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Welcome to my blog, MB's Theological Thoughts. If you have a question you'd like me to answer, feel free to ask, either in a comment or an email. If it's a legitimate question, I'll do my best to answer it. Might take some thinking and some time, but again, I'll do my best.

18 April, 2011

On the Scriptural Nature of Our Doctrines

Al Nonymous, a commenter on this post on reverence, seems to claim that the doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist church are based on the writings of Ellen White, much in the same way that many doctrines of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints are based on the Book of Mormon and other writings of Joseph Smith, Jr. There is a problem with this statement: if you ask any Adventist, he or she will say that our doctrines are based on and supported by Scripture alone. Why would any Adventist say that? Because it's the truth.

Ellen White was a modern-day prophet. She didn't have miraculous powers to heal the sick; nor did she claim to be the voice of God. In fact, she didn't call herself a prophet because she didn't want people deifying her. In her own eyes, Ellen was somebody who loved God more than anything else, and wanted others to share that love through the study of Scripture, prayer and simple living.

Her writings are not doctrinal in nature, but are instead advice for living simply, focusing on the Kingdom of God, and some elaborations on Scripture (the Conflict of the Ages series is a good example). There are times where she changed her mind (the Righteousness by Faith controversy of the last quarter of the 19th century), and other times when she gave advice that is no longer applicable (bicycles, for instance - Testimonies for the Church, vol. 8, pp. 50-53). Just as God works within the confines of culture rather than counter-culture, Ellen White's messages are contingent on the culture of the time. God revealed specific knowledge to her when the time was right to do so, proving that a quick study of Adventist history takes care of any "discrepancies".

Basing our doctrines on the writings of Ellen White would mean that we shouldn't eat meat, that we shouldn't ride bicycles, that we shouldn't wear dresses that drag the ground, and so on and so forth. But these "doctrines" would be present simply for the fact that they come from Ellen's writings, making them on par with Scripture. She said that she was not to be revered in such a way, and that anything she wrote was meant to draw us to Scripture and to God, for by faith and grace alone we are saved.


Nonetheless, people revere her more than they should. Just as the Apostle Paul, Ellen White was a human being. She is fallible because she was born into sin. Yes, she may have been God's messenger to a new denomination, but many people have misconceptions about her.

One misconception deals with church history. I would hazard a guess that many Adventist (and vast numbers of non-Adventists) say she founded the Seventh-day Adventist Church. That is simply not true. The SDA Church was originally a group of individuals with like-minded beliefs that got together and worshiped together. They emerged from the Millerite Movement, which would insinuate that Miller, not White, was the founder of the Church, or at least the "Adventist" part.

Joseph Bates is probably the name that people should look to for the founder of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He actually convinced James and Ellen White that the Seventh-day was the true Sabbath. Still, I rarely hear his name dropped as a hero of Adventism. It's always Ellen White--not even her husband James, who wrote plenty as well, is named very often.

There seem to be two extremes when dealing with Ellen White. Her writings are either discounted (especially by so-called "progressive Adventists") or elevated to the level of Scripture. This is why some believe our doctrines are based on her writings. But if one were to examine the Twenty-Eight Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-Day Adventists, one would see that this is not the case. Every one of our doctrines (and no matter what anybody says, these are ALL of our official doctrines) is backed by Scripture, not some passage from Ellen White's writings. This is because Scripture is the source for knowledge of the Divine. Without it, we would not know Jesus.

In conclusion, I do not deny that Ellen White was a prophet. Nor do I deny that her writings are divinely inspired. I will say that unless one reads them, one cannot understand them. There are issues like historical and cultural context that we need to take into consideration, just as we must when trying to understand the Bible. Many people don't read Ellen White's writings because they are downright difficult to understand. She uses 19th century English and always quotes the King James Version of the Bible. On top of that, she tends to write deeper and more meaningful advice than we are accustomed to understanding. We have always been told, "Know this, do that, behave this way," and it's killing our church. The departing youth see that there is no reason behind the traditions of the Church, and they solve the problem by doing one of three things: delving into study like me, throwing out what they don't understand or agree with like the "progressives", or just leaving the Church altogether and creating the age gap that we see.

"Always be joyful and never stop praying. Whatever happens, keep thanking God because of Jesus Christ. This is what God wants you to do. Don't turn away God's Spirit or ignore prophecies. Put everything to the test. Accept what is good and don't have anything to do with evil" (1 Thessalonians 5:16-22, CEV).

Your Brother in Christ,

01 April, 2011

A word on the Sunday Law

The National Sunday Law has been a focal point of Adventist theology for decades. Will it happen soon? I can't say for sure. Will there be blood running through the streets? I seriously doubt it. Here are my thoughts.

The Blue Laws were seen as the forerunners of the National Sunday Law, a foreshadowing of the second Advent, as written about by Ellen White. The biggest thing about the blue laws is that they don't outlaw Sabbath worship, and they don't force Sunday worship. They simply regulate commerce on Sundays, mandating a day of rest. In fact, if there were blue laws that regulated homework, I would run out into the streets and shout, "Thank you Jesus!" 

In order for a Sunday Law of the caliber that we have predicted with dread to be enacted, serious changes must be made to the Constitution. First, the entire First Amendment must be abolished (as of yet, such a change is far from sight). The Founding Fathers wanted to avoid a theocracy, and so they penned the First Amendment: "Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances." Not only can Congress not establish a national Day of Worship as Sunday, but they can not prohibit Sabbath worship. These are two essential tenets of the dreaded Sunday Law. 

Also prohibiting the Sunday Law are the other clauses of the Amendment. Establishing a State Religion will surely gather the protests of every atheist, agnostic, Muslim, Buddhist, Satanist, and so on within our nation's borders. These make up such a percentage that we wouldn't be able to function unless under martial law. No, the only way to swing something like this would be to abolish free speech and the right to assemble and petition.

Even if the First Amendment, something which defines the USA, could be abolished or altered, we would have to get people to agree to the establishment of a State Religion. Given the attitudes of people toward religion nowadays, I think that the number of people that would go along with it would be very slim. The system of Checks and Balances prohibits one branch of the Government from having the power to hammer the law through, so that system would also have to be abolished. The Legislative and Judicial branches would have to be absorbed by the Executive, creating a monarchy, something the Founding Fathers wanted to avoid like the plague. You know the aphorism: "Absolute power corrupts absolutely."

Let's say that the Sunday Law were to pass somehow. We would need a way to enforce it. That is where martial law would come in. The amount of people protesting the law would fill our prisons to bursting. House arrest would be useless, and we wouldn't have enough law enforcement personnel to make anything work. We would have to give the military the authority to punish those who didn't follow the law. (A text comes to mind. "Unless those days were shortened, no flesh would be spared." Mt. 24:22) This would require enough military personnel that didn't have qualms about killing their own people for religious reasons, and I don't think even the most autonomous of soldiers would do that.

What do I know, though? If you told somebody 50 years ago that we would have computers in our pockets, they would have laughed you out of existence. But no matter what Ellen White says, there are insurmountable obstacles between current law and the Sunday Law. I'm not saying it won't happen. If it does happen, though, it won't be for some time. One theory is that a global catastrophe will force people into this Old Testament-era "we must avoid the wrath of God" mindset--a global catastrophe like an asteroid impact (Rev 8:8). The biggest likelihood of such a strike is the asteroid 99942 Apophis, an 880 foot wide asteroid with an impact likelihood of 1 in 250,000. And that won't even be close until April of 2036. 

So is it wrong to prepare for something that won't happen in the foreseeable future? No. But nobody should be paranoid about it. If this oppressive Sunday Law should come about, the Bible lets us know that we will be protected, so long as we love God. Remember, nobody knows anything definitive about this. We have our warnings, and we can heed them without using scare tactics to tell people to run for the hills. Remember Isaiah 41:10; Proverbs 3:5, 6; 1 Thessalonians 4:16, 17; and Psalm 91:12.

Your Brother in Christ,