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Prophetic Prognostication
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Submitted: Jan 4, 2012
By Ron Corson



Seventh-day Adventists have always seen themselves has a movement predicted by prophecy with special insights to past prophetic utterances and interpretation of both scripture and Ellen White as predicting various scenarios for the near future. For many SDA’s much of their identity is tied up with the premise of accurately fulfilled or being fulfilled prophecy. The premise is false.

Stephen Fosters recent article on Atoday, "The Case Against Secularism-And For Prophecy" posits “While history is a great teacher, it is difficult to quantify how much better it is, if at all, than is a “prophetic prognostication” on the same topic.”

Is “prophetic prognostication” better then history? Does history repeat itself as Karl Marx was alleged to claim? Actually according to a website, Marxist.org, “Marx never believed that “history repeats itself,” but in a famous quote he said: “Hegel remarks somewhere that all great world-historic facts and personages appear, so to speak, twice. He forgot to add: the first time as tragedy, the second time as farce.” [Marx, 18th Brumaire of Louis Bonaparte, Chapter 1]”

In fact history does not repeat itself. Napoleon is not the same as Hitler and Hitler was not the same as Stalin and Pol Pot is different from other mass murders. History can teach us lessons that we can apply to our current conditions or movements, it does not repeat itself, whether in tragedy or in farce. Certainly people will continue to make the same mistakes human nature being what it is, usually because they think they can do it right where the others failed but still history does not repeat itself and when we view history we have to interpret the data and analyze it for the best use we can make of it. History like most information is subject to interpretation.

“Prophetic prognostication” is equally subject to interpretation but unlike history there is no reality of actual experience to help with the interpretation. There is no history involved, no reality observed and no data from the occurrences to help the development of an interpretation. This moves prophetic prognostication into the realm of speculation.

Speculation can be used to problem solve or run scenarios, such as making “what if” statements. The more variables in a scenario the more possible “what if” statements can be envisioned. The answers to those “what if” statements then branch like a tree into multiple possible additional “what if” possibilities of actions and reactions. This fact limits the application of “what if” statements or thought problems (thought experiments) to fairly simple propositions which are often not found in life's open systems (with multitudinous interactions possible). “Prophetic prognostication” is unlikely to even in be in the useful “what if“ category because there are far too many possible factors to be considered.

Adventists have seen the difficulties with “prophetic prognostication” in its application of Biblical predictive prophecy. Most famous in this list of predictions is the end of the world in1844, the so called “Great Disappointment”. Adventists have from their beginning practiced prophetic prognostication on various topics. Most were thought to be fulfillments of some or other Biblical prophecy for example:
-- 1755. November 1 The great Lisbon earthquake.
-- 1780 May 19. The unexplained dark day over New England
-- 1798 The Vatican fell because of the French Revolution, temporarily ending 1260 years of religious and political domination
-- 1833 November 12-13. The great Leonid meteor shower
-- 1838 Josiah Litch used Revelation 9 to predict the fall of the Ottoman Empire around August of 1840
All of the above taken from teachinghearts.org.

Adventists have been totally inaccurate in their “Prophetic prognostication” and interpretation of fulfillment. Earthquakes still happen, with more or less death and destruction then Lisbon, Forest fires and storms occasionally cause dark days, such as when Mt. St. Helens erupted. The Vatican did not fall in 1798 just because a Pope was captured once again, it had lost significant power for several hundred years before 1798, remember in just the area of religion there was the Reformation!  Luther posted his 95 theses in 1517, Henry the VIII of England rebelled against the papacy in before 1540. There have been greater Leonid meteor showers since 1833 and they still come on their regular cycle. The Ottoman Empire did not fall in 1840 though it had been in decline for a hundred years. Nothing of significance even happened to the Ottoman Empire in 1840. Most of these formerly thought of fulfillments are rarely mentioned today in the Western World. The fact is that not only Adventists have failed with “Prophetic prognostication” but numerous other Christians have been completely unsuccessful with their interpretation and application of predictive prophecy from the Bible. Many have tried. All have failed. (See Wikipedia, “Unfulfilled Christian Predictions”)

For Adventists this becomes even a greater problem because many try to use the “prophetic prognostication” of Ellen White as the general Christian community tried to use the Biblical predictive prophecies. Ellen White's predictive prophecies even in her life time also failed. The most famous probably being her statement at the 1856 conference:

"I was shown the company present at the Conference, Said the angel: "Some food for worms, some subjects of the seven last plagues, some will be alive and remain upon the earth to be translated at the coming of Jesus." Ellen G. White, 1 Testimonies, p. 131-132. May 27, 1856

When we look at what the Adventist denomination says itself about Ellen White's fulfilled predictions we see that they cannot really find any to point to with specificity. The book Seventh-day Adventists Believe ...  A Biblical Exposition of 27 Fundamental Doctrines (1988) on page 225 writes of Ellen White:
     
2. "The accuracy of predictions. Ellen White's writings contain a relatively small number of predictions. Some are in the process of being fulfilled, while others still await fulfillment. But those that can be tested have been fulfilled with an amazing accuracy. Two instances that demonstrate her prophetic insights follow.”
“a. The rise of modern spiritualism...”
“b. A close cooperation between Protestants and Roman Catholics...”

Both are actually very questionable, Ellen White wrote about the "mysterious rapping" as a phenomenon caused by Satan, the quote appears to be a reference to the Fox sisters’ spiritualism hoax of her time. In her day, séances were held in the White House! In other words she wrote about the spiritualism, which was already popular. It was more a description than a prediction and in any case has not proved itself true.  If you go by those who say they follow or practice spiritualism there would be a decline just as there is a decline in the Theosophists of her day, another brand of spiritualism. But spiritualism is somewhat vague in meaning and could be held to a wide array of interpretations thus it becomes a vague and meaningless prediction, fulfilled by anyone that wants to say it is being fulfilled any time something becomes popular, Transcendental Meditation or the New Age Movement can be force fit, but do not really share the characteristics of the spiritualism Ellen White wrote of.


The second supposedly fulfilled prediction is cooperation between Protestants and Roman Catholics. Again, based upon the current events of her time, there was such animosity between Protestants and Roman Catholics it would be hard to see them come together.  As Julie Byrne of the Dept. of Religion, Duke University, reports in "Roman Catholics and Immigration in Nineteenth-Century America", “In 1850 Catholics made up only five percent of the total U.S. population. By 1906, they made up seventeen percent of the total population (14 million out of 82 million people)—and constituted the single largest religious denomination in the country.” When Ellen White saw this kind of immigration it would not take some kind of divine imagination to see that the anti-Catholic hatred and distrust of 19th century America was not going to last. But to be fair we can give her partial fulfillment on this issue as Protestants and Roman Catholics get along more as Christian brothers and sisters despite the rift of the Reformation. That Christians could have been that hateful of other Christians is a scar on Christianity. Still, the two are widely separate on many issues and here again the vague nature of the prediction plays a role, allowing whoever wants to interpret it to see some form of fulfillment.


If we are honest with ourselves we have to admit that the value of “prophetic prognostication” is very close to nil. Vague predictions afford broad leeway for the interpreter to see what they want as a fulfillment. Wide range of possible fulfillment ensures we are left with nothing of value. Worse, when other “prophetic prognostications” are informed by our view of current events speculations run wild. The speculative interpretations are upheld as truth only because of their claim of a prophetic nature.


When such speculation is used to prejudice people against other people or organizations, not because of what they are believed to have done or said but upon what they are anticipated to do following a “prophetic prognostication” then we practice a most offensive type of unreasoning chauvinism. The past performance of such prophetic speculation should instead encourage silence or at least some humility.

 

 

William Noel
2012-01-05 1:10 PM

Ron,
Thank you for having the courage to say what you declared and illustrated so well.  I hope you have a good set of body armor because I can hear the twang of bow strings as others launch their arrows.  

My view is that history allows us to see the hand of God at work in the past while prophecy reminds us that God will still be in control tomorrow.  My role is not to know what he is going to do or how He is going to do it, but to follow, participate with Him as He guides me, and enjoy the view as I watch Him work. 

pagophilus
2012-01-06 4:08 AM

Ron, you are wrong about the inaccuracies in Adventist prophetic interpretation. I will address just two points - 1798 and Josiah Litch. I will leave the other points to other people.

The Papacy did fall in 1798 because it was in 1798 that it ceased to rule as a political power. Until then the Pope was above kings and emperors and woe betide anyone who disobeyed him. Ever since 1798 the papacy still lives but no longer has any real authority in this world .The Pope rules over a tiny country inside Italy, but depends on other powers for his existence. The Bible says that his power will return, courtesy of the United States, but that hasn't happened yet. So the Papacy suffered its deadly wound, which hasn't been healed yet.

As for Josiah Litch, he was right too. In 1840 the Ottoman Empire fell because from that time it existed only by the permission and protection of European nations. It was no longer a ruling power in itself. From that time the Ottomans were subservient to others.

I'll give you two tips:
1. The Adventists are right more times than what you give them credit for.
2. You need to take more than a surface reading of history, and dig deep, particularly in older books (ed from the 1800's) where the authors were not afraid to tell it like it was. Avoid popular history, revisionist history, or Catholicised history books. And avoid history TV shows like the plague.

William Noel
2012-01-06 8:45 AM

The problem is when we get lost in the details while trying to prove that certain prophecies are correct and lose sight of God's view of world events.  The primary function of prophecy is not to foretell the future, but to give believers a live or current line of communication by which to receive individual guidance from God.  But our concept of prophecy has become distorted to focus far more heavily on predicting the future.  While we can point to a few highlights that give certain prophecies credibility, there are far more claims made about prophecies than can be proven by history.

Ron Corson
2012-01-06 1:10 PM

I do think it is funny when people like Pagophilus say that I am wrong on the history. Or that my reading of history is not deep enough. When the exact opposite is true, they don't know history. They don't know the history of the papacy and it's actual period of domination and they don't know the history of the Ottomen Empire. They have no history books they can even point to that agree with their positions yet they can claim actual history is incorrect. By the way I have the 1905 Historians History of the World and it is interesting to read about the Ottomen Empire from that perspective since they still existed quite contrary to Josiah Litsch's analysis.

But he does make the good point that if one does avoid actual history, restrict yourself to protestant history books of the 1800's (not really history books though mainly religious books in actuality) maybe then the fictional history will work out and we can call it prophetic fullfillment. Though I don't see that as a winning formula to explain our eschatology to anyone. I suppose it works inside the Adventist church however, but not really going to work anywhere else.

pagophilus
2012-01-06 4:22 PM

Firstly, you can find any number of materials which will support any position. But then you may as well admit that they can't all be right because that would suggest that contradictory positions can be correct at the same time. So you need to filter your reading of history to find "the truth".

The Bible is very specific. There will often be one singular event that a prophecy points to which is very narrowly defined. One of those is 508 BC, the beginning of the 1290 days. If we take the removing of the "daily" or "continual" (or the continuing order of things) as being the removal of Paganism (as many of our pioneers believed, and as more correctly fits the picture), then what do we find in 508 AD? Clovis, king of the Franks, was baptised. The last of the kings of the 10 Germanic tribes to be baptised, therefore making the "empire" at least officially ruled by Christians, even though paganism was not wiped out among the population.

Likewise, as I mentioned before, 1798 marks the year when the Papacy ceased to be a power to be reckoned with. Since then it is a mickey-mouse power ruling over a mickey-mouse state. The Papacy didn't die, but was "as it were, wounded unto death", but this wound will be healed.

So Ron, instead of simply attempting to destroy all Adventist prophetic interpretations, please tell us, what is your unified, watertight interpretation of prophecy? What are the 70 weeks? When did they begin? What are the 1260 days? When did they begin and end? What are the 2300 days? When did they begin and end? What is the cleansing of the sanctuary? What is the period of the "hour, day month and year" or 391 years and 15 days on which Litch based his prediction of the fall of the Ottoman empire? What does it refer to? Or do you (incorrectly) read it to mean a point in time rather than a period?

And a more blatant question - do you follow Desmond Ford's teachings?

Ron Corson
2012-01-06 9:40 PM

No you can't find any number of materials that support any position. I have not seen one historical item that says that the ottoman empire fell in 1840. Not one.

I disagree with Ford on a number of things. How can anyone who knows anything about the history of England or the Reformation think that it was not until 1798 the the papacy had a fatal wound?

pagophilus
2012-01-07 4:36 AM

Whether there's a historical item that says the ottoman empire fell in 1840 or not is not the question. Whether the facts are interpreted correctly is the question.

In regard to 1798, when Napoleon through General Berthier took the pope captive and declared a Roman republic, the papacy was no longer "officially" a power in its own right. Whether a history book will attest to that, or whether there were other factors before or after that weakened the papacy is beside the point. That action fulfilled prophecy in giving the "beast" (a kingdom in biblical prophecy) a deadly wound. The "kingdom" of the papacy no longer existed, even though the papacy still existed. The pope's kingship was gone. He now only controlled the members of his church (ie those who agreed to his authority), but no longer ruled over a territory.

In regard to 1840 and Josiah Litch, are you saying that Litch's description of the facts was incorrect, or are you simply disagreeing with the interpretation that that was the fall of the Ottoman empire? Are you disputing his account of the communication between the Sultan and Mehmet Ali Pasha, and the involvement of the European states, or are you simply disagreeing that these events constituted the fall of the Ottoman Empire? Because I would contend that, just as 1798 marked the fall of the "beast=kingdom" of the papacy, the events described by Litch as occurring in 1840 marked the fall of the authority of the Ottomans. From then on they were subservient to the other European powers, even though the Ottoman empire still theoretically existed.

A modern-day example of the same reasoning behind the above interpretations is the way Iran under the Shah installed by the US and UK would not be considered a power in its own right. Iran fell on 19 August 1953 because the US and UK deposed their Prime Minister (Mohammed Mossadegh) and installed a general of their own choosing as leader (temporarily), before installing the shah. Iran (a beast=kingdom or government) suffered a deadly wound in 1953, because foreign powers now had control over their affairs, but this wound was healed in 1979 when they once again governed in their own right. Iran still existed during those years, but looking at things biblically, they did not. The beast was mortally wounded.

Preston Foster
2012-01-06 9:13 AM

The purpose of prophecy is to foretell events in a way that believers can recognize.  Prophecy both creates and re-enforces faith.

Those who do not believe prophecy or accept its specificity are likely not to benefit from it, as they either miss or misinterpret its fulfillment.  Most Jewish leaders of the time -- and since, missed the coming of the Messiah and explained away what should have been obvious, as the coming of Christ did not complement their agenda or comport with their world-view.

The basis of Adventist end-time prophecies are the Bible books of Daniel and Revelation.  A narrative interpretation of those prophecies in books like The Great Controversy is there, for believers, to examine for themselves.  The evidence is there to be examined.  The doubters will always be in the majority.

Ervin Taylor
2012-01-06 1:32 PM

Timo suggests that “Teaching prophecy for the meta message (salvation is coming; accept it now, so you see it then) is different than teaching about prophecy to prove inerrancy. The Jews thought they were inerrant, too.”  First class!  Exactly the point.  Mr. Foster suggests that "the basis of Adventi end-time prophecies are the Bible books of Daneil and Revelation . . . and the interpreation of those prophecies [are in] . . . The Great Controversy."  Well put, there is the "basis" and then there are "interpreation."  When it comes to prophecy everything is in the interpreation.  Some have suggested that how a group or individual interprets "prophecy" tells one more about the group or individual than what the prophecy is all about.

Horace Butler
2012-01-06 4:22 PM

If Mr. Corson is correct, we should all abandon the church and lose ourselves in our favorite escape mechanisms.  If he is correct, it calls into question the legitimacy of the SDA Church and many other Protestant churches.  I'm not sure why he's writing columns on a supposedly Adventist website, because he sounds like he doesn't believe much of what the church teaches.

He apparently has had is head in the sand for several decades if he thinks Protestants and Catholics are still so far apart.  Ellen White said the churches would come together on those points they have in common.  That's exactly what we're seeing, as is evidenced by the joint declaration (Evangelicals and Catholics Together) that was signed by Protestants and Catholics in 1994.  JFK was controversial because he was Catholic.  It wasn't even an issue when John Kerry ran for president.  It is even less of an issue now, and more than one Republican candidate is Catholic.

If he would read some of our better apologists he would see that the prophetic understanding of the SDA Church makes more sense than anything else and is very defensible.

How long until the name of this website becomes "Skeptics Today," instead of Adventist Today?

Ron Corson
2012-01-06 9:36 PM

That is funny Horace "Ellen White said the churches would come together on those points they have in common.  That's exactly what we're seeing," If they were already in common they really didn't need to come together then did they.  You know SDA's have things in common with Roman Catholics too.

Uh Oh, we must be fulfilling EGW's prediction ourselves.

Horace Butler
2012-01-07 6:27 AM

Your response is typical of those who would like Ellen White to go away:  twist it enough so you can ridicule it.  It was a cheap shot.  All Christian churches have a few things in common, but they've never been united like they are today.  In fact the philosophy of "Promise Keepers" is to downplay the differences in denominations as much as possible and unite under the banner of "the body of Christ."  But those who don't believe in predictive prophecy will always find a way around it.  It won't be so easy when the Sunday law is passed and Christ appears in the clouds.

Thomas "Vastergotland"
2012-01-07 9:59 AM

I cant understand why it is so important to show the world that we refuse to live according with john 13 35. 

Horace Butler
2012-01-07 4:21 PM

Living according to John 13:35 doesn't include embracing false doctrine.  Jesus stressed truth as well as love.  Truth without love is legalistic, but love without truth is cheap sentimentalism.

Thomas "Vastergotland"
2012-01-07 4:58 PM

You are well aware of Jesus answer to the question. Who is the "one another" whom I have to love? The story of the robber, the victim and the three potential helpers. Do you know why the Jews hated Samaritans so much? Because they were alomost, but not entiery, believing the same thing. How could anything good come from one of those espousers of false doctrine that worship YHWH on mount Samaria, blatantly ignoring YHWHs command that He must only be worshiped in Jerusalem, they would ask. Yet, here Jesus makes the Heretic the hero of the story. 
Not to mention the day when Jesus was walking through that dangerous land where you could meet one of the Heretics around any next corner. Jesus got tired and hungry and sat down at a well. Up comes one of the Heretics, and not just any bland vanilla Heretic, but one who is an especially intrepid sinner. What does Jesus do? He has a chat with her, and within a short time, He commissions the first evangelist. A combination of Heretic and Woman. 

So, while John 13:35 indeed does not include anyone embracing false doctrine, it also does not give you the luxury of choosing who this "one another" that you are commanded to love is. Yours is not to exclude anyone you meet from this group, yours is to heed your Lord and Saviour and Obey His command and show that you are His child by loving the Other. 

Horace Butler
2012-01-07 8:37 PM

I don't think anyone is arguing in favor of not loving our fellow man.  Jesus loved Judas, His betrayer, but it didn't stop him from being lost.  Jesus loved the Jewish leaders, too, but His most scathing rebukes were given to them.  So I'm not sure what your point is.  Believing that prophecy is fulfilling before our very eyes does not preclude loving our neighbor.  Instead it should inspire in us a greater desire to warn them of the shortness of time and the need to get ready for the second coming of Jesus.

Thomas "Vastergotland"
2012-01-08 12:57 AM

My point is that the multitude of mutually unagreable denominations of christians are fullfilling this particular prophecy that Jesus gave. Our inability to treat out brothers and sisters in Christ with the same love that Christ showed us shows the onlooking world that we are not truly His diciples. And if two different groups of Christian make steps to reconcile their differences, a third group will use that as proof that the first two groups are of the devil. And the agnostic onlooker will be further convinced that christianity of any kind is nothing worth his time, when his favourite NY icehokey team supporters have more respect for the other teams supporters than do these three groups of people who claim to worship a God who loves have for each other. So using prophecy as a weapon against those we disagree with will illustrate that se are ready to disregard Jesus commadments to us. And do we then have any gain what so ever of being right about one thing when we condemn ourselves by using this rightness in a way that disobeyes the identifying command of who is and who is not a christian?

Horace Butler
2012-01-08 11:54 AM

So, we should ignore the fulfillment of prophecy?  We should ignore the fact that so many prominent Christians are speaking out against the separation of church and state?  We should ignore the budding romance between Protestants and Catholics?  We love our children, but we don't ignore their mistakes; we try to help them.  Our job as Adventists is to warn the rest of the world about what's coming and point them back to Scripture, in an effort to rescue them, not condemn them.  Much of what passes for Christianity today is nothing more than pious social gatherings.  Many good causes are adopted; the love of God is emphasized; but adherence to Biblical truth is rarely mentioned.

Agnostics and atheists already have enough fodder to feed on, without even noticing SDA's.  With guys liked Falwell (now deceased, of course) and Robertson, among others, making fools of themselves publicly, who needs to be bothered by a small church which still believes in what the Reformers did?  Our message that Babylon is fallen is always in reference to the church organizations, not individual members.  In the same manner we criticize the oppressive governments of various countries, but we wish to help their citizens.  True love for our fellow man will not lead us to ignore the cliff over which so many of them are about to plunge.  We don't expect the world to love us; it has never loved those who espouse Biblical truth.
 
And I would disagree that the various churches are fulfilling Jesus’ prophecy because they are not uniting on a platform of truth.  Much of what unites them is unbiblical.  We have every right and a solemn responsibility to alert people to that fact.  True seekers for truth will appreciate it.

Thomas "Vastergotland"
2012-01-08 6:12 PM

First, prophecy is one thing, interpretation of prophecy is another thing. That the interpretation is accurate in identifying 99% of organised christianity as the beast and its cubs is open to discussion. 

That some christians have disagreements with the american constitution is really little more than an american problem. The reach of the american constitution is limmited to the 50 states. 

If our job as adventists truly is to point people back to scripture, why does it soo much look like most of our effort is going towards pointing people to the adventist church? Why is the effort not directed uniquely towards those who do not know the scripture, rather than being mostly directed towards those who have the least need of it, already being well versed in the book? 

When you write "adherence to bible truth is rarely mentioned", do you really mean "adherence to the bible truths most valued by sda are rarely mentioned"? You might of course be aware that many of these churches often talk about bible truths most ignored by sda. Incidentally, where there is now mud throwing under the device "my pet truth is more True than your pet truth", there would be fertile grounds for sharing pet truths and in so doing gain a more full picture of the whole Truth. But when all who ignore our pet truths are really Heretics, what could they possibly teach us...

That atheists and agnostics have plenty of fodder is certainly not a valid reason to give them more! 

When the adventist church warns the agnostic of its sister churches who organise in different denominations, and take it as a solemn responcibility, it is doing no less than did Saul intend to do when joining the road to Damascus. Saul meet Jesus and became known as Paul, a great worker for the Kingdom of God. We must do the same. 

Horace Butler
2012-01-08 7:11 PM

"Why is the effort not directed uniquely towards those who do not know the scripture, rather than being mostly directed towards those who have the least need of it, already being well versed in the book?"

Because our marching orders are found in the 3 angels' messages.  And while part of that includes evangelizing unbelievers, a significant part includes calling God's true people out of Babylon.  But since you don't seem to be on board with the Advent message, I wouldn't expect you to agree with me.  You sound like you don't believe in "sheep stealing," a code word among many evangelicals that means we should avoid trying to evangelize other Christians.  But part of our reason for existence is to do just that--evangelize other Christians so they won't be caught up in the deceptions of the last days.

Thomas "Vastergotland"
2012-01-09 12:04 PM

1) Worship God
2) Babylon is fallen
3) He/she who worships the beast or take its mark will drink Gods wrath, will be tortured in Jesus presence, day and night during eternal eternity. 

The first is prescriptive, the second is descriptive and the third is a warning. Calling anyone out of Babylon only enters the picture in chapter 18 where a heavenly voice says, "leave her, my people". The only one entitled to call Gods children "my people" would of course be Jesus. So are you saying that we as SDA are neglecting our marching orders in the three angles messages (to call people to worship God) by usurping Jesus call to gather His people out of Babylon? 

I dont believe in sheep stealing to increase the church, as you put it, for the same reason that I dont believe that moving money between two bank accounts I own will increase my total assets. The total number of sheep does not increase by the sheep moving between folds. Only the income generated in wool sale will be redistributed among the fold owners. 

Warning someone of deception and bringing him the good news of the Kingdom of God are two things that may be but are not necessariy one and the same. If the person listening is unaware of the deception but well aware of the good news of Gods Kingdom, only the warning will be needed, where as a person who is unaware of both the deception and the good news will need to hear both. Unless of course you are saying that what is preventing deception is the good news about Gods Kingdom, in which case directing this effort towards Christians is akin to relocating the free soup kitchen from the bridge the homeless sleep under to feed the wealthy on Wall Street. I recall that a sizeable portion of Gods wrath is reserved to those who feed the rich on the poor peoples expense. 

Joe Erwin
2012-01-06 4:32 PM

The "adventist" part of SDA, an important foundation plank of this Christian sect, comes straight from the 1844 movement, which was based on prophecy--and was later acknowledged as an error. It seemed to me in my later years as an adventist, that the real message was that no one knew when the 2nd coming would occur, and much of what Christianity was about living life as if each day could be one's last day. I came to wonder if that was not the DOMINANT message. Perhaps THE good news was that living honestly and well and with confidence constituted preparedness.

William Noel
2012-01-06 4:48 PM

The admonition from Jesus in Matthew 24 is to BE prepared, not to expect to get ready at some date in the future after receiving a fresh warning.  Still, some seem to think that a predominant focus on prophecy and seeing certain things fulfilled is their ultimate spiritual purpose.  The unfortunate thing I have observed in a few cases was that those prophecy zealots became so focused on watching for specific fulfillments and arguing with anyone of a different opinion that I was relieved to get away from them. 

Kevin Riley
2012-01-06 10:58 PM

Has anyone read Ann Taves work "Fits, Trances and Visions: Experiencing Religion and Explaining Experience from Wesley to James"?  Some interesting things in there about C19th prophecy. 

This has made me curious.  Are there any studies on prophecy - what it is, how it works - by the SDA church?  Or any studies on whether NT prophecy differes from OT prophecy - and where Ellen White fits into all this?

Thomas "Vastergotland"
2012-01-07 4:56 AM

I wonder how to reconcile the iron-cley feet of daniels statue with the fall of an empire that occured during about 1000 years. On what grounds can the eastern half of the empire, which contained the greater part of christianity at the time when the western part was disintegrating. At what time were the remains of Rome exactly 10 parts? It looks like it is an interpretation which requires that the Roman Catholic claims about itself as the only true church are acctually true, or at least that it was true up until the time of the reformation. It would also mean that the popes excommunication of the greek pathriarch was supported in heaven. 

Joe Erwin
2012-01-07 1:09 PM

Mysterious codes and symbols, special revelations, and speculative interpretations are the stuff of which cults and secret societies are made. They are wonderful vehicles for endless arguing and feelings of uniqueness, and they really serve the paranoid personality well. Once again I find myself wondering how mental health can be developed, fostered, or maintained within a context in which unknown or unknowable symbolism is paired with denial of the abundant and objective physical evidence that is contradictory to other beliefs. On the one hand, unknowable mysteries are seen as real, while on the other hand, objective reality is denied. That can't be good. 

Preston Foster
2012-01-07 9:17 PM

Joe,

Faith is not the way of this world.  Though admittedly not rational in terms of tradition wisdom, our beliefs are not without foundation,  To wit:

"While we look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen: for the things which are seen are temporal; but the things which are not seen are eternal," 2 Corinthians 4:8 KJV.

"But God hath chosen the foolish things of the world to confound the wise; and God hath chosen the weak things of the world to confound the things which are mighty, " 1 Corinthians 1:27 KJV.

Kevin Riley
2012-01-07 7:54 PM

Most faith communities are good at focusing on the small details while missing the larger picture.  I have only a few problems with the SDA system - most of my concerns are with how indivduals and groups within the church use it to their own advantage without regard to the larger picture.  To concentrate on the correctness of particular prophecies while neglecting the larger picture of the need to warn the world that the end is coming and God provides the only safety seems to me to be profoundly unAdventist.  It is as self-defeating as striving for perfection in the small details while failing to notice that the great commandments have been broken repeatedly.  What's the point?

Preston Foster
2012-01-07 8:31 PM

I agree that the message of salvation must focus first and foremost on Christ, His grace, and His love.  It is not a contradiction or even a distraction to also focus on what Christ told us would happen immediately before His second coming.

For believers, it is not unimportant that the Bible concludes with the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John, which describes in both prophetic and (we believe) literal detail the players, sequence, and details of the final events of earth's history.  Clearly, Christ thought the information was important enough to share through His prophets (that is to say, how the world ends probably has some significance for those alive at that time).  The fact that He also named and described the attributes and actions of the primary players (i.e., the church, the beast, the image of the beast, and the false prophet) is also non trivial.

For those who believe the Bible to be God's Word and have chosen to be members of a prophetic church whose mission is to create disciples of Christ in the context of the three angels' messages, understanding prophecy is vital.  Salvation can, very likely, be gained without an understanding of prophecy.  Accomplishing the stated mission of this church cannot.

Ervin Taylor
2012-01-08 7:24 PM

I would think that essentially all Adventist Christians would agree with the statement that the mission of the Adventist Church is to "create disciples of Christ."  (Of course, we would have need to dialogue on how best to acccomplish this in the modern world.)  However, may I suggest that many contemporary Adventist Christians would strongly disagree with the additiion that creating disciplines of Christ should be "in the context of the three angel's messages" and that "understanding prophecy is vital."  To many, the terms "Three Angel's Messages" and "Understanding prophecy" are code words reflecting the 19th and early 20th century concerns during the period when our church was feeling its way moving slowly from a sect into a more mature Protestant denomination.  That movement has gone with fits and starts.  Right now it is in retrograde motion, but that hopefully will change.   

Horace Butler
2012-01-08 8:41 PM

"Retrograde motion?"  We finally have a GC president who is not afraid to stand for the truth that was entrusted to us by our founders, and you call it retrograde.  I say "praise God for Ted Wilson!"  It's about time we had someone like him at the helm.  Yes, let's retrograde--right back to the kind of faith possessed by the early Adventists.  And I hope it does not change, but grows into the loud cry that must take place if we are ever going to finish the work.

We have no time to waste on these quaky unbiblical philosophies that have invaded the Adventist Church; and denying our prophetic understanding, which has stood the test of time, is one of them, along with other heresies espoused by many of those who frequent this site (like evolution, to cite one prominent example).

It is interesting that Ellen White told us that if other means failed God would allow heresies to come into the church.  It's part of the shaking.  It is also interesting that most of the aberrant doctrines that have invaded the church come about during the past 40-50 years.  Maybe she just got lucky with her prediction, but I prefer to believe that the Lord showed her what things would be like near the end.

Trevor Hammond
2012-01-09 12:02 AM

RE: "Ellen White's predictive prophecies even in her life time also failed." (This comment then refers to the 1856 'food for worms' statement)
----------

This was clearly a CONDITIONAL warning.  Detractors have used this statement indiscriminately to accuse Sister White of been a false prophet thereby attempting to discredit her admirable work.  This blog in my opinion attempts this also.

Kevin Riley
2012-01-09 1:06 AM

How do you tell the difference between a conditional and non-conditional prophecy?  If we are willing to admit that 'no inspired writer is infallibe' as we have said on numerous occasions, why does it trouble us so much to admit even one instance of this happening?  What is the point of saying "inspired writers can err" if we go on to insist "but they never do".  If all prophecy is inherently conditional, how can we possibly test for false prophets?  Any failed prophecy simply becomes 'conditional'.

Ron Corson
2012-01-09 11:01 AM

Clearly a conditional prophecy, how, what are the conditions, the lady that thought she was going to be food for worms did not seem to take it as conditional. After all that part is pretty universal since so far nearly everyone has died. But then look at how Horace defines conditional: "For example, the word "if" precedes a number of prophecies related to Israel." We could all certainly grant those as conditional but again they are not what we are even talking about. EGW set no conditions she did not even address it to the church as a whole though there was no SDA church at that time, it was addressed to members at a conference.

I suppose we could all just be mad at those people at the conference, if only they had done what they should have done, though that was not spelled out to them, then Jesus would have surely come way back in the 1800's.

The fact is failed prophecy is the norm. That may have nothing at all to do with the prophecy and everything to do with the interpretation. So the question is why is it so hard to admit we interpret wrongly so often. Good grief we have abundant examples of misinterpretations, all kinds of interpretations about the future, Preston thought we interpret the book of Revelation literally, hardly, read the Left Behind series if you want to see people interpreting Revelation literally.

It is very likely the problem is not really the prophecy it is our interpretation of the prophecy. But for those who must claim they have the truth such an idea is anathema.

Preston Foster
2012-01-09 11:16 AM

This is not to quibble with the issues presented here, but simply to correct the interpretation of what I said (yes, interpretation and belief are the primary issues).  I wrote this: "For believers, it is not unimportant that the Bible concludes with the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John, which describes in both prophetic and (we believe) literal detail the players, sequence, and details of the final events of earth's history."

Indeed, accurate interpretation is difficult when the end-in-mind has already been determined. 

Ervin Taylor
2012-01-09 12:12 AM

Speaking of predictive prophecies, Mr. Hammond and Mr. Butler are so predictable that I wonder if they might be the same person.  But I must say that they are very creative.  Predictive prophecies which are clearly shown to be in error are, of course, not mistaken but "conditional" (in capital letters so we can't miss the point).  On that basis, no predictive prophecy can ever be determined to have been mistaken.  I guess there is no basis of deciding what is true or false when it comes to prophecy.  That is perhaps why certain personlity types are so attracted to them .   

Horace Butler
2012-01-09 6:43 AM

Your response is what one would expect from someone who takes a view of Scripture which treats it as just another piece of ancient literature.  If the prophecy of Daniel 9 didn't pinpoint the arrival of the Messiah down to the very year, then there's no way of interpreting any other prophecy, since that one is so plain even a person with simple math skills can work it out.  On the other hand, if it did pinpoint it then we are faced with the distinct possibility that the other prophecies in Scripture have been/will also be fulfilled to the letter.  Conditional prophecy is not a creative way of getting around "failed" prophecy, but is clearly present throughout the Bible.  For example, the word "if" precedes a number of prophecies related to Israel.  They failed to live up to God's standard so the prophecy was not fulfilled to them, but it is clear from Paul's writings that it will be fulfilled in a spiritual sense to spiritual Israel:  "all Israel will be saved."
 
If I were to take your ideas (and those of many others who post here) at face value, I would throw my Bible in the trash and go do my own thing.  Because these ideas undermine Scripture, and make it appear to be an unreliable guide.  “Faith is the substance of things hoped for; the evidence of things not seen.”  You apparently don’t see the evidence.  Many of us do.

Kevin Riley
2012-01-09 7:47 AM

So, how come when I look up history books to see when Jesus was born there is a range of dates given, including by Christian historians?  To say that Jesus was born 'exactly on time', and then admit that we really have no evidence for when he was born apart from the circular argument that he must have been born at a cetain time to fulfill the prophecy of 70 weeks, and we know that prophecy is fulfilled becasue he was born then, seems a little uncovincing to most people. 

The only historical dating the Bible gives is a census (by Quirinius) historians locate at 6/7 AD which is too late; a reference to Herod the Great trying to kill Jesus, which places his birth at least a year or two before before the death of Herod in 4BC, which is too early; and the number of generations since David which is a little vague when it comes to pinpointing a year.  I believe the Bible is an inspired book, but when we set out to defend it from history, we really do have to history with which to defend it.  It has always bothered me that we can't find an exact historical reference for the decree that marks the beginning of the 2300 days, we have no evidence for the exact year Jesus was born or died, but are dogmatic both on 1844 being the end of the 2300 days and that Christ was both born and killed 'right on time'.  I've no doubt he was, I would just like some historical evidence for that.

Horace Butler
2012-01-09 3:30 PM

You miss the point.  Daniel 9 doesn't predict the birth of the Messiah.  It predicts the time when Messiah would be annointed.  Luke nails that down to 27 AD, which fits the prophecy perfectly.

We do have an historical reference for the beginning of the 2300 days.  It began the same time the 70 weeks began--457 BC.  Nothing else makes sense.

Kevin Riley
2012-01-09 7:57 PM

Luke says that Jesus began his ministry at 'about the age of thirty'.  If we don't know when he was born, how do we know when he was 'about thirty'?  For some reason, we always ignore that "about".  If we accept Luke's account then he was born in about 6AD.  Adding 'about thirty' to that does not take you to 27AD.  Luke pinpoints the year that John the Baptist started his mission, but does not say how long he preached for before Jesus came to him for baptizm.  That is harldy 'pinpoint accuracy'.

We have a decree that we date to 457 BC, but we have to add another earlier decree to make it fulfill the prophecy because there is no decree that fulfills the prophecy exactly.  We then argue Jesus must have been born in 3BC and died in 30AD, but we don't actually have any historian to back us up on either date.  The dates for Jesus' birth given in Matthew and Luke actually do not point to 3BC.  It is a few years too late for Matthew as Herod died in 4BC and Matthew assumes he lives a short time after teh birth of Jesus, whereas Qurinius did not become governor of Syria until 6/7 AD and Luke points to him ordering teh census that led to Mary being in Bethlehem to give birth to Jesus.  Of course, Matthew and Luke also differ on what happened after the resurrection as well as in their birth narratives, so perhaps we should pay attention more to their message and less to the specific details.

I am sure that Jesus came when he was meant to, but not that we have evidence for that that would convince a skeptic.  We have problems finding evidence that on its own even convinces believers.  I am not sure it would really matter except that we make a fuss about the accuracy of our dates.

Horace Butler
2012-01-09 8:44 PM

And so you would muddy the waters of the one prophecy that proves (as close as anything can prove) that the Bible is divine rather than human in origin.  There must be some objective evidence that the Bible is what it professes to be.  If we can't have confidence in predictive prophecy everything else is doubtful as well.  The fact is that 27 AD fits the prophecy, and the time frame given by Luke gives that date credibility.  What more do you want--a videotape by the Dan Rather of the first century?  There will never be enough evidence to please some people.

Rudy Good
2012-01-09 3:58 PM

Preston said "Salvation can, very likely, be gained without an understanding of prophecy.  Accomplishing the stated mission of this church cannot."
 
This statement probably illustrates the real division of thought that inspires this debate. It seems to me that those professed Christians most in tune with God's mission are overwhelmingly focused on SALVATION.
God is "not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance." It is my personal observation that those who are preoccupied with "prophetic prognostication" are much more interested in winning converts to their prophetic interpretations than making disciples of Jesus.

When Jesus warned about being deceived by false teachers, He said you will know them by their "fruit". It seems like a real stwist of Hs meaning to interpret this as you shall know them by their "prophetic interpretation". Jesus also said that if it were possible, that even the very elect would be deceived, which by the way is a clear implication that the elect will not be deceived. If the elect are those who are to be saved and some who are save will not understand prophecy, then clearly is not prophetic understanding that will protect us from deception.

It is not our prophetic or even doctrinal understanding that is the basis of our being part of the kingdom. Rather, it is a deep abiding trust in the work of God to save sinners. So much of what is taught in the name of Christ is the self decived looking gratification of others reinforcing their prideful notion that they possess truth. Jesus said he was truth and so it is only to the degree we can have His mind that we have truth.
 
When it comes to spiritual things understanding what is most important here and now, is a critical element of truth. The belief that we can possess truth by some static understanding of doctrine and prophecy is proof we have not yet embraced "The Truth" that is also "The Light" that must always be present for us to have true understanding.
 
When our understanding of spiritual things is characterized by pride and self confidence we are "deceived". True spiritual understanding acknowledges that God's truth can only be known when we humbly admit that need to have our hearts and minds constantly illuminated by "The Light" to have truth and understanding..

Preston Foster
2012-01-09 7:41 PM

Rudy,

Your thoughtful construct seems, to me, to ignore or at least discount the possibility that for those alive at the time of the end, understanding the IMPLICATIONS of prophecy can, indeed, have salvific implications per Revelation 13 and Revelation 20:

Revelation 13:14-15  "And deceiveth them that dwell on the earth by the means of those miracles which he had power to do in the sight of the beast; saying to them that dwell on the earth, that they should make an image to the beast, which had the wound by a sword, and did live.
 
 15And he had power to give life unto the image of the beast, that the image of the beast should both speak, and cause that as many as would not worship the image of the beast should be killed."
 
"And I saw thrones, and they sat upon them, and judgment was given unto them: and I saw the souls of them that were beheaded for the witness of Jesus, and for the word of God, and which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands; and they lived and reigned with Christ a thousand years."

As a prophetic church whose mission statement is directly related to these issues, our role within the body of Christ includes the responsibility to share our understanding of prophecy.  With respect to so-called "sheep stealing" (which seems to focus on denominational affiliation rather than sharing Biblical truths), the prophetic image of the beast, at least in the Adventist narrative interpretation, consists of "churched" people who as a result of deception or because of purposeful choice, worship a false representation of God (and insist, through the power of the state, that other  do likewise).  Our role, as a prophetic church is, through preaching, teaching, and sharing love, to minimize this deception.  Even if the Adventist interpretation of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation is off (which is not my belief) or incomplete (more likely, in my opinion), the prophecy of Revelation 13 and Revelation 20 points warns against affiliating with an entity (the beast or his image) that has eternal consequences.  As they say, "It doesn't mean nothing."  This is the Revelation of Christ.

It is in this context that prophecy and salvation collide. 

 
 
 

Ron Corson
2012-01-09 8:10 PM

Earlier Preston wrote:
"Indeed, accurate interpretation is difficult when the end-in-mind has already been determined."

That is precisely to problem but it is the problem that you seem unaware of because it is what you and many TSDA's do. Preston wrote above "As a prophetic church whose mission statement is directly related to these issues, our role within the body of Christ includes the responsibility to share our understanding of prophecy."

This is the circular reasoning of Adventism the church says it is a prophetic church with a prophetic mission all based upon their predetermined idea that the end in mind is all about them. This is made even worse by the attempts to say that the "churched" people are decieved and chose to worship a false God.

Thanks Preston for so easily showing the harmful effect of prophetic prognostication.

Preston Foster
2012-01-09 8:35 PM

My pleasure, Ron.

In your world view, to whom do the prophecies of Revelation 13 and 20 speak of?  Who is being deceived?  Anyone?  No one? Someone else (beside the Adventist interpretation?  Or is it of no consequence, at all?

I'm not clear if you believe the Bible is off or just the Adventist narrative.

Ron Corson
2012-01-09 9:18 PM

The Adventist narrative. You see when the narrative is shown to be historically untrue then that should really give you an indication that the interpretation that developed that narrative is wrong.

Preston Foster
2012-01-09 9:53 PM

Well, now we're getting somewhere!

We have exhausted, elsewhere, our differences in belief.  There is little to be gained by covering that ground again, as we see what we see -- or not.  The point is, those who believe the Adventist narrative are obligated to share those beliefs in humility, but with confidence.  If we believe it to be true we should, consistent with our mission statement, act on it.

Humility is always warranted.  However, if I am your brother and see danger (or what I believe to be danger), I am obligated to tell you.  For believers, silence would be both irresponsible and cruel. The luxury of saving face (if what I MIGHT BE a mirage) is not an option.

It is in both of our interests to keep looking.

Thomas "Vastergotland"
2012-01-10 4:49 AM

So then we both keep warning each other.. ;)

Preston Foster
2012-01-10 8:18 AM

Thomas,

That is already happening.  The point is that we both keep looking (listening). :)

Cheers!

Ron Corson
2012-01-09 10:17 PM

Not really, I don't think the mormon missonary is obligated to go door to door with his plea to have people feel the burning in the bosom. When obligation goes to an organization then the value of truth becomes secondary. So when beliefs turn out to be wrong those who seek truth will have obligation to to speak out against counterfactual information. So you could say there are higher obligations then denominational beliefs. Most would agree with me on this hence the Reformation and numerous Protestant denominations who sought to correct errors. But one of those errors is denominationalism so it is probably best not to get caught up in that path because it seems to end with the denomination as truth instead of continuing the search for truth.

Ron Corson
2012-01-09 11:10 PM

But what other choice to the TSDA's have if they assert that prophecy declares those people to be according to the book of Revelation followers of the Beast..if not now very soon!

This is why the danger in prophetic prognostication is so powerfully destructive to our fellow Christians. It seems why it appears many of the Traditional Adventists will side more often with the political Atheist then with fellow believers.

Stephen Foster
2012-01-10 12:09 AM

Since a blog of mine has been referenced in this blog, it would perhaps be appropriate to weigh in on this some to the extent that I can.
 
First off, my statement regarding prophetic prognostication was actually in a response to a comment by Nathan Schilt and not in the blog column itself; and that in fact we have Nathan to thank for the phrase itself: “Don't get me wrong, Stephen. Political authority in the hands of those who see it as a tool to advance church agendas disturbs me deeply. Your concern in this regard is most reasonable. I believe, however, that the retrospectoscope of history provides clearer perspective on the problem than a prophetic prognostication, unhawswered from the context in which it was uttered.”
 
Subsequently my contextual response to this was: “While history is a great teacher, it is difficult to quantify how much better it is, if at all, than is a “prophetic prognostication” on the same topic.
 
I should clarify that my own understanding and use of the word “prophetic” in this context carried with it the assumption of true, accurate prophecy, as opposed to “false prophecy.” (Obviously, I cannot speak for Ron Corson’s use or understanding of “prophetic.”) The prophecies of Daniel 2 and the messianic prophecies of Isaiah are examples true prophecies, in which men spoke for God.
 
As with all Biblical prophetic prognostications, these prognostications are at least as good a teacher as is history in my view.
 
The messianic prophecies were “believed,” but their fulfillment clashed with the contemporaneous worldview of those who were to witness their fulfillment; so the fulfillment was contemporaneously dismissed, and those who should have been beneficiaries of prophetic intelligence were on the wrong side.
 
Is the same thing happening right now? I believe that it most certainly is.

Rudy Good
2012-01-10 9:02 AM

Ron said, "When obligation goes to an organization then the value of truth becomes secondary."

This statement might be expanded to include "obligation to a body of knowledge". I presume many TSDAs will object to the notion they are obligated to the organization, but there is little difference if they are obligated to the "body of knowledge" they view as a message given by God to the organization.
 
The Old Testament scriptures are filled with prophetic allusions to the Messiah. And yet, those most familiar and studious in the scriptures did not recognize Jesus as the fulfillment of those prophecies. This should serve as a warning to those who are satisfied with a religious culture that emphasizes prophetic and doctrinal knowledge, while negelecting the truths that can protect us from erroneous interpretations.
 
One of the fundamental truths taught by the entirety of scripture is the utter spiritual helplessness of fallen humanity. An approach to prophetic interpretation that obscures this truth can only produce self deception and religious pride. Traditional Adventism seems hell bent on repeating the errors of Judaism at the first Advent.

Stephen Foster
2012-01-10 9:39 AM

Rudy,
 
Here is the flaw in your analysis, in my view: had there indeed been an “obligation to a [God-given] body of [messianic prophetic] knowledge”—made available to a people, for the benefit of all—instead of an obligation to organization or an obligation to a self-serving geopolitical worldview, they would not have missed that which was to be their privilege to know/share.

Andje R
2012-01-10 10:41 AM

According to Ron's profile, he a "third generation SDA"... yet, playing the devil's advocate. How can anyone ignore the fact that this article was not presented with good intent? Sometimes we need to put away man-made knowledge and seek divine intervention through prayer and fasting when prompted with questions/statements/comments such as this one which is produce by Ron to slaughter our own brothers and sisters in Christ. Test the Spirit...."By their fruits you shall know them".

Rudy Good
2012-01-10 1:32 PM

Stephen,

You said, "Here is the flaw in your analysis, in my view:"  After carefully reading your comments I don’t have the foggiest idea what flaw you think you found.
 
It seems like a simple conclusion that we should take a warning from Judaic experience regarding prophecy. What reason do we have to think we cannot make similar errors? It also seems like a simple conclusion (based on the entirety of scripture) that God is not seeking a people with superior prophetic and doctrinal knowledge, but a people surrendered to His will.
 
Those who have learned to trust and obey God do not need to be given the answers to the future test questions. Those who have an intimate relationship with God will be those who cannot be deceived by a clever counterfeits because they "know" the real thing. I believe God gives prophetic insights to emphasize there are tests coming for which we must be prepared. We will be prepared if we "know" Him, not be cause we have some special knowledge and know in advance the answer to the test.
 
Pay attention to the fruit. That is what Jesus instructs. Take some time and observe the fruit that is born by those who have been fed a steady diet of prophetic interpretation and preoccupations. I think you will find one of two fruits extremely common. There are many who sought a joyous and peaceful relationship with their Savior, but have either given up or find it very discouraging. On the other hand, others exhibit spiritual pride and a lack of humility that an intimate relationship with the Savior should banish.

Stephen Foster
2012-01-13 5:04 AM

Rudy,
 
This has actually been a very fruitful discussion in my view. We agree that there is a clear and present danger of many contemporary Adventists repeating the mistakes of Jesus’ Jewish contemporaries; who should have been the first Adventists. Perhaps we disagree as to what these mistakes are.
 
The Messianic prophecies (of Isaiah, for example) were predictive prophecies. When “the fullness of time” had come, had the generation who were then alive been committed/obligated to the body of knowledge available to them from which these predictive prophecies had come, as opposed to being committed to their economic interests and self-serving political concerns, more of His own would have recognized His advent.
 
This is the very same mistake that I believe many Adventists are currently making.

Preston Foster
2012-01-11 12:58 AM

Rudy,

I contend that prophecy is not given as you say,"to emphasize there are tests coming for which we must be prepared," but, more directly, to make the test an OPEN BOOK exam that we cannot fail -- unless we ignore the book and choose to freelance.

 Is not the PURPOSE of prophecy to enable us to anticipate and recognize events, to understand their importance and their spiritual context?  In the context of the deceptions spoken of in Revelation 13 and 22, would it not be wise to investigate what we have been told to avoid being deceived?

What is the purpose of the specificity given in Daniel and Revelation if not to allow us to discern between the counterfeit and the true?  Is a weather forcast given to let you know there is, generally, more weather coming or to allow you to prepare for a very specific type of weather, enabling targeted precautions?

 Is prophecy given to confuse or to inform?  "But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation," 1 Corinthians 14:3.  Paul, the original radical grace preacher, pointed to prophecy as the superior spiritual gift.

The fruit of the Spirit applies to all spiritual gifts.  The fact that some who focus on the gift of prophecy manifest bad fruit is not a reflection on prophecy itself, but of the lack of the Holy Spirit in the person bearing the bad fruit: 

1 Corinthians 12:4-11:  

"There are different kinds of gifts, but the same Spirit distributes them. There are different kinds of service, but the same Lord.  There are different kinds of working, but in all of them and in everyone it is the same God at work.  Now to each one the manifestation of the Spirit is given for the common good.  To one there is given through the Spirit a message of wisdom, to another a message of knowledge by means of the same Spirit,  to another faith by the same Spirit, to another gifts of healing by that one Spirit, to another miraculous powers, to another prophecy, to another distinguishing between spirits, to another speaking in different kinds of tongues,[a] and to still another the interpretation of tongues.  All these are the work of one and the same Spirit, and he distributes them to each one, just as he determines."

The Word is whole and indivisible.  The Revelation of Christ reminds us of this.  The very last warning in the Bible is explicit: "And if anyone takes words away from this scroll of prophecy, God will take away from that person any share in the tree of life and in the Holy City, which are described in this scroll," Revelation 22:19.

Again, prophecy and salvation collide.
 

Rudy Good
2012-01-11 11:33 PM

Preston, you said:

Is prophecy given to confuse or to inform? "But one who prophesies speaks to men for edification and exhortation and consolation," 1 Corinthians 14:3. Paul, the original radical grace preacher, pointed to prophecy as the superior spiritual gift.

Are your comments intended to confuse or inform?

I think you know very well that the gift of prophecy of which Paul speaks is seldom manifested as predictive insights into the future. The “edification and exhortation and consolation” are much more likely to be provided by spiritual insights that result from unveiling the truth about the past in which we can see both God and his purposes and how we as human beings should or should not relate to God and His will for us, today and every day.
 
It doesn’t take much experience to discover that “religious” people often have their own personal agenda. This appears to be especially true for those who have a preoccupation with predictive prophecy and become “prophetic prognosticators”.
 
The purpose for prophecy is what God Himself chooses. And no one can limit that purpose by their opinion. However, scripture includes statements that quite clearly articulate the primary purpose of the prophetic word such as 2 Peter 1:19-21
 
19And so we have the prophetic word confirmed, which you do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star rises in your hearts; 20knowing this first, that no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, 21for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit. ( NKJV )
 
I’ll let you study and exegete this passage for yourself, but surely we “do well to heed as a light that shines in a dark place, until the day dawns and the morning star shines in your hearts.” Those who put too much confidence in their theological knowledge or prophetic insights of the future are precisely those who are vulnerable to deception. It is those who have been impacted by the whole and core of prophecy that will have the “morning star” rising in their hearts and consequently cannot be deceived.
 
When I read a predictive prophecy in Revelation that some will receive the Mark of the Beast, I consider it a warning and a reminder that there are evil forces seeking to gain control over us (devour us as Peter says). No doubt, this is a very specific danger. So, why isn’t it communicated explicitly? Why is encoded?  Is God hoping to send the warning without alerting the beast?


I think the explanation is simple. God is using this symbolic language because He DOES NOT want us to prepare by depending on our speculations about the precise nature of the danger. He wants us to be prepared by being able to hear His voice and instruction when we are confronted with spiritual dangers, both those that we encounter daily and those we might encounter in an apocalyptic setting of the future.
 


Preston Foster
2012-01-12 6:02 AM

Rudy,

You said: "I think you know very well that the gift of prophecy of which Paul speaks is seldom manifested as predictive insights into the future. The 'edification and exhortation and consolation' are much more likely to be provided by spiritual insights that result from unveiling the truth about the past in which we can see both God and his purposes and how we as human beings should or should not relate to God and His will for us, today and every day," (my emphasis  added).

We may simply have to agree to disagree as, apparently, we have different understandings of what the word "prophecy" means.

In my my mind (and, I believe in most common definitions), prophecy means a foretelling of events or a prediction of what will happen in the future (under divine inspiration).  Other synonyms for "prophetic" include the words "predictive, foreshadowing, presaging, prescient, divinatory, oracular, sibylline, prognostic," all of which have future-leaning meanings.  The interpretation of past events is may be divinely enabled, but, is seldom seen as prophetic (in modern parlance, we call it "analysis").

The same is true of the purpose of prophecy.  It is, to most, forward-looking.  The purpose of a weather forecast is not to explain last week's weather, but to allow you to prepare for tomorrow and the days to come.  

Our confidence is not in our opinions, but, indeed, in the fact that, " . . .  no prophecy of Scripture is of any private interpretation, for prophecy never came by the will of man, but holy men of God spoke as they were moved by the Holy Spirit."  The "confirmed prophetic word that we would do well to heed as the light that shines in a dark place," to me says that we have no need to rely on our opinions -- or create alternate scenarios, as what has been given to us has, in fact been confirmed as divinely inspired.  Heeding these prophecies, "as a light that shines in the dark until the day dawns," can only be interpreted as present and forward-looking, respectively. 

Religious, non-religious, and agnostic people all have personal agendas. Assigning negative motives only to those who hold a particular, Bible-based world-view serves to discount the beliefs of others while inflating your own.

Bible prophecy, I believe, is intended to be (or to become) self-evident.  The language used to predict and describe the beast and the image of the beast -- and their mark allows us to compare what has been predicted with what we see before our eyes.  That is not prognostication or speculation.  It is verification.  It is the open book test. 








Kevin Riley
2012-01-12 8:01 AM

The Bible uses 'prophecy' for anything spoken by a messenger from God.  It can concern the past, present or future.  The Greek means literally 'to speak forth'.  I believe it is an accurate translation of the Hebrew 'nabhi'.  There is also the word translated as 'seer' - literally 'see-er'.  Predicting the future is only part of a prophet's work.  We have focused on predictive prophecy, but the Bible does not seem to privilege it over other aspects of being a prophet.

We should remember that God himself gives us predictive prophecy so that 'when it comes to pass, you will know that I have spoken'.  Strengthening our faith in God after prophecy is fulfilled seems to be more important to God than giving us the ability to know before hand what will happen.

William Noel
2012-01-12 9:02 AM

Preston,
While I generally agree with you, I also have a slightly different view on the topic.  One of the blessings I've enjoyed having an e-concordance on my computer is the capability to do word searches more easily and quickly than before (if you don't have one, I highly recommend them).  My study of key words related to prophets and prophecies showed a couple of things that I found significant.  First, most prophetic messages were to individuals, not the nation.  Second, those messages were far more detailed than forward-looking prophecies.  From that I have drawn the conclusion that the primary role of prophecy is to deliver timely and intimate communication to individuals so that they can hear what God wants them to know and to deliver what counsel God has for them.  Having the experience of receiving such communications from God built their faith so they could trust that God was also fully in control of the future. 

This history presents us with two challenges.  First, is building a relationship with God so that we can trust Him to the same degree as those who received prophetic messages in the past.  Second is to refrain from writing volumes between the few lines that God has given us in describing the future.  Our job is to trust, follow and quit writing words He hasn't spoken.

Rudy Good
2012-01-12 10:44 AM

Preston,

I agree whole-heartedly that in modern parlance prophecy is perceived as predictive. But, if you take some time to discover the meaning Paul had in mind I think you will find Kevin Riley is spot on. The entirety of scripture has been produced through the gift of prophecy. Do you really expect to understand the scripture by using word definitions from modern parlance?
 
I also agree that a major purpose of prophecy is to discourage our reliance on our “opinions”. But, prophecy does not accomplish this by magically bypassing our need to understand and comprehend. We must interpret prophetic words. Believing that one has the proper understanding of any scripture is an “opinion”. That should be abundantly clear from the many conflicting claims about the true meaning of any particular scripture. And truth seekers never outgrow a willingness to question their own opinion of what is the truth.
 
If we are honest observers of life, it is clear that passion and conviction are not proof that we have found the truth in scripture. Most all of us know of some person or group that believes passionately in an interpretation of scripture that we passionately disagree with. This is a clear indication of how easily it is to be self deceived and how important it is to examine the basis of our convictions.
 
Adherence to a belief system that becomes heavily laden with guilt or institutional pride does not protect us from deception. It makes us vulnerable. It is NOT our doctrinal knowledge, prophetic insight, religious zeal, or even adherence to our belief system that protects us from deception. It is a living connection with the Lord Jesus Christ which is manifested in our humility and trust in His leading.
 
If after some study you discover that the gift of prophecy is not primarily focused on predicting the future then consider it a warning about how easily we take our own opinions to be the truth.
 
 


Preston Foster
2012-01-12 8:05 PM

Kevin and Rudy,

Inspired writings can look to the past as well as to the future.  However, that is not the focus of Ron's article.  Even when examining past events, Ron focused on the the performance of predictive prophecies about those events.  Thus, "prophetic prognostication."

Both the title of the column and the responses to it focused on the perceived troublesomeness of relying on the Adventist narrative interpretation of predictive prophecies of Daniel and Revelation (written by Ellen White).  Ron's opening sentence, "Seventh-day Adventists have always seen themselves has a movement predicted by prophesy with special insights to past prophetic utterances and interpretation of both scripture and Ellen White as predicting various scenarios for the near future,"  specifically target the predictive nature of Adventist prophetic interpretation as being off target. 

More from Ron's column:

“'Prophetic prognostication' is equally subject to interpretation but unlike history there is no reality of actual experience to help with the interpretation. There is no history involved, no reality observed and no data from the occurrences to help the development of an interpretation. This moves prophetic prognostication into the realm of speculation."

All of this speaks to the predictive nature of the Adventist narrative interpretation.

Adventism is, by definition, forward-looking, as is the prophetic fulcrum of our mission (i.e., the three angel's messages).

It is to that notion that I have been responding.

Kevin, your point re: our faith in God being greater after seeing prophecy fulfilled is true (assuming one believed the original prophecy), but not practical in terms of the end game.  At some point, "every knee shall bow and every tongue confess that Jesus Christ is Lord," in direct response to fulfilled prophecy.  However, at that point, some will have made the wrong choice and will have received the mark of the beast, forfeiting their place in the Kingdom.  Informed response to some predictive prophecies is time-sensitive.  These prophecies that are the focus of the Adventist narrative and the catalyst of our urgency.  

Rudy, I understand and accept that not everyone believes these prophecies.  However, faith-based belief in prophecy does not equate to arrogance, or to being being motivated by guilt or institutional pride. To conflate those characteristics with belief is, in my opinion, to define the whole by the least common denominator.





Rudy Good
2012-01-13 12:13 AM

Preston,

You are right Ron's topic was "prophetic prognostication" which is a term he uses to describe how he believes Adventist tend use "predictive prophecy".

Maybe an anlaogy will help explain how we wandered into this unfruitful debate. Imagine that a group of people are particularly enamoured with naturally carbonated water (NCW). They are persuaded that it has remarkable qualities and are zealous in promoting the merits of NCW. Now imagine that Ron challenges the veracity of the claims being made for NCW. Also imagine that Preston takes exception to Ron's challenges and enthusisatically promotes and defends NCW. Preston begins to site authoritative souces that support his high regard NCW. But, Rudy challenges Preston because he believes these authoritative sources endorse the merits of water, not specifically NCW. Further imagine that Preston is reluctant to admit that NCW and water are not synonomous and insists that you must have NCW to derive the benefits endorsed by the authoritative sources. Now  imagine that when others take the same position as Rudy, Preston responds by saying so what if water and NCW are not the same, why do you insist on talking about water when the original topic was NCW.


Preston Foster
2012-01-13 9:19 AM

Rudy,

Again, we see different points of departure (although, by now, only we care).  I'll speak in concrete terms.

Ron wrote an article about the perceived dangers of predictive prophecy.  You and others responded by agreeing that prophecy was not essential to salvation, only our relationship with Christ mattered.  I disagreed, saying that some predictive prophecies did, indeed, collide with salvation, making those predictive prophecies, GIVEN BY CHRIST (to John), vital for those alive at the time the prophecies were fulfilled.  

You countered, saying not all prophecies were predictive, siting texts to make that point.  You implied that those who believe the Adventist narrative of predictive propheses did so out of arrogance, institutional pride, and spiritual guilt.  Confused, I reiterated that, in my understanding, prophecy was forward-looking. Kevin helped to clarify your point, showing, generally speaking, in Biblical terms, the term "prophecy" could speak to the shedding of light on past events (or, more simply, all inspired writing).

I agreed that prophecy, in generic Biblical terms, can speak to all inspired writing, but the article is about the importance of predictive prophecy. I reiterated that, as such, there are predictive prophecies that will have, for some, salvific implications, making them (in my opinion) vital.

Obviously, we disagree.  I simply wish to make it clear our disagreement is about substance, not process, or more to the point, a desire to avoid the point.  

Perhaps we can move on to discuss points of substance that will engage others.

Cheers!







Thomas "Vastergotland"
2012-01-13 11:55 AM

As Kevin pointed out, even predictive prophecy has its value only after the predicted event has been played out. Some people argue that we need predictive prophecy in order to know when to be ready. But when we spend our time trying to know when it will all take place, we are by necessity neglecting to prepare ourselves. Jesus had a golen opportunity to satisfy the curiosity of all future generations when His disciples asked what the sign will be. Jesus responded by mentioning things that the people who were there, physically listening, would witness or experience within their lifetime. He mentioned events that have been taking place in some part of the world or another during the life of every generation since the words were uttered. 

Therefore Rudy is correct to point out that living truly to our Lords example must take precedence to "being able to read the stars and interpret in advance the riddles that are meant to be understood only after they are fulfilled". 

As you wish to move on to substance Preston, why dont you proceed by telling us which the prophecies are which correctly interpreted you regard as inseparably linked to salvation. Or in other words, which bible studies would Jesus have been required to give today before He could promise the thief on the cross salvation?

Preston Foster
2012-01-13 1:05 PM

Thomas,

I can address your first question.  As the answer to the first is time-sensitive, it does not (I believe) apply to your second question.

As I alluded to, earlier in this strand, the predictive prophecies (still a redundancy, to me) of Revelation 13:12-18, Revelation 14:9-11,  Revelation 19:20, and Revelation 20:4  Revelation 22:9-12, and Revelation 22:18,19 have salvific implications.

To be clear, I believe we are saved by grace, not be works.  However, it is also clear to me that, in the end of time, there are, according to the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John, decisions that will cause some to forfeit salvation.  As you examine these texts, you will find that these decisions pivot on a deception (Revelation 13:14; Revelaton 19:20), that cause them to receive the mark of the beast.  Those who do not worshp the beast or his image and do not receive the mark are saved (or are, at least, among the saved).  Those who worship the beast or his image and receive the mark are lost (Revelation 14:10, 11).

Whether one believes the Adventist narrative interpretation or not, if they believe the Bible and the Revelation of Jesus Christ, it seems clear (at least to me), that there are predictive prophecies that have salvific implications.  As such, it seems, being aware of and, to the extent possible, understanding them is advantageous -- to say the least.



Thomas "Vastergotland"
2012-01-13 4:53 PM

About prophets, one of the more well known prophecies given in bible is Nathan seeking out David after Uriahs "accident". It was clearly prophetic, but it was equally clearly dealing with events that had passed, and David could recognise it as such precisely because it dealth with events in his own recent history. 

Rev 13, the lamblike beast and the image of the first beast, and the mark for selling and buying. The devils parody on Jesus and the Holy Spirit. I expect that it will be clear that any identifying of this beast will eliminate other possible identifyers. Adventists say the counterfit Christ beast is or will soon be USA. If it is for instance to be identified as the rule of oligarchy through multinational corporations, would we then be the false prophets Jesus keep warning believers about? Further, say that it is indeed USA. How will this knowledge help you on the day when Jesus puts the goats in one field and the sheep in another? How will this ensure that you are collected as wheat rather than burned as chaff?

Rev 14, The third angles message, he who worships the beast or its image will burn without relief. This is not the first time in history that the believer comes into contact with counterfit religion. We have examples from the bible, for instance when Israel walked in the wilderness. God told the people that only Him should they worship. Did God ask the people to make sure to study Moloch or Baal to be able to identify them and thus better beware? No.

Rev 19, The beast and the false prophet and everyone who followed them will burn in hell. I could be wrong about this but I thought that we as adventists thought that it was a short sell to market heaven as a fire insurance. 

Rev 20, the martyrs and others who are pure will rule with Christ for a thousand years. Ok, I confess. I am not sure why knowing this will ensure a place around that table against people who do not know this. 

Rev 22, worship God, the prophecies in Revelation will be relevant for every generation since the book/letter was published, the injust will continue to deprive others of justice, the imoral will continue to evade morallity, the holy will continue to be saints, everyone will be rewarded for their deeds, if someone adds to the book God will add its curses to that person, if someone removes from the book God will remove that person from salvation.  

Taken alone, the first part here is a closed door theology nearly 2000 years ago. Further, adding to the book, who is to say that this does not include adding our own interpretation to the prophecies? If we read Revelation 13:11 ff as "the american beast stood up from the earth, looking meak but speaking harsh. america wielded the papal power in its presence and forced the entire world to worship the pope who had recovered from the loss of power inflicted by Napoleon. america makde great signs when it let its B-29 drop atomic bombs over its enemies. america decieved the nations with the deceptions authorised by the pope. america forces the people of the world to make a monument in honour of the papacy, and installs big screens on it to inform the people watching, and CCTV to identify any disidents. and america forces everyone from the richest to the poorest to wear a rfid chip inserted under the skin of either forehead or right arm, and connect this chip to the social security number as well as to the visa or master card account, making all three of these available only through the chip. Here our wisdom comes to its own, proven by the fact that we know that 666 is the numerical value of a papal title."

Are you sure that we do not damn ourselves by removing the acctual words of the prophecy and inserting the "interpretation" above, more or less in that shape, in its stead? May I suggest that spending your day identifying the image of God in the face of those you meet, and serve them accordingly, would be more well spent time as well as being a habbit that will ensure your place with the sheep in the final day. 

Preston Foster
2012-01-13 6:39 PM

Thomas,

Obviously, you are free to take these prophecies seriously or not at all.  My focus on them is does not prevent me from having a increasingly close relationship with Christ, the Holy Spirit, or loving my fellow man.  I believe that Jesus loves me and gave me (us) information that is in my best interest and, to the point, helps me to distinguish between the predicted false Christs and the authentic one.  As a deception has been prophesied, it seems important to worship the true God.

Although I will, for the sake of interested readers, respond to your analysis of the predictive prophecies of Revelation that I outlined, my purpose is not to convince you, as everyone must pray and read for themselves.  I seek only to add emphasis and (if you will beg my pardon), to point out what I believe to be factual differences regarding your reading and the Adventist narrative interpretation of these texts (for what that is worth).  


Regarding your analysis:

Revelation 13:4: The beast spoken of here is, in the Adventist narrative, the Vatican (in contrast to Catholic individuals) -- those who blaspheme the name of God (i.e., by calling the earthly head of their church "Holy Father," seek to change times and laws by codifying the change of Sabbath observance from Saturday to Sunday, and by eliminating commandments from the decalouge).  The image of the beast, again in the Adventist narrative interpretation, are apostate Protestants who follow after the beast, enforcing Sunday observance and abandoning their Protestant origins in the name of unity with the beast.  In Adventist narrative, the U.S. is ("another beast") the lamb-like beast spoken of in Revelation 13:11, which, we believe, will give power to the image of the beast Revelation 13:15 to enforce the persecution of those who do not receive the mark of the beast or worship his image.  This is the root of historical Adventists' maximalist position on the separation of church and state.
 
Revelation 14:9-11:  These texts do not say that those who receive the mark will burn without relief.  Verse 11 says "the smoke of their torment will ascend for ever and ever . . ."  Later, in Revelation 20:9, it says (regarding the lost) that "fire came down from God out of heaven and consumed them."  The Adventist narrative interpretation of this is that there is no eternal burning hell for unsaved humanity.

Revelation 19:20, Revelation 20:10:  The beast, the false prophet, and the dragon (Satan, per Revelation 20:2) will burn in a lake of fire and brimstone (my personal reading of this is different that the Adventist narrative interpretation). It is notable that among the PRIMARY reasons given for this punishment is that " . . . he deceived them that had received the mark of the beast, and them that worshipped his image," Revelation 19:20.

Revelation 20:4: This verse important because it says, explicitly that along with the saints and martyrs, those  " . . . which had not worshipped the beast, neither his image, neither had received his mark upon their foreheads, or in their hands: and they lived and reigned which Christ a thousand years."  In other words, included in the saved are those who do NOT receive the mark of the beast.  Again, this is, according to the Bible, one place where prophecy and salvation connect directly.

Revelation 22
: I generally agree with your analysis.  Again, verses 18 and 19 point to the high penalty given to those who tamper with or delete any part of these prophecies.  It is the last warning given in the Bible.  To me, it is obvious that prophecy, particularly those of the Revelation of Jesus Christ to John (primarily predictive in nature) are of importance.  Verse 20 verifies, that the Book of Revelation is, indeed, Christ's testimony, making it important, by definition.

To your point, I do believe that it is, indeed, the Bible and the Bible only (along with the Holy Spirit) that should be our guide.  All other sources, in my opinion, can be questioned.

Thomas, I believe my testimony to others about this prophecy and the message of grace of Christ is the ministry that I have been given.  Let us all pursue the assignments the Lord has given us in humility and love.

Peace.

Thomas "Vastergotland"
2012-01-14 6:39 PM

The bottom line is, if the interpretation is correct you need the seal of the Holy Spirit to be among the saved. And if the interpretation is false, the interpreter is in danger but the rest of us still need the seal of the Holy Spirit to be saved. And if a person dies before it will be made clear whether the interpretation is false or true, that person needs the seal of the Holy Spirit to be safe. 

And there is no requirement of truthfully reading revelation, or reading revelation in any way at all, to being sealed with the Holy Spirit. God knows those who are His, and other people will recognise them by the fruit of their character rather than by the fruit of their intelectual prowess. Whether the house owner is surprised by the breakin or is awaiting the thief, in either case he needs to be stronger than the thief to overcome him. And that strength must be built in advance of the night when the breakin takes place. Therefore I yet propose that building a character that preaches the Kingdom of God whether we open our mouth or not must be and remain our main responsibility and duty. Because if you know the full depth and truth of all prophecy but lack this character, you are nought but a slammering cymbal in the wind. 

And please resist any temptation to read what I have here written in black and white. Because something is not to be the primary goal does not mean that it is to be thrown away. There are more than two steps to a ladder, and stepping down a level or two is quite different from going from top to bottom. Thus, consider that apocalyptic or future oriented prophecy is only 1/27th of the new testament rather than its main focus, and let the 26/27 take its rightful place in the center of faith and theology. 

Thats all I am saying here.

Preston Foster
2012-01-14 7:19 PM

Thomas,

I do not consider predicative prophecy to be the main focus of the Bible nor  is it determinative for the vast majority of those who have lived.  Christ and love is the center of it all.

As I said earlier, we are saved by grace of God, through faith in the blood of  Jesus Christ, not by works.  However, the texts we've just reviewed (whatever the correct interpretation) are not insignificant, particularly for those alive at the time the prophecies come to pass.  Since no one knows when that time will come, those who believe they have insight into their meaning are reasonably obliged to share it (in love) with those seeking to know.

Let every person be convinced in their own mind.

Peace

Elaine Nelson
2012-01-13 2:25 PM

The only "end of time" there is, is when we take our last breath.  Worrying about any other possible time in the future is useless.  Either we will be ready to die, or not.  And, thankfully, only God knows, not some future unknown time as to its occurrence.  When anyone speaks of "being ready" it is always applicable.
 

The deception depicted in John's Revelation is always applicable:  it was applicable then when written, at ever since when people reject God and  go for the anti-Christ.


Horace Butler
2012-01-13 3:44 PM

Well, that's one person's take on it, but it's no more valid that the interpretation given by the SDA Church.  Certainly we should be ready at all times; and of course there have always been deceptions; but Jesus gave us several signs that would indicate when His coming was "at the doors;" and He warned us be beware of imposters and deception, particularly in relation to His second coming.  So, we're not out of line when we are concerned about these things.  Worry?  No.  Alert and aware?  Yes.  In addition, His measurement of time is not always like ours.  What He deems as "soon," may seem like a long time to us.  The time from 1798 (or 1844, if you prefer) is a blip, when compared to the 6000 year history of the earth, and an even smaller blip when compared to eternity.

Elaine Nelson
2012-01-13 4:27 PM

The signs Jesus referred to were contemporary; and all have been continuing since, even before then:  wars, earthquakes, etc.  "Any time" could be the end for us; which is why pointing to an interpretation of time is meaningless.  With God, a thousand years is as a day, and a thousand days is as a thousand years.  Why was this written if not to warn us from making time predictions?


Horace Butler
2012-01-13 5:13 PM

The latter part of Matt. 24 (particularly vs. 23 and onward) is clearly in the context of the Second Coming.  No one is making time predections.  Prophetic time has ended.  That's one reason we know we're in the time of the end.  There is an urgency to the message that would not be possible if we were not in the time of the end.  But I wouldn't expect you to accept that at face value, of course.

Ervin Taylor
2012-01-13 5:47 PM

"Prophetic time has ended.  That's one reason we know we're in the time of the end."  Hmm.  I really wish someone could invent a time machine so I could go, let' say, 1000 years into the future and see what the institutional SDA Church (which I suspect will still be with us in some form), will be saying about being in the

"time of the end."  


Stephen Foster
2012-01-13 7:25 PM

For Erv: I wish someone could invent a time machine so that we could go back 20,000 years, or 200,000 years, or 2,000,000 or 2,000,000,000 years ago; to show how the earth was without form and void, etc.
 
For Kevin and Thomas: How can predictive prophecy be of value after its fulfillment UNLESS someone knows, or knew, precisely what the prophecy actually foretold? Otherwise, how would anyone know that the prophecy in question has indeed been fulfilled?

Ervin Taylor
2012-01-14 1:08 AM

I am happy to be the person to tell Mr. Foster that 2 billion years ago the earth was already more than a billion years old and primitive life forms were already in existence.  Now if you wanted to go back say 10 billion years, then the earth would not have existed.  

Stephen Foster
2012-01-14 1:39 AM

I am more than happy to tell Dr. Taylor that he may actually be right about the church continuing to exist in some form a little over 1,000 years hence. Of course the Second Advent is likely to have occurred a little over 1,000 years ago at that point.

We both know as much about what happened 2,5,10 billion years ago as we do what will happen 1,000 years hence.

Kevin Riley
2012-01-13 7:54 PM

The fulfillment of prophecy is easier to see after the event.  All the early Christians saw Christ's life and death as fulfillment of prophecy after the event, very few people saw it clearly before it happened.  No one saw the investigative judgement before 1844, many people have been convinced since.  The accuracy of prophetic prediction does not depend on anyone getting it right before it happens.  What is required is the ability to see clearly after it happens.  I do see value in studying predictive prophecy and trying to understand it, but I am not convinced that the main benefit is correct knowledge.  The purpose of predictive prophecy is not primarily that we will know accurately what will happen, but that we will live so that we are ready when it does happen, even if we did not get all the details correct.

Stephen Foster
2012-01-14 1:53 AM

Your theory would appear to run counter to Amos 3:7 and Revelation 22:6, 7.

Preston Foster
2012-01-13 10:18 PM

Frankly, I have yet to see anyone on this strand posit that prophecy ratifies the SDA view or is reason to declare ourselves the remnant EXCEPT those who in one way or another seek to minimize the importance and role of predictive prophecy.  In a discussion about the role of preditive prophecy, we have been warned against religious chauvanism, arrogance, pride, time predictions, neglecting to love our fellow man, a single-minded focus, and other uncomplimentary features.  The arguements seemed to be formed against a preferred sterotype rather than to points of fact or opinion offered.

I am sure these sterotypes exist.  They simply are not on this strand.

Preston Foster
2012-01-13 11:02 PM

Timo,

My post was not a response to your post exclusively or primarily.  As I examine my sensitivity, I ask others to examine their posts.  Warning the so-called righteous of against self-righteousness can be . . . self-righteous -- and work avoidance.


Preston Foster
2012-01-14 9:26 PM

Timo,

I'm sorry for the delay in responding to you.

As noted in my earlier column, "The Critical Path to Salvation," the seemingly never-ending debate over the battling interpretations over the Investigative Judgment seems to have done more damage than good.  The church divided (at least in Australia and among whites in North America) and many lost faith.

Confidence in ones position (i.e., interpretation) would, seemingly, welcome further investigation.  That contretemps still has a life of its own.




Ervin Taylor
2012-01-16 11:43 PM

Several others have noted the notable failures of various interpreations of prophecies and particularly the fact that a total failure of a mid-19th century interpreation of a Biblical prophscy (i.e., Great Disappointment) created the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  Anyone interested in the sociological and social psychology processes operating might wish to read the well-known 1956 book "When Prophecy Fails" by Leon Festinger, Henry Riecken, and Stanley Schachter.  There is a "When Prophecy Fails" article on Wikipedia which provides helpful background for those not aware of this work.  One of the references has a citation to a journal article on the subject of "Cult Formatiion: Three Compatible Models" that assists in providing a perspective that allows insights into the early history of Adventism.  

Horace Butler
2012-01-17 6:31 AM

Are you implying that the SDA Churh is a cult, rather than a movement, the beginnings of which were inspired by God and directed by the Holy Spirit?

Elaine Nelson
2012-01-17 10:21 AM

Who is implying the SDA church is a cult?  The truth that its prophecies failed is not an implication but historical reality.  Unless your great-great-grandparents were taken to heaven in 1844, you are living proof that Christ did not come in 1844 when the SDA church predicted.

Ervin Taylor
2012-01-17 1:15 PM

The SDA Church began as a cult.  As Elaine states, that is an historical fact.  Now an interesting question is, to what degree, it is still a cult.  If Mr. Butler would provide us his definition of a cult, then I would be happy to respond to him.  I hope his definition is close to what historians and sociologists mean by the term cult.  With regard to his point if the beginnings were inspired by God and directed by the Holy Spirit, I would be happy to affirm that if Mr. Butler would say that God inspired the beginnings of all other religious groups that proclaim truth--including both Christian and non-Christian bodies.

Horace Butler
2012-01-17 6:06 PM

Historical revisionism at work, I see.  Point #1--Contrary to Elaine's assertion, the SDA Church did not predict that Christ would come in 1844, for the simple reason that the SDA Church did not exist until 1863.  Before that it was simply the Advent Movement; Millerites, whatever.

Point # 2--By the dictionary definition of cult, all religions could be considered a cult.  But as the term is used today, in its negative sense, the SDA Church is no more a cult than the Baptist Church.  The People's Temple was a cult; the Branch Davidians were a cult.  They followed a charismatic leader, not the Bible.  Contrary to our detractors, we do not follow Ellen White; we adhere to the Scriptures.  It just so happens that the writings of Ellen White are in harmony with the Bible, although I don't expect Elaine or Mr. Taylor to agree with me.  And, contrary to Mr. Erwin's assertion, Ellen White was not a "self-appointed" leader.  She was put to the test by the leaders of the Advent Movement, before her visions were accepted as legitimate.

Joe Erwin
2012-01-17 5:26 PM

I have just read a number of lists of the characteristics of cults. Most of the characteristics apply to the SDA organization--especially in its early forms with EGW as the self-appointed charismatic leader. One interesting, and probably universal characteristic, is that members of cults do not typically recognize that the organization of which they are a member is actually a cult.

Many religious organizations are, at least, cult-ish. My guess is that some members of "cult-ish" groups are slavishly devoted and unquestioning, while others may not be. The result could be a sort of "mosaic" or "gado-gado" with a spectrum of rigidity.

Ervin Taylor
2012-01-17 6:31 PM

Speaking of "historical revisionism:": "We (SDAs) do not follow Ellen White [as a charismatic leader], we adhere to the Scriptures."  I'm sure that would be news to a lot of Adventists who sayt that one of the unique marks of the "Remnant (i.e., to them, SDA) Church" is the presence of the "Spirit of Prophecy" [i.e. Ellen White] within its ranks.  As Joe has correctly stated, if a disinterested individual first reads a list of the characteristics of "cults" as defined in the sociology of religion literature, and then reads a history of the SDA Church, there would be no question that the SDA Church started out as a cult.  The real question is whether, as a whole, we still are. When one reads the statements of our current Genera Conference president and makes his pronouncements normative for contempoary Adventism or looks at the television programming of 3ABN, or the agenda of the Adventist Theological Society, one might conclude that there has been very little movement away from cult status.  

 


Elaine Nelson
2012-01-17 7:28 PM

Whether it was the official SDA church that predicted Jesus' return in both 1843 and 1844; the church itself relates this prophecy as the beginning of the SDA movement.  Church, or Movement, even the early church did not first call itself a church, but the "way," a branch of Judaism.  Semantics does not change history.

Neither "cult" or sect" is a carefully defined label but most religions first began as a cult--which first was part of  larger body.


Trevor Hammond
2012-01-18 1:13 AM

1] Seventh-day Adventists don’t disassociate ourselves from our faithful Sunday Church brothers and sisters who were part of the Millerite Movement who came out of their churches and accepted the 2300 Year ‘Cleansing of the Sanctuary’ Prophecy.   Its relevance forms part of our prophetic  history denoting  our humble beginnings and the way the Lord has led us and His teaching in our past history.  Many of these Saints returned to their former Sunday churches and a Remnant persevered through a most difficult time to continue their trust in the Word of God as the source of their comfort, guidance and belief.

2] Seventh-day Adventists are orthodox Bible believing Christians who accept Christ as the Head of the Christian Church and His leading through the Holy Spirit in its Administration and Mission.  Mrs. Ellen White and scores of other admirable God-fearing Pioneers were instrumental in establishing what we see today with all the odds stacked against them; but by God’s Grace, Love and Power they were remarkably victorious.  They were Sunday Christians who accepted the Sabbath truth after hearing of it and did so with much study, prayer and through the leading of the Holy Spirit.  I always thought that a cult would be more unorthodox in belief.  So, do all those who display unbelief in the Sabbath and accept Sunday qualify as CULT?  What about the unbiblical teaching of the state of the dead which teaches that the dead ‘live’ after they die?  Theistic Evolution? Is that not CULT?  Traditional Adventists as ‘orthodox’ Bible believers are true Christians and are only accused of being a cult in order to discredit us and deceive the many sincere Christians out there from accepting true Bible based doctrine.

3] In the context of the Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, pp. 131-132
passage where the ‘food for worms’ message is also found, we find her speaking of the condition of God’s people and how unprepared and worldly we are with reference made to dress, lifestyle and behavior.  This seems to be remarkably true when one sees what Cultural Adventism has brought and wrought.  Then too I must make mention her message regarding ‘we have far more to fear from within than from without’ which so aptly describes what the church is currently going through.  (URL Link for the Testimonies for the Church 'food for worms' passage: http://www.ssnet.org/qrtrly/eng/09a/helps/lesshp06.html#t1131)

Joe Erwin
2012-01-18 7:50 AM

There are cult-like aspects to SDA religion, but not everyone goes along with it unquestioningly, as we see here in this blog. For some, the church is not sufficiently cult-like. I guess we all know about the "Shepherd's rod" and "Branch Davidians." I'm sure there were more. Certainly the Millerite movement was very cult-ish.

Of course, this is not at all unique to SDAs. Many, if not most, of the splintered Christian sects and denominations began as cult-like tangents.

There are also secular cults, and even cultish groups within science. Wherever slavish devotion and hero worship occur, there is vulnerability to cultism.

Darrell Corbel
2012-01-18 10:33 AM

From Pagophilus
"Likewise, as I mentioned before, 1798 marks the year when the Papacy ceased to be a power to be reckoned with....The Papacy did fall in 1798 because it was in 1798 that it ceased to rule as a political power. Until then the Pope was above kings and emperors and woe betide anyone who disobeyed him. Ever since 1798 the papacy still lives but no longer has any real authority in this world"

Dr. Samuele Bacchiocchi, one of the church's most famous and ardent SDA apologists, showed the flaws in our traditional interpretation of the 1260 time period.
A. There are historical problems with our beginning and end date
B. The Papacy received a much greater wound from their loss of their papal estates in 1840 then anything Napolean did in 1798.

From www.biblicalperspectives.com Newsletter # 86

"Historically, our Adventist church has interpreted this prophetic period as representing the 1260 years of Papal domination from 538 to 1798. Supposedly the prophetic period of the Antichrist began in 538 when Justinian's general, Belisarius, defeated the Ostrogoths, thus enabling the Pope to regain some of his power. The period terminated in 1798 when Napoleon's general, Bethier, entered Rome with a French army, proclaiming the end to the political rule of the papacy, and taking with him the pope prisoner to France.

This interpretation poses two major problems, which thinking Adventists have long recognized.

The first problem is the questionable significance of 538. We noted earlier that Justinian's triumph over the Ostrogoths in 538 was short lived, because under their new leader, Totila, the Ostrogoths quickly recaptured most of their lost territories. In other words, this event did not significant boost the power of the Papacy, which still faced constant harassments from various rulers for centuries to come.
 

The second problem with the traditional interpretation is its failure to account for the basic meaning of this prophetic period, namely, a time in which God's people are persecuted on the one hand and are protected on the other hand. It is evident that the persecution and protection of the church did not begin in 538 nor did it end in 1798. These are realities that have characterized the whole history of God's church throughout the centuries. Some of the most bloody persecutions by Roman emperors occurred during the first four centuries."


Ervin Taylor
2012-01-18 11:45 AM

If anyone questions that Ellen White in her prime was very aware of how to establsih and solidify her "unique" role within Adventism, just ponder her comment that one of the ways in which to idenify "bad things" and "bad people" happending in the church she helped to found was when her "Testimonies" would be questioned.  This does not mean that Ellen may not have been a legitimate prophetic figure, it just means that she was human.    

Ervin Taylor
2012-01-18 4:50 PM

Just out of curosity, might I ask Timo, what might be, in your view, the intended purpose of her prophecy?

Elaine Nelson
2012-01-18 5:37 PM

Timo, please tell us her prophecies that have aided the church that only she alone provided.  Please tell us how her prophecies about the dangers of wigs, corsets, masturbation, eating cheese and pickles were beneficial to the church.

Where are the doctrines that she alone gave to the church and where is there any of exegeting scripture?  Claims are easy to make; but the proof is in the pudding.  Don't hestitate to enumerate answers to these questions.

Is it possible that the continuing PR barrage about her and promoting her many books; plus liberally quoting her in the SS quarterly and Review have been effective in closing any inquistive minds?  With the many websites informing about her writings and actions, there is no excuse, today, to ignore the reams of history that have exposed her.  Lastly, what "litmus tests" have assured you about her prophecies"?

Horace Butler
2012-01-19 6:38 AM

I'm not sure there's much point in debating or arguing with those who hate the counsel of Ellen White.  They will never be convinced, no matter how compelling the arguments may be.  One can only hope that a "Damascus Road" experience may come their way.

Rudy Good
2012-01-19 12:46 PM

Timo,
I thought Horace's point was rather obvious, but yours is not. Care to explain?

Rudy Good
2012-01-19 1:17 PM

Horace,

I am not convinced that debating and arguing does a lot of good either. But, the implication that "hating Ellen White's counsel" is the problem is probably pretty nieve. I think the real impediment to anyone being persuade by compelling arguments is the prejudice we all bring to any discussion, arugment, or debate. 

I would conclude that those who actually "hate" the counsel of Ellen White probably have a prejudice that stands in the way of reason. However it it is equally prejudiced to presume that people who do not give Ellen White the same authority as you are guilty of "hating her counsel". So, I suspect you are probably guilty of the kind of prejudice that stands in the way of reason.

Also, who gets to decide what is compelling? Anyone who really intends to persuade another must be committed to finding and sharing what is compelling for the other and not for themself. Any other approach reveals another kind of prejudice and presumption.

 

You suggest that some portion of those who do not agree with Ellen White have some ugly emotion, hate, entangled with their view point. I am sure there are such people. But, in my observation and opinion, those who are the most ardent defenders of Ellen White appear to be most often emotionally entangled with issues regarding her legitmacy and authority.


Dennis Hokama
2012-02-28 5:07 PM

I am surprised that in all this discussion and defense ad nauseum of failed Bible prophecy in general, and the embarrassment of 10/22/1844 debacle in particular, that nobody has brought up the Ellen White’s multiple “shut door” visions in defense of that date long after it had failed, as well as her own and F.D. Nichols lies in the General Conference endorsed Ellen White and Her Critics to deny and distort those scandalous visions, long after the fact. All of this has been carefully documented in great detail in Adventist Currents, vol. 1, #4 (AC was arguably the precursor to Adventist Today, a publication with which Erv Taylor was also closely associated) and is accessible online. (I believe posting links is prohibited here, so I will just say that if one looks up the magazine on Wikipedia, the link can be found there to the magazine archives.)

So the problem is not just that Ellen White was wrong in claiming that the 1844 date actually represented the “shut door” (a fulfillment of Matthew 25:10-11) after which probation had closed, and nobody could be saved. This “shut door” period of SDA history lasted approximately from 1845-1852, but that subsequently, both EW and the church engaged in a coverup of her attempt to rationalize it after the fact.    

However, I don’t think SDAs are alone in having this problem, but think it is ubiquitous to Christianity itself. So I still defend SDAs. See my piece in Adventist Today ( “The Puzzle of Evangelical Adventism,” circa 2007) a defense of SDAs against “Proclamation” type Christians who argue that this disqualifies SDA from being Christian.  

Point, game, set, and match goes to Ron Corson, in my opinion.

Joe Erwin
2012-03-01 6:35 PM

This just an off topic note to say hello to Dennis. We communicated a bit a few years ago. It is nice to see you here Dennis. Thank you for your sensible comments.

Horace Butler
2012-02-28 8:11 PM

Bible prophecy has never failed, and 1844 is only an embarrassment to those who have rejected it.

Kevin Riley
2012-02-28 9:41 PM

That depends what you mean by 1844.  It is not actually mentioned in the Bible, so as such we cannot say the Bible has 'failed'.  William Miller's understanding that Jesus would return in 1844 obviously was not correct, and in that respect has 'failed'.  The SDA understanding of what happend in 1844 is not possible to verify, so talking of 'failure' is a bit meaningless.  Is it possible to read the Bible in such a way that you arrive at the SDA understanding of 1844?  I would say 'yes'.  Is it the best way?  That is a different matter, and it is obvious that opinion is divided even within the church.  Ellen White's understanding that in 1844 a door was shut does seem to be wrong, although she changed her view about what the 'door' was, so that complicates matters.  Her denial remains a problem for those who argue for her infallibilty.  I suspect without the issue of infallibility her occasional mistake would cause embarassment for very few SDAs.  I actually find the church's compulsion to find any explanation to any event rather than admit 'we were wrong' embarrassing.  The church has never claimed infallibity, so why try to hide what we all know: the church and its leaders are human and subject to making errors.

pagophilus
2012-02-29 5:59 AM

Kevin, Ellen White was not infallible but the Spirit which guided her as a prophet and spoke through her was the same infallible Spirit which guided and spoke through Peter and Paul and other Bible writers. She may have had faulty beliefs about some things, and she may have not understood some things. This does not make her any less a prophet, nor does it diminish the authority of her writings. In the same way, Peter's lack of understanding of Christ's ministry and purpose during most of his time with Christ, and his headstrong, reactionary attitude in no way reduces the truth and authority of his writings in the New Testament.

If you find 1844 embarrasing, you obviously haven't seen the mountains of evidence, both from the Bible and from history, for the key dates in Adventist prophetic exposition: 508, 538, 1798, 1843, and plenty of Biblical evidence for an investigative judgment which began in 1844 (obviously no historical evidence for that one as the event in question took place in heaven and not here). The evidence is there, and there is plenty of it. There is no embarrassment, just as there should be no embarrassment over the traditional interpretation of 666 - Vicarius Filii Dei. There are mountains of evidence for that one too - and the revised exaplanation does not hold water when you look at what the Bible actually says.

No, Adventist prophetic interpretation is on solid ground. Rock-solid.

Kevin Riley
2012-03-01 7:54 PM

I admire your faith.  I have spent way too much time wading through SDA history to share it.  Unless your reference to 'rock solid' is to Jesus, in which case I will only say "AMEN!"  If it is to SDA interpretation, the problem is that too much is unverifiable.  We claim dates match texts, but there really is no way to verify that.  For the central dates of Jesus' birth and death, very few scholars are prepared to agree with us that our dates are beyond doubt.  If we are wrong on those, everything else falls.  Even SDA scholars admit to doubts about the historical evidence, so I am not sure where you are getting these 'mountains of evidence'.  I am unconvinced by the argument that the dates may not be 'significant' historically (and most aren't), but they are 'prophetically'.  And just which version of the Investigative Judgement do you find 'rock solid'?  If you mean our current consensus that 'there is a pre-advent judgement, but we won't argue over the dertails' then I agree with you, but let's not pretend that is what our pioneers had in mind.

I didn't say I found 1844 embarrasing.  I said I found it embarrassing that the church turns somersaults to avoid saying 'we were wrong'.  I have heard SDA speakers say William Miller was 'mistaken' in what he believed would happen in 1844, but he was not 'wrong'.  It didn't happen.  He was wrong.  Yes, he made a mistake, but he was still wrong.  We were wrong, not just mistaken, when we insisted Ellen White did not copy anything.  We were wrong when we said everything she said is also in the Bible - it isn't.  We were wrong when we chose not to tell the members how she actually worked at composing her books and letters.  We were wrong when we said she did not contradict herself in more than one place.  We were wrong to publish a photo of a tiara with 'Vicarius Filii Dei' written on it, as there is no evidence that it ever existed.  That the Pope may have used or been addressed by that title, or something similar, does not excuse the lie we told, especially when those who told it were aware that it most probably was a lie.  We would have a much happier history (and future) if we had learnt long ago that "is it right?" is a much better question to ask than "will it work?" or even "is it necessary?".

I believe the SDA church was raised to do a work for God.  I believe God used Ellen White to start and to guide this church.  I do not believe the lies, the half-truths, and the silences that amount to lies in practice, were or are necessary.  They are convenient in the short term, but that is not the criteria we should use to judge our actions or those of our forebears. I can respect them and often understand the course of action they took, and even at times forgive them for it, but when they were wrong, we should just admit it.  It is time to get over our illusions of infallibity.  There is enough truth in the SDA church for it, and us, to stand on that without resorting to creativity when it comes to telling the truth.

Horace Butler
2012-03-01 8:38 PM

How much in life is truly verifiable?  That's where faith comes in.  Faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen--not the proof of things not seen.  If everything is as uncertain as you present it, then there isn't much reason to believe that the Bible is divine rather than human in origin, or to belong to the SDA Church, rather than any other church.  I'm with pagophilus on this.  There is more than enough evidence to convince me that our dating methods and eschatology are on a firm foundation.  I'm not sure who these "scholars" are who are unsure about our dates.  Others have found them to be sound.  I grew up in the SDA Church and I never heard anyone deny that Miller was wrong about the event.  But no one will say that he was wrong about the date, because that's where the evidence leads.

Sinch much of ancient history seems to be unverifiable by your standards (no video of the events; no recordings--ah, but even if we had them, they could have been falsified), I'm not sure how we can be sure of anything beyond the range of our eyes and ears.

Kevin Riley
2012-03-01 10:05 PM

I don't demand a lot of evidence.  I am a social scientist, not a scientist :)  When the Bible says Jesus was born during the governorship of Quirinius, and we find a record that Quirinius was governor of Syria, I accept the Bible record is correct.  When it says Herod was king of Judea, I accept that history agrees with that.  When I discover Quirinius was not governor in 3 BC, and Herod died in 4 BC, I believe I have reason to question our assertion that history 'proves' Jesus was born in 3 AD, started his ministry in 27 AD, and died in 30 AD.  I don't find that most historians accept our dates at all.  When historians asssert that nothing special happened on the dates we give for the rise and fall of the Papacy, or the 'end' of the Ottoman Empire, and our own scholars cannot point to any significant event either, then I start to wonder if we may not have been mistaken.  That we cannot find any single decree in history or the Bible that we can claim fulfills the 'decree to restore and to rebuild Jerusalem' makes me wonder how we can be so sure that it took place in 457BC.  We may be correct in our dates, but we are not correct in claiming that those dates are generally supported by historians.

Horace Butler
2012-03-02 8:27 AM

Where did you get those dates?  The dates that I usually encounter are those that place Jesus' birth in approximately 4 or 5 BC, and His ministry's beginning about 27 AD (when He was "about" 30 years old, and the crucifixion in 31 AD.  The fact is that either Daniel's prophecy pinpoints the beginning of Messiah's ministry or it does not.  If it does not, then we are left wondering what to do with the Bible, since fulfilled prophecy is one of the best evidences that the Bible is divine, rather than human, in origin.  Our dates fit within a plausible time frame, one that is in agreement with the prophecies of Daniel.

Historians are like politicians.  They don't all agree.  Because some don't see any significant events occurring around the dates of 538 or 1798, doesn't mean that those dates aren’t valid.  Again, they fit within the time frame specified by the prophecy.  Even the SDA Bible Commentary suggests that some of the dates are approximate, since historical trends (rise and fall of papacy, for example) don't always fit a precise date, like July 4, 1776.

One more point, relating to your earlier post.  As I said earlier, I've been in the SDA Church my entire life (I remember the launch of Sputnik, so I'm not a youngster), and I've never heard a Bible teacher or preacher say that everything Ellen White wrote was in the Bible.  What I've heard is that nothing she wrote is out of harmony with the Bible; that it amplifies and fills in some of the blanks.  And having read a significant portion of her writings, I've still found anything that contradicted Biblical truth.  Her detractors will disagree with me, of course, but so be it.

Kevin Riley
2012-03-02 8:50 PM

You need to listen to evangelists more :)  The emphasis is that Jesus came 'right on time, exactly when predicted'.  They don't deal in 'abouts'.  For evangelists, all dates are exact.  If we said they were roughly approximate dates I would not disagree.  I believe that our basic approach to prophecy is correct, and, at least when it comes to past events, that we are not doing too badly.  But it seems that the more objections are made, the more our apologists (at least of the popular variety) want to inists we are, as laffal said above 'rock solid' on the events and on the dates.  If theologians were the public face of the church, I would have very little disagree with, but it is often popular evangelists (usingf the term somewhat loosely) who are listened to by church members, and responded to by critics.  As all dates are past, I don't see any practical reason to be concerned about them being approximate.  It seems certain that no Jewish group dated the Day of Atonement to October 22 in 1844.  But, unless our calculations are more than 170 years out, the event referred to in the 2300 day prophecy (if we have the interpretation correct) is in the past.  With the birth of Jesus, we are looking at only a few years of doubt.  No one dates his birth before 10BC or after 10AD.  I personally don't believe the dates are the focus, but I know many disagree.  If you read my original response, my concern was with our absolute certainty, not with our general beliefs.  We have changed our minds on so many things that to claim that the pioneers were absolutely right is also to claim that we are in error on numerous issues.  I believe a little more humility in our claims for both our pioneers and ourselves would help us to gain a hearing from both critics and doubters within the church.  There are, after all, reasons both to question and to doubt.

John
2012-09-03 5:46 PM

Nice exposure of a very important topic Ron. In all honesty, I think that in some pulpits the writings of Ellen G White are being regarded as the Word of God. I feel uncomfortable of accepting that because it goes against the principles of sola scriptura. Although I consider myself an adventist, and I believe in the second coming of Jesus, I think that those preachings are dangerous. There is inspiration and guidance in some of her writings. I see her more as a inspired christian writer. I think people have lost perspective. I believe in the 10 commandments, I believe in the second coming of Christ. I think the real awakening that should happen in the Church is to continue to emphasize more in the Bible and less in supplementary books, which gave origin to the movement but focus more in what the 
Bible really teaches. Is good to know our church history, but not to elevate EGW at the level of a biblical prophet. 

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