Causes of Disunity

The Old Testament (OT) prophets repeatedly called upon literal Israel and the role it plays, as God’s chosen people to obey Him. Seventh-day Adventists believe that the OT prophecies and predictions given to literal Israel were based on the condition that they should obey God. However, the Bible gives numerous examples of how the Israelites disobeyed God and demonstrated disloyalty to Him instead. Disobedience is one of the causes that lead to disunity.

From Deuteronomy 28:1–14, we learn that the blessings God promised to Israel await them if they prove to be obedient to Him. Deuteronomy 28 lists a series of covenantal blessings and curses connected to obedience and disobedience. The chapter opens with texts that are related to the concept of obedience, which leads to blessings “across the broad spectrum of daily life (Lev 26:3–13; Deut 28:1–14).”[1] These blessings, include among many, the birth of children, fruitfulness of the crops and that of the herds; blessings of the city and the country as well. The birth and the naming of children is a blessing of unity, when a person gave his own name to another, it implied the joining of the two in a very close unity, as when God gave his name to Israel.

God in His infinite wisdom provided the Israelites with “every facility for becoming the greatest nation on the earth”[2] When they apostatized, God said, “Return, faithless Israel, declares the LORD; ‘I will not look upon you in anger. For I am gracious,’ declares the LORD; ‘I will not be angry forever.’ ‘Only acknowledge your iniquity, That you have transgressed against the LORD your God And have scattered your favors to the strangers under every green tree, And you have not obeyed My voice,’ declares the LORD.” (Jer 3:12–13). Obedience to God’s commands was essential to safeguard against the sins of idolatry and self-centeredness.

Because of disobedience, Israel went into captivity, “there to learn the lessons they had refused to learn under circumstances more favorable.”[3] The Danish Proverb fits here, “He who will not obey a father, will have to obey a stepfather.”[4] The old proverb says, “When you obey your superior, you instruct your inferior.” The words of Aristotle are alarming when he said, “He who has never learned to obey cannot be a good commander.”[5] A good person must learn the virtue of both: he should learn how to govern like a freeman, and how to obey like a freeman. Again and again, God warned the Israelites that blessings go hand in hand with obedience and that curses accompany disobedience (see Deut 4:9; 8:19; 28:1, 2, 13, 14; Jer 18:6–10; 26:2–6; Zech 6:15).

The book of Judges tells of the many stories where Israel did not obey the Lord’s will and suffered the consequences of their sins. With the death of Samson, the record of the Israelite judges came to an end. The last five chapters contain two sorties to reveal the predominant idolatry and moral corruptness of Israel. The phrase, “in those days there was no king in Israel” appears four times in the book (17:6; 18:1; 19:1; 21:25). These words show the contrast between the time of the monarchy—when they obeyed God, and the time of the judges—when they disobeyed God. The words, “every man did what was right in his own eyes” is repeated two times (17:6; 21:25). These words are a keynote to the entire book. It expresses, as Arthur Penrhyn Stanley says, “the freedom, the freshness, the independence, —the license, the anarchy, [and] the disorder.”[6] Never was there a more bitter instance than in these two alternate sentences in the period of the Judges.

Whenever Israel disobeyed and sinned, God sent the Angel of the Lord to remind them of their previous deliverance from the oppression of the Egyptian. Disobedience, as it is highlighted in this lesson, is one of the causes of disunity. Another is the intermarriages with the Canaanites (see Judges 3:5–7). The instruction in the book of Deuteronomy was “you shall not intermarry with them; you shall not give your daughters to their sons, nor shall you take their daughters for your sons. For they will turn your sons away from following Me to serve other gods; then the anger of the LORD will be kindled against you, and He will quickly destroy you.” (Deut 7:3–4). God was concerned for purity and that is why God’s instruction was not to marry or even to mingle with the Canaanites, the Hittites, the Perizzites, and the Jebusites. These nations could influence Israel to turn away from God; foreign wives would lead Israel astray, which in turn, will incur God’s wrath. The Apostle Paul warns believers today not to marry unbelievers (2 Cor 6:14–17).

Lack of wisdom is another cause for disunity among the people of the OT. The story of Rehoboam who rejected the counsel of the elders and sided with the young advisors brought not only division but plunged Israel into a senseless civil war. Homer said, “in youth and beauty wisdom is but rare.”[7] In contrast, “Old age is wisdom” said Georges Minois, the French historian. Further, I like the African proverb that says, “When an old man dies, a library burns down.” The ancient Afghani tribe said, “As one declines in strength, one increases in wisdom.” These wise words imply that there is safety in the counsel of the old. As a king, Rehoboam should have remembered that the counsel of the experienced is always helpful. We should not seek wisdom for personal gain, but rather we should seek wisdom so that we become a people of faith. God’s word should be the filter for the advice we are receiving.

In I Corinthians 1:10–17, the apostle Paul makes a transition from salutation (vv. 1–3), being thankful and commendation (vv. 4–9), to addressing the internal divisions the Church at Corinth is facing. The divisions in the Corinthians church were many: factions, litigation, sexual immorality, food offered to idols, spiritual gifts. The word translated divisions is schisma in the Greek language; the word can mean “split,” “tear,” and “division.”[8] John James Lias argues the word schisma renders an unreliable translation because schisma is more of a separation from the church. According to him, the best translation would be “divisions in, than separation from, the church.”[9] Such divisions, “Paul insisted, constituted a denial of their allegiance to one Lord (1 Cor. 1:10, 13) and their membership of one body (1 Cor. 12:12–26) where discord (schisma) had no place (1 Cor. 12:25).”[10] In Verse 13, the apostle Paul asks a rhetorical question, “is Christ divided?” The answer to this question is apparently negative from the following phrase, “Was Paul crucified?” Paul wanted to exalt Christ and Him crucified.

Ellen G. White said that the purpose of Satan is to “seek to divide and scatter them [the church], that they may grow weak and be overthrown. The people of God should move understandingly, and should be united in their efforts. They should be of the same mind, of the same judgment; then their efforts will not be scattered, but will tell forcibly in the upbuilding of the cause of present truth.”[11]

Mark Twain used to say he put a dog and a cat in a cage together as an experiment, to see if they could get along. They did, so he put in a bird, pig and goat. They, too, got along fine after a few adjustments. Then he put in a Baptist, Presbyterian, and Catholic; soon there was not a living thing left.

In the Old and the New Testaments, we saw examples of disunity and divisions among God’s people. When God’s people live in faithful obedience as the author says, the dangers of disunity will diminish. May the Lord help the Seventh-day Adventist Church during these trying moments of our church’s history, as believers, we should aim to be united and not to look for issues that separate us. The Lord desires His chosen church here on earth “learn how to be united in harmonious effort.”[12]

Youssry Guirguis is Lecturer in the Faculty of Religious Studies,Asia-Pacific International University (AIU), in Thailand.

Photo by Rod Long on Unsplash

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[1]J. Richard Middleton, A New Heaven and a New Earth: Reclaiming Biblical Eschatology (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker, 2014), 92.

[2]Ellen G. White, Christ’s Object Lessons (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1941), 288.

[3]Ellen G. White, Prophets and Kings (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1943), 405.

[4]Robert Christy, Proverbs, Maxims, and Phrases of All Ages: Classified Subjectively and Arranged Alphabetically, 2 vols. (New York, NY: Knickerbocker, 1887), 1:312.

[5]Aristotle, The Politics of Aristotle, trans. by B. Jowett (London, UK: Henry Frowde, 1885) 74.

[6]Arthur Penrhyn Stanley, The History of the Jewish Church: Abraham to Samuel, Vols 2 (New York, NY: Charles Scribner's Sons, 1879), 1:317.

[7]Homer, The Odyssey of Homer: Translated from the Greek (London, UK: Henry Lintot, 1752), 375.

[8]M. J. Harris, “σχίζω,” in New International Dictionary of New Testament Theology (NIDNTT) (Grand Rapids, MI: Zondervan, 1986), 3:544.

[9]John James Lias, The First Epistle to the Corinthians: With Notes, Map and Introduction (Cambridge, UK: Cambridge University Press, 1892), 34.

[10]M. J. Harris, “σχίζω,” NIDNTT, 3:543.

[11]Ellen G. White, Testimonies for the Church, 9 vols. (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, 1855), 1:210.

[12]Ellen G. White, Gospel Workers (Washington, DC: Review and Herald, 1949), 483.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Sawadee krup. I appreciate your article. Indeed disobedience, wisdom and divisions are all related to Disunity.
It seems we need to define “disobedience” as related to the present most “divisive” matter. Is ordaining women really disobedience or is it a matter of lacking wisdom in thinking you need a fixed rule for the entire world.
If Moses had refused Zelophehad’s daughters as if the inheritance laws were written in stone there would have been an injustice and disunity.
Indeed cultures and cultural influences can vary throughout the world and the differences within themselves are not “disobedience.”
What seems to be needed is the trust to let local unions and churches determine what seems to be best in these areas that don’t require an obvious “black/white” interpretation of “obedience.” There needs to be latitude for local interpretation without views from completely different cultures controlling the discussion.


Well said, @1QOL

It appears the church is headed for cut-and-dried interpretations of “obedience” to authority, rather than allowing the Holy Spirit to lead us. This seems to reflect an insecurity in the leadership of the Spirit and a reliance on the authority of man to create laws for everyone. Thanks for this comment.


There is a vast difference from disobeying God and not in agreement with church policy. When Ted has shepherded sheep for forty years in the wildness then let him led.


“When God’s people live in faithful obedience as the author says, the dangers of disunity will diminish.”

That’s the problem is it not ! A sizable segment of the church does not want to live by a thus saith the Lord, but what the culture is saying. Did Paul give counsel on who is to lead the LORD’s church. I think Paul made it very clear, since you invoke Paul here in the article.

See below for disunity cure>>>

The Spirit will fall on both your young men and your young women. Send reapers, the harvest is ready. The Spirit prepares BOTH men and women for leadership roles in the vineyards. He does not discriminate. Why is our church so headstrong on eliminating qualified and prepared reapers by gender discrimination? That would be the way of the world and culture, NOT God’s way.

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In the OT economy slavery was allowed. Paul began introducing “dangerous new theology” regarding Onesimus in Philemon. That began a gradual change in Christianity’s view of slavery. Ahead of it’s time, I may suggest.
Women’s ordination, I suggest is a cultural issue that may be allowed as there is a “church” felt need. It is never so women may “rule over” men but be helpmates over the flock they commonly are a part of.


Obedience? Our core issue is coercion. (Hey, that’s kind of catchy. :grinning:)

When we really study a subject, we learn. If you study about it and I don’t, I’m tempted to say, “That’s not what I was taught, conform or get out. Or, at least, quit learning.” Wrong solution.

When our movement was just getting going, a Seventh-day Baptist convinced Joe Bates that the “seventh day”
in the Bible means the seventh day of the week. It’s a subject that needs deeper study than we think. Astonishing fact is that we have a better solution to that one than we think, and Paul’s solution could be adapted to the WO question:

One man esteemeth one day above another: another esteemeth every day alike. Let every man be fully persuaded in his own mind.
He that regardeth the day , regardeth it unto the Lord; and he that regardeth not the day , to the Lord he doth not regard it. He that eateth, eateth to the Lord, for he giveth God thanks; and he that eateth not, to the Lord he eateth not, and giveth God thanks. (Rom 14:5,6)

Or we could keep on creating more denominations.


The greatest error in the long history of religion is to mistake obedience for morality. It’s a vacuous moral perspective that I fear is at the root of this debate over “unity” and women’s ordination/subjugation. If we really believe that right and wrong is defined by commands from authority, be it God or his perceived agents on Earth, we lose the ability to make real moral judgments that factor in human harm and the consequences of our actions. That sounds abstract and philosophical, but it has real impacts on how we treat others. Women for instance. Such moral confusion leads us to an ethical theory which at bottom does not value humans, equality or moral consequences—only top-down trust in authorities, and obedience to them. If your conscience ever twinges and you wonder if something your community believes or does is wrong, and the answer to your concerns is some form of “we just have to trust” (anyone or anything) you should be worried. Examine your moral foundations very, very carefully.

I think the author is correctly understanding the ancient Hebrew view of morality. Obedience to El/Yahweh equals good. “Sin” or evil is not equal to harm in this view. Harm to humans, suffering, and the many other things that naturally sway our conscience do not have any bearing in this moral framework. Disobedience to an authority equals sin. And Israel’s suffering as a nation was not natural, but a punishment from God for their disobedience. This entire view, I believe, is a moral mistake. Fundamentally it is saying that morality and right actions equal obedience (and morally unjustifiable obedience at that), and harm to others doesn’t matter.

The end result of this view is that if we are honestly convinced that God has commanded something, say that women should be subordinate to men, then the harm that belief has on others just doesn’t matter. Women’s suffering is literally not a factor in this kind of moral view. If it sometimes feels like people don’t matter, it might be because the moral views people hold fundamentally say that they don’t.

I think this fundamental difference in moral views is the root cause of Christian disagreement on issues like women in ministry and treatment of gay men and women. The fundamental moral concern of supporters of women seems to be harm to humans. The fundamental moral concern of the “Biblical Headship” contingent appears to be obedience to their view of God’s will above all, including the well-being of their human brothers and sisters.


“I saw that this door at which the enemy comes in to perplex and trouble the flock can be shut. I inquired of the angel how it could be closed. He said, “The church must flee to God’s Word and become established upon gospel order, which has been overlooked and neglected.” This is indispensably necessary in order to bring the church into the unity of the faith. I saw that in the apostles’ day the church was in danger of being deceived and imposed upon by false teachers. Therefore the brethren chose men who had given good evidence that they were capable of ruling well their own house and preserving order in their own families, and who could enlighten those who were in darkness. Inquiry was made of God concerning these, and then, according to the mind of the church and the Holy Ghost, they were set apart by the laying on of hands. Having received their commission from God and having the approbation of the church, they went forth baptizing in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, and administering the ordinances of the Lord’s house, often waiting upon the saints by presenting them the emblems of the broken body and spilt blood of the crucified Saviour, to keep fresh in the memory of God’s beloved children His sufferings and death.”
EW 101.

What’s the remedy for the church? Mrs. Ellen writes here in Early Writings page 101 and refrences directly Paul on leadership qualities in the book of Timothy and Titus letters. Who is to lead? Who is to protect the Flock?

What’s Gospel ORDER? The angel made it clear to Mrs. Ellen go to the word and the solution is there. Gospel Order was able men to lead that had rightly in love guided their families—not any old Joe would do but ones that had character proven to protect and nurture their families.

Exactly. Both men and women in partnership protect their families. Many women also protect their church families. There are nuanced meanings to scripture.


Remember how this all started?

And Moses came and called for the elders of the people, and laid before their faces all these words which the LORD commanded him.

And all the people answered together, and said, All that the LORD hath spoken we will do.
—Exodus 19

I am not against Gospel Order. I am very feminine in disposition, and prefer the domestic occupation.

I’ve worked in a office while I had children living at home. I had to manage industrial shipments of $100,000+ and thread my way through dealing with multiple foreign banks and NAFTA regulations. It was stressful. I didn’t dare mess up. I was spent when I got home.

A person has only so much emotional energy. Granted, the average person has more than I, but we all operate within limitations.

I have much sympathy and resonance with the complementarian position.

Children need their mothers. They need their mothers to be present and with energy to give them. Men need the dignity of their position in the family. Children need strong fathers, and parents who respect each other. The church needs strong families.

But I have lived out the Shadow Side of this complementarian equation, and the immaturity of its expression, at ground level, borders on insanity, and is horrifically damaging to individuals and families, beyond all doubt.

This is without going into the political and eschatological ramifications of Adventism being joined at the hip with the far Christian Right (read Fulcrum7).

The irony is completely lost!

The person who says, “All that the Lord has spoken, I will do,” has many hard lessons ahead.

There is no substitute for experience.


This is what boggles the mind! The embrace of evangelical Protestantism’s Headship Heresy. And to carry the handshake across the gap of Protestantism even further, embracing Catholicism’s view that women can serve, too, but only as nuns, etc.

And now the full embrace of non-Trinitarianism to bolster theologically, a view of the lower level of women and Christ.

You have lived in the full experience of this society and its devastation. That Adventism is pining to follow after this beastly theory of male and male clergy domination does boggle the mind.


Bro. Elliott mentioned: "When our movement was just getting going, a Seventh-day Baptist convinced Joseph Bates that the 'seventh day in the Bible means the seventh day of the week. And do know who that Seventh-day Baptist was? A woman ! Rachel Oakes Preston, 1809 - 1868. She was born in Vernon, Vermont and joined the Methodist Church then later joined the Seventh-day Baptist. Mrs. Oaks soon embraced the Seventh-day Adventist teachings. (The Experiences of the Pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, by J.O Corliss. Review & Herald, 1904)


The Headship church I was a part of learned from hard experience, fired their all their pastors and started again.

Decades later, the residual damage continues. My former in-law relatives who got us into this Headship church are a shattered family: two families of children live right next to their parents, but aren’t speaking to the parents, who are old and sick. I think one son made overtures of reconciliation, but I don’t keep up with them, so I don’t know where they are now. Very sad.


Can you imagine? A woman! :grinning:


There is another so-called “thus saith the Lord”. Why can’t your reasoning also be applied to [1 Corinthians 11:8–9], where Paul makes an argument from creation to bolster his position? In the context of 1 Corinthians 11, he demonstrates that women need to have their heads covered while praying or prophesying. Isn’t it inconsistent to reject Paul’s appeal for women to wear head coverings while affirming his command for women not to teach or have authority over men, since in both contexts Paul uses virtually the same (creation-related) reasoning?

How do you pick and choose which of Paul’s commands remain applicable today? I don’t see any difference between them.

There are many “thus saith the Lord” teachings throughout the Bible that you and I ignore. That is why I find consistency in the teaching that “the 1, the 2, and the 10” commandments (see Alden Thompson’s book, “Inspiration”) are what still apply. To move beyond those we can no longer discern what still applies.


Also the first person in America to accept the seventh-day Sabbath was a woman - Tacy Hubbard in December 1671. She was instrumental in teaching the Sabbath to many others. Many Seventh-day Adventists are her descendants.

God DOES use women to teach doctrine - and with long-lasting results!


See my answer below - the first person in America to accept and then teach the Sabbath was Tacy Hubbard in 1671 - a woman!!

It is Mrs. Hubbard we owe for our understanding of the Sabbath today. And women aren’t to teach???

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Sometimes the issues come looking for you.

Causes for disunity:

  1. Some Adventists are convinced they can manage authoritarianism better than the Catholic Church did.
  2. Other Adventists are not convinced.

Authoritarianism and freedom in Christ do not mix.

Still, I think these are proxy issues, and not what is fundamentally driving this church over a cliff.

Really, though, if a person is psychologically integrated, great peace have they, and nothing shall offend them.

Time to go…

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