Testing prophets

Distinguishing between true and false prophets

Editor of website
Dr. P.W. Coetser

Testing Prophets

In this blog post Dr. Paul summarizes Chapter 7: Testing Prophets of G. Bradford’s book: More than a Prophet. For the most part the contents of this post is a verbatim summary of Bradford’s chapter and is therefore printed in italics. Where paragraphs or sections have been omitted for the sake of brevity the ellipsis mark:  … is inserted. Testing Prophets can be read online.

This blog is a partial response to the first chapter of Brian Neumann’s book: The White Elephant in which he (Neumann) sets out to prove that Ellen White is a false prophet. We, the editors of the Adventist Soapbox, believe that Bradford’s study on the criteria for testing a prophet is based on a ‘better’ scriptural hermeneutic than that of Neumann and is thus worthy of serious consideration in the dialogue around the prophetic ministry of Ellen White.


Testing Prophets

This is a complex subject. And some of the complexities are shown in the story of two prophets found in 1 Kings 13:1-32. Here, a true prophet courageously makes a prediction before a wicked king who seeks to harm him, but God works a miracle to save his life. On the way home he meets an older prophet who lies to deceive him into coming to his house for a meal. The younger prophet goes against what God had clearly instructed him. While at the meal the older prophet, now under the Spirit of God, makes a prophecy regarding the death of the younger prophet who has disobeyed God. That prediction comes to pass when the younger prophet is killed by a lion. The older prophet appears to be remorseful and gathers the body for burial.

This is a puzzling and disturbing story that breaks many of the rules we would think should operate regarding the judging of a prophet to be true or false. The older prophet speaks both lies and, as well, gives a true prophecy described as the “word of the Lord.” The younger prophet gives a true prophecy, but is deceived into disobedience and loses his life. It teaches, as does the story of Balaam, that someone may have been a true prophet and yet become a false or apostate prophet.

How Not to Judge a Prophet

How then shall we judge a true prophet from a false prophet? First, Let us consider how not to judge a true prophet.

Not by physical manifestations

Daniel experienced loss of strength (Daniel 10:8), he did not breathe (Daniel 10:17) and he was given extra strength (Daniel 10:18-19). But it is well known that these experiences can be found in the occult as well as in biblical prophets; therefore the Bible never sets them up as a means of testing true prophets from false. …

… the physical experiences and claims of the prophets of Israel were not unlike those of nations around them who claimed to have contact with their own peculiar deities. Both true and false prophets can have many of the same physical manifestations. No doubt they often did as there would be an expectation by the people as to how a prophet should act. Acting against expectations could lead to rejection.

In the New Testament concept of prophecy, Paul’s statement in 1 Corinthians 14: 32 that “the spirits of the prophets are subject to the control of the prophets” makes the point that true prophets are rational and under control as they prophesy. We would not expect them to be acting as did the pagans in their irrational behaviour. While prophets may have visions in an ecstatic state, they were to declare them in a rational manner.

Not by prophecies coming to pass in isolation from other factors

Jeremiah 28:9 is often quoted regarding the need for prophecies to come to pass in order to tell a true prophet from a false prophet. Is this the right passage of Scripture to use? It deserves close consideration: “The prophet who prophecies peace will be recognised as one truly sent by the Lord only if his prediction comes true.”

The context of this passage is of a prophetic contest between Jeremiah and Hananiah. Hananiah says there will be peace for Jerusalem and Judah; while Jeremiah says the Babylonians will come and destroy the city of Jerusalem, and the Kingdom of Judah will fall. Jeremiah responds by saying that if Hananiah’s prophecy of peace comes to pass then they will know that God has spoken through him. In other words, this is a specific situation being addressed. It ought not to be used as a blanket statement regarding testing prophets if they are true or false on a basis of whether what they say comes to pass.

Deuteronomy 13:1-5 shows why this can be dangerous, and gives a more complete picture regarding fulfillment of prediction as a test. “If a prophet, or one who foretells by dreams, appears among you and announces to you a miraculous sign or a wonder, and if the sign or wonder of which he has spoken takes place, and he says, ‘Let us follow other gods’ (gods you have not known) and ‘let us worship them,’ you must not listen to the words of that prophet or dreamer. . . . That prophet or dreamer must be put to death, because he preached rebellion against the Lord your God. . .”

This passage warns that if a miraculous sign or wonder takes place as foretold by a prophet, this is not of itself sufficient to say that that prophet is of God. False prophets, may, at times, predict events that come to pass. We see this through the powers operating within the occult. Evil angels can work through human agencies to foretell the future with greater accuracy than humans left to themselves. This passage tells us that the prophet must also teach us to worship the One True God and give obedience to Him. …

Sometimes when prophecies are given by true prophets there are conditions to be met in order for the prophecy to come to pass. In giving the prophecy there may be built in safeguards that can be difficult to detect at first. For example, Paul appeared to give people in his age the hope that Christ would return in their time. That is, while the present generation was still living. He wrote to the Thessalonians and Corinthians: “According to the Lord’s own word, we tell you that we who are still alive, who are left till the coming of the Lord, will certainly not precede those who have fallen asleep. . . . After that, we who are still alive and are left will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air . . . .” (1 Thessalonians 4:15-17, emphasis added). “Listen, I tell you a mystery: We will not all sleep, but we will all be changed” (1 Corinthians 15:51, emphasis added).

To the first readers and hearers it would appear to be quite clear that Paul was promising them that some would live through to see Christ come. Certainly that is how the Thessalonians understood him as some began to stop working because they felt the coming of Christ was so near. Paul rebuked them for this in his second letter where he appears to modify his earlier statement to suggest the coming of Christ may still be further down the track because the “man of sin” must first arise to do his anti-Christian work….

Not by inerrancy of lifestyle

Although godliness was the usual direction of their lives, we do see the best of prophets stumbling and falling at times. We should be careful not to judge them on their worst times, which may be fleeting compared to the overwhelming amount of their lives which were godly. Note these: Abraham (the first person ever to be called a prophet) denied Sarah was his wife and told the half-truth that she was his sister (Genesis 12: 10-20). Samuel deceived Saul into thinking he was going out to make a sacrifice when in reality he was going out to anoint David as king (1 Samuel 16:2). David lied to the High Priest to get the consecrated bread (1 Samuel 21:1-9). He was also a mass murderer and an adulterer. Jeremiah lied to the people at the king’s suggestion (Jeremiah 38:24-29)…

In the New Testament, Peter is led astray in his judgment by the Judaisers and withdrew from eating with Gentiles. He was later rebuked by Paul for denying “the truth of the gospel” (Galatians 2: 11-14). Earlier, though, he had been given a vision to show that all people were equal in the sight of God (Acts 10:9-48). After realising the significance of the vision and declaring it to others he later fails to live by what had been revealed to him and what he had proclaimed to others.

Paul had a sharp disagreement with Barnabas about the future ministry of Mark. He did not think him worthy to go with him on his next missionary journey and they parted company. Paul went with Silas and Barnabas took Mark with him. Subsequent events showed that Barnabas showed better judgment than Paul. Mark performed well when given the chance (Acts 15:36-41).

We must recognise that prophets are human, like the rest of us. They can make mistakes. They can follow poor advice. They can misjudge a situation. They can be discouraged and irritable. They may be well informed in some areas and not so in other areas. Even prophets used mightily by God are still very human. The danger is that we may expect them to have the perfection we see in Christ. The truth is that no one has lived as He lived. If they fail at times it does not make them false prophets because of their lapses.

How Then Shall We Judge Prophets?

Regarding Old Testament prophets, Craig Evans has some helpful advice: “The difference lay in their hermeneutics. The false prophets and other ‘official theologians’ (that is, the priests and wise men) maintained a hermenutic of continuity. That is, after reviewing Israel’s sacred traditions, they were convinced that the God of Israel who had bought His people out of the land of slavery and into the land of promise would surely preserve His people in that land. If Yahweh had the power to humble mighty Pharaoh, deliver Canaan into Israel’s hands and enable David to capture and establish Jerusalem as the holy city, then Yahweh could always be expected to crush Israel’s enemies in her hour of need. . . . despite Israel’s sin God still remains gracious. . . . It induced the belief that Yahweh was God only of the Hebrews and never of the enemy. Thus the official theologians attempted to limit, localize, and domesticate God for the immediate and short range interests of Israel. Such a hermeneutic sought to manipulate God: ‘if we do this then He must do that.’ If Israel got into trouble then repentance and reform obligated Yahweh to straighten things out. The false prophet’s messages of reassurance which were sweet to the ears—failed to inform Israel prophetically. When crushing events unfolded, the words of these prophets were found to be false. Their messages had failed to explain to Israel who her God was and what He was like. History had judged their hermeneutic to be false….

How could a king—sitting on his throne, with two sets of prophets speaking entirely different messages—determine who was speaking on behalf of God? The answer was to be found in the fact that the false prophets offered prosperity without repentance. They preached the gospel without the law. The writings of the true prophets are full of complaint against them. For example Jeremiah complained, “From the least to the greatest, all are greedy for gain; prophets and priests alike, all practice deceit. They dress the wound of my people as though it were not serious. ‘Peace, peace,’ they say when there is no peace” (Jeremiah 6:13-14).

True prophets stressed that God’s people had to turn from their evil ways or face the consequences. They preached “repent or perish” (Ezekiel 14:6; 18:30). As such they were the guardians of the covenant God had made with Israel. They were there to remind Israel of the promised blessings, which come from obedience and the curses that had been promised from disobedience.

In New Testament times the classic test of a true prophet is the statement made by Jesus: “Watch out for false prophets. They come to you in sheep’s clothing, but inwardly they are ferocious wolves. By their fruit you will recognize them. . . . Not everyone who says to me, ‘Lord, Lord’, will enter the kingdom of heaven, but only he who does the will of my Father who is in heaven. Many will say to me on that day, ‘Lord, Lord, did we not prophesy in your name, and in your name drive out demons and perform miracles?’ Then I will tell them plainly, ‘I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers!'” (Matthew 7:15)

This passage of Scripture is of vital importance to testing true prophets from false. Here Jesus Himself lays down clear criteria. It is not by laying claim to working in the name of Jesus. It is not by miraculous manifestations whether that may be the physical manifestations accompanying the prophet’s work. It is not by driving out demons.

The real test is that of obedience. Verse 23 says, literally, “Depart from me the [ones] working lawlessness.” The word translated “lawlessness” is anomia. Nomia means “lawfulness” and an “a” before a word in Greek means “against.” It is the equivalent of “un” in English and reverses the meaning of an adjective. So the word literally means “against the law” or “unlawfulness”.

True prophets will uphold obedience to God’s law both in their lives and in the lives of others. Jesus illustrates this when He states in verses 24-27 that it was the wise man who built his house on the rock. He obeyed the words of Jesus. It was the foolish man who built his house on the sand and lost it. He was foolish because he did not obey the words of Christ.

When prophesying of the coming of the day of the Lord, Peter states another important work of prophets with the challenge to live holy lives. “Since everything will be destroyed in this way, what kind of people ought you to be? You ought to live holy and godly lives as you look forward to the day of God and speed its coming” (2 Peter 3:11-12).

Paul provides some additional ideas on how to test true prophecy from false when he addressed the church in Corinth.

  1. First he says they can not be true prophets if they cried out, “Jesus be cursed!” (1 Corinthians 12:3).
  2. Second, true prophecy will edify and build up the community of believers (1 Corinthians 14:4, 31).
  3. For John the test was that the prophet must acknowledge that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh (1 John 4:1-3).
  4. For both Paul and John the important test for a prophet can vary according to the local situation and the issues being faced.

The great test to be applied to prophets, to determine if they are true or false is: Do they call us to worship the true God and give obedience to his laws by living a holy life? If we have erred from the faith they will call us to repent and give obedience to God’s Word. They will call us away from false worship. This puts the test within the understanding of the educated and the uneducated alike.

And for Paul, anyone claiming they are from God will preach the true gospel. Even if they are an angel from heaven, if they preach not the true gospel they should be eternally condemned (Galatians 1: 6-11). The gospel Paul claimed was revealed to him by direct revelation is spelt out by him: “Christ died for our sins according to the Scriptures, that he was buried, that he was raised on the third day according to the Scriptures. . . .” (1 Corinthians 15:3-4).


Please feel free to participate in the dialogue

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Blogging Through “The White Elephant” No.3

Rethinking standards for testing prophets

Author of the four gospels
Ps. Weiers Coetser
Devil's Advocate
Devil’s Advocate

 

 

Paul Coetser: Co-editor and Devil’s Advocate

 

 

 

Weiers is a pastor in Northern Ireland and co-editor of the Adventist Soapbox website and blog.


We’re blogging our way through Brian Neumann’s book, The White Elephant in Adventism. In a previous post, Weiers was pondering the bigger interpretive context of the debate. Today he asks some questions about the assumptions that underlie Brian Neumann’s standards for testing prophets in Chapter One: The Standard, (pages 37 to 58).


Brian spent many years of his life as an Adventist evangelist. Chapter One: The Standard, brings out his evangelistic colors beautifully. I can see him standing on a stage, hardly taking a breath before he launches into his presentation with gusto and persuasive power.

The task that he sets out to accomplish is to establish a standard by which one could evaluate the work of any extra-biblical prophet. It comes as no surprise that he expects any prophetic claim to be measured by the strictest Scriptural standard.  

He lists four of these standards:

“[1]The aspects of the physical signs while in vision; [2] the example of the prophet’s life (integrity etc.), [3] whether their teaching is in accord with the ‘law and the testimony’/the scriptures (Isaiah 8:20) and [4] whether their work truly edified and brought about unity of faith, all need to be examined.”

He invites his readers to study these prophets in depth in order to establish how the prophetic gift manifests itself. After discussing the prophetic ministry of a number of Biblical prophets, he refers to the fact that prophets could lose their way with God (p.40), and he states: “No doubt for this very reason, God gave specific tests that the calling and labour of those who claimed to be speaking on God’s behalf could be verified and tested.” He goes on to state that these tests would apply to all who profess to be a prophet, including modern day prophets.

A statement like this always makes me sit upright and pay attention. It comes across as very authoritative and clear cut. The implication is that the Bible has been written and put together with the purpose of helping us make a decision on the veracity or authenticity of any prophet, and especially Ellen White, a 19th century prophet who lived nearly 2000 years later.

I do not object to applying Biblical principles, to evaluate a prophetic ministry, but I do want to challenge the way in which Brian chooses these principles and attempts to make it appear that it was hard coded into the Bible from the beginning.

Let’s look at the texts that he quotes one after another to make his argument:

  • Isaiah 8:20 in the KJV says “To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

This is the main text that Brian repeatedly refers to as a key text to evaluate the prophetic ministry of Ellen White. I want to evaluate if this text is really such a sound text to use for this purpose.

There is an important principle in Biblical interpretation that demands that we should always interpret a text within the larger textual context that it appears in.

The context of this text (the whole of Isaiah Chapter 8) is that Isaiah was bringing a message that was quite unpopular to his audience at the time. It was a radical message of judgement and destruction. At the beginning of the chapter, the Lord tells Isaiah to write his prophecy in a large scroll (vs 1). Isaiah takes two witnesses and he begins to write the prophecy of doom (vs 2).

It might have taken some time to write this prophecy. In the process Isaiah even conceived a child with his wife and gave the child a name that conveyed this judgement, saying that before the child could call his father’s name, the destruction would have arrived upon Israel (vs 3,4). (John Calvin’s commentary on this text speculates that it did not really happen, but that the birth of the child and the naming of the child might have been a vision that God had given to Isaiah for illustrative purposes.)

The prophecy continues with several more warnings and pronouncements.

In verse Isaiah 8:16, Isaiah then commands that this prophecy that has now been written on a scroll needs to be sealed up: “ Bind up the testimony, seal the law among my disciples” (KJV).  Isaiah repeats the fact that he and his child are the signs of what God’s plans are for Israel (vs 18.).

He then warns against consulting false gods and spirits who might bring alternative soothing messages. (Isaiah 8:19). The translation of these verses are quite difficult because at least one of the words in these verses don’t appear in its particular form anywhere else in the Bible.

Modern translations of the Bible, like the New Revised Standard version actually says:

19 Now if people say to you, “Consult the ghosts and the familiar spirits that chirp and mutter; should not a people consult their gods, the dead on behalf of the living, 20 for teaching and for instruction?” surely, those who speak like this will have no dawn! .

The King James translation says “20 To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word, it is because there is no light in them.”

It seems clear to me that Isaiah is saying in this text that it is his message, his testimony, that is authoritative, and it would be wrong to follow any alternative prophecy. His prophecy comes from God. Whichever translation one chooses to use, it is doubtful that this verse sets up a test that is relevant for all prophets and that this test refers to the whole of scripture.

I think we do the text a disservice if we pull it out of its original context and then apply it for our own purposes in an argument that the original text never envisioned. It also makes the case that we are trying to build a little less secure.

I would challenge Brian and his readers to also re-study the other texts that he lists in that same section.

  • Brian refers to Luke 24:44 to show that Jesus advocated adherence to the writings of the Old Testament as a test for the authenticity of a prophet. But when we read Luke 24:44 in context it becomes clear that Jesus is merely saying that He (Jesus) is the the fulfillment of Old Testament prophecy. There is no suggestion that he implies in his words a standard for testing a prophet.
  • Isaiah 28:10 is quoted to prove that a prophet needs to be true to the whole Bible. 

“For precept must be upon precept, precept upon precept; line upon line, line upon line; here a little, and there a little” (KJV)

 But when one studies the chapter carefully and reads the commentaries one finds that most everybody agrees that Isaiah 28:9 and 10 is in fact a mocking mimicry of the people of Ephraim upon whom a judgement is being spoken. Adventist apologists have for years mistakenly used this verse out of context to prove that the Bible needs to be read as a whole.

  • Deuteronomy 19:15 is the next verse in Brian’s arsenal of proof texts. This verse demands that there must be three witnesses to bring evidence against an accused in order for him to be found guilty. Brian once again takes this verse out of its context to prove what he wants it to say. In the way Brian uses it, it is no longer a person who witnesses in a trial, but Scripture that must become proof or evidence for a prophet’s claims.

I think there are sufficient grounds here to step back and re-evaluate whether we agree with where Brian might be heading. If his proofs for a prophet are based on inadequate evidence, they become assumptions and there is a very real danger that he might come to the wrong conclusion when he begins to evaluate a prophet’s work based on these assumptions.

In this first chapter, Brian rightly argues that those who supported Ellen White’s ministry from the start used many of these same tests for a prophet to defend her ministry.

As the chapter continues Brian modifies his list of tests for a prophet slightly (compared to the first list). He wants a prophet to:

  1. Agree with Scripture, be
  2. Accurate in predictions, and
  3. The physical phenomena associated with receiving visions should be similar to the experiences of Biblical prophets. (He does seem to give a hint that he disagrees with this test, but this is not yet explicitly clear in this chapter. He uses eight pages to explore what the Bible says about prophets’ experiences in vision.)

Right now I am not taking issue with these items. However, I am skeptical of a methodology that is based on a proof text method.

I think that item one: “Agreeing with Scripture” needs to be developed on a more careful and nuanced Biblical foundation. It seems to me that we need a more complete theology of the function and role of Biblical prophets rather than to reduce their work to prediction of the future, or seeing visions, or even holding them to a narrow view of how to interpret scripture.

I therefore ask the question: At the end of this chapter – has Brian really succeeded in defining trustworthy and dependable standards for testing prophets by which we can or should evaluate the prophetic ministry of Ellen White? 

I am also concerned with what might be left out of the list, that should possibly also be included.

I hope to explore this concern further  in a future blog.


Commenting on standards for testing a prophet
Devil’s Advocate

Weiers, I agree essentially with your assessment of Brian’s arguments. One should keep in mind that this is the introductory chapter of a book in which Brian sets out to “prove” that Ellen White is a false prophet. Brian claims here that he will be ‘objective’ and that he will apply his standards for testing a prophet strictly according to Scriptural principles. I am troubled, however, by his ‘hermeneutic’. It seems quite evident to me that at the foundation of his arguments lies a very ‘verbal’ view of Biblical inspiration. This, in my opinion, does not build confidence with regard to ‘evidences’ that he may present in future chapters. Let me point the reader to another blog on this website where the same topic is being discussed but with a much ‘healthier’ foundational hermeneutic.


Update:

Brian Neumann wrote a response to this blog post. When he published it, we had already started work on Blog 4 and 5. We will however soon reflect on Brian’s response.

In the meantime we link to the document below:

Response to No. 3 by brianneumann on Scribd


We invite you to share your views on this topic in the ‘comments’ block below or on our Facebook page. Please remember to “like” our page and to share this article with any of your friends who may also be interested in an review and assessment of Brian Neumann’s “The White Elephant”.

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Adventist Church responds to Quebec Shooting

Editor: Mosque shooting in Quebec
Dr. P.W. Coetser – Editor
Mosque shooting in Quebec
Pastor Weiers Coetser – Editor

 

 

 

 

 

 


Mosque shooting in Quebec

The North American Division, which represents the Seventh-day Adventist Church in the United States and Canada, issued a statement decrying the mosque shooting in Quebec. That statement is printed below in its entirety.

1-30-17 The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada Issues Statement After Mosque Shooting in Québec


The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada joins citizens across our nation in mourning the loss of six innocent lives in the senseless killings that occurred on Sunday evening at the Mosque in Québec City, Québec. We extend our deepest condolences to the families of each victim, continuing to keep them in our prayers. We are heartbroken that a space of safety, security, and peace for many has been violated.

The Seventh-day Adventist Church in Canada affirms that there is no place for hatred of a person’s race or religion, as well as the actions that are based on this hatred. We believe that God has called us to love all of our neighbours equally, regardless of race, gender, religion, or lifestyle. Therefore, we stand with the people of Quebec and with the people across Canada that will continue to daily demonstrate a spirit of love, compassion, and peace in midst of such sadness and despair.

We pray for the day when all people of all races, genders, religions, and lifestyles can live their lives without fear or hatred. We encourage the members of the Seventh-day Adventist Church to embody the character of Jesus by demonstrating the love and compassion He exemplified. “Blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God” (Matthew 5:9, NIV).


The world has been shocked time and again by senseless killings of Christians by extremist Muslims. This time an extremist “Christian” senselessly killed Muslim worshipers in their mosque. The first “natural” response of Christians would be: “Tit for tat”, “Now it is their turn, serves them right!” Is this an appropriate response?

Weiers Reflects:

Media coverage over many decades has conditioned us to stereotype followers of Islam within a framework of intolerance and terrorism. I think in the process we do a great injustice to vast numbers of peace-loving, hospitable, community minded people who have no interest in violence or promulgating sectarian views of their religion.

In the last few months I’ve determined to try not to get caught up in the polarising debates in the media, but to get to know individual people of the Muslim faith and to be a friend to them. In the process my world has become enriched: The friendly conversation with the Turkish barber who enjoys watching football, the retired medical doctor who now serves as Imam in a local mosque, looking after students who travel from around the world to attend university in a country where the practice of Islam has to be almost invisible in order to keep peace; the eccentric lady from Oklahoma who converted to Islam and now finds herself through a series of circumstances that I have not been able to understand in my community in the North of Ireland, living out her faith in a unique and meaningful way.  We’ve shared meals, traded banter, listened to each other’s stories, and generally revelled in hearty, humanising friendship. I pay tribute to my friends, who are different from me in so many ways, but who enrich my life so much.

In the end I think a more tolerant and peaceful world can only be built, one building block at a time through real friendship, tolerance and human interaction. This is something we all can do.

Please share your opinion in the comment box below, or on our Facebook page. Please remember to “Like” our page. Editors

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Faithful Dissenters: a guest post by Reinder Bruinsma

Is it possible to dissent from some Church doctrine and still be a loyal Adventist?

Reinder Bruinsma, author of the blog faithful dissenters
Reinder Bruinsma

Faithful Dissenters

Reinder Bruinsma may be retired as far as career goes, but at 74, this former pastor, teacher, and high-ranking administrator has viewed retirement as freedom to double down on what he loves most. He preaches, writes books, translates scholarly tomes, and from time to time, joins his local hiking club for a 10-mile hike along the canals. And when he is not doing that, he will be lecturing or presenting papers at conferences in his own country and all over Europe. He and his wife Aafje live in The Netherlands where people know how to pronounce his name.

Faithful dissenters

Once in a while I stand before one of my book cases and see a book that I only vaguely remember buying and reading. It happened a few days ago when my eye fell on a book published in 2000 by the progressive Roman Catholic publisher, Orbis books: Faithful Dissenters: Stories of Men and Women who Loved and Changed the Church, by Robert McGlory.  The author provides short biographies of people as diverse as Catherine of Siena and Yves Congar, and as different from each other as Cardinal John Court Courtnay was from Hildegard von Bingen.

Retrieving the book from the shelf, and glancing through it, I saw that I must have read it quite thoroughly, for words and phrases throughout the book were marked in my usual (according to my wife: very sloppy) way. As I re-read some sections, my memory was gradually awakened and it came back to me how much I had enjoyed reading this book and how it had inspired me.

The stories by Mr. McGlory, (at the time of his writing an associate professor of journalism at Northwestern University in Evanston, IL.) are all about men and women who were courageous enough to openly distance themselves from certain church doctrines or interpretations thereof, and to put the spotlight on ecclesial structures that they felt were no longer relevant or were pushing the church in a wrong direction. But they had something else in common. They had not turned their back on their church. They continued to love their church and to be faithful to it, even when the church did not love them and gave them a rough time.

In the book’s introduction the author poses a number of probing questions (p. 2):

  • Is it possible that long-accepted traditions or interpretations of the Sacred Scriptures may be an erroneous expression of God’s design, or does the Church’s stamp of approval guarantee the truth?
  • Does the obligation of obedience to legitimate Church authority always take precedence over innovative response in certain situations, or is there room for exception?
  • Is the non-acceptance of Church doctrine by a great number of Catholics over a long period of time a sure sign of rampant infidelity, or is it a call for reconsideration by Church authority?
  • Is dissent by its very nature disruptive of good order, or are there situations when it creates a greater good?

Faithful dissenters in an Adventist context

Now, more than perhaps when I first read these words more than ten years ago, these questions that were written in a Roman Catholic context, also seem totally applicable to the Seventh-day Adventist situation. I suggest that you read the above questions once again and now think of Adventism and consider the questions many Adventist believers are currently asking with respect to their church. Surely these words could also have been written with the Adventist context in mind.

Last night I re-read the chapter about Yves Congar—one of the ‘faithful dissenters.’ Congar (1904-1995) was a French Dominican friar—a famous priest, theologian, and promoter of ecumenism, at a time that his church wanted to stay far away from the growing ecumenical enthusiasm in the Christian world. Several of his books were officially denounced by the Catholic authorities. His support in the 1950s for the priest-worker movement in France, and many of his other ideas, were not appreciated. For many years he was not allowed to preach or teach. In his later years he was, however, rehabilitated and a year before his death he was even made a cardinal. But most of his life he could be characterized as a ‘faithful dissenter’.

The two great temptations

In one of his early books, Yves Congar wrote of the two great temptations confronting the Church in every age (p. 124):

  1. Absolutizing religious rules and regulations rather than serving the spiritual and pastoral needs of the people.
  2. Freezing tradition in such a way that it cannot develop beyond what was understood in the past.

I can only fully agree with Congar. These temptations that he feels are confronting the Church in every age, are, in my opinion, also a very ‘clear and present’ danger in contemporary Adventism. 

What can be done to make the church see these temptations and to avoid, or even resist them, where and when needed? Must Seventh-day Adventist believers, who recognize these two dangers, stand up as ‘faithful dissenters’? I believe so. This may, at times, not be easy. Very fittingly the book Faithful Dissenters ends with a short chapter entitled ‘Costly Fidelity.’ These two words resonate with me.

If I want to be a ‘faithful dissenter’: I may have to pay a price for my ‘dissent’. Click To TweetThat may prove to be costly. But that should not make me less determined to continue showing ‘fidelity’ to the movement to which I belong and that is so important to me. In particular, I owe it to the many fellow-believers (who share my concerns, but are often unable to put their concerns into words), that I try to encourage them and do my best to model faithfulness and fidelity as we pray and work together for change.


What do you think? Is there room for a “faithful dissenter” in the Adventist congregation where you worship, or for that matter, anywhere in the Adventist Church? Are there degrees of ‘dissent’? Please share your thinking in the comment box below or on our Facebook page. Please remember to “like” our page and “share” this post with your friends.


 

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Windows No. 14: H.F. Steenberg

The Rock who served with integrity and compassion

Editor of Sedaven: origin and growth
Dr Paul Coetser B.A, M.A, M.Ed., D.Ed.

H.F. Steenberg: The Rock

Two boys dorm escapees are making their way to the girls dorm late at night. “Chip, chips, here comes the Rock!” warns one of them. “How do you know?” asks the other. “Look over there, you can see his flashlight coming.”

The “Rock,” of course, is a reference to none other than Pastor H.F. Steenberg. Perhaps he was known as the “Rock” because of the meaning of his last name. (Steenberg = Stone mountain) Perhaps it was because he lived in the house partway up the “koppie.”(hill)

HF Steenberg Principal and administrator
Pastor H.F. Steenberg

I would like to think that he was known as the “Rock” because he stood steadfastly for principles, fairness, and integrity like a rock.

But who was he?

H.F. Steenberg: The academic

H.F. Steenberg (Hendrik) was born in Ermelo and grew up in a fairly poor home. After high school, he earned a degree in teaching, but that was just the beginning of his academic career. He was also qualified in Afrikaans, History and Theology. He earned a master’s degree from Andrews University and travelled throughout the USA studying school systems. Later he completed an M.Th. degree from the University of South Africa.

H.F. Steenberg: School principal and Conference president

H.F. Steenberg became the principal of Sedaven in 1971 and remained there till the end of 1986 when he became the president of the Transvaal Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. He served as the conference president until a year prior to retirement when he declared his unavailability due to retirement plans. His last year was served as a pastor again. A heart attack claimed his life at the age of 73.

He was always an energetic, hard worker. At one time, while at Sedaven, he served on more than 45 committees!

H.F. Steenberg: Various remembrances 

Evert Potgieter Toe Lr. Steenberg die koshuisvader was, was hy “Slobby” Ek onthou hoe ons almal een aand in die top dorm na ligte uit hard in die donker gepraat en gelag het oor iets wat Slobby die dag gedoen het, en toe skielik Lr. Steenberg se stem: “Slobby sê, gaan slaap nou of julle kry almal pak!” Ek dink dit was daardie aand dat my respek en liefde vir hom begin groei het. Jare later sou ek op Sedaven skoolhou, met “Slobby” as my hoof. (FB: Sedaven Memories)

My first and greatest memory was of Pierre Steenberg‘s father. Ps. H.F. Steenberg was principal and our History teacher. I remember his small finger couldn’t bend so when he pointed a finger that would also stand up. When he scolded us he’d say he’d jump down our throats so deep that his shoe laces would stick out of our ears and his wife would cry for him.(Diane Vosloo, FB: Sedaven Memories)

H.F. Steenberg had a great love for beekeeping and he managed to start a fairly successful beekeeping industry at Sedaven. At one stage the school had more than 70 hives that were kept at various places on the school farm and on farms around the school. When it was time to “harvest” the honey pastor Steenberg would take some boys at night time to a group of hives and together they would take out the honey combs. Back at school, the next day, the honey would then be processed in the “honey-room”. In this way many students learnt the basics of bee keeping which became a valuable skill and hobby in later years. H.F. Steenberg also planted several hundred special eucalyptus trees which produce a specific kind of flower that makes a qood quality honey. These trees are still a landmark on the Sedaven farm. (P.Coetser).
Drakensberg trip: Some of us went with “The Rock” in his Peugeot station wagon the night before. Climbed the gully and slept at the hut taking some kit and tools. Early the following day several of us went back down to the parking area to meet the school bus with the others. A half-drum was tied to poles, carrying more cement, spades and other tools. This too was carried up the gully to the hut!! I recall a few of us went down a third time to assist the weary and heavy laden stragglers. What a trip…!!! (Marrick Schoonraad, FB: Sedaven Memories)

H.F. Steenberg building toilet on mountain
H.F. Steenberg joins a mountain group organized by P.Coetser to build toilet on Mont-Aux-Sources
Paul Coetser: some of my own memories:

I served under and together with H.F. Steenberg from 1971 to 1980 when I was called to Helderberg College. I have only the best of memories of these years of serving together.

One of the most significant leadership qualities that I remember is that Ps. Steenberg never poured cold water onto any of my ideas. When I suggested something, even if he did not really like the idea, he would always give me the green light and say, “Go ahead, try it”. Then he would not withdraw, but give me every possible administrative support within his power. Here I think of projects like taking students on Bible camps, taking students on mountain hikes, starting a school vegetable garden in the area below the Teachers’ flats, arranging a “Big Walk” to collect funds for a school combi, etc.

A second characteristic of H.F. Steenberg’s leadership style was to have a committee for everything. There must have been 20-30 standing committees at Sedaven! One of the bookshelves next to his desk was dedicated to a number of small black books in which each committee kept it’s minutes. [The ‘committee-concept” is pretty much part of Adventist management style, but I never really caught on to it and later when I became school principal I reduced the number of committees significantly.]

Through his many years of service at Sedaven High School various opportunities and job opportunities came his way, such as an offer to head a college faculty. He was also offered the position as a member of the Provincial Council – unopposed. That position came with prestige, lots of money, and a bright future. However, his calling was to Sedaven and later to the Conference.

 Was all the hard work really worth it?

H.F. Steenberg: Family man

H.F. Steenberg playing with his son
Frolicking with son Pierre
We had two standing arrangements with my parents: every night when dad came home – when he did not have some kind of meeting – he would play with us “riding the bull”. He would be on his knees on the carpet, one of us would be worrying him from the front and the other was on his back. Then the bull would buck and kick up backwards in an attempt to throw the rider off! We will never forget the bull-bull games! The other standing appointment was that once a month, on a Sunday, we could choose any activity that we liked, as long as it did not cost money, and we would then enjoy this as a special family-time treat! A few times dad also took us fishing. (Pierre in a personal letter, January 2017)

H.F. Steenberg: Pastor

The position of school principal does not only entail educational leadership and management. It demands and provides many opportunities also for pastoral service. H.F. Steenberg was a pastor in his heart of hearts. He spent many hours counseling students, staff and church members. He was regularly involved in preaching in the local church and in many pulpits across the Conference. One of his greatest joys was to be asked to baptize students who have given their hearts to the Lord.

From time to time in the years after dad passed away, some or other Sedavenite would contact me (Pierre) to tell their story. Stories that until now were not known by more than a few people. Stories of changed lives attributed to Pastor Steenberg’s intervention. Stories of Pastor Steenberg going to people’s homes in his vacation time to salvage certain situations. Stories of he and his wife giving students in tough situations a refuge in their home. (Personal letter from Pierre Steenberg).

Due to the sensitivities around these stories we choose not to mention names, but  there are countless individuals who remember gratefully what H.F. Steenberg and aunty Mavis meant for them!


Editor’s note: If you have any comment on this post or have a story about H.F. Steenberg that you would like to share, please post it in the comment box below or on our Facebook page. Do remember to “like” our page as well.

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Blogging through “The White Elephant”No.2

What are we leaving behind?

Author of the four gospels
Weiers Coetser
Devil's advocate
Devil’s Advocate

 

 

Paul Coetser: Co-editor and Devil’s Advocate

 

 

 

Weiers is a pastor in Northern Ireland and co-editor of the Adventist Soapbox website and blog.

We (the editors of the Adventist Soapbox) have embarked on a quest to pen some of our thoughts as we engage with Brian Neumann’s book, The White Elephant in Seventh-day AdventismThis blog focuses on the introductory section (pages 1-36).

What Are We Leaving Behind?

Brian Neumann devotes much of the introductory 36 pages of his book to recounting the story of his, and his wife, Kamy’s journey of research and discovery about Ellen White.

As pastor I could imagine myself in Kamy’s sitting-room as she discussed her questions and objections about Ellen White after submitting her resignation letter to the Church, first with the older Pastor Z, and then with the young Pastor A. I’ve been in such conversations over a variety of issues, even if they were not all conducted in “terminal” situations like these. At times the interactions were cordial and friendly, and even affirming, regardless of differences or a lack of one clear answer. At other times they were filled with frustration or barely hidden animosity.

The contrast between Pastor Z – a traditional Adventist who admitted his own misgivings about the role of Ellen White in the Church but still defended her – and Pastor A – a representative of the progressive wing of the church who showed a greater readiness to consign her to history – also resonated with me. Brian’s important point is to illustrate the fact that the urgent question of Ellen White’s authority and role in the Church spans across the various divisions that one might encounter in the church.

I salute Brian and Kamy’s spirit of integrity and willingness to go where the evidence leads. I also know that the factors that impact on our spiritual journeys and decision making are complex and often multi-layered. At one point (p.28), Kamy describes one transition from being faithful to a “cause” to being faithful to Christ. This again touches my heart strings. I think that is one of the most important moves that anyone can make.

I think that it was on the basis of this move to “faith maturity” that  Pastor A, a pastor representing The One Project felt that he could present to her his cause: a Seventh-day Adventist denomination that does not rely so heavily on the writings of Ellen White. This was also not a viable option for Kamy.

Brian and Kamy’s story is a story of “moving on”.

By way of analysis I wonder if it would be worth wondering what they are leaving behind? What are the essential features of the Adventist world that they inhabited? Why was Pastor A‘s solution, for example, not an option?

Devil's Advocate
         Devil’s Advocate

Weiers, your questions are thought-provoking, May I suggest that the Adventist believer who is confronted with “evidence” that long held beliefs – such as the prophetic calling and inspiration of White – are simply not sustainably true, can follow one  of three paths: “rejection” (pretend that the evidence is false), “revision” (give up all belief and possibly leave the Church) or “transform” (accept the new reality and accommodate it constructively in life and practice within the Church). 1

The question why one outcome was chosen over others is not simply a psychological question. I think it is useful to think about the bigger context in which decisions happen. How do our prior commitments and experience impact on how we make our choices?  I think it also goes to questions of theology, and the decisions that we make about how we know what is true (epistemology).

From my analysis the reality of the Adventist world today is one where various epistemologies often come in conflict with each other. Some Adventists, believe strongly that truth is clearly visible in the Bible. You just need to open its pages and it will jump out at you. Others work from the assumption that one often works with different layers of understanding and that the Bible and our interpretation is inevitably a product of cultural conditioning.

Different epistemologies also lead into a variety of possible approaches in evaluating Ellen White. Brian outlines several choices that are vying for acceptance in the Church today.

I wonder if one could argue that these choices boil down to one of two fundamental decisions that one must make about the influence and authority of Ellen White. Does accepting Ellen White as prophet mean that she is perfect in every way and conforms fully to a set of strict requirements? Or can one take a more nuanced view of Ellen White as prophet and a human being, fallible like the rest of us, but who still made an impact on the Church for the good.

These questions became quite pertinent after Ellen White’s death. At that time the church decided on an idealistic, high view of Ellen White. This view has however come under pressure in recent years as information have become more widely available that call into question how prophetic inspiration works.  How one responds to this new information depends to a large extent on which perspective one takes on these fundamental decisions about Ellen White.

Perhaps another way of asking the question is: How do some of the assumptions that we make about reality and how it is knitted together, determine the conclusions that we come to? An even more challenging question could be: How stable are the foundations that we build the decisions of our life upon?

These questions are not judgmental. They come to mind as I read the compelling stories of Brian and Kamy. As we continue reading the book, some of these issues might become more clear. My own hunch is that faith is a rather fragile thing and faith development is not a simple linear trajectory. Foundations may not always be as stable as they seem, and when they shift, they can do so in unexpected ways.

Deviil's advocate
Devil’s advocate

Weiers, is faith really “fragile”? Did the Apostle Paul not point out that “faith and hope”, apart from “love” are the strongest motivators of all. By the way, What do you mean by “faith”? Is it belief in God as a Person, or is it faith (belief) in a set of doctrines (beliefs)?

I hope to explore one element of this line of questioning in  more depth in the next blog post on “Chapter 1.”

 


Note: The White Elephant in the Seventh-day Adventist Church contains and presents many new perspectives on the life of Ellen White. The book would be worth purchasing just for the spirit and the passion that is contained in Brian and Kamy’s personal stories found at the beginning of the book.

Read article one in this series.

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Windows: No.13 Sedaven: Humble beginnings

Overview of Sedaven's humble origin and development

Editor of Sedaven: origin and growth
Dr Paul Coetser B.A, M.A, M.Ed., D.Ed.

Sedaven: Humble beginnings

(Sedaven: Humble beginnings was written in 1970 by Matric student Kathy O’Reilly and published in the 1970 edition of the Protea – Pictures and explanatory comments added by editor.)


A little more than two decades ago the site on which Sedaven is now situated was a mere wind-blown, deserted piece of ground, and a sanctuary for numerous wild creatures and birds. 

Sedaven: Humble beginnings

Koppies clothed in verdant serenity stood like lonely sentinels outlined against the sky. Pink-tinted proteas smiled down upon the rich golden ground.

In scouting around for a suitable site for the establishment of a high school, Pastor J.B. Cooks, then the Educational Secretary, came across the above mentioned site. Fortunately it complied with all the requirements.

It had to:

  1. be away from the large cities,
  2. be near a hospital,
  3. be near a railway station,
  4. have a healthful climate,
  5. have a good water supply,
  6. be a place where there would be an opportunity for young people to be out in nature, where God’s handiwork could be seen and appreciated.

Providentially this 800-acre farm was found to be ideally situated for the establishment of the proposed high school.  It was located only five miles  (8 Km) from Heidelberg, a homely town in the Suikerbosrante.  Building operations were soon under way.

 Although Helderberg College caters for college students and high school pupils, it was felt, especially by the believers in the Transvaal, that Helderberg was rather far away, and that a local high school should be established for pupils from the northern provinces.  The idea was that Sedaven would be a preparatory school for Helderberg College.

Sedaven: Humble beginnings 

Sedaven High School was inaugurated on 16 January 1951. Pastor Jan van der Merwe, the then-president of the Orange-Transvaal Conference must have smiled to himself to have seen his brain-child shoot up into a startling reality, as it was under his enthusiastic leadership that the decision was made to establish this boarding high school.

 Being a Conference project, Sedaven has of necessity grown slowly, but, through the years, more and more buildings and facilities have been added.  

 

Sedaven: Humble beginnings - Sedaven Church
Building Sedaven Church
Sedaven: Humble beginnings
End result

 

 

 

 

 

 

At first schooling from Std 5 (Gr. 7) to Std 8 (Gr. 10) was provided for, but, in 1953 the first matriculation class was taught.

To date (1970) Sedaven has had five principals.  

Sedaven: Humble beginnings - HF Steenberg
Pastor H.F. Steenberg

Pastor H.F. Steenberg will be the new principal of Sedaven as from next year (1971).

Sedaven: Humble beginnings

Pastor du Plessis, who has been a wonderful principal and an invaluable guide to Sedaven’s young people for the past decade, is to retire at the end of this year.  He will surely be missed by all the pupils who have grown to respect and value his fatherly counsel.

Most of the recorded memories about the life and times of Sedaven come from student alumni. The following information and anecdote relate to some of the single staff who lived in the “teachers’ flats” in 1957. Dr. D. Birkenstock who started his teaching career at Sedaven remembers:…

I was trying to recall who lived in the Teacher’s flat in 1957. On the ground floor it was Isobel Brydon, myself and in the large flat was Jessie Patrick. On the top floor, in the two single rooms was Billy van Heerden and Donald Bertelsen. I think the big flat was shared by some ladies, I think Betsy le Roux, Marie Botha and I do not recall any others. We all had coal stoves that also heated the water for our showers and baths.

On one occasion Jessie had given us a number of Avocado’s she had received from Durban, I had no place to store them so I put about ten of these inside the oven of the stove, we would use only once or twice a week and we would remove them before we made the fire in the stove. You have guessed what happened, it was Sunday evening and Billy made the fire in the stove, soon it was burning brightly and for some reason we went to Billy’s flat to chat. After a while we smelt something strange and we went back to my flat. At first we could not trace the smell but then I opened and the sight that greeted my eyes was ten pitch black blobs in the oven.


Luckily the water was hot and we could both have baths in preparation for the new week!

    Sedaven truly has lived up to its motto: Non Sibi Sed Deo – not for self, but for God, in that many of its pupils have entered the denominational work.

The following is another 1957 memory from Melody Schleicher a student at the time:

A very funny incident happened one night at the girls’ dorm. I think it was the night we all waited up to see the Sputnik. In any event, some of us noticed a bicycle and two chaps going from behind the dining room/kitchen building and sneaking behind the girls’ dorm. A couple of us went to the wooden fence and peeped through to see what they were up to. It was Athol de Beer and Rodney Austen. They had a sheet and were fumbling around with it, the idea being to gives us girls a fright. Spooks in the night kind of thing. I rushed to my room and grabbed my sheet off the bed and was back again before they were quite ready to open the gate and waited wrapped in the sheet. As the gate opened I stepped forward and said “Boo”. You have never seen such surprised chaps in all your life. Rodney Austen bolted and Athol had trouble getting onto his bike to make his getaway. I am chuckling now at the memory.

Editor’s comment:

  • Sputnik was launched on 4 Oct 1957 and heralded the beginning of the arms race between USA and USSR.
  • Athol de Beer passed away a few weeks ago (December 2016)

Today (1970) Sedaven, with its modern library and laboratories, and its dormitories, which are at present being renovated and extended, compares favourably with any of our other institutions.

 Visitors coming to Sedaven for the first time are pleasantly surprised at its setting and scenic beauty.  

Sedaven: Humble beginnings
Kleindam

Such are its surroundings, that the Rand municipalities have bought up 13,000 morgen adjoining Sedaven for the establishment of a nature reserve.

The beautiful surroundings and the underlying purpose of the school inspired the words of the school song which echoes in the minds of all alumni:

Where Heidelberg by mountain range and flowing stream is bound, where sunny veldt the seasons change and songs of birds doth sound, we live and work in love and peace and try both God and man to please. Take pride in duty done, unite in work and fun!

Sedaven, Sedaven, we glory in thy name, thy fortunes ever be the same, be the same!

Aan Heidelberg se berg en hang langs ruisend waterstroom, in sonnig veld met voelgesang wat ruis uit bos en boom, woon ons in liefd’ en vree byeen en doen ons plig en vra sy seen. Vra Sy seen!

Sedaven, Sedaven, ons roem jou voortbestaan! Waar jy ons lei daar sal ons gaan, sal ons gaan!

Even if the work that was studied at school eludes the minds of old Sedaven pupils, the fun they had at Sedaven never will.  Not even time will wipe from their memories the nocturnal call of jackals and the barking of baboons in the koppies.  Memories like mystical fragrances linger on.


If the images and content of Sedaven: Humble beginnings resonate with you, please write a comment or “like” our page on Facebook. We are always interested in additional stories or corrections of what we have published! [Editor]


Cover Image taken from Wikipedia. License. CC BY-SA 3.0

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Windows No 12: Sedaven 1951

The Pioneers

Dr Paul Coetser B.A, M.A, M.Ed., D.Ed.

 

 

 



Sedaven 1951 

[“Sedaven 1951” was written by ESTHER (UYS) GEBHARDT and first published in the “Protea” of 1972. – The section that is printed in bold was originally written in Afrikaans and later translated into English by Evert Potgieter.]


Red water

Amidst the cheerful chatting of a group of girls and the clattering of dishes being washed, a question was heard, “Where is Cathy?  She is supposed to help here today!”

This brought instant outrage: “She can’t be allowed to get away with it!  Its warm, and the bell for afternoon classes will be ringing soon.” 

But then somebody answered, “She’s gone home.  Didn’t you know?”  A chorus of voices: “Home! Why?!”  And the short answer to that: “Because of the red water.”

Yes, Sedaven 1951’s water was red!  Up in the sugarbush-hills where the fountain erupted, the water was clear and sweet.  But very quickly the high iron content reacted to the oxygen rich Highveld air; hence the rust-red water.

To the principal, pastor C.C. Marais (known and revered as uncle C.C.) this was simply one more challenge among many others.  He used to say jokingly that the high iron content helped to develop strong backbones!

Building a school

His was the task to build a school – literally from nothing. The expectations of the school committee and parents were high, and funds pitifully low. 

According to plan, this newborn, Sedaven, was to open its doors to boys and girls and staff members in January of 1951.  And so classes started on the 16th, and the official opening occurred on January 17.

 But was this really a school?  Two buildings on the bare veld at the foot of the “Suikerbosrand” (sugarbush-reef), the principal’s house nestled against a hill, an old farm house up against an opposite hill, the cow shed, and o yes, another small grass thatched house between the hills up above the Little Dam.  At times baboons would leave the hills to play on the roof of this little house! 

Early mornings aunty Enslin ventured forth from this same little home to cross the stream by the orchard as she made her way to the girls’ dormitory.  Preceptress?  No, dining-room matron!  You see, the girls’ dormitory had to serve as kitchen, dining-room, classroom, dormitory, as well as domicile for the preceptress!

A young couple, Mr. and Mrs. Charlie Sparrow were the acting “parents” of the girls.  The youthful “housemother” (dean of girls) was kept very busy with such a large family of girls while her husband taught school with music as major.

In the boys’ dormitory Mr. P. Bonnet was just as busy with his young son Pierre and some fifty additional boys.  His trusty cane was a ready help in maintaining order and discipline!

“Did you say, ‘boys’ dormitory’?  This room does not seem to be occupied by boys!”

“Indeed, no!  This is the principal’s office, complete with telephone and number befitting a new school – 321”

It was in this room that Mrs. Marais – wife of the principal, “oom” C.C.- served as school secretary.  Originally this space was supposed to have been the living-room of the preceptor’s apartment.

The boys’ reception room [years later the worship and study hall] had to double up as class room for the Std. 4, 5 and 6 pupils.  The corner room served as class room for Std. 7. 

And the little nook between the two – actually a part of the reception room, partitioned off for temporary use – was very important.  It served as library, science room and store. 

Three long shelves were installed along one wall. The top shelf held the laboratory equipment.  In this very same room the Std. 8 class startled their young teacher, Miss. J. van Wyk, badly by causing an explosion during a science experiment!

A small one room building behind the boys’ dormitory – where the tennis courts would be built years later by Pr. A. Bambury and his helpers – was home to Mr. Bonnet’s “baby” – the engine that provided electricity for all of Sedaven every evening. 

There was no power during daylight hours.  And great the rejoicing when that motor quit during study hour!  After all, it was impractical for one hundred students to study by candle light!

Woe to those who dared to raid the peach orchard!  For the morning after, “oom” C.C. would stand at the window and stare at the hills, rubbing his cheek and muttering about “too much water”, and every student would know that he wasn’t speaking about rain! 

All would listen intently to find out how this master detective had gone about his work, and pretty soon the culprits would shift around guiltily in their seats.

Those sharp eyes of “oom” C.C. would often notice some praise-worthy deed, and then there would be a medal parade.  Some lucky student would receive a silver medal, a “ticky” – a small silver coin worth 3 pennies as reward.

Or else, for an unworthy deed such as littering with orange peels, a copper medal would be awarded – a big old penny, about the size of an American quarter.

The manual labour program at Sedaven 1951

It was required of every pupil to take part in the “work program”  on an unpaid basis.  In this way young hands were kept busy sweeping, dusting and cleaning.  The older boys helped on the farm and at the dairy.  The older girls helped in the kitchen/dining room or helped teachers with various duties.  

Sedaven 1951 - Farm buildings
Sedaven farm (dairy and silo)

How well I remember marking books for Miss. Martha Coetzee – later Mrs. Jacobs, and still later Mrs. Combrinck, second wife of Pr. Combrinck –  teacher of the primary classes.  The hours spent then in deciphering hieroglyphics still stand me in good stead!  

There was also the important work of sorting laundry in the tem­porary shack behind the girl’s dormitory.  Laundry lists to be checked on Sundays against the contents of each bag – need we say this was not the most popular work?  With no washing machines available, laundry maids came in on Mondays and did the washing by hand on the hillside below the filter-reservoir.  The ironing was done by using sad-irons heated on a small coal-stove in the laundry. Those forgotten heroines should have a plaque of honor hanging in Sedaven’s library!

Week-ends: Sedaven 1951

Week-ends were special times at Sedaven.  On Friday evening the dining room tables were stacked at the rear of the room, chairs were set out in rows, and all was in readiness for the Sabbath vespers meeting. That over, down came the tables to be set for breakfast the next morning.  Following the meal, the procedure started all over again – tables were stacked, chairs set in rows.  After the Sabbath morning service, down came the tables again, to be set for lunch. Now they stayed down until – you’ve guessed it – sunset, when they were stacked again to make space for games or whatever had been planned for the evening.  Films were few – the school had no projector, so films could be shown only when the Conference projector was sent from Johannesburg.

On those glorious Sabbath afternoons nature walks were quite naturally part of the program.  1Then the girls would go with their preceptress in one direction, and the boys with their preceptor in another, to roam the hills or walk up the valley to the Big Dam.

There was the luxury of hot water for baths and showers, on condition that someone stoked the boilers.  This was no popular task, but a very necessary one.  The work was assigned to the boys, but the girls could perform quite well as stokers when the boys were kept busy elsewhere.

Dining room protocols

The dining-room was a very important place for the young people.  Tables were set, and dishes were served at the table, with a boy at each table being assigned as “waiter” for the week, to be sure that the “second helping” was duly conveyed from the serving deck to the hungry diners at the table.  And how those boys could eat!  (We wonder, do the boys at Sedaven still have such healthy appetites?)  Well do we remember a rather young waiter coming to the serving deck, brown eyes a-twinkle with mischief and friendliness.  Soon another young waiter would come in, this time a very courteous, smiling, blue-eyed boy.  So young then – where are they today?  Doing Sedaven proud, for the brown eyes have not lost their sparkle as Michael Stevenson goes about his work in the U.S.A, and courteous, friendly Neville Willcox-Tosen was serving as a missionary teacher in New Guinea when last we heard of him.

These are but two of the many names that are recorded on Sedaven’s roll of honor of those in the Master’s service, or in service for their fellow-men.  A few had this privilege but for a short time, and in memory of them we would be quiet for a few moments to whisper: “We are happy that you shared 1951 with us”.

Changes

Summer brought changes in more ways than one.  Mrs T. Uys came as preceptress and Sedaven became “home” to yet another family.  Two months later joy rippled through the school as the news spread: “The Sparrows have a baby boy! They’re calling him Michael.”  This was a very special first in a very special year.

Sedaven 1951 - Michale Sparrow
        Michael Sparrow born at Sedaven 1951
Thanks very much, Paul, for your reminiscences of Sedaven. As you know, I was born there in November 1951, when it was barely a year old, and my parents were part of the first members of staff there when it started in 1951. Then, we left again as my father was both a qualified music teacher as well as a theologian, so he constantly was “used” in organising the music at evangelistic efforts on the East and West Rand as well as in Pretoria in those days. When they needed a music teacher back at Sedaven, we used to go back there, so I spent 51, 53, 56, 59 and 66/7 at Sedaven. It looks like we missed you as you were not there during those years? Anyway, the place has some very special memories for me, and getting baptised in the big dam at the end of 66 was one of the memories I will never forget, and will cherish for the rest of my life. I almost drowned also in 1959, having fallen into the round swimming pool next to the church, but fortunately I had a bright yellow shirt on, and I was fished out of the pool, spluttering and gasping for air!! I was but seven years old, and would still like to know who saved my life then?…  Michael (This post was submitted in a private letter to the editor. January 2017)

Summer also brought another climax of this unique year.  One Sabbath early in December the sound of young voices reverently singing a hymn of consecration was heard across the waters of the dam as Pastor Marais baptised the first of nine young people.  The joy of that sacred moment and the sound of those voices will surely remain as my most hallowed and treasured memory.

Sedaven 1951, we, the pioneers of ’51, salute you!


Have you been one of the Sedaven 1951 pioneers? Do you still have contact with one or more of the pioneers? Please write a comment below or on our Facebook Page sharing some snippet of information that may add to better understanding life at Sedaven 1951.


 

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Brian Neumann’s Journey

Discovering the true E.G. White

Brian Neumann author of The White Elephant in Seventh-day Adventism tells his story
Brian S. Neumann

Brian Neumann’s Journey

Brian Neumann has recently published a book, The White Elephant in Seventh-day Adventism in which he sets out to evaluate the prophetic ministry of Ellen G. White in the Seventh-day Adventist church. The Adventist Soapbox intends to run a number of blogs interacting with Brian Neumann’s book over the coming weeks. We begin by publishing (with permission) the introductory section of the book where Brian tells his story.

My intended purpose 

Three times while writing “The White Elephant” I have had to readjust the content and rethink my approach in presenting my case. This has not been an easy task. When I started out I Intended to write a book that was going to help, specifically Seventh-day Adventists (SDA’s), put the prophetic work of Ellen G. White into a balanced perspective.

I embarked on this journey with no predisposed bias. However, I consciously purposed to leave no stone unturned in my quest for proof that would either vindicate, or if the overwhelming evidence left no other option, prove Ellen White to be a false prophet—Scripture being the supreme standard for every test.

My preparation for this task

I did not take on this project as a stranger to the SDA Church or the ministry of Ellen White. I am a fourth generation SDA and the majority of my family have been or are still either pastors, educators, missionaries or church workers of some or other sort in the denomination.

When I was a teenager I left the church and worked as a professional musician in the Rock Music Industry in Europe and South Africa. In my mid thirties, after accepting Christ, I was baptized, joined the SDA Church and immediately became actively involved in ministry myself. For nearly eighteen years I dedicated my life to ministry in the SDA denomination. I was an ordained Elder, worked as a conference evangelist at various times, sat on the Evangelism Committee of the Cape Conference in South Africa and was actively involved in other areas of ministry.

For most of that time I was a speaker for a self-supporting SDA ministry, “Amazing Discoveries” (Germany, France, Canada and U.S.A.) and travelled the world doing lectures on music, Bible Prophecy and the ministry of Ellen White. At one time I hosted a pre-recorded radio program for “Amazing Discoveries” in Washington State. I also produced many videos on a variety of topics, my area of expertise being music and worship. I authored four books, some of which have been published in a number of different languages, contributed to other church publications and appeared on TV. In addition, I was interviewed on 3ABN and presented a series of lectures for Hope Channel, entitled Crisis Hour—both these are official SDA TV channels. Much of this material (lectures on Bible prophecy and other religious topics, music, documentaries, etc.) are available over the internet. A simple google search of my name (Brian S. Neumann) will produce adequate evidence of my former ministry.

The role of the Bible and Ellen White in Brian Neumann’s ministry

The Bible and counsel of Ellen White (as I saw it at the time) were the basis for much of what I believed and taught in any sphere. An integral part of my ministry was dedicated to defending her prophetic calling (I produced a number of video lectures dedicated to this end). My belief, as it is for so many in the SDA faith, was that Ellen White was a true messenger/ prophet of God. On just about any given topic, connected to the understanding of Scripture and other issues related to daily living or salvation, her inspired insight and counsel was usually the last word.

Life changing crisis

After experiencing a life-changing crisis, I was compelled to reexamine every aspect of my life. Nothing was left untouched; including everything I had once fervently believed and taught. ...

Thankfully, this process of rediscovery was not one I ended up having to go through alone. After a difficult divorce, I was remarried to Kamy, a fellow SDA. And so, by the grace of God, the process became a partnership in research, reexamination, rediscovery, reorientation and revival. Kamy’s input, on so many levels, has been invaluable to the execution and ultimate completion of this work.

In order not only to reexamine and rediscover ourselves, but the entire basis for our beliefs, we consciously set a course aimed at finding answers to questions we believed would, not only confirm or debunk our beliefs, but would also help in the process of emotional and spiritual rediscovery. The bottom line was to confirm or rediscover truth at all costs on the basis of what Scripture clearly revealed. A most integral part of this quest was coming to terms with what had been one of the essential components of our SDA belief platform, the prophetic ministry of Ellen G. White. The evidence that came to light as a result of more than three years of intensive research literally turned our world upside down.

Discovering the unexpected

It all started out with simply trying to find answers to troubling questions we had been confronted with before but never really pursued—things that had just been shelved somewhere in the subconscious waiting for the right opportunity or set of circumstances to expose them to the light of day. From the outset I decided that whatever it was that we were going to discover had to be recorded and put into book form. My research was painstaking and detailed. I covered every bit of evidence I could find (historical and present-day—books, websites, videos, personal interviews, Biblical evidence, etc.) that had anything to do with Ellen G. White—for or against.

For me, personally, the process of research, as it pertained to finding all the come-backs that debunked the critics’ arguments against Ellen White, was not difficult at all. I had spent so many years defending her myself that I knew every defense that has ever been used by her apologists. I was thoroughly familiar with her writings on every topic and also fully understood how SDA scholars construct an apparently solid biblical platform in support of her prophetic ministry and how she, in turn, becomes the point of final reference for testing any interpretation of Scripture.

Of course, most SDA Bible scholars will never admit to this. Indeed, some do not even realize that a simple consequence of using Ellen White and the Bible the way they do, always leads them to test their conclusions against her inspired words—her influence over every SDA belief is all-encompassing. The average lay-person and even many pastors themselves do not realize how deeply her ideas affect beliefs they assume are based purely on Scripture alone. In fact, those who are familiar with the SDA Bible Commentary series will know that the commentary found in those books, although creating the impression that it is solidly scriptural, rely heavily on Ellen White’s “revelations.” Thus, regardless of the SDA declaration, “the Bible and the Bible alone”/”Sola Scriptura,” it needs to be understood that this is simply not the case.

Indeed, Ellen White herself stated:

  1. “It is Satan’s plan to weaken the faith of God’s people in the Testimonies [her inspired counsel].
  2. Next follows skepticism in regard to the vital points of our faith, the pillars of our position,
  3. then doubt as to the Holy Scriptures, and
  4. THEN the downward march to perdition” (Testimonies Vol. 4, p. 211. Numbering, emphasis & italics supplied).

It was this underlying knowledge of how the authority of Ellen White operates within SDA faith that constantly informed my research into evidence on both sides of the Ellen White debate.

When you understand, as she herself stated, that the road to perdition (hell) really commences with losing faith in HER inspired counsel, then it becomes obvious in what the sincere SDA believer will be compelled to ground their belief— consciously or not.

With each new piece of evidence uncovered we were overcome with a progressive series of reactions.

  1. First, uncertainty, uncertainty gave way to
  2. disappointment, disappointment to
  3. incredulity and heart-break, which turned into
  4. indignation and then
  5. absolute outrage.

If, by the grace of God, we had not transitioned past the outrage, we would probably have ended up in the same situation as so many who, on discovering the truth about Ellen White, aggressively resist any teachings that even resemble Adventist/ SDA doctrine. Thankfully, this did not happen. Through prayer for deeper insight and wisdom and as the result of constant research, covering the same ground over and over from every perspective till all avenues had been exhausted, Scripture always being the last word, we were able to keep things in focus….

So many voices, so many opinions!

It is no secret that many people today, from laity to leadership, have a variety of views on how they should relate to the ministry of Ellen G. White. It is also no secret that there are major splits in the church from the General Conference down to divisions, unions, conferences, congregations and then individual membership in regard to whether they should invest supreme authority or any significant authority in the writings of Ellen White at all. Were all her published works really inspired by God or is there some other explanation? The different opinions on this question could possibly be grouped as follows:

  1. Those who have absolute faith in Ellen White’s prophetic authority.  Some place absolute faith in all she has to say, in prophetic foresight and specific instructions (lifestyle and the Christian walk, etc.) and regard her as the final voice of authority on all matters, even, as already alluded to, when it comes to the interpretation of Scripture.This trend seems to be most prevalent in the self supporting/ independent sector of the SDA Church and in the more traditional /conservative mainstream sector.
  2. Those with a “more balanced” view: Others have what they understand to be a more balanced, practical approach, placing emphasis on writings such as the “Conflict of the Ages” series of books while downplaying the stronger instructions contained in the “Testimonies to the Church” series (counsel on dress, diet and many other lifestyle issues, etc.).
  3. Those who see Ellen White as irrelevant : A growing number of SDA’s – particularly in the more affluent Western Nations – see her instructions as either outdated (applying only to the time and culture of her day), that they were never actually relevant, or in the extreme, despise or ignore her altogether.
  4. Those who believe that each individual can interpret her instructions as he/she wishes. When confronted with the statement that she was a prophet of God and thus her instruction needs to be unequivocally applied in every instance, some will respond by saying that she herself said that she was only a “messenger.” In so doing, they suggest that some of what she instructed is really left up to the individual to interpret and apply. 
  5. Those whose approach is to look to SDA church historians or Bible scholars for final teaching on how they should interpret the more “difficult to understand” portions of her writings.
  6. Then there is the “silent” majority, who hold to variations of these assorted opinions and who prefer to just say nothing for fear of being criticized or accused of rocking the boat.

In and through all of this an uncomfortable “status quo” is retained and the white elephant continues to march up and down the proverbial aisles of SDA churches around the world.

The effect of the Ellen White controversy on the young people of the Church

The youth see these contradictions, sense the undercurrent, notice the divisions and find themselves caught in a church that is desperately trying to juggle a white elephant that is bound to, sooner or later, come crashing to the ground.

At other times they are confronted with an ocean of additional extra-biblical instruction, the SDA “Talmud” that cannot (apparently), when carefully dissected, be substantiated by the clear simple teachings of Scripture. Instead of their religious experience becoming simplified, with broad guidelines, based on absolutely clear biblical principles, there seem to be lists and lists of added by-laws. […]

As a result, the youth become so discouraged and disillusioned that they simply give up and get out as fast as they possibly can. Added to this, while hearing all these teachings of “eternal consequence,” they see something completely different in the example of their church leaders—coffee drinking, meat-eating, consumption of alcohol, competitive sports and modes of dress that clearly violate the standards given by Ellen White. The unavoidable response: “if the leaders cannot do it, why should we be expected to?”

Multiplicity of public criticisms and attacks

To add fuel to the controversy, there are the many very vocal and often vehement critics who constantly publish their conclusions on the internet, bringing people’s attention to what they see as glaring contradictions in the writings and life-history of Ellen White. Thus, by discrediting her they seek to show that the SDA Church, because of the emphasis it places on its “prophetess,” is just another one of the many cults in Christianity today. A number of these individuals, are ex-members of the SDA Church (some of them were once pastors or church leaders). There are also some who are still members of the SDA denomination.

Of course, the history of criticism goes back to the time of Ellen White herself. Canright, Ballenger, Kellogg, Jones, Waggoner and others, all of whom criticized Ellen White to various degrees and who, at some point in time, were prominent leaders in the SDA Church.

In recent decades others, like Walter Rea (former SDA Pastor), author of “The White Lie”, Desmond Ford (former SDA professor and Bible scholar) and a string of lesser known critics, have added their voices to the list of detractors, for reasons they rightfully see as relevant.

The Church’s response to criticism of Ellen White

The Church, and in particular the Ellen G. White Estate, has published official responses to criticisms (such as the famous book, “Ellen White and Her Critics”, by Francis Nichol), in an attempt to show up the vindictiveness, prejudice and/or inaccuracy of those speaking out against Ellen White.

Some of these defenses have been effective (especially when addressing some of the weaker or more opportunistic, “straw-grabbing” attempts by the critics) while some have not been adequate at all. This has especially been the case when intelligent criticisms, based on factual, hard-core evidences, have been presented. Indeed, in many instances, the character or life of some critics have been attacked instead of the actual subject matter. In other cases, responses to criticisms have skirted the real issue, or at best, rendered only another interpretation to that of the critics, inspiring even more questions instead of completely dispelling all doubt. …

The plagiarism issue

The accusation of plagiarism leveled at Ellen White, in the book “The White Lie” by Walter Rea, was apparently debunked— the outcome of a lengthy court case. This SDA victory is often brandished as primary evidence against the critics. Yet, what most people do not realize is that there is a substantial body of communication on this matter between people at the Ellen G. White Estate and Walter Rea himself that paint a disturbingly different picture. If the truth be told, and it will, there are other issues in relation to Ellen White—her life and her writings, as they relate to Scripture and more—that will make the accusation of plagiarism addressed in “The White Lie” look like a minor offense.

In this book, the historical record of Ellen White’s life and work (official and unofficial) will be investigated, by examining SDA and non-SDA sources. Voices of those that were close to her at various times and at different levels during her life will be allowed to testify—positively or negatively. Arguments and counter arguments will be presented and examined. An integral part of the investigation and ultimate conclusion will be based on the evidence of Ellen G. White’s own words….

Although I might not cover every criticism or question that has ever been presented, I will share enough evidence to address the primary categories of concern and will (for reasons that will be clearly stated), in my closing argument, urge the necessity upon the SDA Church to clearly and officially address the issue of Ellen White.

My relationship with the Adventist church

Let it not be misunderstood, even though I do not agree with the SDA Church on Ellen White and the effect her teachings have had on many of their core beliefs, I love the church and its members, leaders and laity alike. I recognize the tremendous amount of good this denomination has done around the world and know that so many who are involved in these efforts do so out of love for God and their fellow-man.

It is however a matter of extreme urgency that the Seventh-day Adventist Church recognize that from without and within, at the highest levels of church structure, there are hidden agendas, double dealing and denial. At the lower levels there is, rightfully or wrongfully, suspicion and fear that the church has compromised its mission. The upshot of these problems has produced extreme fanaticism on the one hand and extreme liberalism on the other. All of this can either directly or indirectly be traced to the authority exercised by Ellen White’s teachings that often supersede even the Word of God itself or the knee-jerk reaction in rejection of her teachings that lead to unscriptural doctrine and practice— either way scriptural authority is sacrificed.

Those who are trying to be “balanced” are continually faced with the specter of Ellen White in that it seems to be virtually impossible for them to do what they believe to be scriptural without being constantly reminded of those instructions of Ellen White that cannot be found in the scriptures. It is my sincere hope and desire that the reader will see that I am attempting to bring to greater light and clarity the only true and trustworthy foundation for Christian life and teaching—the Bible. If it does not speak according to what is clearly and unambiguously revealed in Scripture then there is no light in it (Isaiah 8:20). “Quench not the Spirit. Despise not prophesyings. Prove all things; hold fast that which is good”(1 Thessalonians 5:19).


Read Kamy Lynn Neumann’s story as told by herself and Brian further on in The White Elephant.

The Adventist Soapbox will publish several blogs interacting critically and constructively with The White Elephant.

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Brian Neumann's Story
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Kamy’s Journey – Part Two

Separation from the SDA Faith

Kamy Lynn Newman tells of her faith journey through Seventh-day Adventism and beyond
Kamy Lynn Neumann

We continue with Kamy Lynn Neumann’s story through Seventh-day Adventist faith and beyond. The story was originally published in Brain Neumann’s book The White Elephant in Seventh-day Adventism, which we will be reviewing in upcoming blog-posts.

Read Part One of Kamy Lynn’s Story


…Continued.

I sent a letter to the X Church Board (Denver, Colorado area, USA) on Tuesday, June 17, 2014 requesting that my boys’ names and my name be removed from membership of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Pastor Z’s perspective

I received a message on my phone on Thursday night from one of the pastors, Pastor Z, an older man in his 70’s who served the SDA Church as a pastor and evangelist for many years.

The next morning when I returned his call he told me that the church had regretfully agreed to accept my request for membership removal but he was surprised because he always took me for a devout Christian and was wondering what happened.

I wondered why my Christianity was being questioned and realized they must not have read my letter to the church board or they would not question my faith in God and belief in Jesus (Christianity). He said that a reference was made as to my not accepting Ellen White and thought some of the doctrine was based on her writings. I was disappointed at the fact they had not even read my letter. I proceeded, nonetheless, to explain why I had made the decision to separate from the SDA denomination. I told him about the research we (Brian and I) had done over the past couple years and what we had discovered regarding Ellen White and how some of the church’s vital teachings were unbiblical because of the influence of her writings.

During the conversation he told me he was acquainted with some of the things I was saying and knew them to be true. He said he personally knew Walter Rea (author of the book The White Lie) and that Rea had shown him all the books Ellen White had used and took credit for in her own writings….

Pastor Z told me that he knew that Ellen White had lied and plagiarized and said a lot of things that were not correct. She even purposely misled people. However, he said, she also did a lot of good things and was a very important founder of the church and that the SDA church wouldn’t be what it is today if it weren’t for Ellen White[…].

When I mentioned to him that some of the Church doctrine was false he disagreed and stated that all the doctrine of the SDA Church was Biblical. But when I asked him about the 1844 sanctuary doctrine, the investigative judgment, Jesus leaving his Priestly position and not being our intercessor (subjects that will be discussed Brian’s book), he said he also didn’t believe any of those doctrines either, even though that is what the church teaches.

Pastor Z justified his “non-belief” in those doctrines by stating that they are not specifically spelled out and explained in its entirety in the 28 fundamental beliefs. He said that it was the biggest travesty in the Adventist Church when they disfellowshipped [sic] Desmond Ford for teaching that there was a problem with the sanctuary doctrine[…].

He  mentioned to me that he had met Arthur White, Ellen White’s grandson, who wrote her biography and that they spent quite a bit of time discussing her prophetic claim. The argument from Arthur side was that either Ellen White was inspired or she was not. She was either a true prophet, and everything she wrote or said was from God or it was not. Ellen White herself wrote that her work was either from “God or the devil” and that there was no “halfway” mark in the matter” (Testimonies to the Church Vol. 4, p. 229).

Pastor Z countered that he didn’t agree with that point of view but that he thought she could have been given some messages from God but some things not from Him and that it isn’t all or nothing. […]

Our discussion ended with Pastor Z declaring his happiness at being a Seventh-day Adventist and expressing his loyalty to the church. He actually used Ellen White’s quote about the church looking as if it would fall but that it would come through in the end. He said he didn’t think the church was perfect and that presently there are leaders trying to push an agenda that promotes homosexuality and allowing homosexuals to hold positions of leadership in the church because they claim homosexuality  is not a sin. Some church leaders even  question the authenticity of the Bible itself and do not believe that everything in the Bible is divinely inspired.

Two opposite extremes

There are two ends of the spectrum in the church.

The one side believes in the Bible but they also believe just as strongly in Ellen White and so are forced to interpret Scripture through her.[…]

The other side is trying to claim basically the same thing Pastor Z is claiming about Ellen White—that some things were inspired and some things were not but are also attempting the same argument about the Bible. Among the leadership of the SDA Church, not to mention the rest of the membership, it is a  free for all just like when Israel had no King and turned away from God. During a time when “everyone did as he saw fit” (Judges 21:25).

Brian Neumann adds an editorial note:

Kamy recounted this whole conversation to me right after it had happened. I told her to write everything down so she would not forget any details. One of the main reasons for this, of course, was that I immediately knew that I needed to incorporate her experience into the book. […]

What made Kamy’s experience unique and disturbingly interesting was the fact that this pastor, like so many others I have had contact with, seemed to have such a contradictory relationship to Ellen White’s prophetic ministry.

Pastor A’s perspective

[Brian Neumann continues to tell the story…] The next phase of Kamy’s experience was to elevate things to an even more troubling dimension. A day or two later the senior pastor (Pastor A) of the church called and set up an interview with Kamy and her two sons. Interestingly enough, although Pastor Z had told Kamy that the church had accepted her request for membership withdrawal, Pastor A made it clear that no such thing had as yet been officially voted on by the church at a business meeting level. […]

We met with Pastor A at our home just more than a week after Kamy had had the telephone conversation with Pastor Z. The meeting lasted for over an hour but this was, all major points considered, what transpired:

Kamy, her two sons, Pastor A, the youth pastor and myself sat down at the kitchen table where the discussion very quickly began to centre on Ellen White and the spirit of prophecy. Every point that Kamy raised, concerning Ellen White (plagiarism, extreme views that she felt could not be substantiated by Scripture, Ellen White’s dishonesty in how she obtained information about people in the personal testimonies she gave, etc.), was confirmed and agreed to by Pastor A.

Not only did he agree with these views, but he went on to tell us that he was involved in a ministry (The One Project) with a group of other like minded pastors in North America who were actively seeking to change the direction of the SDA Church.

He so much as stated that he was quite comfortable telling the conference/official church that he believed in Ellen White while, in reality, he believed she was a false prophet—actively seeking to phase her out (at least in the sense of her being seen as a prophet of God). It seemed that he was quite free of conscience to lie for the sake of obtaining what he believed would be a better, more Christ centered SDA faith.


Soapbox Editors:

This is where Kamy’s story ends in the chapter of Brian Neumann’s book, The White Elephant in Seventh-day Adventism.

Up next: (Check back in a day or two) Brian’s story as he tells it in The White Elephant.

After Brian’s Story: A series of blogs reviewing various chapters of Brian Neumann’s book.

Please check back, like our Facebook page, or subscribe to our blog (by filling in the e-mail subscription form on the front page) to receive further updates.

We’ve reached out to Kamy and Brian to tell us more about their life after leaving the Seventh-day Adventist church. We hope we will be able to publish more of their story as time goes on.

In the meantime, Brian’s book deserves a good look. His challenge against the Church and its understanding of Ellen White is strongly stated and he amasses pages of evidence for his position. Do we need to accept this challenge and this critique? Can we look at things differently?

We will explore these questions as we review several chapters of Neumann’s book in upcoming blogs. Our purpose is not to be defensive and write an apology for Ellen White. We do however think that there is leeway for us to take a different view of our Seventh-day Adventist heritage.

Do you have any comments? Please leave them below.

Brian Neumann’s book, The White Elephant in Seventh-day Adventism is available for purchase in a two-part format on Amazon and and on the publisher’s website.

Back to Part One of Kamy’s Journey

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