Knight’s document.22 p 152 A grasp of Crosier’s article is critical to an understanding of the origins of the doctrine of the IJ. For the sake of brevity and clarity, I will summarize what he wrote.

1) Christ did not make atonement for sin on Calvary.


2) Christ entered into the Most Holy Place for the first time in 1844.


3) Christ was appointed as our High Priest and did not begin to make atonement for sin until He returned to Heaven after His resurrection.


4) Sins are not blotted out at the time of repentance and forgiveness.


5) The atonement could not be completed until after 1844.


6) The atonement is complete (the sanctuary cleansed) when the sins of the people are placed on the head of Satan who will bear the guilt into the Lake of Fire.


Any evangelical Christian student of scriptures would reject these statements out of hand - and yet, this is what became (and remains) the foundation of Seventh-day Adventism. Far from discerning and identifying the fallacies and heresies in Crosier’s treatise, Ellen White endorsed it in its entirety, claiming that the Lord showed it to her in vision:

“The Lord has shown me in vision, that Jesus rose up, and shut the door, and entered the Holy of Holies, at the 7th month 1844; but Michael's [meaning Jesus’] standing up (Dan. 12:1) to deliver his people, is in the future.

“This, will not take place, until Jesus has finished his priestly office in the Heavenly Sanctuary, and lays off his priestly attire, and puts on his most kingly robes, and crown, to ride forth on the cloudy chariot, to ‘thresh the heathen in anger,’ and deliver his people…“I believe the Sanctuary, to be cleansed at the end of the 2300 days, is the New Jerusalem Temple, of which Christ is a minister. The Lord shew me in vision, more than one year ago, that Brother Crosier had the true light, on the cleansing of the Sanctuary, &c; and that it was his will, that Brother C. should write out the view which he gave us in the Day-Star, Extra, February 7, 1846. I feel fully authorized by the Lord, to recommend that Extra, to every saint.”44 p 12 Now, go back up and read the points Crosier made in that article.




Doctrine Linked to the Sabbath and State of the Dead


Very shortly after writing the article, Crosier himself saw the error of it, retracted and renounced it - but not so Ellen and James White, nor Joseph Bates. Despite the reasoning voices of several peers, they not only stubbornly held onto the false teaching, but also began embellishing it - making it a special testing point of loyalty to God. This doctrine quickly became linked to the Sabbath, the three angels’ messages and the state of the dead (soul sleep - which had previously been developed).


“I was shown three steps--one, two and three--the first, second and third angels' messages. Said the angel, ‘Woe to him who shall move a block, or stir a pin in these messages. The true understanding of these messages is of vital importance. The destiny of souls hangs upon the manner in which they are received’…Step by step had God brought them along, until he had placed them upon a solid, immovable platform.”40 v1 p.168-169

“All heaven watched with the deepest interest the reception of the message... Those who rejected the first message [that Jesus would return to Earth on October 22, 1844] could not be benefited by the second [Babylon is fallen], and were not benefited by the midnight cry, which was to prepare them to enter with Jesus by faith into the Most Holy place of the heavenly Sanctuary [the hour of His judgment has come – the third angel]. And by rejecting the two former messages, they can see no light in the third angel's message, which shows the way into the Most Holy place. I saw that the nominal churches [all churches but Adventists], as the Jews crucified Jesus, had crucified these messages, and therefore they have no knowledge of the move made in heaven, or of the way into the Most Holy, and they cannot be benefited by the intercession of Jesus there. Like the Jews, who offered their useless sacrifices, they offer up their useless prayers to the apartment which Jesus has left.”40 v1 p 171 There are almost identical sentiments in The Great Controversy p. 430.


The bracketed comments above [ ] are my own. “After Jesus opened the door of the Most Holy the light of the Sabbath was seen, and the people of God were to be tested and proved, as God proved the children of Israel anciently, to see if they would keep his law.”40 v1 p 164



Seventh-day Adventism Becomes a Community


“Over the next few years, the Whites worked closely with others in trying to creating [sic] a new community based on a re-interpretation of their common experience of October 1844. They also arrive at some radically different conclusions about the Second Coming of Christ, the Sabbath, and the afterlife. Their common experience and distinctive beliefs eventually would propel them into forming a new denomination.”31 This summary, printed in the program guide for the “Red Books” play, recently produced by Pacific Union College, accurately portrays the derivation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. It accurately represents the points of emphasis and belief that persist to this day.


What a different path William Miller followed after the failure of his prophecy. He had the most to lose from its failure. He went before the Lord and agonized in prayer, finally acknowledging that he had been wrong. He abandoned the prophecy altogether. Miller had nothing but contempt for those who tenaciously clung to the “dead baby” and morphed it into a bronzed miscarriage that did violence to the gospel. With all of the assertions that Adventism has come such a long way from its inception, there is still no evidence of any intention to abandon this doctrine, confess it as sin and renounce it. The errors have been amply discussed, debated, and studied with extensive research, and yet, there is no move to discard the belief. Instead, there has been a resurgence of re-owning the Investigative Judgment. Now, it is done with sophisticated rhetoric, philosophical metaphor and sentimental appeals to the merits of judgment in general. For the sake of “community,” SDA members are asked to embrace the package of Adventism (warts and all), and desist from sounding alarms.

Brilliant Minds

Likewise, the tendency to close ranks around Ellen White as a “spiritual grandmother,” is puzzling to me. One of the arguments that is pulled out over and over to perpetuate the belief that she was led by God, is that “we have so many brilliant minds in the church” who have studied extensively and still believe that she was sent from God. In fact, it is all the more difficult to understand the lack of conviction regarding the source of her prophetic utterances in light of the Adventist emphasis on education and scientific thought. To break it down in a more objective way, let’s look at it the way we would approach a mathematical formula.

If God is truth then it would have been impossible that God lied to Ellen White. If it is shown that the sanctuary doctrine is false, we must conclude that it did not originate from God. Ergo, if “someone” told Ellen White “in vision” that Crosier had the true light on the cleansing of the sanctuary, by definition, that “someone” could not have been from God. This line of reasoning leads us to some sticky questions that demand answers. Did Ellen White then lie about having a vision from God? Did she hallucinate or have temporal lobe seizures? Did some other supernatural being (not from the light side) tell Ellen White these things? Any one of those possibilities can’t be good. Where are the brilliant minds that they cannot perceive these simple, but obvious, common-sense problems? I fear that they are caught in a mad scramble to preserve “community” at all costs - even at the cost of truth.

The philosophizing, academic strutting, and unpronounceable words (the apotelesmatic principle?7) don’t really fool anyone; moreover, they do not impress God. Paul saw the futility of trying to come to truth by intellectual prowess. “For it is written: ‘I will destroy the wisdom of the wise; the intelligence of the intelligent I will frustrate.’ Where is the wise man? Where is the scholar?” 1 Cor 1:19-20 (NIV) The aura and language of intellectualism that prevails in many SDA publications has left the Adventist people with the impression that they can never hope to understand truth for themselves. They can barely follow the contortions of the academicians who debate these issues, and therefore defer to their “wisdom,” concluding that if all of those “smart” people still believe in Adventism, it must be true. What that fails to take into account is that God has intentionally chosen the lowly things and people of the world to discredit the “wisdom” of intellectualism. “My message and my preaching were not with wise and persuasive words, but with a demonstration of the Spirit's power, so that your faith might not rest on men's wisdom, but on God's power.” 1 Cor 2:4-5 (NIV)

God will not share his glory. He chooses to use the weak so that no one will confuse the vessel with the oil. Where is that demonstration of power in the Adventists Church? The common sense of the less intellectually gifted makes the mental gyrations of the “brilliant” look laughable as they fail to confront the realities regarding Ellen White. This is eminently applicable to the outlandish attempts made in the past forty years to sanitize indefensible theological positions in Adventism. Why not lay it down? It’s a heavy burden that has not led to freedom or rest so far. When will we come to the end of ourselves, and admit we’ve been wrong - drinking in the cooling water of cleansing forgiveness?

On September 8, 2007, I attended a very well presented play put on by students and faculty from Pacific Union College entitled Red Books; Our Search for Ellen White.31 I was touched by their desire to address some difficult and hidden issues in Adventism. The acting was professional and polished. The writing was witty and insightful. At the end there was audience participation. It was at this point that a number of strong Adventist advocates, with sonorous tone, took the cue to preach to the saints. One of the windier members cited an upcoming book that did “scientific research” into Ellen White’s “literary borrowing.” The stated thesis of this “scientific" book was that others in Ellen White’s era also “borrowed” written works, not of their own creation - without attribution. However, the specific passages (according to the author) that others “borrowed” have been “proven” to be scientifically accurate only 30-40% of the time - while the writings that Ellen White appropriated have subsequently “proven” to be accurate about 85% of the time!

This was touted as proof that it was God who led Ellen White to plagiarize - because she picked the right stuff to copy. No matter that she often did give attribution, though not to the authors of the works she used. She attributed the stolen goods to direct visions from God - often thru the apparition of an “accompanying angel.” This was never addressed in the play. As I heard the man’s earnest affirmation of his prophet, I was incredulous. Only a person who desperately wanted to hang on to the mystique could swallow that kind of reasoning.

As a direct result of having to reinterpret the Bible, many have come to the conclusion that one can make the Bible say anything one likes - making it impossible to arrive at “true truth” (as Francis Schaeffer used to say). Adventist laity, by and large, has given up the quest of truth, and feels most comfortable when an authority figure tells them what they should believe. What would happen if those within the church, who can see the falsehood, error and distortions being offered with ever increasing sophistication, stopped defending them, and turned their efforts, instead, to repentance and realignment with the word of God? Could it be that God would then hear from Heaven and heal their church? If they were to stop hauling the church’s baggage up the mountain and, instead, let it fall off their shoulders to the ravine below, would God not place on their shoulders an easier, lighter load of His choosing?



Summary of Millerism Revised: The Birth of Adventism

William Miller started a chain of events that resulted in the formation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Even though Miller’s life-long interest in biblical study was the Second Coming of Christ, the Seventh-day Adventist doctrine of the Investigative Judgment (which emerged from his prophecy) has little to do with the Second Advent. Ellen White highly praised Miller’s techniques and conclusions of study as being led by God - even though they failed to be true. Jesus did not return to Earth on October 22 in either 1843 or 1844. She suggested that God specifically led Miller to a false conclusion and took his adherents thru an experience of dashed hopes in order to test them.

On the very day after the disappointment of their hopes, Hiram Edson came up with an alternate reality. The date was right; the event was wrong. Jesus, instead of returning to Earth on that date, went from the Holy to the Most Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary, in order to cleanse the holy temple of God in Heaven. For eighteen hundred years, the temple of God (in Heaven) was defiled. For eighteen hundred years Christ remained in the Holy Place of the sanctuary of Heaven without seeing the face of the Father.

There was no attempt to justify the distortion of the clear teaching in Hebrews that Christ entered the Most Holy Place on His return to Heaven. By Edson’s own statement it can be clearly seen that the motivation was not to understand what the scriptures revealed about what had gone wrong. Instead, he concluded, “We decided it was just what the scattered remnant needed; for it would explain our disappointment.” So began a tragic error of pride with immeasurable cost to the hearts of millions of people.



Faith or Fear? Table of Contents

The Next Chapter: The Great Debate
Dr. Raymond Cottrell has observed that approximately every fifteen years, God has sent a messenger to dissuade the SDA Church from the troublesome doctrine of the Investigative Judgement. This chapter reviews the history of repeated questioning and debate.

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