The Making of David Koresh

Editor’s Note: This year marks the 25thanniversary of the Waco Siege that occurred from February 28 to April 19, 1993. Throughout the coming weeks, we will be sharing on the website the articles that appeared in the May 1993 edition (vol. 23, no. 1) of Spectrum concerning this tragedy.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

One thing comes across clearly from this narrative: Koresh’s bizarre beliefs, practices, and ultimate fate can hardly be blamed on classic Adventist teachings—whether theological, moral, or eschatological. The repetitive attempt by critics of our classic faith to blame that faith for the perversions fabricated by Koresh makes as much sense as blaming the civil rights or peace movements of the 1960s and '70s for the tragedy of Jonestown and the People’s Temple in 1978. (For those who may not remember, Jones and his followers were very active in the aforementioned causes.)

The Waco incident will likely be remembered as the most demagogued event in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Theological liberals have foolishly tried to connect this tragedy with the classic Adventist focus on apocalyptic Scripture. (Exactly how a century and a half of prophetic interest on the part of Adventists can fairly be blamed for the perverse doings of a sex-crazed, gun-obsessed madman has never yet been explained.) Another exercise in similar demagoguery was the attempt a few years ago by certain ones to compare the Branch Davidian cult with certain independent Adventist ministries. (Many of the latter live in compounds, don’t they??) Then you had those extremists in the conservative ranks (a very small element, to be sure) who insisted that the raid on the Koresh compound proved that the heartless federal government was intent on exterminating gun owners, homeschoolers, and those with an interest in studying Bible prophecy.

There isn’t an ideology on earth, sacred or secular, which isn’t vulnerable to the distortion that a deranged mind could impose upon it. What happened in Waco was heartbreaking by any measure. But the manner in which this incident has been spun and manipulated from numerous points on the contemporary Adventist spectrum of thought has been profoundly disturbing and unhelpful. Numerous lessons can indeed be learned from this event, but perhaps the most poignant of these is that no speaker or thought leader—however charming, charismatic, knowledgeable, or apparently spiritual—can be exempted from the objective measure provided by God’s written counsel (Isa. 8:20; Acts 17:11).

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At the time of the Six Day war, an evangelist came to Augusta with the message that flying insects were Helicopters andparatroopers and the crawling insects were battle tanks. He then converted the wife of a crane operator. he got a testimony publishing in Tidings. He then left his wife and marriaged the convert and left the ministry. I am still. Afraid of bug. ’s.

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This is why it is unwise to grant interviews to the press: they lie.

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And there it is…

False teaching begets more false teaching.


The sexual appetite of David Koresh became obvious where ever he went (I have personal recollections of widespread rumors while he was in Manchester). From today’s perspective he should have been imprisoned for sexual abuse, long before all the other issues arose. But in those days … Or is that still an issue - though somewhat more subtle?

In other words … what have we learned? What can we learn? I applaud Spectrum’s effort to take the story up again.

You are absolutely right there are many things that had influence on the psychological makeup of Vernon Howell and those cannot be attributed to Adventist eschatology alone. The same cannot be said of his followers who permitted his immoral ambitions to be executed and his charisma and rhetoric to remove all judgement and discernment. The question is really does the lack of criticism and rational examination that is seen in faithful adherents to cultic eschatalogical belief a short step from classic Adventisms focus on apocalyptic scripture or not? I believe so.