Eschatological Analphabetism (Illiteracy?)

Ted Wilson, president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, has announced General Conference plans to distribute a billion copies of Ellen White's The Great Controversy. This announcement of what is called “The Great Controversy Project 2.0” was made at the Adventist-laymen's Services and Industries (ASI) International Convention held this August (2021) in Orlando, Florida. “The Great Controversy is a marvelous book. I believe every word in this book. I support it and I promote it—the full and complete book,” said Wilson in remarks that were also posted to his Twitter account.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11455
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But then the product isn’t from the spirit that birthed it. Are we supposed rework EGW to make her more nuanced in the 21st century? How do you preserve a message while getting rid of the heart of a message? Either the message works, or get a new one. Perhaps what should be done is to find it straight from the Bible with a 21st century perspective. It almost sounds like we have to rescue Ellen from herself; or the church from Ellen. It never works when they colorize black and white films either.

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With new AI tech it works quite well. It doesn’t work for “all or nothing” film purists that can’t live with something that they grew up with changing and becoming something new.

Yes, but even perfect color doesn’t work well with the sound - speech cadence, and cultural expressions etc. You can’t disregard setting or there will be dissonance.

You seem to take Visconti’s position on this. He famously made set designers get all of the expensive set artifacts to reconstruct authenticity. Designers would say… we can create replicas, and no one in the audience would know, to which his reply was “I would know”. Problem is… that argument doesn’t work for B&W precisely because B&W isn’t the color of the world.

I don’t think this level of purism is anything but detrimental perfectionism that doesn’t really add anything except for aura of aesthetic legitimacy.

Art isn’t valuable because it has some technical aspects and quality of authenticity. That’s a part of the art narrative. Art is valuable because there’s a compounding cultural narratives about certain things.

I like re-colorized B&W Chaplin films because these to me seem more real and authentic than B&W which we don’t observe in nature at all.

Keep in mind, I am a pro that works with film color quite often. I love black and white a storytelling device where it fits. But to imply that it’s somehow more authentic because of some contextual imperfection of colorization… is absurd.

Here’s an example of colorized and restored Lumiere brother’s shot of 1900s Paris:

Please don’t tell me that you think grainy and high-contrast footage that lacked detail and range, with wobbling gate and irritating flicker … is somehow more authentic because we don’t know for sure what some of these colors may have been.

This version is far more real and human, and draws you into that world. B&W version keeps distance. It looks like a window into some weird dimension that doesn’t exist in this reality.

This isn’t about technical improvement. Granted, a color film is more enjoyable, but not necessarily more authentic. But never mind. I made an oblique comment about authenticity by likening it to colorized films. What’s even worse, is having a period film performed in modern language, and the really bad ones, with modern expressions that get in by mistake.

As to the subject at hand, creating an explanation of an explanation seems like that old game of telephone. Beyond that, the message is what the message is. Adventism has a problem defining the message. The Adventist message is about Adventism, and it doesn’t work in the outside world.

I disagree. It’s a bit of a circular way of looking at religion in general. Adventist message is still about archetypal narratives we find in religious paradigm, and the paradigms of power, do I don’t think it’s necessarily pointing inwards.

You may say that it’s justified by internal narratives that are structured for coherence and internal validation, but it doesn’t mean that these must be a static orthodoxy for these to work.

Miller was wrong. Why can’t EGW be wrong, or at least wrong in the immediate context of where she thought the world will be going?

She thought that Catholicism will give rise to spiritualism, and everyone will be increasingly Christian fundamentalist. She saw no digital revolution. She saw no infrastructure and tech revolution. She saw no medical revolution.

She was the inverted Stephen Pinker of her era, in a sense that things will get increasingly horrible. But, even with Covid, we live in better era then WWII and pre-WWII.

So, in the past Adventism has been able to ride the wave of fundamentalist end of the world which is almost almost here. But, the world took the turn into secularism. Likewise, the work took the turn into methodological naturalism. In era of cell-phones, almost no one is talking about stories of ghosts anymore. It’s just silly stories to scare kids, it’s not a wave of something people take seriously.

So, with this pandemic Adventist are at loss. They can’t say “prepare… this is it” because it doesn’t fit the paradigm. At the same time they are losing membership because of crying wolf for way too long. So, Wilson still comes out and postures about GC like it’s central part of the message, but Adventism in general has been shying away from it during the pandemic in order to avoid being perceived as anti-authoritarian.

So, there are crossroads as to what Adventism is really about? Is it about constant reconfiguration of the eschatological GPS when trajectory of society takes an unexpected turn? That’s what Adventist world has been doing thus far. Or should it back off from the narrative and instead say that it’s a model… or a paradigm we should watch out for no matter what it fits… and EGW merely painted a version of that paradigm, even though she was convinced it will be THE version.

I hope that makes sense.

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I think you misunderstood where I’m coming from. I agree just about everything you say. My response to the article is that either you leave the message as written, or declare it a mistake and start over. What Hantz Gutierrez aims to do is clean up the message so it’s more acceptable in this time. Doing that you destroy the message.

I especially like your last paragraph. To take it further, the antichrist is also part of a model, appearing probably in every generation as a potential fulfillment of prophesy. The important point is not, what has become the SDA stamped final scenario, but some version of the scenario nevertheless.

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Thank you! I find this very insightful. Excellent use of “salt” and “light” as well as “Apocalyptic” and “Messianic.”

Yet I am going to keep beating on a drum but perhaps more loudly and repeatedly. It tries to make three points: (1) Adventism has always been pluralistic, is now pluralistic, and will increasingly become more pluralistic; (2) We all have a tendency to assume that the type of Adventism we know best is what Adventism is everywhere; (3) This is not so.

This article and others elsewhere begins with the assumption that the kind of Adventism which Elder Ted Wilson embodies and promotes is representative of all SDAs. This is not so.

The General Conference President before him had importantly different views and values and the one before him had ones that differed from the first two.

Working backwards, I would say that the current GC President is traditional, the one before him was progressive, the one before him was evangelical, the one before him was personally progressive and pragmatic as an administrator, the one before him was traditional, the one before him was progressive and the one before him was traditional. This is as far back as my memory goes!

I will guess that around our institutions Elder Wilson’s type of Adventism is the one that is seen the least. I think that he would agree, albeit with some disappointment and frustration.

Pluralism is one of the characteristic of postmodernism. This is another reason for us to be wide-eyed about it in Adventism.

Thanks again!

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My favorite part is where commenters at this forum moan about how sad it is that SAD-ventists fall for anti-vaxx conspiracy theories while ignoring the fact that their denomination is based on EGW’s National Sunday Law/MOB Conspiracy Theory.

I don’t know if or when the MOB might or will go into effect but by dropping another two billion copies of TGC on the world and saying he believes every word of it, TW is drawing a line in the sand.

And if you’re not “down” with his and EGW’s foreboding eschatology in which the government turns on its people, either with a National vaccine mandate, a “go to chuch on Sunday law” or some other “get in line with the NWO” order, no matter how eerily similar any of these edicts may sound to a Dr. Evil-esque plot to take over the planet, what I hear is the tacit assertion that you really need to either get your head out of the sand or get out of their church pews!:rofl::rofl::rofl:

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How long can you hold your breath or cower in fear? My family joined the Adventists in the 1850s and each generation has been sure the end would come in their lifetime. I can no longer do that as I find myself at age 73. “Lord, we KNOW that you are coming SOON” in a prayer or sermon causes me pain and frustration. I grieve to find myself feeling that I’m on the edge of Adventism - barely. I want Christ to return, but I simply can’t hold my breath or cower in fear any longer!

“Soon” hurts Adventist credibility, IMHO. A high percentage of converts leave the church now. Is that because they find the message to have been either inaccurate or irrelevant? The new Great Controversy project causes me to hide my Adventist identity in a community where many people refer to those “f…ing Adventists”.

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If you have to sell a Product and a Biliion dollars from your own pocket to do it, i think you wont spend it making a billion of it and throw it around hoping some will make a real sale.

In this age of internet marketing, one has to be a stone-ager to do what GC wants to do. If the money comes from the committee’s own pockets, i bet to my last penny the strategy will 100% change. So what do i mean? The stewardship and brains behind it are low low quality. What a shame!

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Sirje,
With the exception of the previous to last sentence I am going to agree with you, even as I am fully aware of our differences of opinion concerning SDA escathology. In my view Hanz is embarrased of his own roots, and of the organization that pays him a salary. His position as Chair of Systematic Theology in an SDA school is untenable and a paradox.

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Peter,
Hang in there brother you are not alone. I am not cowering however, aside from normal concerns as to where we are going as a country, society, and the restrictions we are all beginning to face I am actually ecstatic that what my SDA-pastor-dad taught me (who has gone to sleep in Jesus) is all finally coming to fruition! I never thought it would come in my lifetime but I am now considering the fact that it will!

They leave because they havent studied the Word, because they lack faith; they represent the virgins who run out of oil (HS) just before the wedding groom arrives.

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That is in no way why people leave!

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WHat is your take on it Carol?

My take is that people really have no idea what they’ve joined. I speak from experience. Joining the SDA church was like entering a whole different world. It was quite weird. I’m sure that I would have left if I hadn’t married an SDA. He was a generational SDA, became a teacher in the SDA system, so we were “in it”.It was legalistic, and full of rules and regs. I didn’t hear much about the gospel. It was about the Sabbath, EGW/SOP, they were the remnant, all others were deceived, Sunday Laws, etc. If Adventists could see themselves and the church the way newcomers see them, they would be very surprised. This isn’t to say that there aren’t some very nice, sincere, wonderful people. But, the doctrines aren’t consistent with the New Covemant. I was biblically ignorant when I joined (I was 24 in 1976). If the internet had been round then, it would have made it much easier to research and compare Adventism with orthodox Christianity.

So, to bottom line why people leave so soon…because they don’t have any idea what they have actually joined.

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You are probably correct in many cases, but this describes mostly just the newcomers, not generational SDA members. One can only direct this to the pastors that poorly prepared and baptized the new members, especially when you consider that many pastors themselves are not fully grafted in the truth, just reading what Hanz has to say in the current aartivcle makes you reallly wonder where we are going as a denomination.

But regardless, wether one fully understood what we signed up for or gradually moved away from what one onced believed, it is not because we find reasons in the Bible to do that. Excuses or even reasons for finding fault in our SDA leaders will not stop, in fact it will lways get worse as time moves forward, the Bible says that (I myself left the church for 20 years in my youth just watching other SDAs, yes including conference, union, and even division presidents.
You either believe what the Bible says or you don’t, and for me this says Jesus created me, came to die for my sins, and will return to take me up to live with Him. The SDAC while far from perfect is the most Christ-centric church I know, thse who leave will not find better out there.

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I was responding to your response, to Peter’s response, about why a high percentage of new converts leave.

Thousands upon thousands of life long, generational Adventists have left for biblical reasons. I won’t go into them all, but it’s absolutely the case. Many, many people, including myself, don’t think that Adventism is the most Christ-centric church at all. Far from it. I believe what the bible says too, but I don’t believe the Adventist peculiar doctrines. You can believe that people who leave the SDA church “won’t find better out there”, but many thousands would strongly disagree. They have found Christ centered churches, churches without a “prophet” that must be followed. They can read and study scripture without an extra biblical source adding some very strange writings and teachings to the Word.

I didn’t leave because of SDA leaders or members.

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Those are very revealing questions. Why do Adventists live in fear? That’s not how t’s supposed to be. The gospel is supposed to literally be “good news”. The fear comes from the idea that we’re not “good enough”. Nobody is “good enough”. That’s what the gospel is based on - we are not, but Christ is. Adventist theology is about the judgment, and the judgment is about “being good enough”. The obsession on “last day events” is no different from fear of eternal damnation (fire and brimstone) that Adventism preaches against. Both are based on fear, motivating obedience.

My own experience never included fear. Adventism was presented as the only church that keeps all the commandments etc. All that other stuff about counting down to the “end” was too mathematical for me as a teenager. Not until, having gone through SDA college, graduating with a religion minor did I get the nuts and bolts of it all. But it wasn’t until I started to fit the pieces together later in my life, I found the numbers didn’t add up - but more importantly, the gospel was missing.

Whatever else is preached and discussed, Adventism relies on the few words in Revelation - “These are they that keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus.” The testimony of Jesus is then defined as the “spirit of prophesy”. The church has labeled EGW writings as “the spirit of prophecy”. That says, to be saved in the end, we are to "keep the commandments, and cling to Ellen White’s counsel - no mention of the gospel of Christ. In Rev. 14:12 another description is given of the faithful, they are described as "keeping the commandments of God, and having faith OF/IN Jesus. The King James and Revised Standard say OF; but the rest of the translations say IN. Two little words that make all the difference.

Personally, I can’t have the faith OF Jesus. That would be perfection; but I can imagine being able to live and survive with “faith IN Jesus”. That is the Gospel.

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