Adventist Idol

In the UK there’s the pound, in China there’s the yen, in Mexico there are pesos…nations around the world have their established type of currency. Several years ago, various countries in Europe united to use a single currency: the euro. It took some time to replace the local tender (except in the UK which ultimately decided to break from the EU anyway). But the euro can’t hold a candle to the one true universal currency: fame.

To be famous (or sometimes, infamous) is in some ways as valuable as having money. People extend credit against fame and the famous gain entry into exclusive sectors. As Kim Kardashian demonstrated, it can apparently even get you audience with officials able to pardon someone you’re advocating for. And although riches and notoriety often go hand in hand, that’s not always the case. In an age where anyone with a smartphone has the potential to go viral, becoming a household name is more feasible for the average Jane than earning mountains of cash.

Just like monetary wealth, people covet stardom and sometimes do unethical things to acquire it. Much like the warning given in I Timothy 6:19, the love of fame is the root of all kinds of evil. In fact, in today’s “celebrity economy”, many other biblical warnings referencing money can also be applied to fame. Most notably, the caution James gives against being a respecter of persons based on wealth can and should be equally heeded when it comes to fame (James 2).

Yet this is a pitfall Adventists often fall into. On a Sabbath where the sermon is being given by Barry Black or Wintley Phipps, attendance will swell to a far larger number than the local pastor may usually attract. Having Mark Finley or Carlton Byrd headline an evangelistic series is significantly more desirable than having the conference evangelist, even if the biblical messages are the same.

It’s important to interject that there’s nothing wrong with being well known. Just as Joseph, Abraham, Josephus, Lydia and many others were wealthy followers of God, there are many faithful famous followers of God as well. So there is no doubt being cast on the spirituality of those who acquire fame or monetary gain. However, we should be cautious that we don’t become preoccupied with either type of currency. And that’s a really big temptation to avoid—for pastors and members alike.

The “cult of the personality” is often billed as the driving force of success. But we ought to be driving people to Christ first. Just like Paul admonished people to follow God—not him or Apollo—we have to remind each other that Christ should be the one who deserves our accolades as opposed to any human being.

Not keeping this truth in mind can lead to some really disturbing consequences, especially when people fall from the pedestals we’ve placed them on. We can recognize and affirm people’s gifts and skills yet do so without elevating them to the status of infallibility. Otherwise, when they err (and we all do) the impact is devastating. How many pastors have been revealed to have engaged in sexual indiscretions, financial impropriety, or theological waywardness? And when these things happen, the revelations almost always rock the core of at least a few believers.

Recently, Doug Bachelor was taken to task about his statements on eternal subordination of Christ to the Father. This theological question has been studied and settled many times over. To put it bluntly, Batchelor is wrong. The fact that a beloved church darling was at theological odds with the established doctrine of the church caused a meltdown in some circles of Adventism. I would contend that there are several more of his beliefs that I’d take issue with. However, the more important point is that many who idolized him were taken aback and confused. Knowing that our favorites have flaws can often sting. I tried to teach this in my academy courses when I taught Religion. I recall when a parent gave me an Amazing Facts DVD to use in my class. I happily obliged, though probably not how the parent intended. I taught the students about properly studying the Bible for themselves. Then we went through the video segment by segment to check it against the Bible and highlight where it was on point and where it was wrong. Hopefully the lesson that “big names” don’t always get it right was a lesson that stuck with them. It’s one that some, disappointingly, learn too late.

Adventism relishes establishing celebrity connections with everyone from Magic Johnson to Angus Jones to Salt n Peppa. In this kind of religious culture, it can be difficult to break the habit of elevating the famous to a special status or even craving that status for ourselves. But like money, popularity is only a tool and not an end game. And, as with all tools we are given, the Christian mindset should be used for the glory of God first, not the glory of self. Perhaps in this day and age, alongside Financial Peace seminars, our congregations should start offering classes to responsibly use this alternate currency as well. That way we can learn that in whatever we do, we’re building up treasure in Heaven instead of earth, where moth and rust—and social media—might destroy.

Courtney Ray, MDiv, PhD is a clinical psychologist and ordained minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Previous Spectrum columns by Courtney Ray can be found at:

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Having owned homes in France for many years,and being the ultimate Francophile, I do in my wandering there, go into many stunning cathedrals/chapels/churches. It seems that every village/hamlet has an architectural gem of a Catholic abbey or chapel.

So I have seen a multiplicity of images/ icons/idols/incarnations of the VIRGIN.MARY.

In’ many. sanctuaries her representations outnumber those of’Christ Himself. In fact in many the ONLY representation of Christ is as a babe in his mother’s arms.

So I often muse, that if not for the commandment against graven images, many of our more traditional and conservative churches would have a plethora of icons depicting EGW.

.She is our ULTIMATE venerated/revered/esteemed Adventist idol.

Her penchant for plagiarism seems not to have tainted nor tarnished her in many circles. Even though we never know which phrase/paragraph/page/chapter is original with her or borrowed/stolen.

In many Adventist sermons, even those of our esteemed GC leader, quotes from the “Spirit of Prophecy” outnumber the Biblcal texts.

The cult of EGW is alive and well…

As to Doug Bacjelor and his ilk, these alternative ministries/idols, siphon off huge sums that should rightfully go to support the church budgets of small congregations struggling to just pay the electric bill,of their church plant.


“Union is strength; division is weakness. When those who believe present truth are united, they exert a telling influence. Satan well understands this. Never was he more determined than now to make of none effect the truth of God by causing bitterness and dissension among the Lord’s people. 538 {CCh 291.3}”

EZBORD-Your unsubstantiated statements are obviously a fulfillment of prophecy.


The penchant for some members of the SDA church and some officials to lionize persons who achieve a certain degree of fame is notorious and should cease. I could name names but I forebear.

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Even that repository of EGW icons, the WHITE ESTATE, does not deny her prolific plagiarism.

Many decades ago, Adventist pastor Walter Rea, in his book, THE WHITE LIE, very adequately documented, (although just a minutiae) of her broad, blanket, “borrowings “.

The fact that you quote her, rather than a biblical text, to support your assertions, emphasizes your slavish devotion to her!

Idolitary indeed!


Very interesting article…

I live in a country - that will for now remain unnamed - where we are great (Adventist) celebrity worshippers!! We seek them out on Sabbath for special recognition that so-and-so is at church today. This is especially true when we have a so-called “Big Sabbath,” which is when the churches in a particular city or even a significant portion of the conference is called together on one Sabbath to “give the churches updates from the conference” or whatever other “worthwhile” reason we like to peg on the practice to give it an air of respectability. Then we really pull all the stops. Politicians, Civic Leaders, Traditional leaders, etc are all singled out one by one for a special recognition and welcome (chorus of “Amen”) even when they are members in regular standing!.

But the crowning act of our idol worship in these parts is the veneration of our pastors from the “higher organs of the church.” Depending on what level of the church is convening (whether local church, pastoral district, conference, or union), the “visitors” from the remaining higher organ are introduced after this manner (for the purposes of this example, assume that a Pastoral District is having a “Big Sabbath” and the Division Executive Secretary is visiting):
All the organs of the church will be represented, usually by the “head honcho” at that particular level. This means the Union President, Conference President, and more often than not, the respective Executive Secretaries and maybe even Finance Officers will be part of the entourage. Here’s the key aspect to our idolatry: there can never be just one person introducing everyone and getting it over with, no, no! The “platform manager” will introduce the District Pastor (to his own district, no less), who will call upon the Conference Executive Secretary to continue the introductions. Wonder of wonders, the man will decline such a task, preferring only to introduce the Conference President and let him do it. As if reading from a script engraved on the podium, the Conference President will echo the same sentiments, and simply call upon “the elders from the union” to introduce the visitor. Basically, each man in turn comes to the podium to declare himself unworthy to even touch the shoelaces of any man higher than one rung of the ladder from him, and the whole process consumes up to a half hour. It really is quite something to behold…
When the “speaker of the day” is finally introduced, it is with as much fanfare as possible. His entire resume is recited, including all the educational accolades and even how many have been baptised due to his ministry!!
If you want to witness the practice Christ described, of leaders who “make broad their phylacteries, and enlarge the borders of their garments,” then do visit us soon!


Never mind she should hardly write. Her ‘editors’ re-wrote most of her scribbles, which were often badly formed and overly simple English given her limited education. It is said that the text of the books published were often so different from the original manuscripts that you could hardly draw a line from one to the other.


“To put it bluntly, Batchelor is wrong. The fact that a beloved church darling was at theological odds with the established doctrine of the church caused a meltdown in some circles of Adventism.”

A established church doctrine then that is at odds with the bible, maybe within the liberal clique of spectrum and NAD pastors…

1 Corinthians 15:28
“And when all things shall be subdued unto him, then shall the Son also himself be subject unto him that put all things under him, that God may be all in all.”

Personal attacks on Doug about this is unfounded as the scriptural support is clear that Christ will serve as we all will serve one another in perfect love.

I think we know the ad hominin attack here is about the indirect reference for headship, of which individuals such as yourself rebel against.


The most deceitful statements begin with “I was shown” , “The angel told me or lead me” The background of EGW was not the stone in the face but her time with the Pentecostals. The real test of her character was the distruction of any and all who would overshadow her. The Kellogg’s are a prime example. Her testimonies were her power play. Arthur White carried her aggression forward. Herbert Douglass et al carried the sword forward.,So now the church has Ted Wilson with dire consequences abounding. If one enjoys groveling then have a go at it and get a free trip to Rome. .


And…Tom hits it out of the ballpark again. And so succinctly, as usual.


While Doug Batchelor certainly enjoys some celebrety status, I understand him to be just an illustration for the article. There could have been other examples - like Pipim - just to name one…

Idolizing leaders is not a new issue. It made Paul cry out: I decided to know nothing among you except Jesus Christ and him crucified. (1 Cor 2:2 - see chapter 1 to get the point). It made the confessing church in Nazi Germany argue for a need of a strong Christology (as Hitler was viewed as a kind of new divine revelation by the mainline Church). And it makes some farsighted voices within Adventism warn against the danger of “kingly powers”.

However, there is an aspect which makes the issue all the more troublesome today. Probably never before narcissism has befallen so many people - including certain presidents and certainly preachers. It has become the great temptation to seek fame as a means of feeling of value. Thus supply (narcissists) and demand (idolaters) form a perfect - highly toxic - match.


It was always astonishing to me that PIPIM was exalted/acclaimed/canonized/lionized ,
by his mentor, Jay Gallimore, former president of the Michigan Conference, even in the face of allegations of RAPE (later proven).

The fact that Pipim has been re-Instated /exonerated in some circles is further cause for mystifying astonishment… It appears that some are addicted to this toxic idolatry.


Dear “Suffering” - While you may find statements questioning the writings of Ellen White disturbing, it is not truthful to claim that her copying is unsubstantiated. I had the privilege, in an official capacity working for the church, to support the program that studied and documented Ellen White’s extensive “borrowing”. The evidence does exist and is very substantiated. You see, just because you are not aware of something does not mean it doesn’t exist.

I agree with the danger this article points out of putting people on pedestals and failing to question them. First, in my 70 years of life, I’ve watched the seeming insecurity of NAD Adventists manifested in a need to brag about which prominent person belongs to the church or is related to someone who is. “Self-secure” churches such as the Methodist, Episcopal, etc. don’t need to point out which famous person is aligned with them.

And I agree that people like Doug Bachelor have been made, by some, into idols who seem to be unable to do wrong. Doug does not have the theological preparation to make credible pronouncements that disagree with the thorough work of Adventist theologians! Perhaps that is an inconvenient idea to you. But it is true, nonetheless.


Thank you. The first pedestal to be addressed is our singular veneration of Mrs White and our co-opting of the phrase ‘spirit of prophecy’ to refer pretty much exclusively to her writings. A cultish practice, if you ask me.


I wonder what spin doctor(s) came up with the most generous term “borrowing”? Now that would be interesting.


Some of those spin doctors (the nicer term is ‘apologists’) take the further step to deny, in the face of all the evidence, that there was even any “borrowing”.


And doesn’t “borrowing” infer returning? Hope her literary dues don’t show up in her investigative judgement :flushed:


Not if you you’re going by the Exodus story.:sweat_smile:


"However, there is an aspect which makes the issue all the more troublesome today. Probably never before narcissism has befallen so many people - including certain presidents and certainly preachers."

This is made so much easier with mass media…literally anyone with a smart phone can become a celebrity of sorts. It has made even the SDA evangelists/spokespeople (including DB) to have unprecedented access to the whole world. Of course, the issue starts when the said persons say or do something that they cannot reverse and then the whole world will know in minutes. But narcissism is also being nourished with nearly instantaneous access to potentially millions and the ability to spread your thoughts and messages everywhere…nearly forever on the internet.