Timeout: Cosmic Conflict vs. Historicism

(antony nyathi) #41

I have listened to Graham Maxwell since I was a boy. I have never heard something so beautiful and expanding of one’s curiosity. I learned to identify what I know, what I don’t know and what I need to know. I felt fear go down and love go up. It does no good to stand up to defend a dead man I guess. But just for the record those of us who have believe this view find it quite satisfying I will illustrate.

I went into a Sunday Church to use the rest room, as that was the only building open then. Immediately the pastor was on to me, trying to convince me that it was ok to eat meat etc. And because I believed the larger view, for the first time in my life I felt no compunction to turn a moment of possible relationship into a theological fight. Love swept over me and I turned the conversation to the wonder of Christ. We parted in peace. I thanked God. If I held my old beliefs I don’t see peace would have been in this case. What I believed previously would not have helped me in that situation.

The other day I discovered a good acquaintance was muslim. I kid you not, my love for them went up, my desire to convert them by christian trickery was not there. The more I understand the large view, the more I just want to love people. This is the impact it has had on me. Sure the theology may be shaky, but I don’t really judge theologies that way, I just check if my love container is filling up or if the fear box is filling up. I check if I am able to listen and understand and weigh evidence as best as I can or if I am becoming afraid to weigh evidence.

I had a conversation with someone who does not believe in God, a scientist, he asked me what I thought about evolution and the evidence that supports it. Because I believe in the goodness of God, I was able to answer honestly and I am quite sure he was able to respect my answer and yet not feel pressured or insulted or ridiculed. He did not make me feel the same way either. The larger view as I understand it, is not about having a tightly neat theology, its just about having the clearest view of Jesus possible and seeking an even clearer one, so we are free to change lots of things in order to see Jesus Clearly, like Zacheaus we might need to climb a tree and afterwards we might need to come down from the tree, we have to do and believe whatever helps us see Jesus better. this is what the larger view is all about in my opinion. at least thats what I use it for.

As I have recently learned, we can never bend the truth, we can only bend our perception of truth. The more we bend ourselves, one day we will break ourselves.

The way I read my bible, the way I study history, EGW, the way I engage in conversation and the way I react when someone opens up to me about their failing and doubts. The way I treat myself when I fail, all these things are practical ways that I have seen changes happen in my life and in the lives of others who have believed the message. This is what I understand the message to be in brief.

God is love. People haven’t always believed this but by and by everyone will see it. and Love will cover the world. So we pray day and night Thy kingdom come.


I thought you might be interested in knowing that there have been some Christians who have recognized the mistreatment of Black and Native Americans and have made intercessory prayer for forgiveness. Here is an example:


(Bruce Clements) #43

Someone said “If wishes and but’s were raisins and nuts we’d all have a bowl of granola.”

Similarly, while the notion that god could somehow magically save two people who share the same beliefs, to say nothing of a group of like minded people en masse, is a believable idea, it is nothing more than that.

Moreover, no belief—despite the certainty with it is held nor the frequency with which it is repeated—can prove that it must be the case just as there is no amount of hope or faith in a wish that can make that wish a prophecy.

To my mind Mark Twain’s view that each man must go to his own heaven is just as believable and much more appealing.

For example, Jerry Fallwell would think he had died and gone to hell if the “god” of his heaven invited in a group of homosexuals.

(Cfowler) #44

Thanks for your reply.

I’m glad that Maxwell was of value to you and your world view. He just wasn’t that for me.

I too, no longer have the need to get into heated debates, or have the “need to be right”. That’s not important to me anymore, so I totally get what you are saying. I enjoy a discussion, to be sure. But, I don’t take anything personally, and I’m less and less inclined to feel that I have to convince anyone of anything.


Sophistry of sophistry, all is sophistry. This article does not have arguments, it simply eloquently relates a gut feeling that is convenient to the majority of this magazine’s listeners.Even the title begs the question, by asserting without evidence that the two perspectives are in contradiction. It is useful because it foreshadows all of this article’s fallacies make.

The author saying may not be safe saying this is also silly. Unless he was literally inside David Koresh’s building at the time of publication, it’s a ridiculous plea to suggest a false courage. I do not know of any Adventist who has been murdered or maimed for his views by another Adventist. But that’s just an argument from ignorance that may be wrong. Hand-wringing over “-isms” is another non-argument largely based off the philosopher John Hughes’ work “Ferris Bueller’s Day Off”. It’s one of the silly arguments that people use to say Adventists are not Christians- ChristianITY vs AdventISM. It’s just a dumb word thing. You can add an “-ism” to anything because it doesn’t mean anything itself. Heck, I could call the author’s view “contextlesscosmicconflict-ism” or something more catchy. Would it be an argument? No, not at all.

“The biblical mainstay of “historicism” is the Book of Daniel. Daniel presents historical prophecy (“history” without the need to call it “historicism”).
Revelation is influenced by Daniel, but it is more than a Second Daniel”

Once again begging the question. He is basing his argument on the premise that only Daniel can have a historical (I’ll try to avoid the unspeakable suffix) interpretation, and arrive at that same conclusion. Daniel says some limited things without the context of revelation, because of present truth. Revelation doesn’t mean very much without Daniel, which was much older. The basic premise that the New Testament is essentially deeper and more spirtual than the Old Testament makes the author a dispensationalist (or, believer of dispensations I’d better say). There’s a lot of nice churches he can go to on Sunday where the folks will agree with him.

" Historicist readings are event-centered, time-centered, and history -centered. “Cosmic conflict” readings are value -centered and God -centered"

Timeless values and issues regarding the character of God can play out in the world and in time. At this point, it’s clear that the author has completely rejected Ellen White’s writings, given that such a position cannot be held if he read and believed her most famous book.

I read the rest and it wasn’t very good either. Baseless attacks on fundamental beliefs that require digging up the whole library to categorically refute are a bit much for your average dumb college kid like myself (who would still rather not do schoolwork even after the Sabbath). But when we see fallicies, proof that the author is not acting in good faith, and a heavy reliance on pathos and wordplay, we can draw a fairly clear conclusion that the author is wrong and contributes little.

(Kim Green) #47

Thank-you for sharing. There is a lot of history and deeds that have never been atoned for by the European Settlers and the US government. Very interesting.

The Pueblo Revolt here in New Mexico was caused by the Spanish government and the Catholic priests basically enslaving the Pueblo people to produce goods for sale and to forgo planting and harvesting traditional crops and hunting to feed their people. Naturally, all of this disrupted traditional life and their own religious practices. Native Americans were also forced to build churches and other buildings…the churches were the first thing they tore down in their frustration and rage.

(Kim Green) #48

“I do not know of any Adventist who has been murdered or maimed for his views by another Adventist.”

It has happened more than once…

A recent occurrence in the past decade or two is the infamous story of what happened in Rwanda:

(Leandro) #49

Thank you for sharing Fatal Flirting…. Aside from the remnants according to the election of grace talked about in the New Testament, there are two other remnants that stood out from the rest of the world: The remnants of the tribe of Israel (Jews) and the people who call themselves End-time Remnants (us SDAs). I have always entertained this thought: The Seventh-Day Adventist Church might have deceived us into converting to this line of faith through that claim. I wondered why, during the holocaust, Satan went against the Jews only and ignored the Seventh-Day Adventists. Why was Satan wrathful only with the original remnants and leave SDAs unharmed in the 1940s? Satan must have known who the real remnants were.

(Patrick Travis) #50

Leandro, Not an unreasonable, irrational thought.
Simply, the NT remnant are those that ACCEPT and remain faithful to Christ. No one deserves extermination before the final judgment.


And we have family members who adopted a boy whose family was murdered in that massacre. He now works for the UN.

(Kim Green) #52

Proving that good can come out of outrageous evil! Thanks for sharing.

(Phil van der Klift) #53

Two views of God to choose from:

A) Punitive and retributive God who dispenses “curses”/“judgments on rebellious humanity” so that people may declare, "Thou art righteous, O God, because Thou hast exterminated rebellion.”

B) Non-punitive, non-retributive God whose ‘judgments’ are merely revelations of what is happening and why, so that all may make an informed decision regarding:

  • the path to life or the path to death (Deut 30:15-20)

  • the nature of the cosmic context in which these paths play out - including the nature and character of each Kingdom ‘head’ involved; the associated nature and character of the reality of life within/under each of those Kingdoms; the associated nature and character of the realities of ‘life’ for those who live within the temporal reality of the intersecting of those two Kingdoms, and

  • within that total transparency, declare of God’s observed nature, character, and ways “Thou (and Thy Kingdom) are, (alone), righteous, O God”.

(Phil van der Klift) #54

Hi Cassie

We (unfortunately) live in a context where it is believed that Biblical scholars alone are qualified to accurately ‘interpret’ and understand Biblical things. But this is at odds with the Bible and the history contained within the Bible:

1 Cor 1:27. But God has chosen the foolish things of the world that He might shame the wise; and God has chosen the weak things of the world that He might shame the strong. (Berean literal version)

When Jesus chose His disciples and apostles, He chose on the basis of availability, not ability. He then imbued them over time with ability as a consequence of their growth via their walking with Him in dependence upon Him.

When you feel unworthy, you are in the best of company!

(Peter Marks) #55

Forgive me for being absent from this conversation until now. I have been ruminating on what you have written. I have also been travelling. There is much that is useful in what you say. However I still doubt the value of your wholesale rejection of ‘historicism’, which remains ill-defined beyond your challenge to the status quo of Adventist apocalyptic interpretation. You critique the ‘old historicism’ of Uriah Smith, and even more the ‘new historicism’, presumably that of the contemporary Biblical Research Institute. Further, your replacement interpretative schema seems only briefly defined and developed.

The Andrews Study Bible in its introductory notes on the Book of Revelation has what I consider a rather helpful definition of sorts to the work of historicists and of historicism. And I quote, “Historicists (with a focus on the flow of history) believe that Revelation speaks to the full range of Christian history, from John’s day until the Second Coming, and their approach takes the full evidence of the book most seriously. John himself indicates that historicism is the correct approach to this book in the very first verse (1:1) where he alludes to Daniel 2:28 and 45… The notes will help readers with this process of application. Tentative language like “may represent” is used in the notes because, while the overall soundness of the method is clear, exact applications often are not.” (I note with interest that the application of Christ’s message for each of the seven churches to seven historical periods falls into the category of “may represent.”).

Adventist pioneers did not invent historicism. They have been building on the shoulders of our Protestant forebears ever since the time of J N Andrews and Uriah Smith. And thankfully, our ways of expressing our prophetic interpretation have modified considerably, even in the last 50 years that I have been following these things.

Yet one must remember that the ‘historicist’ approach to understanding biblical apocalyptic has developed from the foundations laid in Protestant historiography which outline how to read Christian history ‘Christianly’. Further, at it core historicism is not primarily concerned with the interpretation of the seven churches, the seven seals or the seven trumpets. Rather it is concerned with the approach to understanding the second half of the Book of Revelation where the careers of the beast, the dragon and the false prophet are laid out for us in both their historic and more contemporary manifestations.

(Leandro) #56

(I note with interest that the application of Christ’s message for each of the seven churches to seven historical periods falls into the category of “may represent.”).

 It sounds we are not sure. What happens to our Spirit of Prohesy claim? Can we change it also to Spirit of Adjustment?

(Marrian Stinson) #57

I have been in the SDA Church since 1955. My mother found the Sabbath on her own and look for a church who kept all the Commandments of THE MOST HIGH! She found the SDA Church and she served and obeyed all of the WORD of THE MOST HIGH that she understood until she died. I am saddened that our faith has been abandoned to become a denomination like other churches.
The truth concerning Revelation by Uriah Smith was not actually historical, neither was it true cosmic or futurist. The reason why we fail because we believed too much of what he and others wrote, instead of the Bible. Today we have put him down some, but the concepts we have are so mixed up. I watched the Hope Sabbath School class last Sabbath and I was totally dismayed!
One student actually stated that John became a spirit and went to Heaven. Another stated that the Children (the word son in both Paleo and Greek is child or children. It is not a male’s world alone, female exist also.), of THE MOST HIGH were angels when the Bible clearly states that YAHWEH never called any angel HIS child! The teacher is my age and did not correct anything clearly at all.
I am a Biblical Historian and Revelation is historicist, futurist and cosmic. It is the continuation of Daniel! We only speak of EGW and mostly out of context, when she said clearly to take the Bible. One of her best writings, besides Early Writings, is Testimonies to the Ministers and Gospel Workers. Specifically the Chapter on How to Study the Scriptures! Simply, she said not to hold on to what we thought for years was the truth. She said when we find it to be in error, the better, and then turn and stand firm and show the error.
The Milleniums today are upset for many reasons; we give sermons as the author stated with very little Scriptures or none at all. Also, we do not speak of the Investigated Judgment that Hiram Edson saw in vision. All we talk about is EGW and the books she wrote that was to uplift us, to study but not to put them above the Bible! These young folks are sick of it and they feel that THE MESSIAH’S coming is far in the future or not at all! Others have left the church and all beliefs and faith about THE MOST HIGH have been removed from their minds!
Hiram Edson was shown Revelation Chapter Four-Six and yet, we do not get it. Instead, we still cling to the errors of Uriah Smith ( especially the whore being also the beast! This unbelievable!)
John was shown the Heavenly Sanctuary and both apartments. YAHSHUA was in THE HOLY PLACE and a door was open into THE MOST HOLY PLACE. If we’ve had taken time to read about Solomon’s Temple and The Holy Convocation Days and not the portable Tabernacle that was not permanent, we would understand Revelation. Once Israel became stable as a nation, the true pattern of YAHWEH’S HOLY Sanctuary was done. There were doors in Solomon’s Temple as it was in the Heavenly Sanctuary. 1 King 6:32 The Door in the Heavenly Sanctuary was open and THE FATHER was sitting on HIS Throne, as in Daniel 7:9, 10 Judgment was set. Now, John sees a better picture then Daniel. He sees YAHSHUA as THE PASSOVER LAMB that was slain (that ended the passover supper). THE MESSIAH moves from THE HOLY PLACE into THE MOST HOLY PLACE, there HE takes the Book of Life, which is also the history of this planet. The Seven Assemblies that were given were also the history of YAHWEH’S people starting with the Adams all the way to the last Assembly the Ladiocean, which represent us. The Seven seals THE LAMB took out of HIS FATHER RIGHT HAND, also represented those save and those blotted out of the Book. The horse represented the earth, that is why there were only four, like the four corners of the Golden Altar. It shows who was saved when the earth was pure until it starts dying as the pale horse. The Seventh seal is THE WRATH of YAHWEH on the earth as the sins of the wicked. The final souls are saved by the remnant, which is not a church or assembly but a seed!
EGW saw the 144,000 which was her first visions and she saw their names in the Sanctuary. Why are we debating this subject if it is spiritual or are they, individuals? They are individuals that will finish the work along with those in Dan 12:2 who will be raised from every age to assist like angels (messengers) swiftly moving over the earth to bring in the great multitude.
Rev Chapter Nine is not the Turks, this is the cosmos of Satan angels released from the bottomless pit. They come for the last five months (during the Time of Trouble), to torture the wicked, they cannot kill them. John sees them as smoke that covers the sun, then scorpions and their king is Lucifer- the destroyer! Daniel gives you three Appointed Times in Chapter 12. The Time of Trouble is 3 1/2 years, the hour of the beast is 1,290 days and 1,335 days adds on 15 days and it is blessed. The saints hear only the Appointed Time of YAHSHUA returned, the wicked hear only thunder.
The history of the earth is revealed to John from the beginning of time. Then, John sees the future of the earth, even when it is made new and THE ALMIGHTY ONES will come and dwell with the saints on the earth. Sin is eradicated and all is well. The cosmos shows, the evil angels’ release from prison but will return along with Satan for a thousand years. Finally, the first and second coming of YAHSHUA. First, to collect HIS saints and to destroy the beast and the false prophet who destroyed the whore in the battle of Armageddon! Secondly to return with the saints and to mete out executive judgment on Satan, his angels and the wicked. This is what needs to be understood and EGW said that both Daniel and Revelation will be understood just before THE MESSIAH returns. Now is that time! Remove what you thought was correct and return to the truth. The assembly (the church) is not going to be saved, it is the remnant and the great multitude, those who will keep all the Commandments of YAHWEH and have THE SPIRIT of PROPHECY (THE TESTIMONY) of YAHSHUA and not EGW (the messenger). Blessings!


Dr Tonstad,
Why the title Cosmic Conflict vs Historicism? Dosn’t Daniel and Revelation provide a historical account of the cosmic conflict?
cf. my post regarding “Revelation and the Crisis of. HISTORICISM.”

If the Historicist method is to be abandoned, may it be done fairly. If current church teachings such as the following are the result of the Cosmic Conflict approach, then it appears these are some of the “fanciful theories” we have been warned about.

S0 WHAT: The Current Church Position.

The current church teachings apply the little horn of Dan. 7:8 and 8:9 to the Papacy only, and as a result, the Roman Empire, along with Babylon, is not present in chapter 8. This position applies Daniel 8:9-11 to the Papacy’s attack upon the heavenly host, Christ, and the temple in heaven, and applies the 2,300 years to the persecuting rule of the Papacy, cf. below.

The Protestant reformers were nearly unanimous in identifying the papal system as the “man of sin,” the “mystery of iniquity,” and the “little horn” of Daniel,. Adventists Believe — 27, p. 160.

Both are viewed as one power”. Adult Teachers SS Quarterly, 2004. p. 122.

— the fourth beast and the little horn that comes out of it are depicted in Scripture as one power. Adult Teachers Quarterly, 2006, p. 52.

this power cannot be Antiochus Epiphanies or the Roman armies. Adult Teachers Quarterly, 2006, pp. 55, 57.

— only one power in history fits the description of the little horn - the Roman Catholic Church. Pfandl, Daniel, p. 63.

He (Martin Probstle ) concluded that in Daniel 8 not only is Babylon missing but also pagan Rome. He sees the little horn in both chapters describing only the papacy; BRI, email, 23/08/2011.

The treatment of the little horn in Daniel 8 should amplify the statement concerning the little horn in Daniel 7 rather than introduce another entity.” Shea, DARCOM, Vol. 1, p. 42.

I indeed regard the referent of the little horn in Dan 8 to be the same as the referent of the little horn in Dan 7.” Martin Probstle, Email, 28 October 2011.

the language of Daniel 7 and 8 clearly indicate that the little horn of both chapters is Papal Rome.” Ty Gibson, Email 11/06/2009.

“The Little Horn – Part 1 (Dan. 8:9, 10, 23-25). — After a discussion on how this little horn would oppose truth, it is revealed that it would be allowed to do so for “two thousand and three hundred days; then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.” (Dan. 8:14).” Teachers SS Quarterly, April-June, 2002, p. 44-45. (whatever this application is, (futureism, cosmic conflict, etc., it is not the Historist application.)

It appears the following counsel is just as applicable today. .
Those who allow prejudice to bar the mind against the reception of truth cannot receive the divine enlightenment. Yet, when a view of Scripture is presented, many do not ask, Is it True,—in harmony with God’s word? but, By whom is it advocated? and unless it comes through the very channel that pleases them, they do not accept it. So thoroughly satisfied are they with their own ideas, that they will not examine the Scripture evidence, with a desire to learn, but refuse to be interested, merely because of their prejudices. {GW92 125.3}

To abandon the Historist method on the basis of applications such as above, is not the fault of the Historicist method. The Historicist method, by its very nature, affirms the correct interpretation of fulfilled prophecy. However, in the case of the little horn, “tradition dies hard,” and especially for Adventists it seems.

(Edwin Reynolds) #59

On the whole, Sigve, I would agree with your approach. As you know, I appreciate your thoughtful approach to the text and your articulate writing. There can be no doubt that the cosmic conflict is the essential paradigm for reading and interpreting Revelation. It lies at the heart of the book (Rev 12, especially vv. 7-12), but it extends from beginning to end. At the same time, you may be too hard on historicism, or perhaps at least on one aspect of historicism, reinforced by your experience. As you point out, there is the old historicism, represented by Uriah Smith, and there is the new historicism, represented by Jon Paulien and Ranko Stefanovic. You admit that Daniel was historicist, pointing to the future in fairly detailed prophecies, as Paulien has shown in a couple of articles in JATS. And Revelation also explicitly claims to be a representation of “the things that will soon take place” (1:1 ESV; cf. 1:3; 4:1; 22:6,10), pointing to a historical fulfillment of prophecy. While I would agree that we have been far too eager to nail down specific events as the fulfillments of these prophecies, it would be difficult to argue that God did not have specific events in mind for many of the prophecies, even if often couched in symbolic language (6:12-17; 9:14-15; 10:7; 11:2-3,7-13; 12:5-17; 13:1-7,11-17; 14:6-12,14-20). Of course, there are real eschatological events as well, as you would agree. So, rather than putting historicism in conflict with the cosmic conflict paradigm, it may be wiser to view historicism as one important aspect of the cosmic conflict paradigm. Daniel’s historicism is an important part of the cosmic conflict, which is apparent throughout Daniel (see, e.g., 2:37-38,44-47; 3:17-18,24-25,28-29; 4:1-3,34-37; 5:18-29; 6:20-27; 7:13-14,25-27; 8:16-19,25-26; 9:15-27; 10:5-6,10-14,20-21;12:1-3,10-13). In fact, thoughout Scripture, history (Geschichte) is the process through which the cosmic conflict is played out on earth. We should not expect something different in biblical prophecy than we do in the scroll of history (cf. Rev 5:1) as revealed in the records of the biblical story, all of which is prophecy in the sense of God’s revelation to us (Deut 29:29). There are two forms of prophecy, foretelling (predictive prophecy) and forthtelling (classical prophecy). The latter far exceeds the former in Scripture. Both are revelation from God. Both involve the cosmic conflict, and both involve God’s work through history. Our problem is an overactive zeal in speculating on the future, which, to a large extent at least, is not open to us, then trying to defend our past, flawed positions and arguing that anything that does not agree with them is not historicism. It can still be historicism, only with a different interpretation of historical data. Ultimately, we need to be prepared to be more humble about our historical speculations and more open to the general trends laid out in God’s revelations regarding the outworking of the cosmic conflict on earth. Revelation is about Jesus Christ, not primarily about history. It reveals how He is working out in heaven, based on His prior work on earth, the plan for human salvation–but He is doing it on earth through time and history, trying to use people (His church) to accomplish His mission.

(Scott M Esh) #60

All of the above views are a mess, but considering how deeply entrenched people are with their views about God, I am not going to expound on this further. It would be a waste of time.

I would recommend more study of the Bible to find the truth.

(Steve Mga) #61

In church today the sermon was on parts of the Message to church Laodicea.
The pastor stated we were in the “End Times”.
The problem with “End Times” is that “End Times” has been ever since the
missionary journeys and the Letters of Paul.
Even in Revelation Jesus is quoted “I come quickly”. That was 2000 years ago.
So EVERY GENERATION is in the “End Times”, and needs to live that way.
Primarily because we do not know when OUR END will come. Some die as
infants, some children, some teens and early adults, some mid adult life, and
others not until 90 or older.
But the “End Times” for each individual could be today, or tomorrow. So we
need to be faithful with our relationship with the Holy Spirit, to the heavenly Family.
All through the Christian Era, poets, prayer writers have been writing in their works
the expected return of Christ. Many set to music, and then sung for 100’s of years
after, and even available in church hymnals in 2019. And just as inspiring as when
written with fresh ink on paper.