Old Paths Masthead

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. 25, No.3 Straight and Narrow March 2016


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Behind the lofty bulwarks of the mountains—in all ages the refuge of the persecuted and oppressed—the Waldenses found a hiding place. (The Great Controversy, pp. 65, 66)

 

In this issue:

The Waldenses, the Papacy, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church

From the File Cabinet of History

2016 West Virginia Camp Meeting

The 60th General Conference Session: Report 7

To Whose Kingdom do You Belong?

Youth's Corner

A Favorite Time of the Year

Tofu Loaf

Publisher Information

 

 

The Waldenses, the Papacy, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church

In the southern part of Italy, the Waldenses were like sheep without a shepherd in 1560, for many of their pastors had been killed, and the papacy took advantage of this lack of leadership when they sent two Dominican inquisitors to the colony of Calabria to persuade them to return to the state church.

In the town of San Sisto the monks addressed an assembly of Waldenses. They wished to do the people no harm, they explained gently, but it had come to their attention that the Waldenses had been harboring Lutheran teachers. These teachers must go.

No doubt without raising their voices, the inquisitors continued. The Waldenses would have nothing to fear if they would obey the laws of the church. But if they did not, they would probably be condemned as heretics. And that was a verdict that brought the loss of property and life.

The persuasive speech ended, the monks invited the Waldenses to attend mass.

Some time later the church bell rang.[1]

The inquisitors left San Sisto that day and went to a neighboring town, La Guardia. Burke continues:

A salt breeze blows across the land, and sea birds call overhead as the two inquisitors enter the walled town of La Guardia by the sea, locking the gates behind them. They call an assembly of Waldenses, who drop their work promptly and hurry from all directions. The people’s eyes are questioning as they wait for the monks to speak.

“Your friends from San Sisto,” one monk explains quietly, “have renounced their errors and confessed their sin. This morning they went to mass.”

The people of La Guardia turn to each other with horror in their eyes. Can it be?

The inquisitors continue as though they have not noticed. In a manner agreeable, if not solicitous, they lay out their proposal of peace. If the Waldenses of La Guardia will only do as their brothers and sisters in San Sisto have done, not one of them will suffer violence.

The people exchange glances again. They are not slow-witted. However agreeable the manner of the inquisitors, clearly this is an ultimatum.

The Waldenses of La Guardia have always meant to be strong under coercion. They still wish to be strong. But the news of their brothers and sisters has stunned them. It has weakened their resolve.

A bell tolls. The inquisitors turn to approach a nearby church. With shoulders drooping and eyes downcast, the Waldenses of La Guardia follow them inside.

As soon as the mass ended, the gates of La Guardia were opened, and the truth came through them: The Waldenses of San Sisto had not gone to mass. As many as were able had fled. (Ibid., loc. l055–1079; see Wylie, pp. 114, 115)

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On June 5, 1561, San Sisto burned to the ground. La Guardia was destroyed as well. Some of the people were set afire as torches, some were sold as slaves, and others were sent to the dungeon, “where ropes bound them so tight[ly] that their flesh decayed while they lived” (Burke, loc. 1094). In the town of Montalto, as a warning to all, bodies were exhibited on pikes along the road for a distance of thirty-six miles. Waldenses left their villages and communities for the upper valleys of the Alps, but Count La Trinita and his army of three thousand followed them. On November 1, La Trinita arrived at the valley of Angrogna. Of the eighteen thousand Waldenses in the surrounding valleys, only one thousand two hundred were armed, but they were courageous and put La Trinita’s army to flight.

Following the inglorious retreat of his men, La Trinita must have realized the mountaineers’ courage far exceeded that of his men. But the Waldenses were by and large a trusting people. He seems to have decided to make that work for him.

In a spot sheltered by rock and forest from the November wind, Waldensian leaders stand stiffly, their eyes fastened on La Trinita, who nods to them courteously. What does he want, this military leader with the friendly demeanor? Why has he called for this meeting?

“It is our opinion,” the count begins, clearing his throat, “that what has happened, has happened for want of communication between the duke and his people.” While the leaders wait soberly, he scans their faces. “I believe that if the duke’s soldiers have sometimes gone beyond their bounds, it is because they have met with resistance. And I believe that our good prince, the duke, would be glad to have this whole unpleasant business off his hands.” La Trinita strokes his chin, and averts his eyes from the earnest faces before him. “But for that to happen, we need a few conciliatory gestures on your part.”

Scarcely stirring, the Waldenses watch the man who has led the charge against them. The November wind sings through the forest. Against the wind, the voice of La Trinita drones on.

All that night the Waldensian leaders pondered the proposal. According to the count, all they had to do to show their reasonableness was deposit their arms in a specified location, allow the celebration of the mass in a Waldensian church in Angrogna, and permit La Trinita to visit the Pra del Torno.

The pastors and some other leading Waldenses objected. To them the mass was an evil practice. How could they desecrate their church with an idol substitute for the Lord’s Supper? As for giving up their arms, they doubted the wisdom in it. Others were inclined to make a few concessions. Before morning a majority had decided the matter: the Waldenses of Piedmont would try for peace.

Once the arms were deposited, the mass was celebrated, and the visit to the Pra del Torno was made; to their surprise the Waldenses found themselves faced with a few more concessions. They would need to send representatives to the duke’s headquarters, at that time in Vercelli on the plain, and make a treaty with the duke. It would strengthen their position if they raised 20,000 crowns for the duke’s army. And it would pacify the duke if they sent their pastors away. They could always bring them back after the negotiations—so the argument went.

Again the Waldensian leaders wrestled with the issues. A decision might have been easy to come by had they not longed so much for peace. (Ibid., loc. 1138–1165; see Wylie, pp. 85, 86)

A delegation was sent to the duke, and La Trinita and his troops withdrew, but not before they had destroyed the Waldensian winter supplies of corn and oil and their mills. Because the Waldenses had sold their herds to raise money for the duke, they were left to starve and when the Waldensian delegation returned, heads down, the people knew their situation was dire, for no treaty had been offered, only an ultimatum—submit to the state church or die. The Waldenses resisted the demand and took to higher ground, but battles, massacres, and abuse followed them.[2]

The Example of Gehazi

About two thousand years earlier, Elisha confronted Gehazi with a crucial question:

Is it a time to receive money, and to receive garments, and oliveyards, and vineyards, and sheep, and oxen, and menservants, and maidservants? (2 Kings 5:26)

Gehazi should have been a leader in the army of God, but he compromised his ability to serve with a desire for earthly riches:

Elisha revealed to Gehazi, the very thoughts of his heart, and that he would enrich himself with the earthly treasure from Naaman. There was a man who should have been a standard-bearer in the army of the Lord, [but] through Satan’s temptations his course of action was a stumbling block to Naaman, upon whose mind a wonderful light had broken and he was favorably disposed toward truth, to serve the living God. [Ellen White, Lt22–1893 (October 22, 1893); brackets in original; all emphasis in this article supplied unless otherwise noted]

Gehazi had not asked for oliveyards, vineyards, sheep, oxen, and/or servants, only for money and garments, but Elisha knew the larger picture of Gehazi’s heart. Elisha did not address the deceitfulness of Gehazi in obtaining the money and garments, only the procurement of riches at a time when Naaman’s heart was touched by the living God. His desire for financial gain became a stumbling block to Naaman’s spiritual growth.

We are called to lift up the standard of God before a wicked world. We should not seek to enrich ourselves financially during these last days, for our example may become a stumbling block to those weak in the faith. Our focus is to be on proclaiming the three angels’ messages to a dying world and on preparing ourselves and others to live through a time of trouble without a mediator. In seeking riches we would also be guilty of influencing others to follow our example. Is there ever a time to build up self? No, never. Elisha refused Naaman’s gift, saying: “As the LORD liveth, before whom I stand, I will receive none” (2 Kings 5:16). He said this because he knew Naaman was favorably impressed with truth, and he did not want to hinder him. To have accepted Naaman’s gifts would have been equivalent to reducing the work of God to a business transaction, would have given credit to Elisha for Naaman’s healing, and would have shown that Elisha was interested in riches and gain. All of this Satan would have used to deter Naaman from following the God of heaven, and Elisha would have none of it.

If Elisha could, what would he say to us today, in such a time as we live? Would he ask questions, such as: Is it a time to make concessions? Is it a time to seek peace with God’s enemies? Is it a time to lay down our weapons? Is it a time to open our arms to the papacy? These would be Gehazi-type sins of immeasurable magnitude.

A Quality of the Papacy—Deception

In the 1950s Seventh-day Adventism was in danger of being classified a cult by leading protestant evangelicals. This classification was being considered because of two major theological problems—the current belief on the ministry of Jesus in the most holy place, which was that Christ was accomplishing a work of final atonement, and our understanding on the nature of Christ, which was that Christ had the nature of Adam after the fall.[3] We all know the history. Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine was published in 1957, authored primarily by LeRoy E. Froom, after he, Walter E. Read, and Roy Allen Anderson had met with leading evangelicals. The result of this book was that a new doctrine was proclaimed on the ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary and on the nature of Christ. (For in-depth discussions on both of these subjects, see The Foundation of Our Faith by Allen Stump.)[4] The papacy lied to the Waldenses of La Guardia, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church leadership has lied to the church body about the nature of the incarnation and about the ministry of Christ in the most holy place. Is there ever a time for this?

Demand of the Papacy #1—Lay Down Your Weapons

To show their good faith, La Trinita required the Waldenses to lay down their arms and because the Waldenses desired peace, they did so. No sooner had they given up their weapons, then new demands were made, ending in an ultimatum to return to the state church or die. When Seventh-day Adventists dropped the statement of belief that the papacy was the man of sin and when they also accepted the papacy’s pagan trinitarian doctrine, they laid down their arms and acquiesced to the papacy. Since 1931 neither of these beliefs have been part of our statements of beliefs, but originally we held:

I That there is one God, a personal, spiritual being, the creator of all things, omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal, infinite in wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, and mercy; unchangeable, and everywhere present by his representative, the Holy Spirit. Ps. 139:7.

II That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, the one by whom God created all things, and by whom they do consist; that he took on him the nature of the seed of Abraham for the redemption of our fallen race; . . .

XIII That as the man of sin, the papacy, has thought to change times and laws (the laws of God), Dan. 7:25, and has misled almost all Christendom in regard to the fourth commandment, we find a prophecy of a reform in this respect to be wrought among believers just before the coming of Christ. Isa. 56:1, 2; 1 Pet. 1:5; Rev. 14:12, etc. (A Declaration of the Fundamental Principles Taught and Practiced by the Seventh-day Adventists; 1872)

ThinkstockPhotos-471600441.jpgDemand of the Papacy #2—Allow Us into Your Churches

This the Waldenses did, opening the doors of a Waldensian church to La Trinita and his men for mass to be performed. What were they thinking? And what was Adventism thinking when she invited an official representative of the Vatican to address the General Conference session in 1990? The Catholic official was introduced as an “official guest representing The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity” (The Adventist Review, July 13, 1990, p. 8).

Rev. Thomas J. Murphy, director of the Indianapolis archdiocesan office of ecumenism, acted as the Vatican observer. He addressed the conference July 10. (The Arkansas Catholic, July 29, 1990)

The Vatican observer spoke of prayers being offered within the archdiocesan community for the “blessed success of this General Conference” and closed his remarks with a prayer from the liturgy of the Roman Church. (The Adventist Review, July 13, 1990, p. 8)

Rev. Murphy did not address the General Conference session because the papacy requested it but because the church invited him! Can it ever be time for such a thing? Remember, the pope is a living antichrist.[5] Every time you look at a beneficent pope speaking gently to a child, remember this. Every time you read a papal encyclical that speaks of love and toleration for all mankind, remember this. Every time a representative of the pope is welcomed into the pulpit of one of our churches or is asked to address a meeting of the General Conference in session, remember this. And every time you read the fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and see no mention of the papacy, remember this and wonder why.

Those who receive not the love of the truth, will unite with Satan and with antichrist through whom Satan has worked to make void the law of God to give to the world a spurious Sabbath, the child of the papacy that it might be worshipped as an idol. Of this power Paul writes, “Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come except their be falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition; who opposeth and exalteth himself above all that is called God, or that is worshipped; so that he as God sitteth in the temple of God, showing himself that he is God.” This is antichrist to whom the dragon shall give his power, his seat and great authority, and this power will be energized by the devil, and will have combined him human and superhuman power.

Satan has carried his first great work of deception down through all the ages, and will until the close of time. In antichrist, he has a living agent. When the Christian world shall make void the law of God when church and state are united, when Protestantism shall reach its hands across the gulf to unite with Romanism, allegiance to the law of God will be fully thrown off and the decree will go forth against the people of God. (Ellen White, Ms104–1893)

Ellen White warned God’s people about Satan’s devices. On February 24, 1915, she called her nurse to her side as she woke from sleep, and said:

“I want to tell you. I hate sin (repeated three times). I am charged to tell our people, that some do not realize, that the devil has device after device, and he carries them out in ways that they do not expect. Satan’s agencies will invent ways to make sinners out of saints.

“I tell you now, that when I am laid to rest, great changes will take place.

“I do not know when I shall be taken; and I desire to warn all against the devices of the devil.

“I want the people to know that I warned them fully before my death.

“I do not know especially what changes will take place; but they should watch every conceivable sin that Satan will try to immortalize.” {Ellen White, Ms1–1915 (February 24, 1915)}

Demand of the Papacy #3—Show Us Your Possessions

In order to plan most efficiently for the future, La Trinita wanted to see the Waldensian stronghold of La Pra, and the Waldenses granted his request, not understanding his ulterior motive. Is there ever a time we should invite the enemy onto our territory and show him around? When we join hands with the state under 501(c)(3) agreements, we are opening up our spiritual land to the examination of and to the control of the government. If we do not do this personally but look into the shady affairs of Satan for no other reason than curiosity, we are inviting this archenemy onto our personal, private land—our minds!

Demand of the Papacy #4—Give Us Your Money

As a proof of their willingness to work toward peace, La Trinita advised the Waldenses to send 20,000 crowns to the duke, which they did, but the Waldenses did not realize the money would be used to build up forces to be used against them!

When a group of Adventist believers owns a church with land and wants to join the organized Seventh-day Adventist Church, the group must transfer ownership of its church buildings and land to the organized church. Why would such a thing be required? Control, pure and simple. Whoever owns the buildings and the land can decide what happens in the buildings and on the land. One may think Seventh-day Adventists are slow to understand this, but it is just that they trust their leaders, as the Waldenses trusted La Trinita. One day, however, they may find that they have misplaced their trust and that, unless they toe the line, they will find themselves outside the buildings they have built, maintained, and cherished.

ThinkstockPhotos-504288388.jpgDemand of the Papacy #5—Do It Our Way or Die

The Waldenses learned the hard way that there is no peace with Satan. They tried compromise to gain peace, but the papacy and the princes of the land were never satisfied and always demanded more. They retreated to gain peace, but evil forces followed on their heels. They finally resisted, engaging in guerrilla warfare in the mountains, but they were outnumbered and out-supplied. In the end, they lost. They lost their worldly homes and their earthly lives, but they bravely clung to their eternal hope. One day we may meet those Waldenses who carried their elderly, their children, and their possessions out of a hostile land in the mid of winter; meet those who died, frozen on slabs of ice while cradling their children and while looking down at the smoke rising from the chimneys of their former houses in the valleys below, occupied by soldiers; and meet those who knew they had chosen the better way, the straight and narrow way, hard and cold though it be. We may meet Giosue Gianavello. Remember his name—Gianavello—a Waldensian leader who wrote in bold letters his response to a terrible demand.

First, the demand:

I exhort you for the last time to renounce your heresy. This is the only hope of your obtaining the pardon of your prince, and of saving the life of your wife and daughters, now my prisoners, and who, if you continue obstinate, I will burn alive. As for yourself, my soldiers shall no longer pursue you, but I will set such a price upon your head, as that, were you Beelzebub himself, you shall infallibly be taken; and be assured that, if you fall alive into my hands, there are no torments with which I will not punish your rebellion. (Marquis de Pianeza, as recorded in Wylie, History of the Waldenses, p. 158)

Now, his response:

There are no torments so terrible, no death so barbarous, that I would not choose rather than deny my Saviour. Your threats cannot cause me to renounce my faith; they but fortify me in it. Should the Marquis de Pianeza cause my wife and daughters to pass through the fire, it can but consume their mortal bodies; their souls I commend to God, trusting that he will have mercy on them, and on mine, should it please him that I fall into the marquis’s hands. (Ibid., pp. 158, 159)

We might also meet the first Waldensian of the Piedmont to be executed—a quiet, dignified woman whose name is lost to humanity but whose name is recorded with the pen of a diamond in the books of heaven—or we may meet Bartholomew Copin, arrested and put to death because he denied that Jesus was literally in the communion wafer. He poignantly wrote his wife, Susanna, after his arrest: My well-beloved consort, Susanna Copin, I do not think we shall eat together any more. . . . Beseech God to be your comforter, and put your trust in him, who hath promised never to forsake those that depend on him. (See Burke, loc. 1346.)

Has the Seventh-day Adventist Church ever given such an ultimatum to anyone? Not that I am aware of, but I am sorry to say she has been responsible for the deaths of many people because they would not do things her way. Think of the true and free believers in Russia who died in prison and in Siberia, think of the believers in the Eastern Bloc who would not succumb to the way of the organized church and who lost their lives under Communist rule, think of those who may have died because of the praise German Adventist leadership gave Hitler, and finally think of all those who have spiritually lost their way because of the new theologies embraced by the church. God sees and measures it all for what it truly is.

Satan’s Plan

As the people of God approach the perils of the last days, Satan holds earnest consultation with his angels as to the most successful plan of overthrowing their faith. (Ellen White, The Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 4, p. 337)

His devices are numerous and well-designed:

“We must work by signs and wonders to blind their eyes to the truth, and lead them to lay aside reason and the fear of God, and follow custom and tradition.

“I will influence popular ministers to turn the attention of their hearers from the commandments of God.

“. . . our principal concern is to silence this sect of Sabbath-keepers. We must excite popular indignation against them. We will enlist great men and worldly-wise men upon our side, and induce those in authority to carry out our purposes. Then the Sabbath which I have set up shall be enforced by laws the most severe and exacting. Those who disregard them shall be driven out from the cities and villages, and made to suffer hunger and privation. When once we have the power, we will show that we can do with those who will not swerve from their allegiance to God. . . . we will finally have a law to exterminate all who will not submit to our authority. When death shall be made the penalty of violating our Sabbath, then many who are now ranked with commandment-keepers will come over to our side.

“But before proceeding to these extreme measures, we must exert all our wisdom and subtlety to deceive and ensnare those who honor the true Sabbath. We can separate many from Christ by worldliness, lust, and pride. They may think themselves safe because they believe the truth, but indulgence of appetite or the lower passions, which will confuse judgment and destroy discrimination, will cause their fall.

“Go, make the possessors of lands and money drunk with the cares of this life. Present the world before them in its most attractive light, that they may lay up their treasure here, and fix their affections upon earthly things. We must do our utmost to prevent those who labor in God’s cause from obtaining means to use against us. Keep the money in our own ranks. The more means they obtain, the more they will injure our kingdom by taking from us our subjects. Make them care more for money than for the upbuilding of Christ’s kingdom and the spread of the truths we hate, and we need not fear their influence; for we know that every selfish, covetous person will fall under our power, and will finally be separated from God’s people.

“Through those that have a form of godliness but know not the power, we can gain many who would otherwise do us great harm. Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God will be our most effective helpers. Those of this class who are apt and intelligent will serve as decoys to draw others into our snares. Many will not fear their influence, because they profess the same faith. We will thus lead them to conclude that the requirements of Christ are less strict than they once believed, and that by conformity to the world they would exert a greater influence with worldlings. Thus they will separate from Christ; then they will have no strength to resist our power, and erelong they will be ready to ridicule their former zeal and devotion.

“Until the great decisive blow shall be struck, our efforts against commandment-keepers must be untiring. We must be present at all their gatherings. In their large meetings especially our cause will suffer much, and we must exercise great vigilance, and employ all our seductive arts to prevent souls from hearing the truth and becoming impressed by it.

“I will have upon the ground, as my agents, men holding false doctrines mingled with just enough truth to deceive souls. I will also have unbelieving ones present, who will express doubts in regard to the Lord’s messages of warning to his church. Should the people read and believe these admonitions, we could have little hope of overcoming them. But if we can divert their attention from these warnings, they will remain ignorant of our power and cunning, and we shall secure them in our ranks at last. God will not permit his words to be slighted with impunity. If we can keep souls deceived for a time, God’s mercy will be withdrawn, and he will give them up to our full control.

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“We must cause distraction and division. We must destroy their anxiety for their own souls, and lead them to criticise, to judge, and to accuse and condemn one another, and to cherish selfishness and enmity. For these sins, God banished us from his presence; and all who follow our example will meet a similar fate.” (Ibid., pp. 337–340; published 1884)

There you have it. His complete package is to:

1. Hold our minds in darkness about the work of Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary

2. Blind our eyes to the truth by using signs and wonders

3. Use popular ministers to turn our attention from the commandments of God

4. Incite popular indignation against us

5. Use the great and wise men of the world against us

6. Drive us out of the cities and villages and to make us suffer hunger and privation

7. Enact a law to exterminate us

8. Separate us from Christ by worldliness, lust, and pride

9. Make us think we are safe (because we believe the truth), while we indulge appetite and passion

10. Make us drunk with the cares of this life

11. Present the world in its most attractive light and to fix our affection upon earthly things

12. Keep us from investing our money in God’s cause and make us care more for money than for the upbuilding of Christ’s kingdom and for the spread of truth

15. Use those who have a form of godliness against us

16. Be present at all our spiritual gatherings to prevent us from hearing the truth and from becoming impressed by it

17. Use men holding false doctrines mingled with just enough truth to deceive us at our gatherings

18. Use unbelieving people at our gatherings to express doubts in the Lord’s messages of warning to his church

19. Cause distraction and division

20. Destroy our anxiety for our souls

21. Lead us to criticize, to judge, and to accuse and condemn others

22. Lead us to cherish selfishness and enmity

When volume 4 of The Spirit of Prophecy was published in 1884, some of these means of attack were being used against God’s people but not all. Let us consider a few items in Satan’s list:

Plan #1—To hold minds in darkness about the current work of Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary

Satan himself stated that the source which gave us the truth about the Sabbath is the same source which gives us the truth about Christ’s work in the heavenly sanctuary: “The same light which reveals the true Sabbath” also “reveals the ministration of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, and shows that the last work for man’s salvation is now going forward” (Ibid., p. 337). The same light! As Seventh-day Adventists we would never deny the seventh-day Sabbath—it is dear to us—and yet the organized church has diminished the work of Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary to that of providing justification only and has also instilled doubt concerning when Jesus entered the most holy place, among other things. These issues, however, had not blossomed in 1884, yet Satan was on the move. Dudley Canright denounced our sanctuary doctrine in his book Seventh-day Adventism Renounced, but not until 1889. It was not until 1905 that A. F. Ballenger presented his errant views at the General Conference session, and today many adherents to these changes in our sanctuary position of the past exist. Satan has been true to his plan. Today the organization consigns the work of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary to about half of what it once taught it to be:

When, therefore, one hears an Adventist say, or reads in Adventist literature—even in the writings of Ellen G. White—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; that He is making it efficacious for us individually, according to our needs and requests. (Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine, Annotated Edition, p. 283)

And these benefits of the atonement are justification, for the cleansing involved is the removal of the record of forgiven sin from the heavenly books:

. . . the heavenly sanctuary is cleansed by the final removal of the record of sins in the heavenly books. (Seventh-day Adventists Believe: An exposition of the fundamental beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, p. 355; 2005)

There is a cleansing of the record, but there is more. Our characters must be cleansed also, for how can God declare us to be just and dispose of our records, if we are continuing to sin at a time when Jesus no longer mediates for sinners? We who live at the end of the world do have a higher standard than our forefathers and relatives had who are now sleeping in the ground. This is because God will have a people who will vindicate his character and who will disprove Satan’s claim that man cannot keep the law. In our own strength, of course, we cannot, but Jesus will perfect his people. He has promised to give us power, but we must make the choice to place our wills on the side of Christ. (For a more complete discussion on the benefits of the atonement, see the last issue of Old Paths.)

Plan #2—To blind our eyes to truth by signs and wonders

There are true signs and wonders—“Truly the signs of an apostle were wrought among you in all patience, in signs, and wonders, and mighty deeds” (2 Corinthians 12:12)—but Satan’s signs and wonders are lying signs and wonders, a spectacular smokescreen to capture our minds and to enthrall our senses. His signs and wonders appear to show power over nature and over disease, and they mimic the true miracles performed by Jesus Christ:

Through the agency of spiritualism, miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and many undeniable wonders will be performed. And as the spirits will profess faith in the Bible, and manifest respect for the institutions of the church, their work will be accepted as a manifestation of divine power. (Ellen White, The Great Controversy, p. 588)

All of Satan’s lying wonders are spiritualism in one form or another:

Spiritualists claim superior light and power. . . . They have allied themselves to the powers of darkness which are developing in these last days in signs and wonders, that if it were possible they would deceive the very elect. Spiritualists claim that they can do greater miracles than Christ did. Satan made the same boasts to Christ.

Spiritualists are increasing in numbers. They will come to men who have the truth as Satan came to Christ, tempting them to manifest their power and work miracles and give evidence of their being favored of God and of their being the people who have the truth.

Spiritualists will press the matter [to perform miracles] . . . with ministers who teach the truth. If they decline, they will dare them. They will quote Scripture, as did Satan to Christ. “Prove all things,” say they. But their idea of proving is to listen to their deceptive reasonings, and in attending their circles. But in their gatherings the angels of darkness assume the forms of dead friends and communicate with them as angels of light. (Ellen White, Confrontation, pp. 87, 88)

One of Satan’s lying wonders is to make the dead appear to still be living:

Their loved ones will appear in robes of light, as familiar to the sight as when they were upon the earth. They will teach them and converse with them. And many will be deceived by this wonderful display of Satan’s power. The only safety for the people of God is to be thoroughly conversant with their Bibles, and be intelligent upon the reasons of our faith in regard to the sleep of the dead. (Ibid., p. 88)

Lying wonders can also be seen in the field of health, for we know that while Satan is the ultimate cause of all disease, he can cause a specific disease and then can remove that disease whenever he wishes, giving the appearance that a certain mode of treatment has been successful, without following God’s plan of health. Such an appearance is only a lying wonder that causes confusion about what God’s true methods of healing are. This confusion is fertile ground for mystical beliefs about health and healing, since Satan’s wonders seem to work. If someone urges you to buy a product for its healing properties or to engage in a questionable procedure for its healthful benefits, ask yourself if the claims about the product/procedure are truthful and evidence-based and if they contradict inspiration. Sometimes a company makes assertions about a product that are not based in fact but are, instead, self-proclamations, worded to sound attractive.

Plan #3—To use popular ministers to turn our attention from the commandments of God

We often see this happening between ministers who honor the first day the week and their congregations when questions about the seventh-day Sabbath arise, but we who already believe the truth about the seventh-day Sabbath can be undermined also. When you hear a minister proclaim that God’s law is neither perfect nor comprehensive, be on guard, for the law of the LORD is perfect and does convert the soul (Psalm 19:7).

Plan #17—To use men holding false doctrines mingled with just enough truth to deceive us at our gatherings

Several years ago a manuscript was created, but not published, containing only quotations of Ellen White, all concerning the Adventist experience in the last days. These quotations are to have originated from the Ellen G. White Estate. The manuscript is entitled An Adventist Apocalypse, and copies of it have circulated among Adventists. One important quotation is on page 275 of the manuscript:

Gainsayers Will Play Upon Our Words and Ridicule Sacred Things, but We Are Not to Retaliate in Kind. We shall see evil and vice all about us. There will be seducing spirits (and here is our greatest danger), but the Word of the Lord is [to be] our guide. In contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, we are to speak and act in a way that will be savor of life unto life [sic]. There will be gainsayers who will play upon words, and who will ridicule the most sacred things, but we are not to retaliate. Every word is recorded in the books of heaven. We shall have to keep up a constant warfare with the evil devices of humanity, and [yet] not have the same [spirit] exhibited in ourselves.—Undated Manuscript 133, pp. 1, 4. (“The Christian Life.”; all brackets in original except the second one; title added by compiler)

ThinkstockPhotos-511201364.jpgThe quotation is clear and makes sense—There will be gainsayers who will play on words and ridicule sacred things, but we are not to retaliate; and we will have a constant warfare with them, but we are not to have the same spirit in ourselves. It is clear from the context that “the evil devices of humanity” are the ones who ridicule and gainsay because in this quotation Ellen White contrasts us with them.

But the quotation is not accurate; in fact, it gives a completely different meaning to that which Ellen White wrote:

We shall see evil and vice all about us. There will be seducing spirits, and here is our greatest danger. But the Word is our guide. In contending for the faith once delivered to the saints, we are to speak and act in a way that will be a savor of life unto life. There will be gainsayers who will play upon words, and who will ridicule the most sacred things, but we are not to retaliate. Every word is recorded in the books of heaven. (Ellen White, Ms182–1905, par. 13)

We shall have to keep up a constant warfare with the evil devices of humanity as exhibited in ourselves. Christ came from heaven to give us strength to do this, to make it possible for us to conquer in the struggle. (Ibid., par. 14)

Aside from the changes in punctuation and the added words, the astounding part is that the evil devices of humanity are found in ourselves, not in the gainsayers! The next two paragraphs expand the concept:

Without Christ, human beings cast aside truth and righteousness as if there were no heaven to win, no hell to shun. They seek to trample down the truth. But truth lives, and truth will triumph. (Ibid., par. 15)

Those who amidst the perils of the last days are seeking the salvation of their souls need to study carefully the prayer that Christ offered for them just before His trial and crucifixion. They will need to cling close to the One who gave His life for them, that they might have power to become the sons of God, power to obtain the victory over sin. They are to live the Christ life, revealing purity and holiness. Never are they to gloss over sin. Never are they to have perverted appetites and passions. These appetites and passions are to be uprooted and cast away. The children of God are not to be slaves of passion. Their lives are to show that the truth has sanctified their souls. The reason is to be sanctified and carefully guarded as a precious, heaven-sent gift. Their hearts are to be gladdened by the rich promises given them and the bright prospects before them. Every feature of their experience is to be radiant with heaven’s brightness. Their lives are to be filled with thanksgiving. (Ibid., par. 16)

The context is victory over sin—it is about perfection—and someone, we cannot say who, rewrote the quotation used in the Adventist Apocalypse to give it a different meaning. It is astounding that someone would dare to tamper with the words of inspiration to substantiate his or her own idea. The pope is not the only living agent of Satan. Why has this topic been attacked? Satan knows that if he can keep God’s people sinning until the close of probation, they will be lost, he will not have to suffer for their sins, and they will discredit God. This is his object, but God has a plan.

God’s Battle Plan

What is God’s battle plan? Satan has one. He is after you and me with a vengeance that we cannot understand, but does God have a plan of attack? Yes, he does. His plan includes the destruction of sin and the reinstatement of harmony throughout the universe. For us specifically his plan is to separate us from sin and to bring our characters into perfect harmony with his, but he will not force himself upon us. He stands at the door and knocks. The Father wants us in his kingdom, to the point that he has emptied heaven in the gift of Jesus to accomplish it. The emphasis of God’s plan for us is the perfection of our characters, and the battle centers around this. God draws a line and says to Satan he can come thus far and no farther. Every temptation we experience, God has measured beforehand; and every trial we experience, he has allowed, and for all he gives us grace to endure. Their purpose is to accomplish the perfection of our characters. God will have a people who will display the beauty of holiness in spite of the straightest of circumstance and the smallest of talents.

In the contest between Christ and Satan, during the Saviour’s earthly ministry, the character of the great deceiver was unmasked. Nothing could so effectually have uprooted Satan from the affections of the heavenly angels and the whole loyal universe as did his cruel warfare upon the world’s Redeemer. The daring blasphemy of his demand that Christ should pay him homage, his presumptuous boldness in bearing Him to the mountain summit and the pinnacle of the temple, the malicious intent betrayed in urging Him to cast Himself down from the dizzy height, the unsleeping malice that hunted Him from place to place, inspiring the hearts of priests and people to reject His love, and at the last to cry, “Crucify Him! crucify Him!”—all this excited the amazement and indignation of the universe. (White, The Great Controversy, p. 501)

In the Land of the Enemy

We are in the land of the enemy. We are engaged in a warfare the world does not recognize.

John Stryker Meyer was part of an elite special forces group. His job was to cross into Laos or Cambodia and gather intelligence for the United States on the movement of the North Vietnamese Army (NVA), a part of the Vietnam War that was then officially unrecognized by the United States and that was not disclosed to the general public until decades later. If Meyer had been caught or killed, nothing would have been found on him to identify him—his clothing was sterile, he carried no ID, his weapons were untraceable, and the United States would never have claimed him. He was on his own, but he traveled with a tight group of six or eight like-minded men, each of whom worked closely to protect the other. They were dropped into enemy territory by helicopters, which quickly veered away as the last man was out the door. The team often engaged in deadly combat within hours of landing, so that they had to call for immediate extraction, which sometimes was and sometimes was not immediate. Thick, gray clouds could roll in between the mountains, making immediate extraction impossible, so that Meyer and his men had to fend for themselves—get to high ground, barricade their perimeter, and find a flat-enough place for a helicopter to land.

Our work is that of a soldier. We operate in a group of like-minded men and women—the 144,000. The world does not recognize us, and never will, but God knows his sheep. Angels barricade our perimeter, and soon Jesus will come to rescue his own.

If it is essential for the soldiers to go through so much drill to serve their country in a time of peril, how is it with the soldiers in Christ’s service? Are they submitting themselves to be educated and disciplined, thus fitting themselves to engage in warfare? This is a difficult work. The Christian warfare does not mean play; we are not engaged in mimic battles, fighting as one that beateth the air. We have a real but unseen foe to meet. To be a soldier of Christ means more than to be an idler, more than to be a seeker after selfish enjoyment.

. . . the duty of a soldier means work. It is not always just such work as we would choose. Outward inconveniences, difficulties, and trials have to be borne by the soldiers of Jesus. There is a constant warfare to be maintained against the evils and inclinations of our own natural hearts. We must not pick and choose the work most agreeable to us; for we are Christ’s soldiers, under his discipline, and we are not to study our own pleasure. We must fight the battles of the Lord manfully. We have enemies to conquer that would gain the control of all our powers. Self-will in us must die; Christ’s will alone must be obeyed. The soldier in Christ’s army must learn to endure hardness, deny self, take up the cross, and follow where his Captain leads the way. (Ellen White, The Youth’s Instructor, December 22, 1886)

Satan’s trackers are constantly on our trail—setting fires about us, pressing close enough to pounce, and insinuating doubts to make us lose our way. Satan laid out his plan of attack long ago, and for every one he gains to his ranks, he knows others will be influenced to follow.

Consider the illustration Admiral William H. McRaven gave to the members of the 2014 graduating class of the University of Texas at Austin, and you may understand the potential of one person. Then multiply that by the approximate 18.5 million members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, for example, or the estimated 1.2 billion members of the Roman Catholic Church, and you will understand how our influence and deeds can be so important:

The average American will meet ten thousand people in their lifetime . . . but if everyone of you changed the lives of just ten people, and each one of those people changed the lives of another ten people, and another ten, then in five generations, a hundred twenty-five years, the class of 2014 will have changed the lives of eight hundred million people . . . over twice the population of the United States. Go one more generation, and you can change the entire population of the world—eight billion people. (William H. McRaven, Commencement Address to the University of Texas at Austin, 2014)[6]

God measures the worth of a soul in ways we cannot understand. Jesus would have died for just one person, and this illustrates the value one human being has with God, but God also sees the immeasurable worth of your ability to affect the world. You may think your work is small and insignificant, but it has—it will always have—a ripple effect, and this ripple effect is not like the effect of a stone thrown into a pool of water because that ripple comes to an end when it reaches the shore. The ripple effect of your life may be said to be without end, for the effects of your deeds and of your influence last throughout eternity. There are no boundaries to them. It can mistakenly be viewed as a trickle–down effect—you say something of value to a person, that person repeats it to a third, the third to another, and so it goes—the good thought (or the good deed) trickles down to others—but in spiritual matters there are no trickles. Everything is of inestimable magnitude—the words we say, the attitudes we present, the honesty we demonstrate, the willingness to share, the denial of ourselves for the good of others, everything! The ripple effect of the life of Jesus is the best example—it is beyond computation, for it has reached throughout the universe to every created being, and it will continue to reach any future created being! Is it any wonder that our heavenly Father bowed before the sacrifice of his Son and said it was enough? It was enough to reconcile guilty man with God and God with man, but it has also solidified the allegiance of the inhabitants of the entire universe to God.

And it is that faith which works that you want. How does it work? It works by love. What love? Why, the love flashing from the cross of Calvary. It is set up midway between earth and heaven, and salvation is gained by looking at this cross. The Father has accepted it, and the angelic host have come to that cross, and God Himself has bowed in acceptance of the sacrifice. It answers the demand of Heaven, and man can be saved through Jesus Christ, if we only have faith in Him. Man is reconciled to God, and God to man, through the full and perfect and entire sacrifice. (Ellen White, Faith and Works, p. 72)

There are the impressions that are going forth all the time. There is an atmosphere that surrounds the human soul and that atmosphere is a heavenly atmosphere or a hellish atmosphere. . . . if we are continually drawing rays of divine light from glory, angels of God are around about us and there is an atmosphere that surrounds the human soul. Our very attitude, our very words, witness genuine conversion to all who come within the sphere of our influence. “The Spirit and the bride say come, and let him that heareth say come, and let him that is athirst come.” (Ibid., p. 65)

Through Christ’s redeeming work the government of God stands justified. The Omnipotent One is made known as the God of love. Satan’s charges are refuted, and his character unveiled. Rebellion can never again arise. Sin can never again enter the universe. Through eternal ages all are secure from apostasy. By love’s self-sacrifice, the inhabitants of earth and heaven are bound to their Creator in bonds of indissoluble union. (Ellen White, The Desire of Ages, p. 26)

The Waldenses and the Papacy

If you could have walked the Cottian Alps at some point during the eleventh century, you might have found all to be quiet. No artificial sounds would have disturbed the peace, no clank of heavy steel against steel, only the sound of water rushing over rock and of hawks calling on the wing. Breezes flowed over fields of flowers and over fields of hay, and sunshine brightened every color of every season. Nightfall even brought a blessing, as it settled over each cottage with quiet peace, for the Waldenses in the Alps of Cottian walked with God, but theirs had been a hard walk, interspersed with much trouble, and the future was becoming more foreboding. Pope Urban II issued a bull in 1096 stating that one of the neighboring valleys in France was “infested with ‘heresy’” (B. G. Wilkinson, Truth Triumphant, p. 235). This was close to home.

In 1198, Pope Innocent III mixed apparent concern with rigorous commands:

The little boat of St. Peter is beaten by many storms and tossed about upon the sea, but it grieves us most of all that, against the orthodox faith, there are now arising more unrestrainedly and with more injurious results than ever before, ministers of diabolic error who are ensnaring the souls of the simple and ruining them. With their superstitions and false inventions they are perverting the meaning of the Holy Scriptures and trying to destroy the unity of the catholic church. Since we have learned from you and others that this pestilential error is growing in Gascony and in the neighboring territories, we wish you and your fellow bishops to resist it with all your might, because it is to be feared that it will spread and that by its contagion the minds of the faithful will be corrupted. And therefore by this present apostolical writing we give you a strict command that, by whatever means you can, you destroy all these heresies and expel from your diocese all who are polluted with them. You shall exercise the rigor of the ecclesiastical power against them and all those who have made themselves suspected by associating with them. They may not appeal from your judgments, and if necessary, you may cause the princes and people to suppress them with the sword.” (Pope Innocent III to the Archbishop of Auch in Glascony; Oliver J. Thatcher, E. H. McNeal, A Source Book for Mediaeval History, pp. 209, 210)

Pope Innocent III ordered laymen to suppress the Waldenses with the sword, to confiscate their goods, and to drive them out of their territories, “and thus separate the chaff from the wheat. Moreover to all who faithfully and devoutly aid the church in preserving the faith in this time of great danger which is threatening her, we grant the same indulgence of sins as to those who make a pilgrimage to the churches of St. Peter or of St. James” (Pope Innocent III, Ibid., p. 210)

Pope Innocent III also gave the King of Aragon the right to take the heretics’ possessions for his own: “ . . .we concede to you, by this present writing, the right to reserve for your own use all the movable as well as immovable goods of heretics and of their supporters, of which you are able to get possession” (Ibid., p. 211).

Personal gain was used as an incentive to obey the pope’s commands, as was the offer of indulgences for sins, and in like manner, our own personal property will be taken from us by violent hands:

The Lord has shown me repeatedly that it is contrary to the Bible to make any provision for our temporal wants in the time of trouble. I saw that if the saints had food laid up by them or in the field in the time of trouble, when sword, famine, and pestilence are in the land, it would be taken from them by violent hands and strangers would reap their fields. (Ellen White, Early Writings, p. 56)

Over the centuries the Waldenses were pursued and were massacred. Papal edits intensified the treatment shown them and eventually allowed torture and death. Waldenses were considered to be sorcerers and to be malicious and abominable, and if they refused to renounce their heretical errors, they were “to be crushed like venomous snakes” (J. A. Wylie, History of Protestantism, vol. 2, p. 435). Innocent VIII issued a bull that “invited all Catholics to take up the cross against the heretics; and to stimulate them in this pious work it ‘absolved from all ecclesiastic pains and penalties, general and particular; it released all who joined the crusade from any oaths they might have taken; it legitimatized their title to any property they might have illegally acquired; and promised remission of all their sins to such as should kill any heretic. It annulled all contracts made in favor of Vaudois, ordered their domestics to abandon them, forbade all persons to give them any aid whatever, and empowered all persons to take possession of their property.’” (Wylie, History of the Waldenses, p. 28)

The papacy has not changed. The same spirit that ruled in past centuries rules today:

And let it be remembered, it is the boast of Rome that she never changes. The principles of Gregory VII and Innocent III are still the principles of the Roman Catholic Church. And had she but the power, she would put them in practice with as much vigor now as in past centuries. Protestants little know what they are doing when they propose to accept the aid of Rome in the work of Sunday exaltation. While they are bent upon the accomplishment of their purpose, Rome is aiming to re-establish her power, to recover her lost supremacy. Let the principle once be established in the United States that the church may employ or control the power of the state; that religious observances may be enforced by secular laws; in short, that the authority of church and state is to dominate the conscience, and the triumph of Rome in this country is assured. (White, The Great Controversy, p. 581)

And the spirit of true Seventh-day Adventism has not changed. True Adventists have not laid down their weapons to gain peace with their spiritual adversaries and have not made concessions with them. They have never been in darkness about the ministry of Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary and have never tolerated the mingling of truth with error, but times have changed for the organized Seventh-day Adventist Church.

She is no longer what she once was.

Onycha Holt

[1]Ann Burke, To the Last Drop of Our Blood, Kindle edition, location 1055; see J. A. Wylie, The History of the Waldenses, p. 114

[2]. For more information on the Waldenses, see “The Protestant Reformation, Part 2, The Waldenses—Examples to the Protestant Reformers” in the November 2012 issue of Old Paths at http://www.smyrna.org/op/2012/op12_11_Main.htm

[3]. While the pioneers’ non-trinitarian position relegated the church to that of a cult, by 1950 non-trinitarianism was no longer an issue, for it had been repudiated by a new statement of beliefs in 1931; therefore, non-trinitarianism should not have prevented Adventism from being an evangelical church.

[4]. Available free by contacting Smyrna Gospel Ministries

[5] We speak only about the system of the papacy and the man of sin (2 Thess. 2:3, 4) and not about those in the Roman Catholic Church who worship God in good faith.

[6]. Accessed at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=pxBQLFLei70 on 3–2–16


 

From the File Cabinet of History

Letter of LeRoy Froom to A. Gallagher

 

Froom to Gallagher.jpeg


 

West Virginia Camp Meeting

The Final Atonement: June 14–18

We are pleased to announce that the 2016 West Virginia camp meeting will be held at Smyrna Sabbath Chapel in West Virginia on Tuesday, June 14, through Sabbath, June 18. I want to emphasis this date, as I have had several ask when the camp meeting will be.

Through the years we have had some very important topics, but I do not think that we have ever had a more important one than this coming year’s theme: “The Final Atonement.”

It is not the second coming of Jesus or even the Sabbath that sets us apart as a distinct people. The uniqueness of Adventism is in the sanctuary doctrine and, especially for those living at the very end of the history of this earth, the subject of the final atonement should not be neglected. No subject is dearer to the heart of the Adventist cause than the atonement, especially as it relates to what is going on in heaven now and, correspondingly, in our lives on earth. We have been told that, “. . . in the final atonement the sins of the truly penitent are to be blotted from the records of heaven, no more to be remembered or come into mind” (Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 358).

We certainly encourage you to come and to share the blessing with us. We want this to be an interactive camp meeting, so we are planning for lots of time for questions and discussion after the meetings.

As always, we eagerly look forward to this special time of study, prayer, and fellowship, and we are very eager to see all of you once again. We are also very desirous to meet new friends and family. Please do not let anything prevent your attendance this June because time is short, and, more than ever, we need to draw closer to one another and closer to our Redeemer.

We plan to have youth meetings, except for children under age four, and we are very pleased to let you know that the Three River Avian Center will be visiting us with a presentation.

Camping is free to all, but each camper will be responsible for his or her own meals, except on Sabbath, when a fellowship meal will be provided. Kitchen facilities will not be available, but camp stoves can be used in the camping area, and ice for ice chests can be obtained one mile away. 

This is a camp meeting. We do not have cabins or rooms available. Smyrna has a few tents and other camping supplies for those who do not have their own and who cannot afford to purchase them. The supply is limited, so if you need to use a tent, camp stove, sleeping bag, or other items, please request early. We have four shower units with hot and cold water. Remember to bring items such as bedding, flashlights, food, toiletries, and insect repellent. Let our dress and deportment be such as becomes Christians. 

While there is room for RV’s, we do not have hook-ups. RV’s will need to be self-contained. For those who wish, there are motels in the area. The nearest motels are: The Pocahontas Motel (304) 436–2250, The Cow Shed (304) 732–7000, and Twin Falls State Park Resort (304) 294–4000. If you need a room, please call early, as the better motels fill up quickly due to a large influx of tourists at this time of year. 

Directions:

Traveling from the North, Northeast, or Northwest: From Beckley, traveling I–77 south, take the third Beckley exit #42 (Sophia - Mabscott). Follow Sophia - Rt. 16, south branch of exit. After entering Rt. 16 south (four-lane undivided road at this point), go 3.6 miles and bear right on Rt. 54/97. Go 13.8 miles to Maben. Turn right on Rt. 97 and go 12 miles to Pineville. Upon entering Pineville you will stop at a “T” in the road. Cook Memorial Baptist Church will be on the right and an Exxon service station on the left. Turn left and go 1/3 of a mile. Stop at four-way stop. Turn left and go .8 of a mile. Turn right on Rt. 16 south. Go 5.9 miles. Watch for Smyrna sign on the left side of the road. Turn right at the sign and go 7/10 of a mile.  (These values have been measured and are very accurate.) 

Traveling from the South, Southeast, or Southwest: From Wytheville, VA, traveling I–77 north, take exit #1 upon entering West Virginia, immediately after exiting East River Mountain Tunnel. Follow Route 52 north to Welch 38.7 miles. At Welch follow signs for Route 16 North. Once leaving town, you will travel 9 miles. You will pass a Sunoco gas station on the right. Smyrna Road is about ¼ of a mile past the Sunoco station. Watch for the Smyrna sign on the right side of the road. Turn left at the sign and go 7/10 miles. (These mileages are approximates and not exact values.) Beware traveling through the towns of Northfork, Keystone, and Kimball, they are well-known speed traps!

Editors


The 60th General Conference
Session: Report 7

July 9 (Thursday Morning — Thirteenth Business Session)

With the fundamentals and ordination decisions a part of history, the 60th General Conference Session was left with mostly cleanup items for the last two days. Yet even here, some interesting events were to transpire. The remaining main items to be finished before the closing of the session were:

The first five of these would be covered on Thursday.

The General Corporation members’ meeting is a formality that is required of the government by all legal corporations. The meeting simply consisted of accepting from the Nominating Committee’s choices of officers and board members. These officers and board members were all current secretaries, treasurers, vice presidents, and associates of the General Conference, with the exception of an attorney.

The Nominating Committee then brought forth several names to fill division secretary and treasurer positions. After the various names had been moved, Megan Mole (TED), moved to send the “report back to the Nominating Committee because of the severe under representation of women and young people” (GC Archive Transcript of Thirteenth Business Meeting, July 9, 2015, p. 9).

Being near the end of the session, to send the names back would require a great deal of effort that the Committee wished to avoid. Emmanuel Mwale (SID) spoke with clearness on the matter:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I just want to support the list as it is and also to mention that while it’s important for us to include young people, I believe that the positions at the GC division are for people of experience. Young people have to begin the way others have begun. I don’t think the intent is that we should involve them at every level, in spite of the position that person is going to occupy. So that list as it is is OK. Thank you. (Ibid., p. 12)

While the Spirit of Prophecy gives many appeals for the youth to be trained by men of experience, it does not advocate that the youth should be in decision-making positions in the General Conference. The counsel we have is:

God has a special work for the men of experience to do. They are to guard the cause of God. (Ellen White, The Review and Herald, May 29, 1888)

In the days of Isaiah, God told his people the results rebellion would bring. Interestingly, we find these verses among the warnings:

And I will give children to be their princes, and babes shall rule over them. (Isaiah 3:4)

As for my people, children are their oppressors, and women rule over them. O my people, they which lead thee cause thee to err, and destroy the way of thy paths. (Isaiah 3:12)

Youth are certainly in need of training and have a great place of service, but the highest positions of the General Conference are positions that are for brethren of the greatest experience.

Mole’s motion was defeated, and the list of nominations was carried. This was followed by more names being brought forth for General Conference department heads. These were also carried. There would be more Nominating Committee reports before the session was done.

The next business was noting the 50th anniversary of the Amazing Facts ministry. Elder Ted Wilson spoke about the “supporting” ministries, mentioning 3ABN and LLBN, and how they helped to supplement the Hope Channel. Amazing Facts was then mentioned, and a short video of commemoration was played.

Before the discussion could take place on the General Conference constitution and bylaws, Wednesday came back into the room, when David Ripley (NSD) stated:

Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I’m not wanting to bring back the discussion tomorrow [sic]. But one of the things that it showed us is that we have a world church looking at the same Scriptures and coming up with very different interpretations. I think that points out that this church has very divided hermeneutics or rules of interpretation. And I would like to make a motion that this world church will take time to study and to help us bring together what our hermeneutic really is, because we’re using two very different ones. (GC Archive Transcript of Thirteenth Business Meeting, July 9, 2015, p. 20)

The following interesting dialog then took place:

DELBERT BAKER: Thank you, Mr. Ripley, for that observation. While we’re not accepting the motion, we definitely do take note of what you said. And so your recommendation will be referred to Steering Committee.

DAVID RIPLEY: When would it be proper to bring that motion?

DELBERT BAKER: Well, we’re not taking new business from the floor. It has been noted that it will be referred to Steering Committee, who will look at your item and take note of it. That’s the process in which it’s done.

DAVID RIPLEY: You have accepted other motions; why not mine?

DELBERT BAKER: Well, it’s new business. That’s the reason we’re saying that. It’s not the fact that it’s not being dealt with. It will be dealt with. But the proper way to do this is to refer this to the Steering Committee, who makes the agenda, and they will look into the hermeneutic item that you just raised.

DAVID RIPLEY: I don’t understand why you’re not accepting this.

DELBERT BAKER: The point is that all items that are not on the agenda should be referred properly to the Steering Committee. Now, what you could do is you can move to refer this to the Steering Committee. How do you feel about that? Is that good?

DAVID RIPLEY: I would like to move that this goes to the Steering Committee—

DELBERT BAKER: OK.

DAVID RIPLEY: —and it’s reported back this session.

DELBERT BAKER: You can refer to the Steering Committee. We’ll take note of the fact that it is your wish to get some word back to it. We know you want to get the word back. We’ll try to get the word back. Is that OK with you?

DAVID RIPLEY: You need to assure me that it will be reported back.

DELBERT BAKER: I can’t assure you, but I will pass it on. I mean, everyone hears it, it’s a public item, you have made the point clearly. You referred to the Steering Committee, they can take action on it, and we will definitely take note that you would like to get word back on that in terms of how that’s being handled. OK?

DAVID RIPLEY: Thank you. Because I think it’s very important for us to have a united church, and right now we’re divided.

DELBERT BAKER: Your point is well taken. It’s been moved. Is there a second? OK. I see a second.

All right. Is there discussion on that?

OK. All of those in favor, show by the uplifted card.

OK. All those opposed. (Ibid. pp. 20, 21)

In this go-around, Ripley was told that his concern would be sent to the Steering Committee. Ripley wanted to bring it to a motion, which was at first rejected. Then he was told that he could not bring it to a motion. Ripley asked why. Though a reason was given, the motion was finally accepted for what the chair had promised to Ripley in the beginning.

Ripley certainly brought up a good point, though, that was worth consideration. During the final session of the conference, a report did come back from the Steering Committee, with Myron Iseminger giving a report:

Yesterday we voted an action with a request to the Steering Committee that the world church take time to study our hermeneutic or our system of biblical interpretation.

The Steering Committee sees value in that request, and they have agreed to work with the Biblical Research Institute to address the issue. In fact, the Biblical Research Institute is already studying the issue and has plans to publish their findings in the form of a revised second edition of the book currently available on biblical interpretation. (Ibid., p. 20)

The General Conference constitution and bylaws were discussed next. This involved revising terms and names. For examples:

One point that raised some discussion was an addition to the “Term of Office.” The addition read:

Those who have passed the age of mandatory retirement, as determined by their division or legislation, shall not be eligible for election to a new term of office for positions indicated in Article VI, Sec 1., in that division. (GC Agenda Book, p. 80)

While some thought this was progressive, Stoy Proctor (GC) noted:

We claim to be a Bible-believing church. I don’t think there’s many references to limitations of service for the characters of the Bible. I think we should be more concerned about the ability—the health—of the individual, the job that they’re doing. If they’re doing a great job, limiting their service, time, is, I think, unbiblical, and we’re not respecting the experience that they have received. So I’d like for us to be at least fair about this issue. (GC Archive Transcript of Thirteenth Business Meeting, July 9, 2015, p. 31)

Those for the amendment to the constitution noted that there was a need to train youth and involve them in the service of the church. Like virtually every item brought to the delegates, it passed.

Something else new would be the changing of the financial accountable of the church. Now an audit would no longer be called an audit. Instead of the director of the General Conference Auditing Service “administer[ing] . . . audits” he would now “administer a program to provide assurance and related services” (GC Agenda Book, p. 86)

An item that was cleared up for some delegates was the relationship between division presidents and vice presidents of the General Conference. The men who are division presidents are actually first considered vice presidents who then are to serve as division presidents. Since the divisions are an extension of the General Conference and do not have their own meetings as such, the presidents of these divisions are not directly elected by the divisions apart from the rest of the body but, rather, by the General Conference.

Before the next main point of the day could be brought forth, Eliasib Fajardo (NAD) made the following statement, concerning gender and age representation:

I’m thankful to the leadership of the church that allows [6] percent of young people to participate actively in these meetings. However, in light of the comments made this morning that deal with the lack of women, young adult, equal field representation, I move to amend the constitution and bylaws regarding fair gender and fair age representation of the officials of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventists and also this body. (GC Archive Transcript of Thirteenth Business Meeting, July 9, 2015, p. 44)

While Fajardo was thanked for his observation by Chairman Delbert Baker, his motion was not recognized. After this Jay Gallimore (NAD) correctly noted:

There’s a lot of misunderstanding as to the structure of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. This is a representative form of government. We love our young people. We love the gender-inclusiveness. But we must understand there are elections from the ground up, and these need to be represented, of course, in the General Conference session. So like the Congress of the United States, you can’t just go to the Congress of the United States and say, You will have so many X’s so many Y’s and so many Z’s. They have to come from where those folk are elected. You have to keep that in mind and understand this is a representative form of church government, and we must not undermine that. (Ibid., p. 45)

The introduction of the new Seventh-day Adventist Encyclopedia was next. In beginning his introduction of the encyclopedia, David Trim, the church archivist, noted:

In 1966 the fiftieth General Conference session convened in Detroit, Michigan, nearly 50 years ago. And you can see on the screen that we needed a much smaller venue than the Alamodome, because we were a much smaller church. There were 1,495 delegates representing a world church whose membership totaled only 1.7 million. (Ibid., p. 46)

In 1966 the church members to delegate ratio was 1,137 church members to 1 delegate. According to the General Conference, there were “just over 2,500” delegates in San Antonio (http://2015.gcsession.org/en/delegates). David Trim stated that there are currently a little more than 18.5 million church members; thus, the church members to delegate ratio in 2015 is 7,400 members to 1 delegate, or a loss of representation six times and one half times the rate from 1966.

But due to the rapid growth of the church, a new encyclopedia is needed. And though a hardcopy would be printed, it would be the last such printed version of the new encyclopedia, with its main publication being on the Internet, where it can be continually updated.

Trim also noted:

We have found that the SDA Encyclopedia is not reliable on key facts, such as the date the Adventist work started in a country, the first official missionaries in the country, biographical details, and the foundation dates of organizational units. Furthermore, during the past 20 years, Adventist history has been transformed by new studies based on primary sources. Our new understanding of our past and of how God has led in it needs to be taken into account.

And finally, Brother Chairman, there is also the matter of innate biases, biases that slant—indeed, distort—some of the articles. Those biases reflect the nature of our church when the encyclopedia was drafted in the early 1960s.

The church then was overwhelmingly Western. So we understand those biases. But those biases, frankly, are not acceptable today. So we need an encyclopedia that reflects today’s worldwide church. (Ibid., p. 47)

We certainly hope that the “new studies based on primary sources” are correct and not an attempt to rewrite our history. Trim gave assurances that they wanted an encyclopedia that is reliable and without distorted facts, one that would be “objective, but . . . also . . . truthful and accurate” (Ibid., p. 52)

Trim also noted that the encyclopedia would have both a scholarly side and an open-source side.

. . . we hope to have: a section that will be an authoritative collection of articles, but then also a crowd-sourcing section that will allow people to contribute themselves. And we’ll distinguish those quite clearly so that people are aware. (Ibid.)

This new encyclopedia is scheduled to be completed by the 2020 General Conference Session. The General Conference has pledged $1.6 million toward the project.

The Nominating Committee then came back with what was declared to be the final report (though that proved to be only hopeful). Two recommendations to fill spots on the General Conference Executive Committee were made. Leslie Pollard, the Nominating Committee secretary, also noted that they were deferring recommendations on seven further posts that will be filled later by the Annual Council or the General Conference Executive Committee. However, on Friday morning, one of the deferred positions, Northern Asia-Pacific Division secretary, was filled.

Following the vote on the Nominating Committee recommendations, Elder Ted Wilson expressed his thankfulness to the Committee for all the work they had done and following a few more pleasantries, the meeting was closed.

There was no afternoon session.

July 10 (Thursday Morning — Fourteenth Business Session)

The main business of this session was to finish the eight items still pending from the revision of the Church Manual.

Before getting to the Church Manual, though, Sister Berit Elkjaer (TED), from Denmark, noted:

According to the law of our country, we are forced to give women and men equal possibilities for advancement in their work.

My question is: How does the General Conference expect us to deal with that? (GC Archive Transcript of Fourteenth Business Meeting, July 10, 2015, p. 3)

It is hard to know the spirit in which this was asked. One might assume that the powerful Roman Catholic Church functions in Denmark without legal issues, so it should not be a problem for the Adventist to work there, also. However, only 1% of the Danes are Catholic and with homosexuals having the legal right to marry in any church they choose, the surface answer is not so easy.

Later, Chairwoman Ella Simmons noted:

. . . all of the questions, concerns, including one that I think you brought to the floor perhaps on Wednesday, regarding the legal nature of the dilemma that you face, we deal with these, perhaps on a daily basis, as we work with the worldwide church trying to keep up with the challenges that you have before you. (Ibid., p. 4)

However, it would seem difficult to see the Seventh-day Adventist Church bothered by the ordination decision, unless a church member were to bring suit against the church. Up to the time of the General Conference, they were not given the choice of ordination and the church survived in Denmark, so one should be able to assume that the status quo would be able to continue.

After spending several more minutes on minor issues, the discussion of the remaining Church Manual items was brought forth. They were stated as being:

The first item dealt with church organization and added the following line to the current part of the Church Manual that deals with organization:

The Church Manual applies this principle of representation to the operations of the local congregation. General Conference Working Policy addresses how this principle functions in the rest of denominational structure. (GC Agenda Book, p. 91)

This was quickly passed.

The next issue, which took about half the session to discuss, was on the General Conference the Highest Authority. This issue dealt with the appeal process and was confusing to many delegates, with more than one PhD stating that they were confused and did not understand how the process was to work. As simply as we can state it, in prior times, if a church, conference, or institution felt it was not being treated fairly or if they felt that the leadership above them was not functioning properly, they could register a complaint with the level of leadership above that which they were under. If that appeal did not bring satisfaction, then another appeal higher up could be made, and this could continue, until the General Conference was reached. For example, a local church might be concerned that the local conference hired an evangelist who was not teaching solid biblical doctrine. Their concerns would be appealed to the union, the next higher level not involved in the issue. If the union did not resolve the issue, they could appeal to the division, and so on, until the General Conference level had been reached.

The revision to the Manual sought to limit most appeals from reaching the General Conference level.

It was stated by one delegate that the former process was not being abused and that there was no need to take such action, for the GC was not being burdened down with many appeal concerns. There was a motion to send it back to the Church Manual Committee, effectively killing it, since the Committee would not have time to meet on the last day and bring something back to the delegates. Some who opposed the change were Jay Gallimore, Michigan Conference President, John Bradshaw from “It is Written,” Doug Batchelor from “Amazing Facts,” and Louis Torres. Emmanuel Mwale (SID) noted:

But the language as it is now is a betrayal to the church system. And if matters go to court, it’s possible that the church can be losing substantial amounts of money, because we are actually not following rules of natural justice. (GC Archive Transcript of Fourteenth Business Meeting, July 10, 2015, p. 20)

The motion to send the change back to the Committee narrowly lost. The vote was so close that an actual head count had to be taken.

When the actual motion on the change was called forth, there was confusion within the ranks, with some noting that they misunderstood the process of the vote and actually voted in favor of the change, when they were against it, but, despite all the confusion in voting and understanding, the change passed.

The next item that came up was licensed ministers. The change was one from using the term “minister” to using the term “pastor.” This had the chance to open up the issues of ordination, but it failed to attract much attention and passed with only one comment.

This was followed by a discussion concerning issues about the church board. This was not a part of what the chair originally noted as being part of the business. This included the renaming of certain positions, such as Adventist Youth Ministries Director instead of Adventist Youth Society Leader.

After much clarifying discussion, this item passed.

The next area of discussion was also not a part of the main outline the chair had presented earlier. This item was on youth ministries. Discussion continued on this for several minutes, until the time of the session had expired. Chairwoman Simmons stated that if the delegates would like to extend the session for a short period, maybe they could finish the item under discussion. This idea did not find the required majority, and the session closed.

July 10 (Thursday Afternoon, 2:00 p.m. — Fifteenth Business Session)

The last business session was the shortest and the least attended session of the conference. In fact, it would seem that there were no more than a few hundred delegates total in the building, seated and ready for the session. Passmore Mulambo noted:

Mr. Chair, my point of order is that I have been told that the delegates are being told at the gates that the afternoon session has been canceled, and they’re turning away.

. . . Most of our people are being turned down. I was told, Don’t even go in, the meeting is not there, unless you insist. So I and my colleagues, we insisted on coming in. That’s why you see most of our people are not there. So the legitimacy of this meeting this afternoon, Mr. Chairman, is being questioned. (GC Archive Transcript of Fifteenth Business Meeting, July 10, 2015, p. 2)

The cause appeared to be a miscommunication. According to Ted Wilson:

Brothers and sisters, we have a very strange problem, which you heard just a few moments ago. We have done research, and no one informed the security system within the building that we were closing the session this afternoon, that it was ended. Apparently one of the security guards employed by the dome heard that the session was to be ended, and that word got through to administration, and they were informing people that the session was ended.

None of our General Conference session management people have indicated such to the security.

We’re caught in a bit of a problem, because that means there may be several hundred—I don’t know how many—individuals who were, not turned away, because apparently security guards were saying that they could enter but that the session had been closed.

I realize this causes a real problem, because you look around you and there’s hardly anybody here. Well, you’re here, so that’s very important. But we don’t have a massive amount of people. (Ibid., p. 3)

delegates_last_meeting duotone.psd

A view of the many empty seats during the last session meeting

 

Wilson then went on to state:

However, from a technical protocol standpoint and from a parliamentary standpoint, we have a quorum. And my suggestion would be that we move ahead in a cordial way. (Ibid.)

According to the Constitution of the General Conference, a quorum is determined by the following:

At least one-third of the total delegates authorised hereinafter under Sec. 5. of Article V, must be present at the opening meeting of any regular or specially called General Conference Session to constitute a quorum for the transaction of business. Once the Session is declared open, the delegates remaining present shall constitute a quorum. (Article V., Section 3)

Thus, while the only determining point is the number of delegates at the beginning of the session, it would be hard to conceive that it would ever have been the will of the body to have about 10% of the delegates make important decisions. So, while the letter of the law was kept, the spirit was grievously violated. Yet, it was the last chance to finish the business. It was plain to see that the situation was not easy. Wilson had assured those present that they had a quorum and then reassured them again a little later that they had a quorum, and he could not change the programs for the rest of the session.

In an effort to allow for more delegates to be involved, a recess was called until 2:30 p.m. to allow word to be spread, through various methods, that the session was on and for the delegates to attend.

At 2:30 p.m., Chairman Mbwana called the meeting back to order. Quickly the ball began to roll, as David Trim called question on the previous motion on youth ministries. This quickly passed and was followed by the main motion passing, but concerns about the legality and legitimacy of the session did not pass away.

The next item concerning the Church Manual was on discipline. The main two points concerned marriage and the use of illicit drugs.

Concerning marriage it was now noted that it was defined “as a public, lawfully binding, monogamous, heterosexual relationship between one man and one woman” (GC Agenda Book, p. 95). While discussed earlier in the week, this point brought no concern during this item. There is an issue with the term “lawfully binding.” This sets marriage under the control of the civil government, but marriage is a sacred institution and not a civil one, just as the Sabbath is a sacred institution and not a civil one. This is why Sunday laws have no place in a civil society, but when we concede the institution of marriage to the state, what is to stop us from conceding the Sabbath also?

Concerning the use of illicit drugs, it was noted that in some places marijuana is legal and in other places it is illegal, and it was asked how its use should be dealt with in places where it is legal. No clear answer was ever provided. Megan Mole (TED) fought for the right to make an amendment to the motion, which caused a lot of confusion and controversy about what was being and what was not being allowed by the chair concerning motions to amend. When the dust finally settled, the new wording passed.

The definition of marriage was next discussed. The change was to be from:

Marriage is a lifelong commitment of husband and wife to each other and between the couple and God (Mark 10:2-9; Rom. 7:2). (Ibid., p. 131)

to:

As such, marriage is a public, lawfully binding lifelong commitment of a man and a woman to each other and between the couple and God (Mark 10:2-9; Rom. 7:2). (Ibid.)

The language makes it clear that a man and a woman are the couple and not two men or two women taking the roles of husband and wife.

Ray Roennfeldt (SPD) tried to make a motion to have it read, “As such, marriage, as defined in Scripture, is . . .” While this motion was not accepted by the chair, it should be noted that Scripture does not teach anything about a civil power making marriage “lawfully binding.”

As all changes that had been brought to the delegates earlier, the main motion passed.

At this point Armando Miranda noted that there were still four items left, but since they could be contentious and there were so few there to vote upon them that they felt it would be best to leave them till the next General Conference session. These were two items concerning who could perform communion and two items on who has the authority to speak in Seventh-day Adventist churches.

Before the final business meeting ended, Elder Ted Wilson gave a short speech, thanking all who had tried to cooperate during that meeting under what he called “very unusual circumstances” (GC Archive Transcript of Fifteenth Business Meeting, July 10, 2015, p. 20) He then went on to try to explain the need for the change in the Church Manual on the appeal process and then spoke about the women’s ordination vote, declaring:

What the vote meant is that we maintain the current policy, the current understanding. And there is, in this book [the Bible], some may contend—but I could show you, and others could as well—that it is very clear that it is intended that men be ordained. (Ibid., p. 21)

Elder Wilson also tried to clarify that no new policy about women serving as elders or even pastors had changed the old. This was perhaps to calm the fears of some, like Kendra Jo Haloviak Valentine (NAD), who reported that she was hearing that because of the vote on Wednesday women who served as commissioned ministers and ordained elders were being asked to resign. The vote was not intended to serve such a purpose, and Wilson attempted to make that clear. He again thanked the delegates for their “generous indulgence . . . under very unusual circumstances” (Ibid., p. 22).

After Elder Wilson spoke the motion to adjourn sine die[1] was accepted, and prayer closed the last business session of the 60th General Conference Session.

The Postmortem

From the Wilson-camp point of view, the 2015 General Conference was a big success. Wilson was reelected president; all of his men were reinstated in office; all of the proposed doctrinal changes were accepted, including the new statement on creation; the move to open up women’s ordination to the ministry, which Wilson strongly opposed, failed; and almost all the items for the new Church Manual passed.[2] The idolatrous “Parade of Nations” was replaced with “The Mission on the Move” program, and there was a sense of peace and harmony on the last Sabbath of the conference.

Through his prophet, however, God foretold that a terrible movement of darkness would attempt to enter the church under a cloak of great light. She noted what would be the results, if this evil were accepted:

The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization. Were this reformation to take place, what would result? The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded. Our religion would be changed. The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last fifty years would be accounted as error. A new organization would be established. Books of a new order would be written. A system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced. The founders of this system would go into the cities, and do a wonderful work. The Sabbath of course, would be lightly regarded, as also the God who created it. Nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of the new movement. The leaders would teach that virtue is better than vice, but God being removed, they would place their dependence on human power, which, without God, is worthless. Their foundation would be built on the sand, and storm and tempest would sweep away the structure. (Ellen White, Selected Messages, bk. 1, pp. 204, 205)

All but one of the results of this “great reformation” have been seen. The fundamental principles on the truth about God, on the sanctuary, and on the nature of Christ have been changed. Our position on the papacy has been completely discarded from our fundamentals. The corporate Adventist religion has been changed. Not only have the doctrines been changed, but the old truths are now accounted as error. This establishes a new organization. As former General Conference president Neal Wilson (father of Ted Wilson) said, “Our doctrines cannot be changed without changing the nature of the church” (Adventist Review, November 8, 1979). Books of a new order, such as Questions on Doctrine and Seventh-day Adventists Believe have been written. Today a system of intellectual philosophy pervades the church, with an emphasis on PhDs and higher learning. While the ring leaders of this apostasy claim to work the cities, the message is without its power, as the Sabbath is lightly regarded, as is also the God who created it. Despite calls from older conservatives and from independent ministries, nothing has been allowed to stand in the way of the new movement.

The last part of the prophecy is chilling: “. . . but God being removed.” This is the bottom line to it all! Though it looks to the untrained eye as the church of God and though it claims to be doing the work of God, God is not in it. Not because he withdrew, but because he was removed, or put out, by the leaders. The only part of this prophecy to be fulfilled is the part that states, “Their foundation would be built on the sand, and storm and tempest would sweep away the structure.” With over 18.5 million Seventh-day Adventists, this seems like an impossibility, but God will not be mocked, beloved, and what he has said will come true. If there was ever a time to heed the call of Revelation 18:4, it is today. Yes, to the outward eye, the ship looks like it is ready to sail into the heavenly Canaan, but it will not be a ship of apostates that enter heaven. It will be those who are “called, and chosen, and faithful” (Revelation 17:14).

Allen Stump

[1]. Without resumption

[2]. It was only due to time constraints and the lack of communication about attendance at the last session that kept four items from being passed.


To Whose Kingdom Do You Belong?

The book of Daniel predicts four great world kingdoms. Chapters 2, 7, 8, 9, and 11 outline a succession of kingdoms, beginning with Babylon and continuing through Medo-Persia, Grecia, and Rome. The prophecy of Daniel 2 reveals a metallic man, with a head of gold, chest and arms of silver, midsection of brass, and legs of iron. The image has feet of iron and clay, but in Daniel 2:34, 35, we learn:

. . . that a stone was cut out without hands, which smote the image upon his feet that were of iron and clay, and brake them to pieces. Then was the iron, the clay, the brass, the silver, and the gold, broken to pieces together, and became like the chaff of the summer threshingfloors; and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them: and the stone that smote the image became a great mountain, and filled the whole earth.

Then, in the interpretation which follows, we learn that:

And in the days of these kings shall the God of heaven set up a kingdom, which shall never be destroyed: and the kingdom shall not be left to other people, but it shall break in pieces and consume all these kingdoms, and it shall stand for ever. Forasmuch as thou sawest that the stone was cut out of the mountain without hands, and that it brake in pieces the iron, the brass, the clay, the silver, and the gold; the great God hath made known to the king what shall come to pass hereafter: and the dream is certain, and the interpretation thereof sure. (Daniel 2:44, 45)

Commenting upon these verses, Elder James White wrote:

In this remarkable portion of prophecy, the following points are worthy of notice: (1) The stone smote the image upon his feet, and brake the iron, clay, brass, silver, and gold to pieces together. Here is destruction, not conversion. (2) They became like the chaff of the summer threshing-floors, and the wind carried them away, that no place was found for them. Here is illustrated the removal of all earthly governments. (3) Then the stone became a great mountain and filled the whole earth. In this prophecy the stone has nothing in common with the image. The image, a symbol of earthly governments and all wicked men, is first removed, and then the stone fills the whole earth. (Our Faith and Hope, no. 1, p. 14)

Here Elder White correctly notes that the stone destroys the image, hitting it at its feet, indicating the timing of the event. If the followers of Christ are a part of these kingdoms represented at the end, they will be destroyed and will not be a part of kingdom that Christ sets up.

When on trial, Jesus told Pilate: “My kingdom is not of this world: if my kingdom were of this world, then would my servants fight, that I should not be delivered to the Jews: but now is my kingdom not from hence” (John 18:36). If Jesus is our king and if we are part of his kingdom, then we are not to be a part of the world. But as we see in Daniel, those who belong to the earthly kingdoms, instead of receiving the reward of eternal life, are destroyed when Jesus comes. Jesus plainly declared that his disciples were “not of the world,” even as he was “not of the world” (John 17:16).

The Apostle Paul understood this principle and noted in Philippians 3:20:

For our conversation is in heaven; from whence also we look for the Saviour, the Lord Jesus Christ.

The Greek word for conversation is πολίτευμα (politeuma), and it means citizenship and is so translated in many versions of the Bible. In fact, the English word politics is derived from politeuma. Politeuma comes from the Greek root word πόλις (polis), which means city. Paul says that our citizenship, or the city to which we belong, is in heaven. Jesus calls this city the New Jerusalem (Revelation 3:12). This is the city, whose king is Christ, that the true believer should acknowledge. Furthermore, Paul notes that as believers “we are ambassadors for Christ” (2 Corinthians 5:20). An ambassador is an accredited diplomat sent by a country as its official representative to a foreign country. No matter what country of the world we physically live in, spiritually it is considered a foreign country. No, our country, or home, is heaven. As believers we are to represent the affairs of heaven upon the earth. An ambassador’s work is not to deal with the affairs of another country, but rather to look out for the affairs of those of the country of whom he represents. The French ambassador to Germany is not in Germany to dictate the affairs of the German government but, rather, to represent the French people to the German government. Likewise, if our kingdom is not of this world but is of heaven, if our citizenship is in heaven, and if we are ambassadors for the heavenly king, then what right or need do we have to be involved in the civil matters of any kingdom of this world?

Again Paul says, “Now therefore ye are no more strangers and foreigners, but fellowcitizens with the saints, and of the household of God” (Ephesians 2:19). We are fellow citizens of God’s house, of his kingdom, not that of the United States, Russia, France, Germany, or of any other country.

Has God given us a command to fulfill as ambassadors? He certainly has. “Now then we are ambassadors for Christ, as though God did beseech you by us: we pray you in Christ’s stead, be ye reconciled to God” (2 Corinthians 5:20). We have a message of reconciliation. The fact is that, while many give allegiance to earthly governments, God claims all humanity for his kingdom. He does this firstly on the basis of creation and secondly on redemption. Sadly, many renounce this citizenship or are ignorant of it. Even if they claim allegiance to another kingdom, this message is to be taken to the people for whom Jesus died. Jesus commands his followers:

And Jesus came and spake unto them, saying, All power is given unto me in heaven and in earth. Go ye therefore, and teach all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Ghost: Teaching them to observe all things whatsoever I have commanded you: and, lo, I am with you alway, even unto the end of the world. Amen. (Matthew 28:18–20).

But today, in the year 2016, nearly two thousand years later, it has been found that the preaching of the gospel after the manner of Jesus, who never became involved with the political affairs of his day, is not good enough. The churches, especially the so-called evangelical churches, want power to speak out on civil and political matters. Some feel hamstrung on this due to their 501(c)(3) status with the government, which is designed to prohibit them from speaking out on political matters. These men want God’s ambassadors to copy the methods of the politicians. They evidently believe that the Lord must have made a mistake in his instructions upon this point!

The big news in the United States is currently the presidential election. More than ever the candidates are seeking the support of the evangelical Christians. To obtain this support some are making great promises.

In an interview with David Brody, a CBN[1] journalist, Mr. Donald Trump, currently the front runner of the Republican Party, stated:

“They’ve [the government] taken a lot of the power away from the church. I want to give power back to the church…Christianity is really being chopped; little by little it’s being taken away. I want pastors and ministers to be able and get up and speak on behalf of Christianity and they’re afraid to do it right now because they don’t want to lose their tax exempt status. We will take care of that.” (http://www1.cbn.com/thebrodyfile/archive/2016/02/18/exclusive-donald-trump-tells-brody-file-i-want-to-give)

Trump is making reference to the Johnson Amendment (1954) to the tax code, whereby the churches were included under the 501(c)(3) status. The churches mistakenly believed that if they would incorporate with the government as non-profit corporations under the 501(c)(3) section that they would be tax exempt and that their donors would be able to deduct their donations from taxable income.[2] This idea was favorable to the churches because they believed that they would get more money this way, and that has been true, but it should not, and need not, have been so.[3] But to achieve this mistaken status, they would have to be quiet in political matters. For example, they would not be allow to instruct members how to vote or to support any particular candidate.

Trump also said:

“I’m a Christian. I’m Protestant. I’m Presbyterian. I think that Christianity frankly, I think Christians in our country are not treated properly. The bill that was passed during the Lyndon Johnson era is horrible because I see churches where they’re afraid to be outspoken because they don’t want to lose their tax-exempt status and I realize that is one of the problems. I know people who want to endorse me but they’re afraid to endorse anybody because they don’t want to get political so essentially they’ve taken a lot of the power away from the church. I want to give power back to the church because the church has to have more power.” (Ibid. emphasis supplied)

Mr. Trump says that the church has to have more power, but Jesus said that “all power is given unto me in heaven and in earth” (Matthew 28:20). If this is not enough power or the right kind of power, then did Jesus get it wrong or did the God who gave it to Jesus get it wrong? Trump concluded, by saying:

“I want pastors to be able to speak. They’re afraid to speak now, they’re afraid to get involved in politics because of tax-exempt status and I want pastors to be able to speak…I want pastors and ministers to be able and get up and speak on behalf of Christianity and they’re afraid to do it right now because they don’t want to lose their tax exempt status. We will take care of that.” (Ibid.)

As Christians we have a duty to our communities, but it is not a political one. Jesus declared that believers are “the salt of the earth” (Matthew 5:13). Salt, in this usage, is to be understood as a preserving agent. But how are believers to be the salt of the earth? Is it as politicians, or voters, or caucus manipulators? What example did Christ himself give? He never became involved in the politics of his day. Jesus, instead, worked at sharing the good news about a God of love who gave his Son for humanity. Furthermore, I ask you, have Christian methods of work changed between the time of Jesus and the present? If we were to agree, then we would have to say that the God, who declares “I change not” (Malachi 3:6), has changed.

Donald_Trump_by_Michael Vadon 2.psd

Donald Trump: Photo courtesy of Michael Vadon

Jesus further said,

Ye are the light of the world. A city that is set on an hill cannot be hid. Neither do men light a candle, and put it under a bushel, but on a candlestick; and it giveth light unto all that are in the house. (Matthew 5:14–15)

As A. T. Jones, one of our pioneers of religious liberty, noted on this text:

This states the position and work of the Christian Church. She is the light of the world, and therefore must be above the world. Lighthouse lamps are not fixed on a level with the earth. And when the church descends from her divinely-appointed station, above the world, down to the arena of politics, she puts herself on a level with the world, and her light is no longer seen by souls adrift upon the sea of time and in danger of shipwreck. (A. T. Jones, American Sentinel, November 10, 1898)

Beloved, when professed Christians turn from the gospel and promote political work as something needed to support the gospel work, they are denying the power of godliness. The state of current political involvement among Christians is evidence of apostasy in the professedly Christian church.

As Adventists we have historically claimed to believe in the separation of church and state. But the church is composed of the individual believers, and the only way that the church and state can be separate is for the individual believers to be separate from the state.

It is not a Christian’s position or responsibility to be in elected political office or to vote for political officers, for we must bear the responsibility for the evil done by those we empowered. We have been told we may vote on issues:

“‘Shall we vote for prohibition? . . . Yes, to a man, everywhere, . . . and perhaps I shall shock some of you if I say, If necessary, vote on the Sabbath day for prohibition if you cannot at any other time.’”— Ibid. (Arthur White, Ellen G. White, The Lonely Years, p. 160)

But we have also been counseled:

The Lord would have His people bury political questions. On these themes silence is eloquence. Christ calls upon His followers to come into unity on the pure gospel principles which are plainly revealed in the Word of God. We cannot with safety vote for political parties, for we do not know who we are voting for. We cannot with safety take part in any political schemes. We cannot labor to please men who will use their influence to repress religious liberty, and to set in operation oppressive measures to lead or compel their fellow men to keep Sunday as the Sabbath. (Ellen White, Letter 95–1899, June 16, 1899, par. 2; also found in Fundamentals of Christian Education, p. 475)

Second Corinthians 6:14, 15 state a principle which can be applied inside or outside of the political arena.

Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean [thing]; and I will receive you. And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.

We have also been counseled:

We are not as a people to become mixed up with political questions. All would do well to take heed to the Word of God, Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers in political strife, nor bind with them in their attachments. There is no safe ground in which they can stand and work together. The loyal and the disloyal have no equal ground on which to meet.

He who breaks one precept of the commandments of God is a transgressor of the whole law. Keep your voting to yourself. Do not feel it your duty to urge everyone to do as you do.—Letter 4, 1898. (Ellen White, Selected Messages, bk. 2, pp. 336, 337)

For the last forty years, I have been an Adventist. During every presidential election, I have heard that “the end is near,” “martial law will be enacted soon,” etc. This year it may be a real wolf that the little boy is crying about! It appears that Americans will be choosing between Hillary Clinton and Donald Trump for president.[4] As dangerous as many believe Clinton is, I believe that Trump may be more dangerous. Trump is willing to get very cozy with the evangelicals, if it will achieve his goals. He wants to give them more power. Furthermore, in October of last year, when Dr. Ben Carson’s poll numbers were above Trump’s, Trump attacked Carson’s religion. Do you think that someone like this would hesitate to enforce or enact a national Sunday law in a time of crisis? I doubt that a person who is used to running over people would have any hesitancy to do so.

Many professed Christians are promoting Mr. Trump or others for president. Jesus told us to pray, “Thy kingdom come” (Matthew 6:10). But it is God’s kingdom that we are to pray and work for, not that of the politicians. Jesus comforted his disciples, by noting: “Fear not, little flock, for it is your Father’s good pleasure to give you the kingdom” (Luke 12:32), but the kingdom that God gives is of Christ, and his kingdom is not of this world. So to whose kingdom do you belong?

Appendix: 1040 and You

History tells us that seldom does a government give favors without wanting one in return. Furthermore, Jesus said in Matthew 6:3, “But when thou doest alms, let not thy left hand know what thy right hand doeth.”

Among the Arabs the right and the left hand are said to be figurative of close friends. Jesus is using this idea to teach that even among closest friends, there is no need to know about another’s pious deeds.

Jesus doesn’t mean that almsgiving is always to remain a complete secret. Paul certainly praised the generosity of the Christians of Macedonia (Philippians 4:16) and wrote to the Corinthians that their “zeal” had “provoked very many” to be active for God (2 Corinthians 9:2). The point Jesus wanted to make is that Christians are not to perform acts of charity in order to secure the praise, honor, or advantage of men. The one performing the act is never the one to note it; only those who receive may speak as a means to provoke others to such good works.

Have you thought about this in connection to April 15 and filing your taxes? Along with your 1040 form, you can file Schedule A, where charitable deductions are claimed. When we do this, we not only let the left hand know what the right hand is doing, we also let the world and Caesar know what we are doing! How can we follow the counsel of Jesus and deduct charitable donations on our tax forms? And again, I say this for emphasis and so you do not forget, you can be sure that if the government gives a favor, something in return may surely be expected. I have no desire to pay up, so I will not ask for a favor in my tax returns because the kingdom I belong to is not of this world. It has no schedule 1040’s or schedule A’s. Does yours?

Allen Stump

[1]. Christian Broadcasting Network

[2]. This is even though the tax codes never previously required taxes of the churches. Furthermore, churches were exempt from needing special status for deducting contributions.

[3]. See the appendix “1040 and You” at the end of the article.

[4]. Spurgeon: “Of two evils, choose neither.


Youth’s Corner — The “Arrested Testament”

(This installment is the last part of Chapter 8 of Escape from Siberian Exile by John Godfrey Jacques, published by Pacific Press in 1921.)

Certainly we were thankful that we had not taken one of these unscrupulous characters as a roommate.

The prospects for getting living quarters were discouraging; but in due time, our heavenly Father directed us to a place He had provided for us. We called upon a man who was in ill health and in very straitened circumstances; and when we proposed to rent a part of his house, and laid upon the table before him the few rubles we could pay in advance, he gladly accepted this source of relief from his financial embarrassment.

As we were moving to our new location, the village was startled by the clanging of the bell of the little chapel. A house on the outskirts of the settlement was found to be on fire. As a strong wind was blowing from that direction, the whole village apparently was doomed; for the buildings were close together, there was no provision for fighting fire, and most of the men were away on a fishing tour. The women frantically cried to the pictures of the saints, and even carried these objects of worship to the burning structure, imploring them to put out the fire.

Gorelic and I hurried to the place, and did all we could to save the homes from which we had been excluded. Other exiles also helped.

The stables were connected with the dwellings; on the roofs of the stables were stacked the remnants of the year’s crop of hay. On these high stacks and the grass-thatched roofs of the houses nearest the fire, we stationed some of the people, and had buckets of water passed to them from the stream near, that any spark lighting on the inflammable material might be immediately extinguished.

The burning building, we knew, could not be saved; and with such help as we could get, we tore away the part that was not yet afire, to prevent the flames from getting too strong headway.

A cry was raised that a child was in the burning house. I quickly prepared to make my way in and rescue the little one; but when I had drenched my clothing with water, and broken a window, preliminary to the attempt, word came that the child was outside.

The only loss was the one building, with the calves and sheep that perished in it.

Soon after the fire was out, some of the men returned from fishing; and men and women gathered about and gazed at us in bewilderment. They could not understand why we whom they had thought to be more dangerous to the community than were the criminal exiles even, should have exerted ourselves as we had done for their sakes.

The result of this incident was a genuine gratitude on the part of the people. Most of them were still distrustful of our religion; but some did not fail to see that the icons in which they had been taught to believe, were powerless to protect even themselves, as those in the burning building had been reduced to ashes.

On the second night in our new room, I was wakened by an exclamation from Gorelic, just as a man was disappearing through a window. There was another man outside, who undoubtedly had been acting as sentinel. He was one of the exiles we had known in prison. Our belongings were scattered about the floor, and the little money we had was gone.

We gave chase to the intruders, but could not overtake them. Afterwards we learned that the settlers, and even the guards, found it necessary to comply with the thieves’ code in the matter of punishing offenders, as there were not enough guardsmen to control them absolutely.

According to that code, if a man was caught stealing, and could be overpowered on the spot, he might be delivered over to the guard, or even punished by his captors, and such a course would be acknowledged as just; but if he got away, then to bring any accusation against him, however strong the proof of his guilt might be, was to call down upon one’s self the wrath of the whole “gang.”

Several later attempts were made to force an entrance to our room; but after the one experience, we made sure that our doors and windows were well fastened.

The family with whom we had taken up our abode were genial in their attitude toward us; and through their influence, others came to be less suspicious of our religion.

Not infrequently persons came to us to inquire about the Bible. But they came privately; for if they were known to be in sympathy with us, they would be ranked as outcasts, even by their own families.

At one time, as we were walking outside the village, a young man hiding in the tall grass by the roadside accosted us, requesting that we come and talk with him. We did as he asked, and explained to him the fundamentals of the gospel message we proclaim.

At the little shop where we often made purchases, the owner’s daughter sometimes waited upon us ; and when no one was in hearing, she eagerly asked us about the teachings of the Bible. She wished to know how to pray to Jesus. Her mother, on learning what the daughter was doing, poured out a flood of wrath upon her.

For the sake of those who sought instruction from us, we maintained the utmost secrecy relative to such interviews; but when the parents of this young woman had learned of her having had religious conversations with us, we did not hesitate to risk their greater displeasure by going to them again. Through their love of money, we gained access to them to make purchases; and then we tried to impress upon their minds the truths of Scripture. Some members of the family became to a degree mollified, but others were the more enraged at us.

Again efforts were made to reclaim Alexander to the state church. He was summoned to the government headquarters of the district of Narym—a village of the same name, facetiously called a city—and there he was interrogated in reference to his religion. The priest, finding it impossible to overthrow Alexander’s defense, raised a question as to his sanity. But the civil officers allowed the young man to go free. Still he was regarded much as a criminal in his own village.

He was required to leave the parental home, but his wife became in a measure reconciled to his course, and her family also were tolerant toward the “new religion.”


A Favorite Time of the Year

To many people, spring is their favorite time of the year. And no wonder, for the cold and snow of winter is past, and things take on new life. The resurrection of Christ is often associated with spring because his resurrection, which happened in the spring, brought the assurance of new life.

Christians have a precious hope in Jesus and in a new and better life. The Bible teaches, “Therefore if any man be in Christ, he is a new creature: old things are passed away; behold, all things are become new” (2 Corinthians 5:17). Paul also writes:

But ye have not so learned Christ; If so be that ye have heard him, and have been taught by him, as the truth is in Jesus: That ye put off concerning the former conversation the old man, which is corrupt according to the deceitful lusts; And be renewed in the spirit of your mind; And that ye put on the new man, which after God is created in righteousness and true holiness. (Ephesians 4:20–24)

Accepting Jesus brings a new and exciting life. The old ways of sin, with its wickedness, discouragement, and depression, can give way to faith, hope, and love. Jesus loves you so much that he died for you, so that you could have eternal life. If you have never accepted Jesus as your personal Saviour or if you have fallen away, why not commit yourself to him this spring, and let your new life be a part of the glories of spring. Allen Stump

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Christ was treated as we deserve, that we might be treated as He deserves. He was condemned for our sins, in which He had no share, that we might be justified by His righteousness, in which we had no share. He suffered the death which was ours, that we might receive the life which was His. “With His stripes we are healed.” (Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 25)


Tofu Loaf—From the Kitchen of Tanya Warner

2 small or 1 large firm or extra firm tofu

1 C quick oats

1/4 C pecan meal

1/4 C chopped onion

1/4 C chopped green or red pepper

1 T onion powder

2 T Bragg Liquid Aminos

1 T vegetarian chicken seasoning

1 t salt

1 t garlic powder

1/2 C ketchup or tomato paste

Additional seasonings, as desired

Mix well, mashing the tofu, and place in a loaf pan, which has been lightly sprayed with oil.

Bake 350º F for 1 to 1.5 hours.

You will not be sorry for trying this! (Pastor Allen)


Publisher Information:

Old Paths is a free monthly newsletter/study-paper published monthly by Smyrna Gospel Ministries, 750 Smyrna Road, Welch WV 24801-9606. U.S.A. It is sent free upon request. The paper is dedicated to the propagation and restoration of the principles of truth that God gave to the early Seventh-day Adventist pioneers. Duplication is not only permitted, but strongly encouraged. This issue, with other gospel literature we publish, can be found at our web site. The url is: http://www.smyrna.org. Phone: (304) 732-9204. Fax: (304) 732-7322.