Almost Half of Adventists Believe Health Message “Ensures Salvation” — and More News Shorts

In this week’s Adventist news round-up, stories about Adventists appeared in Christianity Today and NPR, plus news from New Zealand and Dakota Adventist Academy.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11140
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A healthy lifestyle is God’s ideal for his people but it should never be enforced as a means of salvation. With regards to meat, it has never been forbidden by God ever since he permitted it after the Flood. It is up to individual’s choice to abstain meat.
Since National Sunday law doctrine or message is not supported by the Scripture, but conspiracy theory conceived by Ellen White, this book I believe should be prohibited from being distributed. It would only damage our mission.

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Specifically, what is the mission?

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For what it’s worth, the link posted for the New Zealand story is to a fake news website. It’s copied and pasted from a blog post by an ultra-conservative independent ministry: The North New Zealand Conference President Responds to the Fallout over His Comments on the National Sunday Law Book | Advent Messenger. The author of the piece also posted to The North New Zealand Conference President Responds to (openpr.com), which is apparently some kind of cyber bulletin board. I don’t know for sure whether neighborwebsj is running a similar service as openpr, or whether it’s run by bots copying and pasting things from elsewhere on the internet and making it look like news stories. I suspect it’s the latter.

Now, in this case the story is real, but the piece linked to is not a news piece as is implied but rather opinion-blog about the story, deceptively formatted to look like a news article. Here are links to the story from what I think are more legit sites:

Mother disgusted 11-year-old daughter being asked to deliver ‘extreme’ religious publication on paper round | Stuff.co.nz
‘National Sunday Law’ books dropped in New Zealand letterboxes ‘a waste of trees and resources’ - anti-junk mail group | Newshub
Environmental groups call for junk mail to be phased-out - how does the rest of the world regulate it? | Newshub

Interestingly, the effort seems to have mostly offended people for environmental reasons. There’s little reporting on the Adventist reaction beyond the very biased report from Advent Messenger, so could be an area for Spectrum to do a little investigative reporting.

News stories 1 and 3 can be filed under “Adventists taking official church teachings seriously cause headache for denominational leaders.” This is, unfortunately, a rather large file. For example, it’s a fundamental belief that Ellen White speaks with prophetic authority, and she stated both that a plant based diet was important for preparing to be translated to heaven, and that God doesn’t listen to the prayers of a mother pleading for her children’s salvation when said mother is feeding her children animal products. This would explain why salvation and the health message has gotten linked together for many Adventists. (See Testimonies to the Church Vol. 2, p. 352, 361)

Of course, first world Adventists will deny EGW meant any of this, because they operate with a post-modern hermeneutic that allows them to remake Ellen White in their own image while dismissing contrary bits of Ellen White data as being “out of context.” But maybe our brothers and sisters in Africa haven’t gotten with the program, and still view “prophetic authority” as something objective and determinative for doctrine.

Regarding the Sunday Law pamphlets, it’s not even that the church disagrees with the content of the books, it’s just that they violated the order in which we’re suppose to reveal our face to the world. The proper order is supposed to be: 1. Befriend person by being decent human neighbor so he thinks Adventists are nice people. 2. Invite them to meetings which cover our beliefs in order from least controversial to most controversial. 3. Toward the end of series, once they’re hopefully starting to get emotionally invested in joining our community, we reveal that Catholics are the beast (and if it’s a sufficiently conservative evangelistic meeting, perhaps reveal that all Protestants are Babylon), and that the mark of the beast will involve an international conspiracy against Sabbath keeping.

It’s odd to me now, how I used to find that strategy completely reasonable and sensible. I thought it was the National Sunday Law Project people who were unbalanced and cultic for actually being fully transparent about what we believe and not relying on bait and switch tactics. How many other denominations have beliefs which they chastise their members for making public in the wrong order? I’m afraid not any of them are sects we’d want to see ourselves associated with.

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this is quite an interesting statistic…i’ve always been led to believe that vegetarianism, and especially veganism, is non-existent outside of n. america, specifically our larger educational institutions…but 42% seems pretty close to what i believe exists in n. america overall…it’s almost certainly more than what exists in canada, especially in my home church here in calgary…i don’t think any of our originally european, carribean, brazilian, asian or african members are vegetarian, much less vegan…

i wonder whether this 42% statistic reflects actual conditions on the ground, or whether people are saying what they think they should be saying…

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Yes, I guess I’d thought similarly. I certainly didn’t see it universally practiced in East Asia where I did missionary work, one place even had meat at the Sabbath potlucks. One of the schools would also occasionally order milk-tea for all the teachers so they weren’t exactly strict about no-caffeine rule either.

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we moved to canada from s. africa in the winter of '68, arriving in the middle of an historic snowfall, which we’d never seen, and by the spring of '69 were down at andrews, where my dad began a master’s in music…the first thing we noticed was that everybody was white, but the second thing we noticed was that everyone was vegetarian (later on we noticed that everyone was republican)…we returned summer after summer, before actually moving there in '72…we never had any trouble adjusting…adventists in s. africa, at that time, of course, were all heavy meat-eaters, the only concern being pork, or seafood that wasn’t fish with scales…

but over time, my dad started having problems with a meatless diet…when we finally moved back to canada, mom and all of us kids were vegetarian, but my dad wasn’t…my mother never fussed over it, and simply prepared the meat dishes for dad that he liked, while she cooked a separate meal for herself and us kids…but i do think that this was the hurdle that dad could never overcome…i think he tried for a time, but he eventually gave up…from this he took on a negative attitude towards egw, and he eventually left the church…

i think a lot of meat eating adventists live in a state of cognitive dissonance, just like we did in s. africa…people were all egw believers, but no-one ventured into her health counsels on meat eating…and in s. africa, her counsels on coffee and caffeine were never a problem because everybody drank rooibos tea, which is non-caffeinated…

but when this subject of meat eating is made an issue, it becomes a bit of a wedge, and a stumbling block for a lot of people…i think people do leave the church because they’ve left egw because they don’t want to give up their meat…of course they’ll always say it’s doctrinal issues, and that they prefer to follow the bible, which says nothing against meat eating…but it’s really because they want to eat what they want to eat…maybe adventists in africa and asia have seen this connection and are being more honest about it than adventists elsewhere…

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It was mixed where I grew up in Nebraska, aka beef country. My family was vegetarian (and even tried veganism a time or two), but it wasn’t universal in the local church. None of the members would go as far as bringing meat to potluck, though there were Church of God 7th Day people who attended the church and would bring meat.

The “cognitive dissonance” goes back to the very beginning. Ellen White, herself, did not follow her counsels on vegetarianism until long after she started proclaiming the message. According to John Harvey Kellogg, the Adventist ministers weren’t following it either. Interestingly, while at the time Kellogg was one of those who strictly believed in the health message and opposed this hypocrisy, he later came to the conclusion that the “back-sliding” probably saved their health. Knowing, what we now know about vitamins this was very likely true. Even now veganism carries a risk of malnutrition if you don’t work hard at doing it right, but in the 19th century before the advent of supplements, fortified foods, and modern transportation bringing every variety of food to your door-step, it would’ve been impossible to be vegan without major malnutrition.

Given the nutritional situation of the 19th century, our pioneers probably felt terrible after trying to adopt vegan diet and so survival instinct won out over religious dogma. Ellen White seemed to recognize this later on and would encourage more moderation in the health message and eating eggs in certain situations. But the stricter and harsher early counsels were believed to be from God, so we could never just admit we’d been wrong, and so we’ve still got some people trying to live up to the letter of the law of her initial teachings.

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It is simply the gospel commission entrusted by Jesus upon the church.

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If God had commanded us to keep sabbaths He gave to the Jews, he would have told us when and where they begin each week.

He only permitted one sabbath a year to begin at sundown, and that one wasn’t a weekly one.

We’re a mess.

[Picard facepalm]

As she said, if we’d study God’s Word, we wouldn’t need her Testimonies. Because that’s the miracle everyone remembers, Jesus feeding the multitude with five loaves of bread and two cans of Tuno.

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i really think these individuals are their own worst enemies…personally, i’ve never seen even egw’s “stricter and harsher early” health counsels as anything more than aspirational…her style is to leave little room for anything less than earnest, determined effort…this is quite evident from reading her widely…

If I pray for forgiveness after a meal of meat, am I ensured of salvation? I should do likewise after the ice cream and pie too.

From what I’ve seen there’s pretty much universal scholarly agreement that the current Saturday Sabbath goes back at least to exilic times and the finalization of the Torah. Since the latest redaction of Scripture is accepted as the Word of God (and conservative Christians don’t agree that there were earlier redactions), I don’t think the origins of the weekly Sabbath pose the theological problem some think it does. The idea that Jews were keeping a lunar sabbath into late antiquity is just some conspiracy theory concocted by a convicted anti-Semitic hate-criminal whose field of work was being a sound engineer for contemporary Christian music. Jonathan David Brown - Wikipedia

Now, the international date-line is much more of an issue to Adventist Sunday-law theology, you’d think that if we thought the last day test is going to be a global conspiracy to get people to worship on the wrong day, we’d put more thought into where that line should be than just going along with where our supposed future persecutors say it is.

Most Adventists in New Zealand were quite disappointed about the letterboxing of this book. Of course there would have been exceptions. We have an ultra conservative group in our country who like to push conspiracies and conservative American rhetoric. Only 37% of people here report on the census that their religion is Christian, so you can figure pretty accurately that it didn’t mainly offend people for environmental reasons. My Adventist daughters were upset about it and were sending me photos, and screenshots of Facebook groups they were part of.

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This 1869 message to the Battle Creek Church makes it seem more than just aspirational:

Had you taken your position upon the health reform;…things might have been different. But you have been only partially aroused by the iniquity and corruption that is in your houses…Do you think angels can come into your dwellings? Do you think your children are susceptible of holy influences with these things among you? I can count family after family that are almost entirely under the control of Satan. I know these things are true, and I want the people to arouse before it shall be eternally too late, and the blood of souls, even the blood of the souls of their own children, be found upon their garments.You place upon your tables butter, eggs, and meat, and your children partake of them. They are fed with the very things that will excite their animal passions, and then you come to meeting and ask God to bless and save your children. How high do your prayers go? You have a work to do first. When you have done all for your children which God has left for you to do then you can with confidence claim the special help that God has promised to give you. ( Testimonies for the Church, vol. 2 — Ellen G. White Writings (egwwritings.org) , page 361)

Here we have the proclamation that not embracing the health message, blocks all positive spiritual influences in the home. And that when parents feed their children butter, eggs, and meat, God won’t even hear them when they plead for their children’s salvation. It doesn’t really come across as “Here’s an ideal to strive for, but nobody’s perfect so if you fail God still love you…”

Now, one can argue that she meant intemperate use of these products, and wasn’t calling for total and strict abstinence. But if you were a parent who heard this message, would you really want to gamble on just how much many animal products you could feed your family before God starts ignoring your prayers for your kids’ salvation and your home is turned over to satanic influences? One could hardly blame a parent from taking this testimony to heart and deciding abstinence was the safest course of action. If you were such a parent, it must have been disheartening to learn 40 years later that you were an extremist starving your family of good healthy nutrition and thus responsible for crippling God’s work and bringing the health reform into disrepute:

Eggs contain properties which are remedial agencies in counteracting certain poisons.
Some, in abstaining from milk, eggs, and butter, have failed to supply the system with proper nourishment, and as a consequence have become weak and unable to work. Thus health reform is brought into disrepute. The work that we have tried to build up solidly is confused with strange things that God has not required, and the energies of the church are crippled.(Review and Herald March 3, 1910 par. 12-13, reprint of sermon given May 31, 1909: The Review and Herald — Ellen G. White Writings (egwwritings.org)

If it weren’t for the idea of her prophetic infallibility, it could have been admitted that she was passing on the health ideas of her time, and some of them turned out to be harmful so she adjusted the message. But instead she was compelled to shame those who took her first message too seriously. And now we have a hermeneutic that tries to split the difference between conflicting messages like this in the name of “context.”

I was fortunate to have been raised by a family that took this approach. One of my early Adventist memories is making the mistake of reading Counsels on Diet and Foods the night before my older brother’s birthday party. I was quite dismayed to see the foods I was looking forward to eating on the next day we’re all condemned, and the the milk and sugar combo (aka cake and ice-cream) was bad because it’d turn into alcohol in the stomach. Since alcohol was strictly verboten, I connected the dots and figured cake and ice-cream were out. But my Mom assured me that because of “context” White only meant we should employ moderation in eating such things and that it wasn’t a prohibition against BD parties. As an 8 yo. looking forward to the next day’s festivities I was more than happy to accept this explanation.

But some people weren’t blessed with parents like that, and were born to families that try hard to take all EGW admonitions at face value. The problem with the context™ approach to countering this, is that it often misunderstands how context actually works. Imagine in one conversation I say “Jeremy’s a lying two-faced scoundrel,” and there’s nothing within that conversation to suggest I meant anything different than the plain meaning. Then in another completely separate conversation I say “Jeremy’s a very upstanding and honest man.” By normal rules of language I simply contradicted myself, and you can’t use the second statement to say I didn’t really mean the first statement. But by the Adventist Context™ hermeneutic we’d try to combine the two statements and come up with something like “Jeremy’s generally a decent guy who tries to be honest, but sometimes he exaggerates…”

This approach, of course, is incredibly useful. With 100,000 pages of Ellen White text to mix and match, everyone can create their own personal Spirit of Prophecy by deciding which passages are controlling context, and what kind of synthesis we should arrive at by combining them. You can have a fire and brimstone ultra-conservative Ellen White, a moderate evangelical Ellen White, or even a progressive Social Justice Warrior Ellen White, the possibilities are practically endless. But it seems spiritually abusive to blame people who don’t take this creative approach for the fact that they find EGW’s many admonitions to be a great burden.

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Thanks for providing the local context. I’m not surprised most New Zealand Adventists disapprove. The same would be true in America. This is a reoccurring phenomena, some group of zealous Adventists (or sometimes splinter groups) starts spreading Sunday Law theology indiscriminately to the embarrassment of most Adventists and our church leaders publicly distance themselves from it. The problem is that they cannot actually refute the content of such efforts, since they’re publishing things that the church officially teaches. So they just condemn them for spreading the message in the wrong way, and then when pressed they have to admit that yes they do believe in international Sunday law, that the papacy is the anti-Christ, and that the mark of the beast will be Sunday observance, etc…The ultra-conservatives are right to challenge the honesty and transparency of such an approach.

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The Sunday Law isn’t mentioned at all in any of our 28 Fundamental Beliefs.

Advent Messenger website is criticising Ted Wilson for saying, in Adventist World p 21, that false worship entails worshipping on any other day but Sabbath (Saturday). They say, “No. This is not true. A day “other than the seventh-day Sabbath” can be Monday or Tuesday. The hierarchy of the Seventh-day Adventist Church has given up on its work of correcting erroneous perceptions about our message.” (Advent Messenger - “Adventist World Just Published Ted Wilson’s Distorted Remarks About the Mark of the Beast” by Andy Roman)

I believe it’s pure speculation that there will there will be Sunday Laws. The same people who push this theory also push all sorts of conspiracies that are just not true, including the Covid-19 vaccine changing a person’s DNA, making it impossible for them to be saved by Jesus, also a person must be Vegan to enter God’s Kingdom.

Bundling the Sunday Law, Veganism, and anti-vaccination nonsense together with all manner of other conspiracies only serve to prove that it’s time-wasting, particularly in the midst of a pandemic when so many families are losing love ones. Having a relationship with Jesus has been totally lost in the process of peddling conspiracies in exchange for the admiration of their cult followers, and of course, regular donations.

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True, but Ellen White’s prophetic authority is a fundamental belief, and she quite strongly and clearly endorsed Sunday law theology. The Great Controversy includes all of this theology, and Adventist Book Centers sell the book in dozens of different forms, it’s one of the chief books literature evangelists try to sell, and summer youth magabook programs peddle it door to door(in pre-pandemic). The evangelistic series I’ve been involved with always culminate with a big reveal in which the beast is revealed to be the papacy and the mark of the beast Sunday observance. It’s what we use as the hook: “come for five more meetings and you’ll learn who the anti-Christ is!”

I fully agree that it’s a conspiracy theory pushed by fanatical conspiracy-minded people, and that it detracts from the gospel. But at least with the fanatics you know what you’re getting, and they’re not engaging in a two faced game of downplaying the doctrine to the world and more liberal Adventists, while still promoting the theology in numerous ways and assuring conservative Adventists that we still believe all of it.

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