Stand ye in the ways, and see, and ask for the old paths, where is the good way, and walk therein, and ye shall find rest for your souls. Jeremiah 6:16
The secret of the LORD is with them that fear him; and he will show them his covenant. Psalm 25:14
Vol. 24, No.12 Straight and Narrow December 2015
In this issue:
(This is Part IV in the series Preparing for the End, begun at camp meeting this year, Part III being the article on microbes last month. We hope to conclude the series next month. Editor)
Because he was part of an elite group known as The Admitted, Jang Jin-sung was highly respected in North Korea. Kim Jong-il had personally invited him to his home for a lavish dinner and live entertainment, at which Kim himself presided. Jang had now been admitted to Kim’s inner circle, which was a great honor that had many advantages. He lived in a nice apartment, his food rations were lavish and far better than that of most people—plenty of produce, meat, eggs, etc.—and travel restrictions within the nation did not apply to him. While at Kim’s home, however, Jang Jin-sung gradually became disillusioned, for Kim was not the same person Jang had thought him to be. The realization began to grow that Kim was not the savior of his people, nor was he a heavenly agent bent on uniting the Koreas.
Jang’s disquietude deepened when he later returned to his home village after an absence of ten years. He had been missing his childhood friends and wanted to visit the old places of adventure and youth, but he was not prepared to face the death, hunger, and utter poverty he encountered. He left the next morning instead of staying the two days he had planned. He found people stuffing empty comforters with cigarette butts in a desperate attempt to stay warm. He found a Corpse Division that daily collected dead bodies from public places. He witnessed the public execution of someone who had stolen food because he had been starving. Then there was the neighbor who had become jaundiced while eating only porridge for months, the school friend who had so prematurely aged (due to starvation) that she now appeared as an old, disfigured woman whose thin neck seemed to stay bent under the weight of her heavy head, and the other school friend who had once been the envy of the boys at school because of his strength but who was now only skin and bones, but the final straw happened the night he arrived.
A dinner, if you can call it that, had been prepared in his honor by his best friend’s mother. Jang had to choke back tears when she proudly offered him a full half bowl of rice—an offering she had accumulated by depriving her family of ten grains of rice at every meal for the previous three months!
North Korea is the darkest of totalitarian governments today. In North Korea you must have approval, which is usually denied, to travel beyond your village. News is controlled; entertainment is controlled; education is controlled; religion is outlawed, although a show church is present in Pyongyang; land ownership is nonexistent (it all belongs to the state); distribution of food is controlled; ownership of items, such as books, televisions, radios, and cars, is controlled; the composition of music and the authorship of literature is forbidden, unless personally approved by Kim; dissent is banned; leadership is deeply corrupt; and most citizens are in abject poverty and are hungry. The only survival skills for the North Korean people have been to praise their great leader—to clap their hands on his approach, to speak of his magnanimity, to wear a beautiful smile when in his presence—and to praise North Korea as a paradise, for if they do not, they and their families risk arrest and confinement in the blackest of gulags on Earth.
Jang had a very secretive job in Office 101 of the United Front Department. His department was “a world completely unknown to most ordinary North Koreans,” where he “was given access not only to state secrets, but to a world that lay far beyond the mandate of the Workers’ Party” (Jang Jin-sung, Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee—A Look Inside North Korea, p 5).
Work produced . . . [at Office 101] was circulated under the names of South Korean publishers, and even took on their distinctive literary style, preferred fonts, and quality and weight of paper. In music too, the styles of instrumental and vocal arrangements were copied from South Korean recordings. Books and cassettes produced in this way were systematically distributed by our department through pro-North organizations in Japan or through other Southeast Asian nations, and passed on to democratic resistance movements in South Korea. . . .
We were required to absorb the character and identity of South Koreans. . . .to inhabit South Korea’s collective psyche so as to undermine and triumph over it. (Ibid., pp. 6, 7, 9, 10; all emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted)
In order to do this kind of fabricated work, Jang had to mentally transform himself into a South Korean who had feelings of adoration for Kim Jong-il and who saw only good in what Kim was doing. He then had to express this adoration in the way a typical South Korean intellectual or poet might express it, but his work was not confined to literature alone:
The work of Office 101 was never confined to a single genre or medium. It employed speeches, video, music, and other forms of cultural expression—all under the [fictitious] names of South Korean or foreign authors—that could be used to infiltrate and influence the values of Koreans. (Ibid., p. 12)
Jang chose a pseudonym for himself and pretended to be a South Korean who loved the North Korean dictator. Jang published his works in the same manner as South Korean publishers published their works, and some South Koreans were beguiled by what he wrote and were beguiled also by the appearance of the publications. It all seemed genuine, but it was fictitious, all a hidden lie. To this day some South Koreans with sympathy for the North Korean dictator can trace their appreciation for Kim to this program of disinformation. It is hard to believe that South Koreans, whose eyes should have been opened to the atrocities of the North, were swayed by those whom they thought were fellow South Koreans—fellow South Koreans who saw greatness in Kim Jong-il—but they were, and today there still are progressive, forward-thinking South Koreans who are sympathetic to the North and to the ruling Kim, all because of the fabricated and devious literature and media produced by Jang and Office 101.
Today we may wonder about the books being published in Adventism (independently and officially), about the music used in worship services and sold in our book centers, and about the theology taught in our schools from the elementary level upward and also preached in our pulpits and printed in our papers; and we cannot say if it is personally intentional by each author and composer or not because we cannot read hearts, but we do know there is a master plan laid out for our destruction. While there is no Office 101 in Seventh-day Adventism, Satan seeks our destruction and you can be sure he disguises himself in all forms of the media to accomplish it:
And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ. (Revelation 12:17)
He [Satan] is a rebel against God and Christ, and is determined to war against them and those who are loyal to them. He hates them all with a bitterness that it is impossible to describe; and plots against the lives of those whom he cannot deceive by his devices. (Ellen White, The Review & Herald, January 29, 1884)
Of those who honor Jesus, and keep the commandments of the Lord, Christ has said, “Marvel not if the world hate you.” We can expect no better treatment from the world than the treatment given to the law of God. Those who vindicate the law of God by keeping the commandments, will be targets for the wrath of the dragon, and opposition to righteousness will not end until evil is destroyed; for as long as human nature is under the control of the enemy of all righteousness, enmity to the righteous will be manifested through the children of men. (Ellen White, The Signs of the Times, November 14, 1895)
Office 101 used the form of truth to cover total untruths in an attempt to deceive South Koreans, and Satan and his followers use the form of godliness to cover their hypocrisy and lies in an attempt to deceive servants of the Most High:
Truth and holiness Satan hates. Profession and pretense he is in perfect harmony with. The form of godliness he assumes to deceive the children of men. This is his most successful armor. (Ellen White, Pamphlet 155, p. 11; “Special Testimony to the Battle Creek Church”)
We should not be surprised by this, for Satan is the master of deception and disguise. Not only are many of the citizens of North Korea deceived, but so are some citizens in South Korea who should know better, and this can be a lesson for us all. It is possible to be swayed by falsehoods when they are presented by those whom we esteem to be fellow believers and/or when publications have the official imprint, so to speak, if we are not under the guidance of the Holy Spirit. Satan sows seeds of disinformation and destruction in every area of human life—in information about health and about disease, in spiritual matters, in parenting, in Earth science, in an anything goes attitude in consensual relationships, etc.—and it is designed to veer us off the only straight and narrow path that leads to heaven.
Kim Il-sung, the founding president of the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea was, amazingly, raised in a Christian environment, but when he became dictator, he banned all religion:
. . . [Kim Il-sung] had Christian connections. His father attended a Protestant missionary school, his parents were church-goers, and they took their son to worship services. The Christian message apparently didn’t stick. As Bradley K. Martin has noted “Who . . . would have imagined that the man whose rule wiped out nearly every trace of religion in North Korea—except worship of himself—had been until his late teens not only a churchgoer, but, moreover, a church organist?” When Kim Il Sung came to power, he labeled Christians and other religious believers as counterrevolutionaries and targeted them for repression. Many Christians headed south. Believers who remained in North Korea were killed, jailed, or forcibly relocated to remote areas in the north of the country.
When Kim Il Sung consolidated his power after the end of the Korean War, he banned religion. By 1960, the number of houses of worship operating in North Korea—Christian, Buddhist, or other—was a grand total of zero. That held true until 1988, when, under pressure from international religious groups, the regime opened a Protestant show church in Pyongyang and permitted a few carefully selected people to attend worship services. (Melanie Kirkpatrick, Escape from North Korea: The Untold Story of Asia’s Underground Railroad, p. 44; quotation from Bradley K. Martin, Under the Loving Care of the Fatherly Leader, p. 12)
Satan knows that the word of God is the only detector of spiritual and moral error; therefore, he works through human beings to prevent men and women from gaining a knowledge of God’s word, and thus he maintains control over the minds of men:
Satan well knew that the Holy Scriptures would enable men to discern his deceptions and withstand his power. It was by the word that even the Saviour of the world had resisted his attacks. . . . In order for Satan to maintain his sway over men, and establish the authority of the papal usurper, he must keep them in ignorance of the Scriptures. The Bible would exalt God and place finite men in their true position; therefore its sacred truths must be concealed and suppressed. This logic was adopted by the Roman Church. For hundreds of years the circulation of the Bible was prohibited. (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 51)
This is also how Satan controls the people in North Korea. Kim Il-sung knew the word of God brings liberty and freedom of choice, so he outlawed it. In the following quotation, Ellen White refers to the papacy of the Middle Ages, but the control of people by withholding the word of God applies in any age and to any system, political or religious:
The people were forbidden to read it or to have it in their houses, and unprincipled priests and prelates interpreted its teachings to sustain their pretensions. Thus the pope came to be almost universally acknowledged as the vicegerent of God on earth, endowed with authority over church and state.
The detector of error having been removed, Satan worked according to his will. Prophecy had declared that the papacy was to “think to change times and laws.” Daniel 7:25. This work it was not slow to attempt. To afford converts from heathenism a substitute for the worship of idols, and thus to promote their nominal acceptance of Christianity, the adoration of images and relics was gradually introduced into the Christian worship. The decree of a general council (see Appendix) finally established this system of idolatry. To complete the sacrilegious work, Rome presumed to expunge from the law of God the second commandment, forbidding image worship, and to divide the tenth commandment, in order to preserve the number. (Ibid.)
Even though the papacy does not withhold the Bible from people today, she still controls people by her blatant change of the Ten Commandments, by the use of disputable manuscripts as the basis for scripture, by the promotion of tradition over scripture, and by unscriptural, but so-called biblical, doctrines, such as purgatory, trinitarianism, and mariology.
It was to keep them under the control of the papacy, in order to swell the power and wealth of her ambitious leaders, that the Bible had been withheld from them. (Ibid., p. 127)
The spirit of the papacy also reaches beyond Catholicism to Protestantism:
It is the spirit of the papacy—the spirit of conformity to worldly customs, the veneration for human traditions above the commandments of God—that is permeating the Protestant churches and leading them on to do the same work of Sunday exaltation which the papacy has done before them. (Ibid., p. 573)
It is true the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not teach Sunday sacredness, but the spirit of the papacy is still present in her (and in all Protestant denominations), for here is found conformity to the worldly custom and the human tradition of trinitarianism, contrary to the plain teaching of the word of God. Here also is found back-pedaling on the high-priestly ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary. Here is taught the inability of Christ to perfect a people, in preparation of his soon return. Here also disinformation is found in the published reports of sacred meetings, as a comparison of what actually occurred at the recent business meetings of the 2015 General Conference Session and what was reported in the Review as occurring will reveal (see articles on the General Conference Session in this and in recent past issues of Old Paths), and as a comparison of what actually occurred at the Sanctuary Review Committee in 1980 and what was reported by Ministry as occurring shows. Dr. Richard Hammill explains the report by Ministry magazine of the Sanctuary Review Committee meetings in this way:
Moreover, in its comments on the doctrinal issues, Ministry did not present the view of the Sanctuary Review Committee on crucial passages in Hebrews, especially 9:23. The Ministry explanation was the opposite of the discussion on the committee. The Ministry report ignored the crucial statement in Hebrews 1:3 in discussing the cleansing of the sanctuary. It also ignored Dr. Ford’s major arguments about what it is that defiles the sanctuary; actual sins, as he insists, or the record of sins as our pioneers taught. Also ignored was the pioneers’ teaching about deferred atonement. (Richard L. Hammill, Pilgrimage, p. 194)
The spirit of the papacy can also be seen in the fact that the final and ultimate control of all business sessions at the 2015 General Conference Session was in the hands of the president (or his designee, which was always a vice president). It is true the delegates voted on motions, but what came to the floor to be voted on, when and how parliamentary rules were applied, how debate was controlled, etc., were always at the discretion of the chairperson. It is true the guidance and wisdom of a chairperson and of a parliamentarian are needed at such business meetings, but when the will of the chair and the will of the people conflicted in these business sessions, the word of the chair always ruled. The delegates did not have the final say, contrary to the working policy of the General Conference:
The highest level of authority within the powers granted to each level of denominational organization resides in the constituency meeting. (General Conference Working Policy 2007–2008, p. 48; accessed at https://www.academia.edu/6195528/General_Conference_Working_Police_-_2007-2008 on 12–2–15)
And the General Conference in business session is a constituency meeting. This point was brought up from the floor by a delegate at the session, but he was overruled by the chair, and the delegate let the matter drop. But J. S. Washburn would not have let the matter drop. When he attended the Columbia Union Conference meetings of March 1920, he was so disturbed by what was being taught by W. W. Prescott, contrary to what had been taught by our pioneers, that he wrote a pointed letter of complaint to the General Conference president, A. G. Daniells.
The rule of the leaders in a constituency meeting over the voice of the delegates speaking in harmony with the working policy is an example of worldly, hierarchical policy. Such worldly policy is also seen when the corporate church leadership withholds specific financial information from the body of believers, such as where tithe monies are invested; and it is seen in central administrative leadership, in local church leadership, in large international church gatherings, in smaller local church meetings, and in classroom lectures and assigned readings whenever biblical truth is withheld or is skirted for more acceptable teachings.
Disinformation and deception are real and started in the Garden of Eden with the words “ye shall not surely die” (Genesis 3:4). Eve wanted to believe that the forbidden fruit would make her wise, and we are no different. If we really want to believe something contrary to the word of God, we will believe it and by so doing, we will be caught in Satan’s web. In order to avoid Satan, we must surrender our wills to God, and then God will work out his good pleasure within us. Everything depends on the right action of the will:
The tempted one needs to understand the true force of the will. This is the governing power in the nature of man—the power of decision, of choice. Everything depends on the right action of the will. Desires for goodness and purity are right, so far as they go; but if we stop here, they avail nothing. Many will go down to ruin while hoping and desiring to overcome their evil propensities. They do not yield the will to God. They do not choose to serve Him.
God has given us the power of choice; it is ours to exercise. We cannot change our hearts, we cannot control our thoughts, our impulses, our affections. We cannot make ourselves pure, fit for God’s service. But we can choose to serve God, we can give Him our will; then He will work in us to will and to do according to His good pleasure. Thus our whole nature will be brought under the control of Christ.
Through the right exercise of the will, an entire change may be made in the life. By yielding up the will to Christ, we ally ourselves with divine power. We receive strength from above to hold us steadfast. A pure and noble life, a life of victory over appetite and lust, is possible to everyone who will unite his weak, wavering human will to the omnipotent, unwavering will of God. (Ellen White, The Ministry of Healing, p. 176)
If we surrender our wills to God, he will make us perfect—every spot and blemish will be polished away—and we will achieve the necessary mindset of God’s faithful people who are alive when Jesus returns— that we would rather die than sin. If we surrender our wills to Satan, however, we will sacrifice heaven:
Satan offers to men the kingdoms of the world if they will yield to him the supremacy. Many do this and sacrifice heaven. It is better to die than to sin; better to want than to defraud; better to hunger than to lie. Let all who are tempted meet Satan with these words: “Blessed is everyone that feareth the Lord; that walketh in His ways. For thou shalt eat the labor of thine hands: happy shalt thou be, and it shall be well with thee.” Here is a condition and a promise which will be unmistakably realized. Happiness and prosperity will be the result of serving the Lord. (Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 495)
The stability found in God’s word was pulled away from the North Koreans before they knew what was happening, and they were innocently sucked into the black hole of a ruthless dictatorship that has destroyed thousands, if not millions, of people and that has left those remaining in a lost, hopeless state. A similar situation has occurred in China.
An emerging generation of the Chinese people now believes a totally different narrative about the United States than the one most Americans know—one [the Chinese version] that holds that for 170 years America has tried to dominate China. China depicts American national heroes, including Abraham Lincoln, Woodrow Wilson, and Franklin Roosevelt, as “evil masterminds” who manipulated Chinese officials and others to weaken China. . . .
Starting in 1990, Chinese textbooks were rewritten to depict the United States as a hegemon that, for more than 150 years, had tried to stifle China’s rise and destroy the soul of Chinese civilization. (Michael Pillsbury, The Hundred-Year Marathon: China’s Secret Strategy to Replace America as the Global Superpower, p. 101)
And the sad part is that the Chinese teachers using these textbooks are often scholars who know the truth about world history but who willingly teach a false history because they know they will lose their jobs if they do not:
On a visit to Beijing in the fall of 2013, I tried asking a professor for some of the textbooks in his course. . . .
“You see, I was just curious,” I began. “I’ve read so much about Presidents Tyler, Wilson, and Lincoln in your books. More specifically, about their, well, ‘evil’ China policies.”
The color drained from his face as he stammered, “Y-y-you see, we have recently obtained microfilmed documents from the U.S. archives . . .”
“I know,” I replied. “I’ve reviewed the documents, too. It’s just that I can’t find any mention of these anti-China policies in our U.S. textbooks. In fact, it seems we were very pro-China at the time. If I recall correctly, the U.S. Founding Fathers, Ben Franklin and Thomas Jefferson in particular, had great admiration for the Chinese system.”
He looked out the window, sighed, and explained his predicament. “I do not pick the text materials. The entire faculty is Party members and the Central Committee keeps files on us. Deviating from approved teaching materials would end our careers.” (Ibid., p. 108; second ellipsis in original)
Satan is the originator of all false information:
Ye are of your father the devil, and the lusts of your father ye will do. He was a murderer from the beginning, and abode not in the truth, because there is no truth in him. When he speaketh a lie, he speaketh of his own: for he is a liar, and the father of it. (John 8:44)
And Jang was a master of false information. He studied the data carefully, and he immersed himself in the media of South Korea in order to fashion a package of lies that would appeal to the minds of South Koreans. Seventh-day Adventists know truth. They are not like Jang, trying to sell falsehood to others, for they live, breathe, and love truth. They have the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy to guide them and with which they can test all new spiritual ideas. They are far ahead of all other people on the Earth, spiritually-speaking, and are in a position that will prevent deception, but in this position, I am sorry to say, they meet the champion of guile. Do they love truth? Satan will give them a lot truth. They love to study often and deeply? He will give them great students of the Bible and of the Spirit of Prophecy to guide them. Do they love to be led? He will give them no-compromise-allowed leaders. What about new truth? He has all kinds of shady concepts to share. They love a pleasant experience and camaraderie? He will give them interesting speakers and beautiful music to accompany their sermons, and he will give them sweet friendships to brighten their days.
Perhaps the most devastating tactic of all involves the love of deep study, for it affects all of us. We are all to be students of God’s word. We are to dig deeply for rich treasures, so when someone presents a topic after months, maybe even after years, of study and accompanies it with a great amount of seemingly biblical and Spirit of Prophecy documentation, we usually sit up and take notice. We must be very careful, however, when several quotations are strung together to yield a new spin on an old truth because the conclusion reached can be very far from the meaning of the opening quotation. Satan also can heighten the sense of the rightness of a new truth by instigating persecution against the proponents of the new truth, since all that live godly will suffer persecution (2 Timothy 3:12). The fact that one is suffering persecution is often taken as proof that one is right. Satan’s tactics are devious and unrelenting.
Careful thought must be given to everything we read and to that to which we listen because even the lack of quotation marks can be of significance. For example, in one book, we read:
Sister White, while describing the transition of pagan Rome into papal Rome, ties both Daniel 11:36 and 2 Thessalonians 2:3–4 together confirming that the subject of both is “the man of sin.” (Jeff Pippinger, The Final Rise and Fall of the King of the North, p. 26)
Pippinger then quotes Ellen White:
This compromise between paganism and Christianity resulted in the development of “the man of sin” foretold in prophecy as opposing and exalting himself above God. That gigantic system of false religion is a masterpiece of Satan’s power—a monument of his efforts to seat himself upon the throne to rule the earth according to his will. (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 50)
The portion of interest in the Ellen White statement seems straightforward enough and makes sense just as it reads—Satan has made a monumental effort to rule the earth according to his will—but Pippinger states the phrase according to his will refers to Daniel 11:36 and that Ellen White has intentionally connected Daniel 11:36 with 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4.
First, let us read Daniel 11:36:
And the king shall do according to his will; and he shall exalt himself, and magnify himself above every god, and shall speak marvellous things against the God of gods, and shall prosper till the indignation be accomplished: for that that is determined shall be done. (Daniel 11:36)
Now let us notice that the phrase according to his will in the Ellen White reference is not in quotation marks; whereas, the phrase the man of sin is, giving us license to connect the man of sin to 2 Thessalonians 2:3 but not giving us license to connect according to his will to Daniel 11:36 or to any other text. To say that Ellen White is connecting the two biblical references is unfair to her, and, as noted already, her words make perfect sense without any connection being made. We readily agree that the man of sin in 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4 is the papacy and that the king of Daniel 11:36 is also the papacy, but to say that Ellen White is tying the two together in this quotation is simply putting a spin on her words, and disinformation, small though it may seem in this case, is planted in the hearts of men.
In case you fear I am making Pippinger “an offender for a word” (Isaiah 29:21), so to speak, let us consider a more serious example. In answer to a question about why Daniel 11:40–45 is of such importance for our time and about why the corporate church does not have the “profound understanding regarding these verses” that Pippinger has on them, Pippinger responded:
I am not sure that I could ever understand why people don’t understand these verses. In Daniel 12:1 Michael stands up. And Daniel 12:1 begins by saying: “And at that time” identifying that Michael stands up somewhere in the history of the previous verses. We understand that when Michael stands up, human probation closes. . . . So, I have understood that the verses 40 to 45 are the prophetic events that lead to the close of probation. (Ibid.)
No problem so far, and if this were all he said, we would take no issue with him, for everyone has the right to his own opinion, but in his very next sentence he quotes Ellen White to support his interpretation:
Also in Great Controversy, page 594, Sister White says: “The events connected with the close of probation and the work of preparation for the time of trouble, are clearly presented. But multitudes have no more understanding of these important truths than if they had never been revealed. Satan watches to catch away every impression that would make them wise unto salvation, and the time of trouble will find them unready.” (Ibid.)
Pippinger then explains:
So, Inspiration tells us the events that lead to the close of probation had been clearly revealed. And the clearest revelation of the close of probation is Daniel 12:1 when Daniel stands up. So, the last six verses of Daniel 11, according to inspiration, have been clearly revealed. And she says, these events are important truths. She says Satan catches away every thought that might make them understand these verses, and she says because of that, those people aren’t going to be ready when probation closes. (Ibid.)
The events that lead to the close of probation have been clearly revealed, but what are those events? Mr. Pippinger says they are the last six verses of Daniel 11 and that Ellen White also says this in the quotation from The Great Controversy. Before we make a final decision, however, let us read the very next sentence in the quotation from The Great Controversy:
When God sends to men warnings so important that they are represented as proclaimed by holy angels flying in the midst of heaven, He requires every person endowed with reasoning powers to heed the message. (White, The Great Controversy, p. 594)
“The events connected with the close of probation and the work of preparation for the time of trouble” (Ibid.) that have been clearly presented by Ellen White are the three angels’ messages! Not Daniel 11:40–45! Only God can judge if this misrepresentation of Ellen White’s writings is intentional or not, but it is of a very serious nature. This does not mean that the last part of Daniel is not important or that it does not happen just before the close of probation, but we cannot gain support for such conclusions from Ellen White’s statement in The Great Controversy. To do so takes our eyes away from one of the important means God has of preparing us for the close of probation and for the time of trouble—the three angels’ messages!
As serious as these misrepresentations are, a far more serious misapplication to consider is this:
When . . . one hears an Adventist say . . . that Christ is making atonement now, it should be understood that we mean simply that Christ is now making application of the benefits of the sacrificial atonement He made on the cross . . . Mrs. White herself, as far back as 1857, clearly explained what she means when she writes of Christ’s making atonement for us in His ministry:
“The great Sacrifice had been offered and had been accepted, and the Holy Spirit which descended on the day of Pentecost carried the minds of the disciples from the earthly sanctuary to the heavenly, where Jesus had entered by His own blood, to shed upon His disciples the benefits of His atonement.” (Questions on Doctrine [QOD], p. 355; quoting Ellen White, Early Writings, p. 259; emphases in original)
The phrase benefits of his atonement is found ten times in the published writings of Ellen White, and all ten of these are two specific uses and their repeats—one written in the context of Pentecost, quoted above, and the second written in the context of the investigative judgment:
And as the typical cleansing of the earthly was accomplished by the removal of the sins by which it had been polluted, so the actual cleansing of the heavenly is to be accomplished by the removal, or blotting out, of the sins which are there recorded. But before this can be accomplished, there must be an examination of the books of record to determine who, through repentance of sin and faith in Christ, are entitled to the benefits of His atonement. (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 421)
The problem is neither of these usages can refer to justification, as the authors of QOD have concluded. In the example from Early Writings, the benefits of the atonement are applied specifically to the disciples gathered in the upper room and not to all of mankind. In other words, Jesus shed upon the disciples who experienced the special outpouring of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost the “benefits of His atonement.” Forgiveness of sin, however, is for all of mankind, not just the disciples at Pentecost. The use of “His disciples” is figurative, you might think, and can apply to all of Christ’s disciples down through the ages, but the context is literal. In addition, the word benefits is plural, and justification is a singular concept. Putting the two together does not fit linguistically. It would need to be stated, to shed upon his disciples one of the benefits or a benefit of his atonement if justification, or any other singular concept, were intended. What the benefits—plural—are we will consider after we contemplate the second example of Ellen White’s use of the term benefits of his atonement.
The context in the second usage is the investigative judgment, and the main focus of the judgment is, of course, the examination of records, although justification is available during this time for the living, as long as their cases remain open. Again, the main focus of the investigative judgment is judgment and not justification. We cannot conclude, therefore, that “the benefits of His atonement” in this example is justification because justification will have already been accessed and applied before the books of record are examined.
Ellen White offers an alternative to the QOD interpretation of benefits of his atonement:
If Jesus had not died our sacrifice and risen again, we should never have known peace, never have felt joy, but only experienced the horrors of darkness and the miseries of despair. Then let only praise and gratitude be the language of the hearts. All our lives we have been partakers of His heavenly benefits, recipients of the blessings of His priceless atonement. (Ms9–1883 (September 3, 1883) par. 7; a similar quote is found in The Signs of the Times, September 27, 1883 par. 6)
The benefits, or blessings, associated with the atonement in this passage are peace and joy.
We know not the dangers and perils which beset us on every side, and yet we are daily kept by the watchcare of the holy angels from the cruel designs of evil angels. Could our eyes be opened, what wonders would we discover, what disasters Satan would bring upon us, were we not guarded every day. Then how grateful we should be that we are partakers of the heavenly benefits and lifted up and ennobled by the blessings of the great atonement. (Lt31–1889 (June 13, 1889) par. 15)
The benefits, or blessings, associated with the atonement in this passage are the daily watch care of the holy angels and the protection their guardianship provides from the disasters Satan would bring upon us, if he could!
One other thought: Our pioneers, and those who have faithfully tried to follow in their footsteps, are not in agreement with the view QOD places on the atonement. For example:
I was perplexed when in the February number of the Ministry, 1957 I found the statement that “the sacrificial act of the cross (was) a complete, perfect, and final atonement.” This was in distinct contradiction to Mrs. White’s pronouncement that the final atonement began in 1844. I thought that this might be a misprint, and wrote to Washington calling attention to the matter, but found it was not a misprint but an official and approved statement. If we still hold the Spirit of Prophecy as of authority, we therefore have two contradictory beliefs: the final atonement was made at the cross; the final atonement began in 1844. (M. L. Andreasen, Letters to the Churches, “Letter Five”)
. . . we believe that Christ’s work of atonement for sin was begun rather than completed on Calvary . . . (Francis D. Nichol, Answers to Objections, p. 408)
In conclusion, QOD’s theology on the atonement is a treacherous and an evilly sublime piece of disinformation. I say this for many reasons: The quotation used is not linguistically compatible with QOD’s conclusion. The context of the quotation is not compatible. Our historical understanding of the atonement is not compatible. More importantly, no biblical or Spirit of Prophecy statement can substantiate the QOD interpretation or nullify the existing incompatibilities and finally, newly-released passages in the Spirit of Prophecy offer a compatible understanding.
If you have been a Seventh-day Adventist for any length of time, you have been exposed to this false theology on the ministry of Christ in the most holy place, and most Seventh-day Adventists have accepted it without question because it sounds good, but we must remember to be thinkers and not to be mere reflectors of other men’s thoughts:
Every human being, created in the image of God, is endowed with a power akin to that of the Creator— individuality, power to think and to do. . . . It is the work of true education to develop this power, to train the youth to be thinkers, and not mere reflectors of other men’s thought. (Ellen White, Education, p. 17)
May we speak only words of truth, so as to not propagate disinformation, for the Lord hates all deception, no matter how small or insignificant it may seem to be:
The Lord hates all deception, secrecy, and guile. . . . The work of Satan is after this secret, insidious order. He conceals himself, and yet suggests, instigates, and leads men to work against the truth of God. (Ellen White, The Review & Herald, July 31, 1894)
Satan, on the other hand, hates truth:
The archdeceiver hates the great truths that bring to view an atoning sacrifice and an all-powerful mediator. He knows that with him everything depends on his diverting minds from Jesus and His truth. (White, The Great Controversy, p. 488)
Satan also hates God and his Son:
We have a powerful enemy, and not only does he hate every human being made in the image of God, but with bitterest enmity he hates God and His only-begotten Son Jesus Christ. When men give themselves over to be the slaves of Satan, he does not manifest the enmity toward them which he does to those who bear the name of Christ, and give themselves to the service of God. He hates them with a deadly hatred. (Ellen White, Fundamentals of Education, p. 299)
And Satan hates us:
Satan hates those who have taken hold of the strength of Christ, but those who have made a full surrender are reconciled to God, and he will be their defense. (Ellen White, The Review & Herald, August 6, 1889)
Satan uses disinformation in the secular field, as well as in the spiritual realities. He knew in 1844, and he knows now, the significance of the date and of what occurred. He knows the significance of the three angels’ messages and because he did not succeed in obliterating the movement of truth in 1844, he is desperately trying now to be successful. What occurred in 1844 and what continues to occur has been largely reframed by new interpretation and by diminished significance in many of our schools of higher education. This is masterminded to create doubt and distrust in the foundation of our faith and to cause unstable footing for the crises ahead.
Jang chose truth over lies and chose responsibility over callous disregard for the suffering of his countrymen, but his eyes did not become fully opened to the deception and corruption of his government until he returned to his home village in the 1990s. You and I may have been seated for years in the pews of the new theology and may have heard over and over new spins to old truths, or worse, may have heard nothing but fluff in place of the deep nourishment we need in this solemn antitypical Day of Atonement, but our eyes can be opened, too. Jang’s country was suffering the effects of a terrible famine, with hundreds of thousands and maybe millions of people dying of starvation, and our church also suffers a terrible famine, a famine for the life-saving truths to prepare us for the solemn judgment and a famine for the way into the most holy place to be made plain, where we can, and where we must, be cleansed from all our sin.
Oh, to be diligent and careful students of God’s word, for:
None but those who have fortified the mind with the truths of the Bible will stand through the last great conflict. (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 594) ?
. Adapted from Jang Jin-sung, Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee—A Look Inside North Korea (New York: Simon & Schuster, 2014) pp. xv–xxii
. According to Jang Jin-sung in Dear Leader: Poet, Spy, Escapee—A Look Inside North Korea
. J. Robert Spangler was the editor of Ministry at this time. You can access this particular issue of Ministry at https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archives/1980/MIN1980-10.pdf
. Link for the letter: http://www.temcat.com/004-Understanding-SDA/Washburn%20Letters.pdf
. Question 4, “An Interview with Jeff Pippinger: 16 Important questions about end-time events and biblical prophecy,” December 2008; accessed at http://www.prophecyhelps101.com/rich_text_39.html on 12–1–15)
Preface: In preparing these reports we are attempting to give the reader a behind-the-scenes look into the General Conference session business meetings. The Bulletins do not give a total account, yet to print a verbatim transcript of the meetings would be too lengthy in our case. What we have tried to do is to examine the meetings and present that which will provide a faithful report of what took place, with commentary to help explain the significance of the events.
July 6 (Monday Morning — Seventh Business Session)
The fundamental beliefs of a Christian denomination are the basis for its uniqueness. The doctrines of the various church groups set each apart from another, and this is especially true of the Seventh-day Adventist Church because almost every doctrine we teach is slightly, or radically, different from what the majority of churches teach.
President Ted Wilson’s father, former General Conference (GC) President Neil Wilson, correctly stated:
Our doctrines cannot be changed without changing the nature of the church. (Adventist Review, November 8, 1979; speech given at the Annual Council in Washington, D.C. in October 1979).
When one compares the current twenty-eight fundamentals with the first statement in 1872, it is clear to see that historic changes have been made in some of the most important areas; however, during the session GC Vice President Artur Stele, Chairman of the Fundamental Beliefs Review Committee, stated:
Before we discuss the process, Brother Chair, may I make a statement that although we recommend some small changes, we are not recommending a change to our beliefs. All the modifications that will be proposed, in reality, are not changing anything for what they stood for. In fact, we have studied history, we went through all the protocols, and we have studied what have those who proposed and have written and have voted on those things—what they had in mind. All the historical evidence we put together, and we can confirm today that we are not changing anything in our beliefs. But you know, with the times, the language is changing. Words tend to change their meaning and so some editorial changes that are suggested are really a language refinement and do not change, really, what we believe. (Audio recording; not published in the Bulletin)
Dr. Stele, who chaired the Fundamental Beliefs Review Committee, presented some of the changes to the delegates. In doing so he stated that they do not change our beliefs, but merely update and clarify the language. If one considers his statement in relationship to the fundamentals voted at the 1980 General Conference, that would be mostly true. So when he says that “we can confirm today that we are not changing anything in our beliefs,” this is mostly true for the time since 1980. However, the original 1872 statement and even the 1931 statement have positions that are not present or altered in the new 2015 statement. We noted some of the prior major changes in the November 2011 edition of Old Paths. (See Appendix 1: Doctrinal Comparisons.)
When Stele says that the committee has “studied history,” it must not be a long history.
Since fundamental beliefs are so important to a church (they are the character of the church), a careful procedure should be in place for any consideration of change. Dr. Stele, in fact, explained that there was a long and careful process considering the various ideas and suggestions of changes. No doubt this was closely followed, but they started with a false premise—the concept that they already were in the possession of truth and that they were merely refining it.
In an earlier session the question had been raised about using a two-thirds vote, or super majority, to approve any new changes to the fundamentals instead of a simple majority. A request had been made to the Steering Committee that the committee consider recommending a two-thirds vote. This was not an unusual request. In many bodies or groups, a super majority is used on important matters. For example, when the United States president vetoes a bill from Congress, it takes a two-thirds majority vote from Congress to override the veto. It certainly seems reasonable that something so important as making a change in the fundamentals would require such a vote. However, President Ted Wilson stated:
The Steering Committee received the information. We also listened to one this morning who had a burden about putting into the rules of order a limiting provision that would allow for a two-thirds majority to change any fundamental belief. After listening to a brother who presented that, the Steering Committee reflected, discussed, and the Steering Committee has voted that first of all, we do not believe that the fundamental beliefs should be subject to a two-thirds majority, or super majority vote.
In 1980, when the twenty-seven fundamental beliefs were voted, it was done by a simple majority. In 2005, when an additional fundamental belief was voted, it was done by simple majority. Almost everything we do in the church in terms of actual agenda items are done by simple majority. Our counsel is that we cannot move away from that normal process. (Audio recording; not published in the Bulletin)
In further reflection one can see that a super majority has both positive and negative points, the positive being that a slight minority is protected from a slight majority, but there is also the negative. Consider for example a church with a fundamental belief that is wrong, maybe one that teaches Sunday sacredness. Let us say that a clear majority of the congregation, 65%, sees that Sunday is not the true day of worship. This majority wants to change their fundamental belief but because they need a super majority of two-thirds, the minority of 35% can keep them from making that change.
The session began with Elder Wilson giving his report from the Steering Committee as noted earlier. It was explained that the goal was to finish the initial discussion of the fundamentals on Monday, so there would be time to go over and make any needed revisions on Tuesday.
A question concerning the basic points of parliamentary procedures brought a brief, but concise, explanation from Todd McFarland, the session parliamentarian.
When the business was ready to start, Lee-Roy Chacon (NAD) made a questionable motion:
In order to move matters quickly and expedite matters today, I move that we limit conversation to two minutes per individual. (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 35; all emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted)
Note carefully that the motion concerned the business for that day (Monday). It made no provision for any other day. To this the chairman, Benjamin Schoun, asked:
Brother Chacon, would you be willing to make it three minutes if there is translation that is required? (Ibid.)
This was agreed upon, and the motion was seconded and voted upon without any discussion upon it. This seemed strange in light of the importance of the discussion. Perhaps the realization that, unlike the United States Congress which is in session for most months of the year, the General Conference would only be in operation less than two weeks and time was valuable; however, it also seemed unreasonable, in light of all the time that was wasted on other things during the meetings and otherwise. Furthermore, it was not fair to those needing translation. An English speaker, for example, could take his full two minutes, but if we equal time for translation is needed, then a Spanish speaker, for example, would only have one and one half minutes to speak, since he would have to allow the rest of the time for translation. This was never addressed and was problematic to non-English speakers.
The discussion then moved to the recommendation that Elder Wilson brought from the Steering Committee, concerning a simple majority vote for the fundamentals. While not a part of the discussion on the two-minute speaking restriction, it was noted by Samuel Davis (TED), after the motion on the time restriction, that the body needed to vote on using a simple majority. Action was not taken at that time, as there was another motion already on the floor, but the proposition that the body needed to make a decision on what kind of majority would be needed to approve the fundamentals was not appropriate. A protocol was already in place for using the simple majority. A vote would only be needed for a change to be made to the protocol. However, after the vote on the time restriction, the chairman asked Davis if he wanted make a motion on his request, which Davis did. Schoun then said:
The motion—and I’ll have to interpret your motion a little bit here so we know how to vote. The recommendation that comes from the Steering Committee is that we do not use two-thirds majority for voting on the Fundamental Beliefs here. So if you would vote in favor of that, you don’t want to see the two-thirds majority. If you vote against that, then you might be one who would still like to see the two-thirds majority. (Ibid.; edited with audio recording)
After a point of order, Elder Ted Wilson stated:
Brother Chair, if I can comment. We don’t want anyone to be confused here. The way the church conducts business in almost every respect except for the changing of constitutions—you have a constitution, wherever you are. It may say in there it needs to be by two-thirds. The way we normally conduct business at Annual Council, at the General Conference session, in normal committee meetings, whether they be at local level, union, division, General Conference, is by using a simple majority, which means you have to have one vote more than the exact middle of however many people you have at the meeting.
So there is no need to clarify anything further by the Steering Committee. And the individual who brought up the aspect that we voted, we only voted to recommend or to share with you what it is.
So the motion that is now in place is to accept—as we understand it, to accept the recommendation from the Steering Committee that we do not change the simple-majority approach but that we continue with that and we do not accept the two-thirds majority that was being suggested the other day. That is our recommendation. But in almost every other case except for the constitutional changes, we are recommending, and we use throughout the church, a simple majority. We do that not just with a political or a procedural approach, but we do most voting with a direct asking for God’s guidance through prayer. (Ibid.)
Elder Wilson noted that a change to the GC Constitution needs a two-thirds vote. It only stands to reason that it does so out of its importance. However, can it reasonably be said that the GC Constitution is more important than the doctrines that the church believes? Hardly!
After Elder Wilson spoke Brother Onalenna Balapi noted that there was no second on the motion and that the chair was incorrectly allowing discussion on a motion that had not been seconded. Brother Balapi stated:
Thank you, Mr. Chair. I sense now and even previously that after a motion has been made, the chair takes a little time hesitating to call for secondment. That creates a room for some kind of discussion before the motion is really moved. I request, Mr. Chair, that you call for a secondment on this motion so that if there is a need for discussion, we do so; otherwise, we vote on it. Thank you. (Ibid.)
I did call for a second on this one. Yes, I think, my colleagues say that we did call for a second on this motion. (Ibid.)
The problem is that there was no second noted either in the minutes or in the audio recording. If the chair received a second, it was not clearly noted. Similar types of improper procedures repeatedly happened throughout the conference session.
The main point of interest among all the fundamentals was the fundamental on creation—number 6. It was felt by some that there was a certain amount of ambiguity in the statement. It did not clearly declare that creation occurred about six thousand years ago, opening the way for theistic evolution. Further, some felt the old statement limited God’s total creation to the last six thousand years, thus putting a restriction upon how the great controversy issue could be viewed. The great controversy theme, as we have understood it, says that before the Genesis creation, heaven was inhabited by angels. Lucifer, the highest angel, rebelled and drew one-third of the angels into rebellion against God with him. If God’s total creation began with this earth about six thousand years ago, then there is no room in scared history for the rebellion of Satan. In fact, it was a desire to tweak the creation fundamental that opened the door for the rest of the fundamentals. Elder Wilson noted:
At the last General Conference session in Atlanta in 2010, a motion and a vote was taken that allowed for the General Conference to look carefully at especially Fundamental Belief, number 6. This has to do with creation and the wording of it so that it fully and carefully states our full position according to our understanding from the Bible. In addition, I might say the fact of the request to the General Conference, to be followed up by the General conference after the session, was an enormously huge vote. I don’t know the percentage precisely, but I would say at least 95% voted to refer to the General Conference the opportunity of looking at fundamental number 6. Also, we began to think, perhaps, there are some adjustments that could be made to enhance and to clarify the fundamentals. A small writing committee was put together, chaired by Dr. Stele, composed of Ángel Rodríguez, Dr. Bill Knott, Dr. Gerhard Pfandl. (Audio recording)
The discussion of the fundamentals soon began. Dr. Stele noted that the Preamble was not changed, nor beliefs 13, 14, 15, 16, 26, 27, or 28, except for the arrangement of the scriptural references. Stele noted:
The only refinement that is done in these Fundamental Beliefs is that we have looked in the Bible references, and we have changed the way they are presented. Before, they have been presented not in a canonical way, meaning you could have a reference first Matthew, then Genesis. But the attempt was that the first reference would refer more to the beginning of the Fundamental Belief, then what follows, all the second sentence and so on, but this could not be translated in other languages, and it has created some confusion. And so we have used the canonical order of presenting the biblical messages, starting from Genesis and then following through the book of Revelation. (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 35; edited with audio recording)
Stele moved that the delegates accept the unchanged Preamble and the unchanged (except for the references) beliefs. After some clarification on what was being voted, this motion was accepted.
The next belief discussed was number 25 on “The Second Coming of Christ.” Part of the old statement read, “Christ’s coming is imminent.” The proposal was to change it to “Christ’s coming is near.” The reasoning was stated by Stele:
We have received recommendations from a number of people because they saw that we have not used a biblical reference and it was quite difficult for some languages to translate it. And so we felt that it would be appropriate to use exactly the phrase that was used in the biblical reference. I move it. (Audio recording)
Stele also noted that the term near is from Matthew, the exact text being Matthew 24:33. This motion was accepted without any discussion. Later a check using Google translator revealed that while some countries had translations that were almost identical to the English word imminent, for example in Spanish it is inminente and in French it is imminent, many languages have difficult translations for it. However, it does seem to take away something important when we remove the concept of imminent which means very near. It seems to us that if they could use near, then there could be a translation for imminent as being very near, if nothing else would work.
Fundamental number 20 on “The Sabbath” was next discussed. The only change was explained:
Besides a biblical reference rearrangement, we have changed one word. The Fundamental Belief starts with “The beneficent Creator.” It’s an English word that is very difficult for some of us to pronounce, and it has been also a challenge for some to understand it. The suggestion is to use a more clearer and more understandable word, “gracious”—a “gracious Creator.” (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 36)
This belief was passed without discussion.
Fundamental Belief number 11 on “Growing in Christ,” added at the 2005 General Conference, was next discussed. Stele noted:
We have received a number of recommendations telling us that we have not in our Fundamental Beliefs any reference to the need to be involved in the social work, in helping others and so forth and so on. And so in order to accommodate the request, we have added a sentence in the Fundamental Belief “Growing in Christ,” number 11. You will see it now on the screen the sentence: “We are also called to follow Christ’s example by compassionately ministering to the physical, mental, social, emotional, and spiritual needs of humanity.” (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 36; edited with audio recording)
The belief also was voted without any discussion from the floor.
Fundamental Belief number 9, “The Life, Death, and Resurrection of Christ,” was discussed next. One word, bodily, was added to the text. “The bodily resurrection of Christ proclaims God’s triumph over the forces of evil . . .”
This change only brought one voice of concern from the floor, but Dr. Stele noted that the concern was clarified in another statement, so this belief was then voted.
Fundamental Belief number 17 on “Spiritual Gifts and Ministries” was next. Two changes were proposed here. The first was to use the word that for the word which. This seemed to be of no concern; however, the second change did bring an expression of concern. In the middle of the belief, it was suggested to remove the word apostolic:
Some members are called of God and endowed by the Spirit for functions recognized by the church in pastoral, evangelistic, apostolic, and teaching ministries particularly needed to equip the members for service, to build up the church to spiritual maturity, and to foster unity of the faith and knowledge of God. (2015 GC Session Book, p. 59)
This proposed change took up a large amount of time for discussion. Opposition to the change involved the argument that since the gift of being an apostle is listed in Ephesians 4:11 that it should not be excluded, despite some having difficulty understanding what the gift is today and how it is to function. Ángel Rodríguez noted, though:
The list is based on the spiritual gifts. And we thought that “apostolic” was probably referring to missionaries. And we concluded that the idea of mission is already present in the statement. (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 36)
This did not convince everyone. Kevin Rhamie (NAD) stated:
I believe that the world needs to know that we believe in the apostolic gift. It’s one of the main gifts listed in the Bible. Even though we do not use that terminology currently, it’s listed, and it needs to show that we believe in it. I do not believe that it’s talking about missionaries. The apostolic gift as shown in the book of Acts was not that of so much missionaries, and I move that this be referred back to the committee so that we can maintain the biblical text. (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 36; edited with audio recording)
This motion was voted down, and question was called on the original motion, which was approved followed by a vote approving the statement.
The next belief discussed was number 21 on “Stewardship.” In this belief gender inclusive language was proposed, with “fellow human beings” used in the place of “men.” Another change was the change to the word tithe instead of tithes. There was no discussion on this belief and it was quickly passed.
Fundamental Belief number 22 on “Christian Behavior” was next. Stele noted:
. . . we have received recommendations to include several aspects, like not carrying weapons and so on, so on, so on. Many. We were looking where to find an expression that would include all of them and also then how to explain the words heavenly principles.
And so in order to help, to accommodate this request, we have suggested the following change: “We are called to be a godly people who think, feel, and act in harmony with” . . . [instead of] “the principles of heaven,” “biblical principles.” And then we have added “in all aspects of personal and social life.”
And then on the next line again, grammatical change from “which” to “them” and together with the biblical references, I move that. (Ibid.)
This belief was voted without any floor discussion being raised and like all before it, it passed.
Fundamental Belief number 23 entitled “Marriage and the Family” was next. There were several small changes in this statement, most of which were done to clarify that marriage was between one man and one woman and that marriage partners could not be of the same gender. This motion was well-received, except by Jeroen Tuinstra (TED), who had already demonstrated a lack of biblical sense. His comments were so far off the wall on this belief that none were recorded in the Bulletin. For example, he stated that the language in the belief was “quite degenerating to people of homosexual persuasion” (Audio recording). He implied that homosexuals are born that way and later stated:
It is quite disturbing that language like this is used at such a high level in the church with so many intelligent people. (Ibid.)
After this Lawrence Geraty (NAD) suggested that the change was not good. He gave as his reasoning:
You can talk about couples as a man and a woman and their characteristics and so on. But when you talk about marriage partners, there’s a closeness that is conveyed by that phrase which I would hate to lose. So my recommendation is, since we already have on line 12 “a man and a woman.” Let’s not be redundant in 17. Let’s keep “marriage partners.” (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 36; edited with audio recording)
Interestingly, the chair asked Geraty if he wanted it referred back for consideration. Geraty noted, “Yes,” but without a formal motion and without a second, the chair declared, “Ok. We will then vote on that.” At this time Elder Wilson came to the microphone and stated his approval of the changes, saying: “We want to leave no ambiguity about it” (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 36).
Despite no formal motion and no second, the proposal to refer the belief back to the committee was voted on, but failed. This was followed by further discussion on the original proposed change, which was then voted and passed.
Now the time had come for the center stage item to be introduced—Fundamental Belief number 6 entitled “Creation.” This was introduced with belief number 8 on “The Great Controversy,” due to their connection. The change before the delegates on number 6 is given below, where the bold words are new additions to the belief and the strikethrough words were to be deleted.
God is the Creator of all things. He things, and has revealed in Scripture the authentic and historical account of His creative activity. In six days a recent six-day creation the Lord made “the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” and rested on the seventh day. “the heaven and the earth” and all living things upon the earth, and rested on the seventh day of that first week. Thus He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of His creative work, performed and completed during six literal days that together with the Sabbath constituted the same unit of time that we call a week today. completed creative work. The first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was “very good,” declaring the glory of God. (Gen. 1–2; 5; 11; Ex. 20:1 8–11; Ps. 19:1–6; 33:6, 9; 104; 2 Isa. 45:12; Acts 17:24; Col. 1:16; Heb. 11:3; Rev. 10:6; 14:7.) (Gen. 1; 2; Ex. 20:8–11; 3 Ps. 19:1–6; 33:6, 9; 104; Heb. 11:3.) (2015 GC Session Book, pp. 54, 55)
Belief 8 was presented, with one main change, as follows:
All humanity is now involved in a great controversy between Christ and Satan regarding the character of God, His law, and His sovereignty over the universe. This conflict originated in heaven when a created being, endowed with freedom of choice, in self-exaltation became Satan, God’s adversary, and led into rebellion a portion of the angels. He introduced the spirit of rebellion into this world when he led Adam and Eve into sin. This human sin resulted in the distortion of the image of God in humanity, the disordering of the created world, and its eventual devastation at the time of the worldwide flood, as presented in the historical account of Genesis 1–11. flood. Observed by the whole creation, this world became the arena of the universal conflict, out of which the God of love will ultimately be vindicated. To assist His people in this controversy, Christ sends the Holy Spirit and the loyal angels to guide, protect, and sustain them in the way of salvation. (Gen. 3; 6–8; Job 1:6–12; Isa. 14:12–14; Ezek. 28:12–18; 33 Rom. 1:19–32; 3:4; 5:12–21; 8:19–22; 1 Cor. 4:9; Heb. 1:14; 1 Peter 5:8; 2 Peter 3:6; 34 Rev. 12:4–9.) (Rev. 12:4–9; Isa. 14:12–14; Eze. 28:12–18; Gen. 3; Rom. 1:19–32; 5:12–21; 35 8:19–22; Gen. 6–8; 2 Peter 3:6; 1 Cor. 4:9; Heb. 1:14.) (Ibid., p. 55)
The rationale for this statement change for Belief 8 was given in the 2015 GC Session Book:
There are a couple of reasons for placing this sentence here. First, this is the only place in the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs in which the flood is mentioned; second, the phrase “worldwide flood” is the equivalent of the originally suggested reading (“and that the flood was global in nature”); and third, Statement #8 takes us back to creation and the fall making it possible to make a reference to Genesis 1–11 and not only to chapters dealing with the flood. (Ibid.)
The first to comment was Lawrence Geraty. After commending the committee for its work using inclusive language, he stated:
A few changes, however, appear to be designed to exclude, and some of these are found in number 6, on creation, and these can be found at the bottom of page 54.
Certainly, all the delegates hold the Bible as to be our authority. In fact the very first line of our Fundamental Beliefs on page 53, line 12, expresses it well when it says that “the Bible is our only creed.”
So the problem I wish to address is the proposed wording in the creation statement that is non-biblical. There are interpretations that have been inserted, interpretations that are possible and may even be right because they come from the writings of Ellen White, but they are not in the Bible. Thus they open us to the challenge and charge by critics that we base our beliefs on Ellen White and not on the Bible. (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 37; edited with audio recording)
Here is an ordained minister, who, in his career, was on the faculty at Andrews University and was the president of Atlantic Union College and, later, of La Sierra University, stating that the proposed statement might be right because it is based upon the writings of Ellen White and not the Bible! The truth is that the statement is well-grounded in the Bible, and a reading of the supporting texts shows that to be true. Geraty wanted to say more but his time was up, and it was just as well so he did not have time to spread more doubt about the writings of Ellen White!
Ray Hartwell (NAD) wanted the statements to be more detailed, asking for the following changes:
“God is the Creator of all things. He’s revealed in Scripture the authentic and historical account of His creative activity. God created the universe, including the angels and unfallen worlds. Later, in a recent six-day creation, the Lord made this world’s dominions of,” and then continue with the rest of the statement.
Then in article 8, on line 28, where it speaks of the worldwide flood as presented in the historical account of Genesis 1–11, I would like to recommend to the committee, if this is referred back, to use the word “global” either in conjunction with “worldwide” or in place of “worldwide.” There are certain Bible scholars that identify “worldwide” as being only the world the Bible writer knew of in their own personal experience, but not a global flood. (Ibid.)
Hartwell then moved for these changes be referred back to the committee. Stele then stated that the committee had heard these concerns prior to the session and asked that the parliamentary rules be set aside by common consent so that others might be able to speak to the issue and then the committee would work on the suggestions and bring back a revised belief on the next day. He pleaded, “But use now the time for giving us more input.”
If the delegates so chose to do this by common consent, they had that privilege; however, the delegates were not asked if it was their pleasure. Instead, Chairman Schoun simply said, “Okay, we will not vote on this” (Ibid.).
Megen Mole (TED) then made several suggestions on grammar.
Next, Jirií Moskala (GC), the current dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary, then recommended “three refinements” to the writing committee:
First: The first three sentences in this fundamental belief give the impression that God is the Creator of all things at once; namely, that He created the entire universe, together with life on earth.
However, we as Seventh-day Adventists strongly believe that the great controversy originated before the creation week of Genesis 1.
So, in order to harmonize it and have a room of time for Satan’s rebellion in heaven, I recommend to insert between the sentence two and the third sentence the word “later.”
Second: It would be helpful to clarify more what does it mean that God created all things. It is interesting that our 28 Fundamental Beliefs presuppose the existence of angels, but it is never stated how and when they came into existence—that they were created by God. I believe that here would be a fitting place to include such a statement.
Three: It would be very useful to explain that the phrase “the heavens and the earth and the sea” of Exodus 20:11 refer to this world’s three domains and that this text is not speaking about the whole universe. (Ibid.)
After Moskala spoke, Willem Altink (TED) noted:
I am not so much in favor of adapting the changes for number 6. As the preamble to our Fundamental Beliefs states, the Bible is our creed. We have already a lot of explanations in the twenty-eight fundamental beliefs. I think there is a danger if we go too far in explaining, especially from the point of view of mission.
If we want to bring people to Christ and the good news of the Sabbath, people need to have time to grow into the understanding of the Bible.
If we make it too strict, people will feel that it is not really an invitation. Give room for the believer’s growth and give room for the spirit.
Secondly, I believe, for pastoral reasons, it is not good to accept the changes. We will exclude members who are very loyal to the church. They agree with the present wording, but the changes will exclude them. And I think that would really be a pity. It would be important that the Fundamental Beliefs would describe the whole body of believers of our church. Thank you very much. (Ibid.)
What Altink is actually saying is the old statement leaves a loophole for theistic evolution, and such believers are, under the old statement, in good and regular standing, but if the new statement were to be adopted, it would have an excluding effect instead of an inclusive effect.
After Altink spoke a motion was made to extend the speaker’s time to two and a half minutes and to four minutes if translation were needed. This motion, with no discussion, failed. What is very interesting is that when the original motion was made by Lee-Roy Chacon, it was specifically for that day—Monday. The Bulletin gives a report of the proceedings and also a report of the actions voted. In the Session Actions report for the 9:30 a.m. session of Monday, July 6, the first action noted is:
VOTED, To limit speakers today to two minutes, or three minutes if the speaker needs translation. (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 38)
The last action noted in the session actions report for the same Monday morning session was also on limiting speeches. It said:
VOTED, To retain the current limit on speakers today to two minutes, or three minutes if the speaker needs translation. (Ibid., p. 40)
The problem is that there is no record in the minutes to retain this action. The reason is that it was not done, and this is confirmed by the audio recording!
Richard Davidson (GC), professor at Andrews University, then spoke in favor of Dr. Moskala’s suggestions. This was followed by an appeal from Jerilyn Brutch (NAD) concerning the time that God was “hovering over the face of the deep before” God began creating.
Scripture is silent on that point. Where Scripture shouts, I must shout. Where it whispers, I must whisper. Let’s keep our statements of belief focused close to Scripture and keep our attention as a church on our mission, which is to call out: Worship him who made the heavens and the earth and the sea and the springs of water. Thank you. (Ibid.; edited with audio recording).
After this John Bradshaw (GC), of It is Written, gave a passionate speech about the statements. While they might need an “editorial revision” (audio recording), they represented what his “church teaches” (Ibid.). He finished his appeal by declaring:
I would be very concerned if this position were to come back and it was a reflection of what we do not believe. But as I see it, I look at this, and again please understand, necessary editorial changes notwithstanding, I look at this with thanks in my heart, and I say, Yes, yes, yes. This is what we believe. (Ibid.)
While Bradshaw was speaking specifically about fundamentals number 6 and 8, we wonder if he is happy and thankful in his heart that the church has a set of fundamentals that teaches the central doctrine of the Catholic Church? Does he also say yes to a set of fundamentals that takes no position on the nature of Christ in the incarnation or that uses the phraseology of Questions on Doctrine and its no “final atonement” theology? Does he say a resounding yes, yes, yes to a set of fundamentals that says nothing about the mark of the beast or about the papacy being the man of sin?
After Bradshaw spoke Delmer Navallo Caro (SAD) raised concern on whether the length of the time that constitutes a week had changed since creation. Then Lloyd Gibson (GC) noted:
I believe that if we are to give the message of creation with a loud voice, as Revelation 14 says, our witness must be clear, without ambiguity. I would point out that this is not dependent strictly on Ellen White. There are millions of Baptists who believe in a six-day creation and have no use for Ellen White. This is a biblical teaching. (Audio recording)
The session seemed it could not end without one more flurry from the ultra liberal, Jeroen Tuinstra (TED), who asked what was meant by the word recent. He then stated:
I have a feeling that the changes that are applied in this fundamental belief are actually trying to silence a discussion in the Church between theologians and scientists. It seems like the discussion is trying to be solved by just making a dogmatic statement, which is very un-adventist, I have to say. (Ibid.)
It is as if Tuinstra is playing the Galileo card, implying that science is being disregarded due to faulty biblical understanding. Dr. Stele noted in response to Tuinstra’s comment:
In order not to say that the whole cosmos was created in the six days, we have changed the quotation from Genesis 1:1 to the quotation from the fourth commandment. And I understand that it is a scholarly discussion, and not everyone will understand this change. This is why the seminary has suggested here today maybe to look at it would clarify and somehow make it more clear. (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 38; edited with audio recording)
With that comment Chairman Schoun closed the morning session. Announcements were made, and prayer was offered. The drama would carry through to the afternoon.
July 6 (Monday Afternoon — Eighth Business Session)
Elder Lowell Cooper chaired the afternoon session and although he, at times, tried to demonstrate a spirit of fairness, at other times he was the conference sickle, quickly cutting down dissent.
The beginning of the minutes for this session related to the proposed fundamentals 6 and 8:
In the course of consideration of that motion, someone suggested or was ready to propose a motion to refer.
[The motion to refer back was received by common consent.] (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 41; bracketed portion in the Bulletin.)
However, this report is not accurate. While the prior session clearly showed an unhappiness with Belief number 6, no common consent was yet expressed. However, Lowell Cooper stated:
The chair of the committee, Dr. Stele, who is presenting the material for us, indicated that the committee was ready to have consideration of items 6 and 8 go back to the committee, and, I believe, it was declared by common consent that that is what will happen. So we do not have on the floor a motion to refer, neither is it necessary to do so, since that commitment has already been expressed and, I believe, received by common consent. (Audio recording)
There had been no call for the delegates to express their consent. While it might have received strong approval, it was not offered to the delegates by the chair for their consent.
Discussion then continued on Belief number 6, with concerns expressed about what “recent” means in the phrase “recent six-day creation.” For example, John Phiri (SID) asked:
Could 1 million years be recent enough on a time scale of 10 billion years? (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 41)
Stephan Sigg (IED) then made an insightful speech which was totally left out of the Bulletin. He noted that Adventists have always been very careful about their fundamental beliefs. He stated it was not only important what we believe but also how we use those beliefs. He then noted:
We have heard this morning that wording does. in fact, change our beliefs, but I think what I sense is that we might change the way we use the Fundamental Beliefs. They are not seen as a measurement or a tool to persecute or to elevate others.
In October 8, 1861, in Review and Herald, J N Loughborough made a very blunt statement. It says: “The first step of apostasy is to get up a creed, telling us what we shall believe. The second is to make that creed a test of fellowship. The third is to try members by that creed. The fourth to denounce as heretics those who do not believe that creed. And, fifth, to commence persecution against such.” (Audio recording)
Roger Robertson (Israel Field) then questioned the use of the phrase historical account in the creation statement, asking what it means. After affirming that he believed in a recent creation, he then noted:
And theologians talk about the historical Jesus. What do they mean? They mean the Jesus of history. That is Jesus without the miracles. And if we talk about creation as a historical account, what do we mean? I think we need to say it’s true, it’s a true account, or something else. But some of these terms need to be changed. (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 41; edited with audio recording)
Lee-Roy Chacon (NAD), who had moved that speakers be limited to two minutes that day, then moved to close debate. This was seconded and voted.
Discussion then turned to Fundamental Belief number 24 on “Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary.” The changes included gender inclusive language and one phrase that caused some concern. That phrase was:
He [Jesus] entered the second and last phase of His atoning ministry, which was symbolized by the work of the high priest in the most holy place of the earthly sanctuary. (2015 GC Session Book; accessed at https://www.adventist.org/fileadmin/gcsession.adventist.org/files/galleries/2015-gcs-agenda-website.pdf)
Elias Brasil De Souza (GC) then suggested that . . .
. . . that the word “symbolized” be replaced with “typified.” I think the concept of “type” represents better the relationship between the heavenly and the earthly sanctuaries. The concept of “symbol” is too general to express what we believe in the church on this matter. (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 41
By common consent this statement was referred back to the committee for consideration.
The next belief discussed was number 19, “The Law of God.” There were two changes suggested. The first was to have gender inclusive language, and the second was to change the wording to use “fruit” instead of “fruitage.” This was quickly accepted.
The next belief discussed was number 12, “The Church.” This belief also was given gender inclusive language. Additionally, the phrase “The church derives its authority from Christ, who is the incarnate Word and from the Scriptures” was changed. The new reading said, “The church derives its authority from Christ, who is the incarnate Word revealed in the Scriptures.” The reasoning was that the church has one authority, Christ, not two authorities. Dr. Ángel Rodríguez explained the rationale behind the statement:
The way the statement reads now implies that the church has two sources of authority: Christ and the Written Word. And what we’re trying to eliminate is the idea that we have two sources of authority. We have only one: Christ as revealed in the Scriptures, not Christ and the Scriptures. And that is the reason why we re-wrote the statement. And as theologians here know, this is a big issue in some Protestant traditions—the distinction between the Word as the Incarnated Word and the Word as the Written Word—and have more theologies develop along those lines. So we are trying to emphasize that, yes, it’s Christ, but it’s Christ as we found and revealed in the Scripture. (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 41; edited with audio recording)
This statement did not fully convince everyone. Reinaldo Siqueira (SAD) noted:
Mr. Chairman, my concern is about the same as Dr. Veloso . . . but just probably to give a background of the concern. Coming from a Catholic context, say “Only the authority is Christ” is pretty much close to what we hear from the Catholics. That means you don’t need the Scripture. Just Christ gave authority to the church, and church can do whatever it wants, even what it wants with the Scriptures. So I think that if you keep—there’s a possibility to make it clear and to keep the Christian Scriptures as a source of authority, I think would be very good. (Ibid.)
Louis Torres then moved the belief be referred back to the committee and a close vote ensued. The vote was so close that another vote was taken with an exact count given by each division. The results were 556 in favor and 591 against. Close, indeed, but also revealing on another level. Even if the nominating committee was in a private meeting and could be excused from being present in this business session, there were still hundreds of delegates missing or not voting! This is a terrible indictment about how some viewed the seriousness of their responsibility as delegates. Later in the week there were times when there were not enough delegates for a quorum, but no mention was made of this requirement.
After a few more comments, question was called on the original motion by David Trim (GC), and the belief was passed.
The next belief was number 10 on “The Experience of Salvation.” Dr. Rodríguez explained the change:
There are two primary changes. The first one toward the end of line 15, if we read the text as we have it, says, “ . . . and exercise faith in Jesus as Lord and Christ, as Substitute and Example.” And we were not sure how these titles related to each other. For instance, “Lord and Christ, Substitute and Example.” So we decided to perhaps improve the reading, soften it down a little by saying so “Jesus as Saviour and Lord, Substitute and Example.” And you have kind of a parallel between the titles now.
The second change is on line 16. The original reads “This faith which receives salvation.” And we thought that the person is the one that receives salvation and that it may be better to simply state it: “This saving faith comes through the divine power.” In other words, we’re trying to make the sentence flows a little better. (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 42)
This was actually an improvement beyond semantics over the 1980 statement. The old statement declared that the same way we exercise faith in Jesus as our substitute, we also exercise faith in him as our example. This could mean that we do not follow his example in reality but accept his by faith. The new reading is more accurate and carried without any discussion.
Next came the series of statements on the trinity and the members thereof. The first of these was Belief number 2, “The Trinity.” The only change in this statement was to include that God is love. It was quickly adopted.
Belief number 3 on “The Father” was next. Dr. Stele explained the change:
And here, besides the arrangement of the biblical passages, we have changed one word. Where it says, “The qualities and powers exhibited in the Son and the Holy Spirit are also revelations of the Father.” This was the previous reading. And now we suggest that instead of “revelations,” we use “those.” “The qualities and powers exhibited in the Son and the Holy Spirit are also those of the Father.” (Ibid.)
During the discussion Wesley Szamko (SPD) requested information on one of the new supporting texts for the statement:
I would respectfully ask clarification regarding how the use of Psalms 110:1, 4 enhance the understanding the fundamental belief on the Father. I admit I am struggling to understand its correct relevance. (Audio recording)
To this Stele simply noted: “It wasn’t me who changed the passage” (Ibid.). Rodríguez then noted:
The rational has been that the phrase really is going to address the question of the Father and the Son, but the main reason why this is here is the connection with this passages in the book of Hebrews. (Ibid.)
Soon after this Neale Schofield (SPD) spoke:
Just with the change there where we have the Son and the Holy Spirit—that the qualities and powers exhibited in the Son and the Holy Spirit are also those of the Father, a question to the Biblical Research Institute and the broader church leadership: Does this now make it very, very clear that Jesus is not eternally subordinate to the Father? (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 42)
To this question Rodríguez gave the following answer:
As far as I can tell, such a teaching has never been part of the Adventist body of beliefs, and this passage denies the subordination. (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 42; edited with audio recording)
If Rodríguez was thinking of the time since 1980 or even 1931, he might have been at least partly correct, but there is no question that Rodríguez knows the history of our church’s teaching on God and knows that there was certainly a time when it was taught that Jesus was and is always subordinate to the Father. The Bible is clear on the matter. It says:
Then comes the end, when he delivers the kingdom to God the Father after destroying every rule and every authority and power. For he must reign until he has put all his enemies under his feet. The last enemy to be destroyed is death. For “God has put all things in subjection under his feet.” But when it says, “all things are put in subjection,” it is plain that he is excepted who put all things in subjection under him. When all things are subjected to him, then the Son himself will also be subjected to him who put all things in subjection under him, that God may be all in all. (1 Corinthians 15:24–28)
The context of these verses is after the one thousand years, and Satan has been destroyed. Christ voluntarily subjects himself to the Father “that God may be all in all.” Sadly Rodríguez’s answer “perfectly” satisfied Schofield’s question. The statement was then voted and approved.
The next belief to be discussed was “The Son” (number 4). Dr. Stele announced the changes:
Now we go to Fundamental Belief 4, “The Son.” On line 8: “He became also truly human” instead of “man.” This is one change. And “ascended to minister” on line 13, we have added “ascended to heaven to minister.” (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 42)
After some discussion on the proper use of prepositions by another delegate, Larry Boggess (NAD) then stated:
I think the Spirit of Prophecy says there’s a danger, when it comes to studying the nature of Christ, that we make Him fully human. The question that I have concerns line 8, where it says, “He became also truly human.” Is there a danger there and was that thought from the Spirit of Prophecy thought about when we used the word “human” instead of “man”? (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 43; edited with the audio recording)
Rodríguez responded, “This terminology is—I am almost sure that Ellen White uses the word truly but I cannot be certain” (Audio recording). Ellen White actually uses the expression truly human once—in Letter 69, 1897, which was never published in her lifetime. The statement is:
We want to comprehend so far as possible the truly human nature of our Lord. The divine and human were linked in Christ, and both were complete. (Paragraph 28)
This statement was published in Selected Messages, book 3, page 135 and in Manuscript Releases, volume 8, page 447.
However, Ellen White did use one the expression fully human that was published in her lifetime:
Had he not been fully human, Christ could not have been our substitute. (The Signs of the Times, June 17, 1897 par. 8)
This statement has not been republished anywhere in the writings of Ellen White. Sister White also said in the same Signs article,
While in this world, Christ lived a life of complete humanity in order that he might stand as a representative of the human family. (Ibid., par. 7)
Boggess later noted:
. . . there are those who teach that Jesus was all man and not divine. And so I hope we do not leave any margin for people to believe that we would teach that Jesus was only man. (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 43)
Some delegates were then concerned that the gender inclusive language might give support to some who might think of Jesus as a woman and suggested staying with the terminology of the Scriptures, “the man Christ Jesus.” Rodríguez noted that the proposed statement used masculine pronouns but that the point of the statement was not that Jesus became a man but became a member of the human race.
Motion was made to refer the belief back to the committee, but that motion failed. After that, question was called, discussion stopped, and the belief, as presented to the delegates, was passed
While discussing Christ, the session considered Belief number 7, “The Nature of Man.” Dr. Stele explained the change:
We suggest to call it “The Nature of Humanity.” And on line[s] 10 and 11, there is a sentence that states (I will start reading from the beginning), “When our first parents disobeyed God, they denied their dependence upon Him and fell from their high position under God.” The phrase “under God” is by some misunderstood, as if God was involved in the process of falling, and so we felt that if we take it away, we don’t lose anything but avoid misunderstandings and then the Scripture references additions and the canonical order of them. (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 43; edited with audio recording)
This change was approved without discussion.
The session then began to discuss Belief number 5, “The Holy Spirit.” Dr. Stele noted that:
Besides rearrangement and work on the passages, we have added a second sentence: “He is as much a person as are the Father and the Son.” (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 43)
The Bulletin gives no record of discussion on this belief, as if it were passed on without a concern. The fact is, there was discussion on the matter. Jerilyn Burtch (NAD) noted:
So the Trinity is, the nature of the Holy Spirit is, another area where we see through a glass darkly. Even our pioneers were constantly debating this. We just don’t have a clear thus saith the Lord that quantifies the personhood of the Holy Spirit as compared to the Father or the Son. So I am speaking against this revision. (Audio recording)
To this Dr. Stele noted that “the Scripture speaks very clearly of the Holy Spirit as a person” (Ibid.).
A suggestion was made to use the phrase personal being instead of person, and another spoke in favor of the belief. After this the belief was approved, without any modification.
This left two beliefs that had not been discussed, both dealing with the nature of inspiration: number 18 on the “The Gift of Prophecy” and number 1 on “The Holy Scriptures.”
The Bulletin acknowledged that Dr. Stele gave a background to the change of Belief number 18, but it did not give any information on that background. However, the audio recording gives the details:
We have received the requests from the divisions that is very, very seriously appreciating the writings of Ellen G White. It is the divisions that have distributed a lot and translated a lot of her books. But they sent us the messages. They said they have a hard time to defend one phrase, especially when it is translated in their language, the expression authoritative source of truth. They ask us if we could find another language that would clearly state on one side that we ever have as foundation only in the Scriptures, but, yet on the other side, also say that we really believe, and treasure, and appreciate the writings of Ellen G. White.
Another request was for us to show the connection between the Scriptures and the Spirit of Prophecy.
Another request was if all the Fundamental Beliefs are based on the Scripture, where or how can we really prove that the name Ellen G. White is found in the Scripture?
So those kind of questions came to us, and we were struggling how to really accomplish and solve all the issues. So we have counseled very widely, we have involved BRICOM, we have asked the Ellen G. White Estate to study to give us some ideas and after all, we have come with the following suggestion—to start the Fundamental Belief number 18 with the sentence, “The Scriptures testify that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy.”
Before we were just stating one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy, but now, starting with the Scriptures, we really show that the Scripture is the main foundation and yet the Scripture testifies that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. And then we continue on to say, “This gift is an identifying mark of the remnant Church,” as it used to be.
Then how to justify the use in our Fundamental Beliefs of a name that is not found in the Bible. We use the expression, “We believe,” so actually its the Scriptures testifies that one of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. Then we say, studying all the evidences, we believe that it was present in the ministry of Ellen White, and then we continue trying to replace the word that was causing problems in one Division, especially authoritative, but yet finding the expressions that would really give authority to the writings of Ellen G. White. We say, the “writings speak with prophetic authority and provide comfort”—in the present tense—“provide comfort, guidance, instruction, and direction to the Church.” And with these the rearrangement of passages, and so I move, Brother Chair. (Audio recording)
Knowingly or not, Dr. Stele was going back to issues raised in 1980 and beyond. The teaching of spiritual gifts has always been of vital importance to Adventists, but how to state our beliefs in a balanced manner has been challenging. The first statement of fundamentals published in 1872 stated the following, concerning spiritual gifts:
XVI – That the Spirit of God was promised to manifest itself in the church through certain gifts, enumerated especially in 1 Cor. 12 and Eph. 4; that these gifts are not designed to supersede, or take the place of, the Bible, which is sufficient to make us wise unto salvation, any more than the Bible can take the place of the Holy Spirit; that in specifying the various channels of its operation, that Spirit has simply made provision for its own existence and presence with the people of God to the end of time, to lead to an understanding of that word which it had inspired, to convince of sin, and work a transformation in the heart and life; and that those who deny to the Spirit its place and operation, do plainly deny that part of the Bible which assigns to it this work and position. (1872 Fundamental tract)
The next major statement was in 1931, which said:
19. That God has placed in His church the gifts of the Holy Spirit, as enumerated in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. That these gifts operate in harmony with the divine principles of the Bible, and are given for the perfecting of the saints, the work of the ministry, the edifying of the body of Christ. Rev. 12: 17; 19: 10; 1 Cor. 1: 5–7. (Church Manual, 1932 edition, pp. 184, 185)
This statement was altered at the 1950 General Conference to include the name of Ellen G. White:
19. That God has placed in His church the gift of the Holy Spirit, as enumerated in 1 Corinthians 12 and Ephesians 4. That these gifts operate in harmony with the divine principles of the Bible, and are given for the perfecting of the saints, and work of the ministry, the edifying of the body of Christ. Rev. 12:17; 19:10; 1 Cor. 1:5–7.
That the gift of the Spirit of prophecy is one of the identifying marks of the remnant church. 1 Cor. 1:5, 7; 1 Cor. 12:1, 28; Rev. 12:17; 19:10; Amos 3:7; Hosea 12:10, 13.
The church recognizes that this gift was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. (See General Conference Bulletin, July 23, 1950, p. 230; emphasis in original)
This was changed at the General Conference session at Dallas, Texas, in 1980, to read:
One of the gifts of the Holy Spirit is prophecy. This gift in an identifying mark of the remnant church and was manifested in the ministry of Ellen G. White. As the Lord’s messenger, her writings are a continuing and authoritative source of truth and provide to the church comfort, guidance, instruction, and correction. They also make clear that the Bible is the standard by which all teaching and experience must be tested. (Joel 2:28, 29; Acts 2:14–21; Heb. 1:1–3; Rev. 12:17; 19:10.) (Church Manual, 1981 edition, pp. 39, 40)
Thus over a one hundred forty-three year period, we have progressed from a general, but clear, statement on spiritual gifts to one that included the name of Ellen White and then to a statement that gave her writings the status of “continuing and authoritative source of truth.” Why this change in 1980? In 1980 the Seventh-day Adventist Church was dealing with the fallout of two apostasies. First of all, there were the teachings of Desmond Ford on the sanctuary doctrine, much of which directly conflicted with the writings of Ellen G. White. Secondly, and more important to this issue, were the charges of plagiarism brought against Ellen White by Walter Rea, a former Adventist minister. The 1980 Statement was a counter reaction to Rea’s charges and was not in harmony with our former statement on the Bible, which had read:
1. That the Holy Scriptures of the Old and New Testaments were given by inspiration of God, contain an all-sufficient revelation of His will to men, and are the only unerring rule of faith and practice. 2 Tim. 3: 15–17. (Church Manual, 1932 edition, p. 180)
Here the Scriptures are the all-sufficient revelation of God’s will to men, and are the only unerring rule of faith and practice. But in reaction to Rea and his supporters, the delegates in 1980 gave Ellen White’s writings the status of “continuing and authoritative source of truth” and as a result of that, the 1980 statement on the Bible was watered down.
Dr. Stele was, no doubt, correct when he said that the phrase authoritative source of truth was hard to defend. The new language in this part uses the phrase prophetic authority, which more accurately presents the authority of Ellen White’s role and gift for the church. As Clifford Goldstein (GC) correctly pointed out:
I understand the concern when you say the word prophetic authority. There is almost this default— you think of the canonical prophets. But I’d like to remind everyone that through Scripture, Old and New Testaments, we have prophets who were not canonical, whose writings weren’t in the . . . books of the Bible. You know, Jesus said there is no greater prophet than John the Baptist. Did John have prophetic authority? I think so. I think of Nathan. Did Nathan have prophetic authority? I think King David thought he did. And there’s Enoch. And so I think that when we say prophetic authority, I don’t think we have to automatically assume the level of a canonical writer in the Bible. (Audio recording)
Questions and concerns were raised on several points during the discussion on this doctrine. For example, beyond Sister White, does the Spirit of Prophecy reside in the Church today? If Ellen White’s writings are an authoritative source of truth, how can we be Protestants if we have two authoritative sources of truth? Ray Roennfeldt (SPD) noted:
Mr. Chair, I’d like to speak in favor of the motion because I think that actually it is a better wording than we have had in the past. But I would like to say one other thing and that is that Ellen White herself, I think, would be, I am not sure how to put this, but I think she would actually be scandalized by the fact that we as Seventh-day Adventists have incorporated her name into our Fundamental Beliefs. (Audio recording)
Clinton Wahlen (GC) made the following suggestion:
I am just a little worried about removing truth from the Spirit of Prophecy, which is what these changes do. I would suggest that this sentence, where it begins “her writings speak with prophetic authority,” could continue this way, “and provide comfort, guidance, instruction, and correct those who err from Bible truth.” Which is a phrase that she herself uses to describe the function of her writings. And I would like to suggest that if a motion is in order, I would like to move that. (Audio recording)
After a lengthy and spirited debate not recorded in the Bulletin and after interruption by a Nominating Committee report, the motion to refer was voted down, and the belief, as presented, was accepted.
The final Fundamental Belief of the day to be presented was number 1 on “The Holy Scriptures.” There were two main changes to the statement. Instead of using the inspired wording “holy men of God” as the channel of Scriptures, it was to be changed to inspired authors. While before the Scriptures were said to be “the infallible revelation of His will,” they are now to be considered the final, authoritative, and the infallible revelation of His will.
Concerning the first point, it appears hypocritical to remove imminent in Belief number 25 because it is not a biblical adjective for the nearness of the second coming and then to use gender inclusive language in the first belief, when there is no evidence to show that even one canonical writer was a woman!
However, this statement was not discussed. Dr. Stele stated:
A number of delegates spoke to us. They have a problem with the word “final” authority. They feel it is a chronological problem, and they asked us to look into it. Would it be accepted, by common consent, that we take it back, we look at it, and bring it back tomorrow with others? This way we finish the work tonight. (General Conference Bulletin 5, July 8, 2015, p. 43)
To sum up the work on the fundamentals for the day, all the new rewritten fundamentals passed except for numbers 24, 6, 8, 9, and 1, which were referred or sent back to the Committee.
During the discussion of Fundamental number 18, the Nominating Committee brought forth its first report of the afternoon. Various department directors were presented. The first was Chaplaincy Ministries director, which was approved.
Then to save time, it was suggested to present the other directors as a block or group. Before this could be done, however, someone, unnamed, brought up a point of order:
As I understand it that there is an outstanding report on vice presidents, which was referred back yesterday, and I am not certain that it is in order for us to proceed to vote on departmental directors before we have dealt with the issue of the vice president report that was referred back. (Audio recording)
To this the Chairman noted, “Thank you. I think it’s at the judgment of the nominating committee to determine when that report is presented” (Ibid.).
As we noted in our prior report in Old Paths, when the names of the vice presidents were presented, there was an outrage from certain delegates over some incumbents being left off and over the total number of vice presidents being lowered. Time was given to the delegates to present their concerns to the leadership of the Nominating Committee. However, the Nominating Committee did not bring the names back quickly. Now Homer Trecartin, the chairman of the Nominating Committee, assured the delegates that the vice president report would be coming later in the afternoon.
After this discussion about the vice presidents, the rest of the directors was noted, which included Children’s Ministries director, GC Communication director, Education director, Family Ministries director, Health Ministries director, Ministerial Association secretary, Public Affairs and Religious Liberty director, Sabbath School and Personal Ministries director, Women’s Ministries director, and Youth Ministries director. The hope was that they could all be quickly voted in as a block. However, David Trim noted that he had a “significant concern about one name on the list” (Audio recording) and asked that the list be referred back to the committee. At that point he was asked to speak to the leadership of the Committee to express his concerns.
While Dr. Trim was meeting with the leadership of the committee, the final discussions of the fundamentals were accomplished, as noted earlier.
Shortly afterward Trecartin announced that the recent concerns about the block of directors had been heard and that it was decided that they were not ready to take the names back to the committee. Thereafter, the list was approved as a block group.
The next nominations were for associates secretaries of the General Conference which were carried. This was followed by Auditing Service personal which all carried.
The different division presidents was next presented and there was an objection to the list. Again, the objector was asked to meet with the leadership of the Nominating Committee.
During that time some minor business was conducted and a resolution reaffirming the Bible as voted at the Annual Council was presented to the delegates for approval. Some decided that they would like to dissect the statement and discussion ensued for about ten minutes until there was a motion to refer the statement “back to the committee.” Exactly how that would be done at this time was not considered and maybe did not cross anyone’s mind. But the motion was defeated and when it was voted Chairman Cooper noted the low vote count stating, “Oh my, it seems that we have a lot of people not voting” (Audio recording). He could have said, “we have a lot of people who are not doing their sacredly called responsibility!” After this the statement was accepted by the delegates, at least those who voted!
Now the nominations of division presidents was presented again. Nominating Committee chair, Homer Trecartin, stated:
We have met with the individuals who were concerned—from several divisions, not just one—and have in some cases met with the chairman of the caucus as well, and it is our recommendation and decision to bring this motion back as it currently is. We are not referring it back to the nominating committee or to the caucuses, so we are ready to proceed with the motion that was made on the division presidents. (Audio recording)
At this point, only one comment was made from the floor, and the division presidents were accepted by a majority vote.
In an effort to assure the delegates that there would be enough vice presidents to properly manage the business of the church, it was noted by both Homer Trecartin and Ted Wilson that the thirteen division presidents also served as vice presidents of the General Conference.
Now the election of the vice presidents was again brought to the delegates. Before they could vote on the vice presidents, Boyce Mkhize (SID) rose to speak:
Thank you Mr. Chairman. Having listened to the input made by the president on the reasons and rationals for the reduction, I do not think that it is in order for the Nominating Committee to make a determination as to the numbers. The Nominating Committee is mandated by the Constitution and by laws of the GC to fill positions and not to determine the numbers. The issue of administration also coming into play and making that determination is not supported by the Constitution because this house is the highest authority to make that determination. (Audio recording)
After a similar speech by another delegate, Chairman Cooper asked a General Conference attorney about this, and he responded that the Nominating Committee was correctly doing its job. This was clearly a demonstration that the church is not really a body governed by democratic principles, but rather by a top-down hierarchy. When the body has no right to control what the top is doing, then you can be sure that a hierarchy has been formed.
If the constitution and by laws really prohibit the body from having final control, then they have hemmed themselves in with wicked rules.
Shortly after this the vice presidents were approved, introduced to the delegates, and the session was adjourned.
. The Steering Committee is responsible for the manner in which business is arranged and conducted at the session.
. In restricting the time, this General Conference did not even come up to the level of the 1903 session, when there was a strong debate on adopting a new constitution. At that conference Brother H. Shultz moved that “as the time is short, and considering the amount of business we have before us, that every speaker be limited to five minutes” (General Conference Bulletin, April 10, 1903, p. 149). That motion failed, and debate was able to continue on the vital issue of church organization.
. David Trim later noted the “truly human” reference, but he failed to note that Ellen White also called Jesus “fully human.”
Microbes and Antimicrobials
The Solution (November 2015)
When I wrote last month that “there is nothing known that will kill a virus” (p. 10), I should have added the few words, which has invaded the human body, to be perfectly clear, for some substances can be virucidal, one of which is alcohol, as mentioned on page 9 of the article. Some essential oils are also virucidal, such as the essential oil of oregano. These essential oils work in the same way alcohol (and even bleach) works on a virus—it disables the envelope surrounding the virus—but only when the virus is on the surface of something so that the alcohol, the essential oil, or the bleach can come in direct contact with it, such as on a countertop, on a doorknob, or on your hands. These substances do not have an effect on a virus after it has taken up residence in the human body, so it is not appropriate to ingest essential oils, for example, as virucidals. Gargling with an essential oil, breathing the vapors of an essential oil, or any other application of an essential oil has no value in disabling the virus after it has infected your body because the virus is now protected within the cells of your body. Your only defense at this point, as mentioned in the article, is your immune system.
IMPORTANT WORDS OF CAUTION—Essential oils are not harmless. Some can be poisonous when not used as recommended, and others may cause rashes when applied to the skin, but, when used wisely and in a well-informed manner, they can be beneficial. Eucalyptus essential oil, for example, can be soothing when inhaled as a vapor but can cause seizures if swallowed. Pennyroyal essential oil is poisonous to the liver, and ingesting certain other essential oils can be dangerous, also. We are all aware of the danger of swallowing isopropyl alcohol and of the danger of ingesting bleach. We should also be aware of the potential dangers in the use of essential oils and use them in a safe, careful, and appropriate manner. ?
Mission Trip to the Philippines
Our brother Michael Woodward recently joined Brother David Sims for a trip to the Philippines.
During their time in the Philippines, they will be conducting a camp meeting and will be holding various home meetings for the next six-plus weeks. Lord willing, they will be helping to raise up and organize a church while there.
Pastor David has spent a good bit of time in the Philippines within the last year, and so he has several contacts and knows many of the brothers and sisters there well.
God granted our brethren safe travel to the Philippines. Their travel odyssey began Tuesday, December 1, and it was not until later on Friday, December 5 that they arrived at their destination after several flights, a ferry ride, and automobile trips.
Please keep them in prayer as they seek to share the love of God and to strengthen the faith of our brothers and sisters in this area.