Letter to an Adventist Pastor
Many of the following questions are based either directly or indirectly on the first two parts of Keepers of the Flame. When I use quotation marks, I have quoted the exact wording from the videotape itself. The questions are not meant to be leading, or critical, but because I honestly want to know, and I want to hear your opinion. I am not asking you to defend the videotapes, so if you disagree with what they said, please say so. Otherwise, I will assume that you agree with them. If you find that any of my questions have no good answer, do not hesitate to let me know. Also, if you find any of the questions offensive, please remember that they are not intended that way. Please take your time answering these questions, because they are not easy ones, and some of them may require a fair amount of research. Fair enough?
I hope that it is not too much trouble to answer my questions, but I need to resolve some of these issues, because I am quite disturbed by some of these things, and most especially that people I love and care for are involved in the situation. This includes G, N, her family, you and your family, and your congregation. I feel strongly that the situation needs resolution, and I am interested in pursuing that.
I suppose it is no secret to you that I do not agree with Adventism. I am sure that G has told you. It would be good to review how I arrived at my opinion.
I grew up and lived most of the first half-century of my life not having any opinion at all about Adventism. A couple of years ago I ran into a member of the Sealing Ministry. We talked some. From our conversation I learned that the members believe that the mainstream Adventist churches do not teach the whole truth. I am sure it goes without saying that you are aware of this group, and that you probably find them somewhat extreme and cultic. In evaluating that group, and later in evaluating Seventh-day Adventism, I took what he said into account in two ways: I did not hold mainstream Adventism responsible for their beliefs (this changed somewhat later, as I shall presently explain), and I took into account what he said and presented on the doctrines Adventism does accept in evaluating those doctrines. The major thing that I learned from that person was that Adventism in general and the Sealing Ministry in particular put a heavy emphasis on worshipping on Saturday. I learned very little else of substance at that time. I believed that the Sealing Ministry was a cult, just from the explanation I was given, which included a booklet, and from the things the man said to me at the time. I did not reach the conclusion that mainstream Adventism is a cult.
Additional information that entered into my considerations of Adventism grew out of investigations I undertook of groups that have no ties to Adventism. In particular, I investigated fraternal organizations fairly extensively. I won't go into all the whys and wherefores of that investigation right now; suffice it to say that what I gleaned from my investigations was a basic understanding of techniques that are used to persuade, convince, and cement people into a set of beliefs. These techniques fall into two categories. The first is a group of techniques that are used in common by all religions. Their legitimacy as techniques of persuasion lie totally in whether or not the ideas being conveyed are true or false. There is nothing inherently wrong with these techniques. For example, the act of publicly confessing one's faith is necessary when one's faith is in accord with the Bible. One cannot courageously defend a position he is not willing to admit to in public. The second set of techniques is not legitimate. This set is morally wrong under any circumstances. Both of these groups of techniques are described extensively in a book entitled Combatting Cult Mind Control by Steven Hassan. Dr. Hassan is a Jewish atheist with a PhD in psychology. His approach to the subject is purely psychological. He does not consider the truth or falsity of the beliefs being taught, but merely the methods used to teach them. He condemns some techniques which are legitimate when used to further truth. During my investigation of Adventism, I weighed his criticism of each technique to see whether or not it was legitimate when used to advance truth. I recognized that some of these techniques were used by my own church during my training. I recognized that you cannot have a religion that teaches there is such a thing as absolute truth and refuse to use these techniques to persuade others. In my mind, a person who has a candle and hides it under a bushel is despicable indeed.
Finally, I came to my investigation having read the first half of The Great Controversy some years before. At the time, I found the book quite interesting, because of its information about the Albigenses and Waldenses in particular, neither of which I had known about. I believed the information was reasonably accurate, and I would sometimes mention it to Catholic friends when they claimed that the Roman Catholic church was the only church that had been in continuous existence from the time of the Apostles. Their thesis was that there were no dissenters until the time of the Reformation. More important in this discussion has been the continuous existence of the Ethiopian church, founded by the eunuch who spoke with Philip in Acts. It has been this church that has been the subject of persecution in the recent "famines". However, when I reached the part of The Great Controversy where White begins to describe the Millerite movement, I could not read any further. It was like there was an invisible barrier there that I could not cross. I have been forcing myself to read these materials now, and it is very difficult for me. More on that later.
When G introduced me to N, I asked her where she went to church and learned that she was an Adventist. I remember thinking at the time that I didn't know much about Adventism, but because of previous experiences with cults, I knew that I needed to investigate it. I had no developed opinion about it, and could have been persuaded either way. I had a vague sense of uneasiness about it, based on what little I knew. I told G at the time that perhaps he would have to bring N out of it. By the time I learned that N was important to G, he had already almost made up his mind about it himself. One of the critical factors in his decision was N's temperament. More on that later.
In my investigation of Adventism, I first suspected that it was a cult. This was primarily because of the way G reacted to it. I realize that G tends to make decisions very quickly, but there was something about the course his involvement followed that troubled me greatly. I identified several techniques that Hassan discussed in his book. I later learned that the Adventist church was not using those techniques consciously. Some of them were the result of the way G was living his life at the time, and the combination of that together with things the Adventist church does do produced the same results. I do not believe that generally speaking the Adventist church uses some of the worst techniques that Hassan describes. G willingly cooperated with the indoctrination of Adventism because of his love for N. As I have explained to him, he allowed his love to cloud his judgment. Adventism is not primarily to blame for the actions G took.
My quarrel with G's actions stem largely from the haste with which he joined the church. At the outset, I asked G not to join the church until I had had a chance to investigate it thoroughly and present information about it to him. I knew that he had neither the time, the inclination, nor the background to undertake that investigation himself and arrive at a truthful conclusion. At first, he agreed to wait. However, the attitudes he was displaying troubled me mightily and at first cemented in my opinion that Adventism is a cult. Just before he actually did join, he told me that he was going to go ahead, and not wait any longer. I asked him again to wait. I had already given him quite a bit of material, but he had not read most of it. He seriously misunderstood what he had read. In retrospect I realize that one of the problems was that the training he had received during his growing-up years had failed to prepare him for the situation, which was partially his own fault. We always encouraged the kids to study things thoroughly for themselves, and provided them with resources. We always emphasized the point that the responsibility for their education was theirs; you can lead a horse to water, but you cannot make him drink. I was unaware of the gaps in his understanding of Christianity. There were certain factors in the situation that gave him a faulty understanding of what he did know, factors that I was unaware of at the time. This time, however, G said that he saw no reason to wait. The fact that I had asked him to was not considered a good reason. That troubled me considerably, because to me it represented a serious violation of the commandment to honor his parents. We had not asked him never to join. But we did ask him to wait until he understood the doctrines and the ideas behind them. I knew that at the time he did not. He proceeded to join, largely over the dead bodies of both his parents. The fact that he felt compelled to do this further strengthened my opinion that Adventism is a cult.
Eventually I learned that many of the techniques that I was observing in action were largely G's own fault, but not all of them. The fact that he was short on sleep and nutrition was his own fault. The fact that he rushed into it was his own fault. But the fact that the explanations of Adventist doctrines he received was seriously different from the material I have read in my investigations is definitely the responsibility of Adventism. I have been told that Adventism has what it calls "insider doctrines." I told G at the outset that these ideas existed, and that they contradicted some of the ideas he was coming to believe. I learned that there is a problem with conflicting ideas in Adventism, which I will get into as our discussions proceed.
If someone were to ask me today whether or not Adventism is a cult, I would have to answer, "Yes and no." It will require significant explanation to defend my answer, and I will do that for you as we go along.
To review how I went about my investigation, I will mention briefly that I read books in favor of Adventism, books by Adventists in good standing, books by people opposed to Adventism, books that questioned some Adventist practices, books that questioned the life and integrity of Ellen G. White, books by former Adventists. I talked to Adventists in good standing, former Adventists, and people who had never been Adventists but who had done a fair amount of research on Adventism. I read extensively in the writings of Ellen G. White. At some point, if you would like a bibliography of what I read, I will give you one.
There are several significant issues that bother both me and my husband. The first is the position of Ellen G. White in the Adventist church. It would appear that Adventism talks out of both sides of its mouth about her. She is not a prophet, and her writings are not as important as the Bible. However, she is more than a prophet, and I have found repeated references to her visions and their significance. The plagiarism bothers us a lot. Having investigated it thoroughly, I have to agree she plagiarized wholesale. To us, that is a violation of three commandments of the Decalogue. These are, "Thou shalt not steal," "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor," and "Thou shalt not covet...anything that is thy neighbor's." For a church that puts such a heavy emphasis on keeping the Decalogue, this is very disturbing. I can only summarize it by saying, "if you are an Adventist, you are supposed to spend significant effort on keeping the commandments, unless you are Ellen White." The inconsistency of this bothers me a lot. Another thing that bothers us is the fact that the only commandment that gets any significant discussion is the Sabbath commandment. We have been told that the reason for this is because it is the one commandment that Christians neglect generally. We are disturbed by the lack of balance this represents. I have always believed that if you react against what someone else is doing, then you are allowing that person to control you. In reacting against what Christians do generally, Adventism is allowing its emphasis to be skewed, and I mean seriously. One of the chief things that bothers me is the subtle shift in so many things. It is nothing blatant, but it is all the more dangerous for being so subtle. It is harder for people to see. As I have always said, "a partial truth is far more dangerous than an outright lie." Another thing that disturbs us is the confusion surrounding the role of the commandments in the life of the believer. On the one hand, Adventism teaches that we are saved by grace alone, through faith. So far, so good. But on the other hand, Adventism teaches that we are supposed to keep the commandments to show our love for God. I personally believe that if we have the Holy Spirit dwelling in us, it is He that keeps them, and not us. The moment we spend any significant effort emphasizing the keeping of the commandments, we are doing it, and it becomes a work, not a sign of grace. I am not saying that we are to feel free to disobey the commandments. I am saying that we cannot obey them; the Holy Spirit has to do it for us, and the moment we talk about doing it to show our love for God, we are diminishing the role of the Holy Spirit in our lives, which is an attack on God's sovereignty and character. A true Christian obeys the commandments most of the time simply because the Holy Spirit acts through him. No Christian ever obeys them perfectly; we are not fully sanctified this side of heaven.
The thing that worries me about the Adventists I know is that it feels like the sweet temperament I see is due to fear. This is because of what I have learned about the Adventist church and her doctrines. I personally do not see how anyone can accept those doctrines and not be deathly afraid that he will never make it to heaven. I realize that it is explained that we are supposed to keep the commandments out of love for God, but that doesn't quite explain the other doctrines with which I am familiar, particularly the Investigative Judgment. I am unable to understand how one can accept that doctrine and still rest in Christ. Furthermore, the doctrine of the Investigative Judgment and the doctrine of salvation by grace alone seem contradictory to me. It seems to me that the doctrine of Investigative Judgment is inherently a hellfire and brimstone message. I do not believe that Christians are to be the targets of such preaching. Only the unrepentant are to be the targets. To preach hellfire and brimstone to the Christian is to teach him not to trust God and rest in God. At the end of this series of questions, I will be asking some regarding these issues.
I am enclosing three documents. The first is an article about praying in the mountain. I want to know your opinion on it, and I also want you to tell me where you think it came from. The second is a copy of a booklet that I bought from the Adventist bookstore in Phoenix a few months back. It is currently in circulation in the Adventist church. The third is a short testimony of a very famous ex-Catholic, Charles Chiniquy. I have personally investigated Chiniquy thoroughly, and he actually existed and did the things the booklet claims. I say that because a Catholic friend of mine doubted his very existence.
My reason for enclosing the booklet by Chiniquy is that it illustrates perfectly what I feel the duty of a pastor is when he is confronted by the truth, and it also, more importantly, illustrates what God will do in response to the sincere and courageous act of a pastor who discovers that what he has been preaching is contrary to the Bible.
I hope that I am correct about you, and that if you ever become persuaded that Adventism does not interpret the Bible correctly, you will be as courageous as Chiniquy.
Now for my questions. As I mentioned, many of them are in reference to the first two parts of the videotapes Keepers of the Flame.
1. Please explain the repeated references to the idea that the Pope is the Antichrist in the light of I John 4:3, where it says, "And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist, whereof ye have heard that it should come, and even now already is in the world," and in the light of the fact that no pope has ever denied that Jesus as true God came in the flesh and became true man.
2. Please explain the following: "[after the Pope got political power] About the same time a number of beliefs and practices entered the church...The observance of Sunday slowly replaced the keeping of the seventh day as the Sabbath," in light of the practice of the early Christians, and numerous statements by early church fathers who were the immediate successors of the Apostles, some soundly condemning Saturday worship, and others stating plainly that the early Christians almost universally worshipped on Sunday.
3. Please explain why the Seventh-day Adventist church puts such a heavy emphasis on Saturday worship, and publishes booklets, such as the one entitled "The Mark of the Beast" by Charles T. Everson, which presents a case for the idea I have heard from other Adventist sources, that in the last days, people who worship on Sunday will receive the mark of the beast and will be condemned to annihilation, in light of Colossians 2:16-17, which says, "Let no man therefore judge you in meat, or in drink, or in respect of an holyday, or of the new moon, or of the sabbath days: Which are a shadow of things to come; but the body is of Christ."
4. Please explain why the Adventist church interprets the phrase "1260 days" in the following manner: "1260" is interpreted literally, and "days" is interpreted figuratively, as "years".
5. Please explain how the Adventist church determines which parts of prophecy to interpret figuratively and which to interpret literally.
6. Why does the tape put such heavy emphasis on the Pope as antichrist and the Catholic church as horrible and terrible, but scarcely mentions the central and fundamental message of the Gospel, that we are saved by faith alone through grace alone?
7. Why is all of this history important enough to present it so early to new church members?
8. I have heard references to "the Adventist message" by which people seem to be referring to the Sanctuary, Investigative Judgment, and the Adventist eschatology generally. Why are these important enough to discuss at such length, and to whom are they important?
9. Dr. Lindsay says that the Mayflower is related to the saga of the woman clothed with the sun. Why are they related?
10. Dr. Lindsay says that the 1260 days corresponds to the time period of 538 AD to 1798 AD. Where does the date 538 AD come from, and what is the biblical justification for selecting that date?
11. In Revelation 11:13, who is the remnant, and why?
12. I have read that the Adventist church claims to be the "remnant church." By this and by its practices which are so different from other denominations, Adventism thus sets itself apart from other denominations. This tends to erect a barrier between Adventists and other Christians. Then Adventism teaches that other Christians will persecute Adventists. In this way, Adventism lays the blame on other Christians, rather than on its own divisive practices. What is the reason for this, and what is the reason for condemning other Christians for not observing the same practices?
13. In my study of Revelation, I observed that the Greek word which is translated, "remnant," really just means, "the rest," with no special connotation. This implies that the use of the word "remnant" as it is used in Adventism is due to a mistranslation into English. Please comment on this.
14. In reference to my earlier questions about the claim that the Adventist church is the "remnant church", please examine the following scriptures. The word in quotes is the Greek word for "remnant" used in that passage in the Septuagint, for the Old Testament, and in the Greek New Testament. Isaiah 10:21-22 "kataleiphthen, kataleimma", Isaiah 37: 31-32 "kataleleimmenoi", Isaiah 46:3, "kataloipon", Jeremiah 6:9 "kataloipa", Jeremiah 23:1-8 "kataloipous", Jeremiah 31:7 (unable to locate in Septuagint), and Joel 2:23-32 (word omitted in Septuagint and in original Hebrew). I will get back to the Joel passage later. Revelation 12:17 "loipon", 19:21 "loipoi". The Hebrew word is "she'ar", in various forms, usually "she'erit". In the Old Testament scriptures, it always refers to a remnant of Judah (remnant of Jews, therefore) or to any remnant which clearly refers to Jews. In the New Testament, there is no reference of which I am aware in which the word "remnant" refers to the church. According to my study of Revelation and other New Testament scriptures, the church is not present during the "Great Tribulation", having already been raptured. In Revelation, the term "remnant" occurs only well after the last mention of the church, which occurs in Revelation 3. The question is this: in light of the above, why does the Adventist church speak of a "remnant church"?
15. Dr. Lindsay makes the following two statements:
"John Robinson...pointed out that the followers of Luther, Knox, and Calvin had settled on the teachings of these men as if they were the sum of all truth. Speaking of the reformers, Robinson said, 'They penetrated not into the whole council of God, but were they now living would be as willing to embrace further light as that which they first received. If God should reveal anything to you by any other instrument of his, be ready to receive it, for I am very confident the Lord hath more truth and light yet to break forth from his holy word.'"
16. Dr. Lindsay quotes Arnaud as saying, "Where they have to this day handed down the gospel from father to son in the same purity as it was preached to Paul." I am unaware of any scriptural evidence that anyone preached to Paul. If you are aware of such, please tell me where it is located.
17. Dr. Lindsay says that like Paul at the stoning of Stephen, Knox was directed to his life's work by the martyrdom of George Wishart (uncertain of spelling of last name). The Bible tells us in the book of Acts that Paul was directed to his life's work by being struck blind and given a message straight from Jesus while traveling on the road to Damascus. The place of Stephen's stoning in the life of Paul had a very different significance: to illustrate that Paul was a sinner ("of whom I am chief") and that God can and does change and use the most despicable people in the world for very great purposes. Dr. Lindsay's statement seems to be downright false. Can you explain what he was getting at, and why his statement is historically inaccurate?
18. Dr. Lindsay says the following: "According to the prophecy in Daniel 7, the little horn power would be supreme in Europe for 1260 years. At the end of that period, extending from 538 to 1798, events would temporarily end this supremacy. Right on time, in February, 1798, General Bertier's (unsure of spelling of the name) French army entered Rome, took the Pope prisoner, and greatly reduced the authority and power of the Papacy." I have studied Daniel 7, and I find that the following ideas are nowhere expressed in that chapter: that the little horn would be present in Europe, or any other location, for that matter, that the phrase "time, times and half a time" mean anything other than 3 1/2 years, the dates 538 and 1798 AD (discussed earlier), the existence and actions of General Bertier and the French army, or that the little horn power has anything to do with Rome, the Pope, or the papacy. Dr. Lindsay provides absolutely no documentation for these insertions. What is the justification for adding all of these ideas to the original scriptures?
19. In the videotape, the 1260 years is said to terminate in 1798 AD, while in the Millerite prophecies, it was said to terminate in 1843 and 1844. How do you explain this discrepancy?
20. I would appreciate a clarification of something. In light of the previous question, please consider the following: the phrase "time, times and half a time" are equated to 1260 days in Revelation 12:6, 14. This works out to 3 1/2 years by the commonly assumed Hebrew reckoning of a year as consisting of 360 days. I don't have any documentation that the Hebrew year consisted of 360 days instead of 365, but I have heard that figure from other sources, and will grant it for the sake of argument, for my question. On the other hand, if you assume that the word "days" is actually a code word for "years", for which Dr. Lindsay supplies no scripture or other documentation, I am unaware of any cycle in scripture that has anything to do with a period of 360 years. There is no term for such a length of time, to my knowledge. On the other hand, saying that the word "time" refers to a year makes a lot of sense to me, particularly in light of the fact that the mathematics of 1 year plus 2 years plus half a year add up to 1260 days. See also Daniel 12:7, 11, 12, when "time, times and an half" are referred to together with 1290 days and 1335 days! Clearly, then, the equation of "time, times and half a time" to 1260 years is a very different thing from equating it to approximately 3 1/2 years. Because a date of 1290 years and a date of 1335 years is a far different time from 1260 years, the difference is significant. But in 3 1/2 years, it is a matter of only a month or two. Many events take place over sufficient time to make a month more or less insignificant. I looked up both the Greek word used in Revelation and the Hebrew word in Daniel. Both refer to an event, but in particular, the Hebrew "mowed" refers conventionally to a year, according to Strong's Concordance (see entry number 4150, in the Hebrew and Chaldee dictionary in the back). In addition, there is reference in Revelation 11:2 to forty and two months, right before referring again to 1260 days, which is also 3 1/2 years, not 1260 years. The evidence keeps mounting, it would seem. In the light of this, could you please explain why the Adventist church calls 1260 days "1260 years", in light of the lack of support for the idea that a day equals a year, and in light of the phrase "time, times and half a time"?
21. Referring to the previous question, who are the two witnesses in Revelation 11:3?
22. Referring to question 18, please examine Revelation 11:6. Has the Pope ever had the power to stop rain? If not, how do you explain the claim that the Pope is the Antichrist?
23. Dr. Lindsay spoke of the fact that a number of reformers discussed the prophecies in Daniel 7 and 8 and Revelation 11. They stated that they believed the Pope was the Antichrist. Assuming arguendo that he quoted them correctly that they believed that the Pope was the Antichrist, why did Dr. Lindsay not mention that those same reformers believed they were living in the last days, and because many of the prophecies had not been fulfilled literally (unlike today) that they spiritualized the last days, were amillenialists, and attributed many of the prophecies to the church that most Christians attribute to the Jews today, and considered the church equivalent to Israel in prophecy?
24. Referring to the previous question, we have seen the literal fulfillment of many biblical prophecies since the death of Ellen White. Particularly, we have seen the declaration of the nation of Israel, the ingathering of the Diaspora, the events taking place between the Jews and the Arabs, the excavation of the temple site, and the teaching of the temple ceremony. We no longer have to spiritualize the prophecies or attribute them to the church; God is clearly permitting their fulfillment in the literal genetic Jews. In light of this, why is the Adventist church still spiritualizing the prophecies just like the reformers did?
25. In Revelation 11:7, it says that the two witnesses would be killed and their bodies left in the streets for 3 1/2 days. It then says they will be resurrected. If a body is left in the street for 3 1/2 days, there will be something left at the end of that period, but if left for 3 1/2 years, there would be nothing left but bones, and the dogs would have long since carried them off. In light of the fact that Adventists generally equate the word "days" with "years," to be consistent, we would also have to interpret this verse as referring to 3 1/2 years. Given this information, please justify once more the Adventist claim that the word "days" refers to "years."
26. Revelation refers to seven angels, from which the Adventist church teaches about three angels, calling their message, "the three angels message." Why does the Adventist church ignore the other four angels?
27. In Revelation 12:2, there is a male child mentioned. The videotape claims that the child is Jesus. The Roman Catholic church claims that the description of the woman is that of Mary, the mother of Jesus, and in many art works, she is depicted with the sun and twelve stars around her head, and with her feet standing on a crescent moon. Why does the Adventist church agree with the Roman Catholic church on who this woman is?
28. Referring to the previous question, where in chapter 12 do we learn that the woman is Mary and the child is Jesus?
29. Revelation 12 speaks, in verses 6 and 14, of the woman being in the wilderness 1260 days, and "time, times and half a time". The suggestion that a woman could be in the wilderness for such a long period of time as 1260 years seems absurd. In what sense was Mary in the wilderness for either 3 1/2 years or 1260 years?
30. Referring to the previous question, I have heard Adventists say that the woman is the church. I believe the videotape also said that. How can the woman be both Mary and the church simultaneously?
31. Referring to Revelation 12:17, who are the remnant of the woman's seed? Why is this applied to the Adventist church alone?
32. Why does the Adventist church condemn fellow Christians for worshipping on Sunday?
33. Dr. Lindsay says, "The great truths such as salvation by God's grace through faith in Christ alone, the high priestly ministry of Christ, the royal priesthood of all believers, obedience to all the commandments of God, believers' baptism, and the sufficiency and authority of scripture above tradition were among those taught in the early church." This statement bothers me for a number of reasons. The first is that it mixes and thus equates cardinal doctrines with differences of opinion among Christians, which most denominations tolerate for the sake of fellowship, even though they maintain their doctrinal integrity. A cardinal doctrine is one that is essential for a group to be called Christian. Salvation by God's grace through faith in Christ alone is a cardinal doctrine. So is the sufficiency and authority of scripture above tradition. The Roman Catholics hold that tradition is to be regarded along with scripture, but the whole point of the Reformation was to disprove that contention and to reject the doctrines that arose thereby. On this, Adventists and I are agreed (with a caveat which I will mention shortly). On the other hand, though I agree with the idea of the "royal" priesthood of all believers (I don't know where the word "royal" comes from), it is not a cardinal doctrine. Neither is the high priestly ministry of Christ (something I feel the Adventist church distorts). The thing that troubles me about the claim of "the sufficiency and authority of scripture above tradition" is that the Adventists, as near as I can determine, do not consider the scriptures sufficient, their protests to the contrary notwithstanding. I say that because the writings of Ellen G. White are highly regarded, constantly studied, and used to interpret scriptures. I say they are used to interpret scriptures because I have seen numerous examples in my reading. As such, they take on a pre-eminence over scripture that troubles me mightily. As for obedience to all the commandments of God, which I will address in more detail in the next question, there were, if I recall correctly, 613 commandments in the Mosaic covenant. The Adventist church makes no attempt to keep the majority of those. Since they would be included in the phrase "ALL the commandments of God," I find the situation slightly confusing. If Christendom in general were to believe that we were to keep all the commandments of God, then we would be living like the Orthodox Jews in Israel! Obviously, Christians do not live like that. I have milk gravy on my meat all the time. So clearly, this is not a great truth embraced by the early church, particularly in light of scriptures already mentioned, the book of Galatians, and portions of Romans, Hebrews, and other epistles. In light of all of this, could you please explain and justify Dr. Lindsay's statement and his lumping of this motley collection of ideas into what appears to be an equation?
34. In light of the tremendous emphasis on the Decalogue, why has the Seventh-day Adventist church been so lacking in forthrightness about Ellen G. White's plagiarisms? Is not this a violation of the commandment, "Thou shalt not bear false witness against thy neighbor," a violation of the commandment, "Thou shalt not steal," and a violation of the commandment, "Thou shalt not covet?"
35. I would like to talk about a specific commandment, one that has considerable importance in the Adventist church. I will take several questions to do it. I am referring to the keeping of Saturday as the Sabbath, the importance placed on that, and the condemnation of people who do not, or who keep Sunday instead. Please refer to Exodus 20 for this question. I have read that Adventists are hard on other Christians for failing to quote the commandments in their entirety, in particular for the failure to quote the entire Sabbath commandment, which takes several verses. In light of this condemnation, please explain why Adventists never quote verse 2 of that chapter.
36. Referring to the previous question, I see that verse 2 says God is talking to people that He brought out of the land of Egypt, out of the house of bondage. I have never been either in Egypt or in a state of physical slavery. Have you? In light of this, and the fact that most Christians have not, how can it be said that God is talking to Christians?
37. Continuing in the same vein, and referring to an earlier question in which I discussed the problem of when to take a passage literally and when to take it figuratively, I am anticipating one possible answer to my last question. One could say that God is speaking of a figurative land of Egypt and a figurative house of bondage, specifically, of our bondage to sin. If that is the case, then why does the Adventist church demand a literal observance of the seventh day as the Sabbath while accepting a figurative interpretation of verse 2?
The next few questions deal with the time when the Sabbath begins and ends, which in the Adventist church is calculated from sunset to sunset, in the same manner as the Jews did it.
38. I live in the mountains. Sunset for me occurs probably a half hour before it occurs for you. Does my sabbath day begin a half hour earlier than yours?
39. If I am in the city when the sun sets on Saturday, but at home when it sets on Sunday, is my Sabbath only 23 1/2 hours long?
40. There is a peak near my house which is lit by the sun for a good ten minutes after the base. Does the Sabbath begin ten minutes later on the top than it does at the base?
41. It takes the sun a couple of minutes to traverse the distance from the point when it barely touches the horizon until it is completely gone behind the horizon. Does the Sabbath begin when the sun first touches the horizon, when it is halfway gone, or when the last bit of it is gone behind the mountains?
42. The people who live in northern Alaska, such as at Point Barrow, have a peculiar problem. There are some Christians living there. Their native language is Inupiaq, and there is a New Testament in circulation in that language (I own a copy, so if you would like to see it, just ask). For them, the sun does not rise for three months during the winter, and does not set for three months during the summer. How in the heck do they calculate the beginning and end of the Sabbath?
43. Referring to the Eskimoes in the previous question, it is a fact that during the winter, they cannot obtain any vegetables or fruit unless they are imported at great cost. They live solely off meat. In light of this, how would an Adventist Christian living at Point Barrow observe Ellen G. White's health message?
44. Please examine Exodus 16:23-30 and Deuteronomy 5:1-3. The Exodus passage is the first mention of the seventh day as a Sabbath commanded of the children of Israel, and the Deuteronomy passage says that the commandments were not given to the forefathers. I have heard the Adventist church claim that the Sabbath was a commandment from the creation of the world, and that everyone from Adam on down was expected by God to observe it. In light of these two passages, how do you explain this?
45. Please examine Exodus 31:13-17. In verses 13 and 17, God says that the Sabbath is a sign between God and the children of Israel. How do you explain the claim that Christians who are not descendants of Jacob are supposed to observe the Sabbath?
46. Referring to the previous question, please examine verses 14 and 15. I am not aware that the Adventists ever put anyone to death for breaking the Sabbath. Is this correct?
47. Continuing in the same vein, if they do not put anyone to death, why not?
48. In the same vein, if they do not put anyone to death, how can Adventists claim that they truly keep the Sabbath?
49. Along the same lines, please examine Numbers 15:32-36. If Adventists do put people to death for breaking the Sabbath, do they do it by stoning?
50. Please examine Deuteronomy 5:6, 12-15. In verse 14, it says that my manservant and my maidservant, my ox, my ass, or my cattle are not to do any work on the Sabbath. Can I keep the Sabbath if I do not have any of these?
51. You are a pastor and that is, I assume, how you make a living. For that reason, preaching, which is part of your job, is presumably work. Are you breaking the Sabbath when you preach?
Turning to Daniel 7, I have several questions, referring specifically to verses 8, 10, and 23-25.
52. Which are the ten kingdoms referred to?
53. Which are the three kingdoms?
54. In light of the fact that the Roman Catholic church has never been embraced by the entire world, and that Rome has never enslaved the entire population of the world, in what way has the Pope devoured the whole earth?
55. What does it mean to change times and laws?
56. What does "a time and times and the dividing of time" mean?
57. Which books were opened?
58. As I understand it, according to Adventist doctrine, when we die, we are not aware of anything at all until the resurrection. This doctrine is called soul sleep. In verse 10, it speaks of 10,000 times 10,000 being present at the judgment being described. As I understand it, the Investigative Judgment is going on right now, while we are still on earth. It would appear that there is a contradiction between the doctrine of soul sleep and the idea that these people are present at this judgment. In light of these things, why does the Adventist church claim that verse 10 describes an investigation going on while we are still on earth?
59. Who are these 100 million people?
60. In the third and fourth parts of Keepers of the Flame, the statement was made that William Miller died still expecting the imminent return of Jesus. According to a number of authorities I have read, Miller repented of ever having set a date, and came to the conclusion that date-setting was not scriptural. I see the claim that he died still expecting the imminent return of Jesus as almost a contradiction of the conclusion that date-setting is not scriptural. It seems to me, then, that the videotape misrepresents Miller's dying position. This misrepresentation is a powerful tool to ratify the correctness of Adventism. I find this frankly dishonest and reprehensible. Why did the videotape do this?
G told me that you once explained that for Jesus to investigate our record without us present is similar to the situation where you received a traffic ticket and didn't appear, but they found you guilty anyway. From my legal background, I will explain why I find that analogy unsatisfactory. In recent years, the traffic laws have been decriminalized. Having a driver's license is considered to make you a party to a quasi-contract. It is imposed by the state, even against the will of people, so coercion is not a defense against an enforcement of the laws. Because it is a civil offense, the situation does not provide any constitutional protections normally afforded criminals, and it was the cost of granting those protections that was one of the motivating factors in decriminalizing traffic offenses. Because the traffic ticket is not a criminal offense and the consequences are so insignificant, the government has made the attempt to get away with trying people in absentia, but if a person asserts his right to be present at his trial, there is really nothing the government can do to prevent him from forcing them to obey the Constitution. On the other hand, under United States law, a person cannot be tried of a criminal offense unless the court first obtains jurisdiction. In order to get jurisdiction, the court must have the presence of the defendant. The defendant can appear at an arraignment, which gives the court jurisdiction. Normally, a defendant is not tried unless he is present. The idea that a defendant has the right to be present at his trial comes originally from the Bible; all of our law is indirectly based on the Bible, as was the common law of England and the Magna Carta, from which our law was derived. Carrying that over to the situation described in Daniel, please bear in mind that offending a holy God is the most serious crime a person can ever commit. The punishment is, according to Revelation 14:9-11, eternal torment, and according to the Adventist church, permanent and complete annihilation. In Matthew, Jesus is spoken of having the sheep and the goats present when He passes judgment. Legally speaking, it would be a serious miscarriage of justice for Jesus to decide our fate in our absence. For this reason, I do not find your example persuasive.
In light of the fact that you are moving soon, it looks like we are consigned to continue our dialogue by letter. Previously, my husband and I had asked you to justify the doctrine of Investigative Judgment from scripture. Please go ahead and do that, also.
I guess I have asked you enough questions for awhile, so I will quit. I
realize that you may not feel you have the time to answer them; however, I will
explain that if you never answer them, I will be forced to conclude that they
cannot be answered, and I will reach some other conclusions accordingly. I hate
to do this, but I don't see that I really have a choice. These questions burn in
my mind, and I cannot accept the legitimacy of Adventism if they have not been
answered to my satisfaction. So please do answer them. Thank you in advance.
Note to the reader:
Since the time this letter was sent, several years ago, the pastor has given no response whatsoever to the letter itself, let alone any of the questions.
Background graciously provided by: