In his introduction to the sixth edition of the book, “Lying for God,” Kerry Wynne argues that “A chain of bomb-shell revelations regarding the deceptions of Adventism rocked the Seventh-day Adventist Church between
1974 and 1990, destroying any factual basis for the three pillar doctrines of Adventism.”
Of course, he is referring to the discovery of what some Adventists knew all along regarding the 1919 Bible Conference which dealt with A. Ellen White dependency on the work of other authors, B. the 2300 day prophecy, and C. the change of the day of worship from Saturday to Sunday.
Wynne starts with a false premise and ends with a wrong conclusion. Adventism is based not on the three pillar doctrines he makes allusion to but rather on 28 fundamental beliefs, and the main pillars of the Adventist organization are not the ones he mentions, but rather two: The seventh-day Sabbath and the Second Coming of Jesus Christ. This is evident from the name of the organization: “Seventh-day Adventists.” I don’t know how Wynne could have missed this!
Wynne, a former Adventist with degrees from Pacific Union College and Andrews University, and current co-author of the above referenced book, claims that those three doctrinal beliefs were the main pillars of the Adventists faith, thus implying that if we question all three, the credibility of the rest of Adventist teachings become suspect. Here is my personal reaction to his arguments:
A. Ellen White Literary Dependency
The literary dependency of Ellen White writings on other sources is a topic which has been amply documented in Adventist literature. The fact that she borrowed from other sources without giving proper credit to many of the original authors is something that no credible Adventist is trying to deny. The fact that she seemed to deny her reliance on other sources is a reason for concern, but it should not lead us to question the value of the material she borrowed.
My personal opinion is that what she wrote should be judged on its own merits. The value of gold is determined by its intrinsic worth and not on whether it was borrowed or stolen, and when gold nuggets are discovered, they are not discarded when found with traces of dirt. Besides, the Adventist message does not rest on the infallibility of Ellen White writings, but rather on the primacy of the Bible over any other source of truth.
B. The 2300 Prophecy Found in Daniel 8
My view of the 2300 prophetic period found in Daniel 8 differs from the traditional Adventist teaching. Some Adventists have asked: “So what happened at the end of the 2300 days prophecy? Anything?”
I will tell you what happened according to the computation of John Newton, a close relative of Isaac Newton who lived and died several centuries ago. Instead of using the convoluted interpretation we Adventists have traditionally used for the prophecy found in Daniel 8:14, he chose a simpler way of explaining Scripture.
According to the explanation provided by the angel who talked to Daniel the prophet, the immediate context of the 2300 prophecy in the 8th chapter of Daniel is a battle between Alexander the Great and Medo-Persia. This took place in 334 BC. If you add the 2300 prophetical years and make and adjustment for the lack of a zero year between BC and AD, you reach 1967.
Did anything significant take place in 1967 for Israel, the people Daniel was concerned about? The answer is, yes. The Six Days War between Israel and the Arabs, which resulted in the incredible victory of Israel over its enemies, took place in said year.
We Adventists are so self centered that we believe that said major prophetic period must have been written with Adventists in mind. Was Prophet Daniel thinking about us Adventists? Wasn’t he rather concerned about his own people and his own nation?
C. The Change of Worship from Saturday to Sunday
The authors of the book Lying for God argue that since Ellen White was in error in attributing Rome for the change in worship from Saturday to Sunday, then we must conclude that the truth about the Sabbath is non-relevant for Christians. Personally, I am not concerned whether it wasRome of the Eastern Orthodox the one responsible for Sunday worship. All the argument collected by Wynne, Hohmann, and Sanders in support of Sunday worship is meaningless when compared with the teachings of Jesus Christ.
These non-Adventist writers argue that Sabbath worship was instituted by God following the liberation of the Israelites from their Egyptian slavery and that the Sabbath was meant for the Jews only. What did Jesus say about the Sabbath? He stated that “the Sabbath was made for man and not man for the Sabbath.” What can we conclude from this statement?
The authors of this book argue that what Jesus had in mind was not humankind in general, but merely Jewish men, forgetting that when God created the first man the Jewish race was not in existence. The Sabbath was created and blessed at the beginning– thousands of years before the Jews came into life. The Sabbath was not created and blessed when the Israelites were in the desert but at creation time.
The answer is simple and conclusive. Not only was the Sabbath made when God created man but the Sabbath was also blessed—set apart—during the six day of creation. This fact settles the Sabbath question for me! The Sabbath points initially to the six days of creation, and later on to the liberation of the Israelites from their Egyptian slavery, and to our own liberation from our slavery to sin by the work and life of Jesus Christ, our divine Redeemer.
The Hidden Agenda Behind the Book
In his criticism of the Adventist church, Wynne uses very strong language and attributes the worst possible motives for the actions of Adventist leaders which are unsupported by the facts submitted by this non-Adventist trio; thus suggesting that the driving motive for their book is not serious and credible scholarship but rather their hidden agenda designed to discredit and stain the credibility, honesty, and character of Adventist leaders both past and present.
Reading the minds of those who happen to disagree with our pet interpretations of Scripture is not a talent available to human beings no matter how long and how deep their scholarship is. Clairvoyance is beyond the reach of prone-to-err men and women no matter how deep and how serious their commitment to the search for truth is. We can’t read the minds and motivation of other people no matter how hard we try. In this, I believe the authors of this book have made their most glaring mistake for which there should be no justification.
Of course, I am not trying to deny that their research does provide an insight into the struggle of Adventist scholars in their attempt at getting a deeper understanding of the enigmatic prophecy found in the eight chapter of Daniel. The documents connected with the 1919 Bible Conference show that our Adventist leaders realized that there were serious questions connected with our interpretations of said biblical prophecy and that there was a need to temporarily shelve said questions until additional light might be available for solving the serious dilemma.
They also realized that some of those questions might have significant impact on our understanding of the voluminous writings which had been published under the Ellen White prolific pen. They saw no justification for thrashing her writings and found no easy way to get out of the straight jacket they had willingly entangled themselves in. They were not ready to throw the baby with the bath water, and I commend them for avoiding an easy solution based on a rush to judgment.
Had those Adventist leaders taken into account the following factors, they might have solved the enigma then; but they could not see he light at the end of the tunnel: A. Ellen White did state that only God was infallible. B. She repeatedly counseled Adventists to study the Bible instead of constantly relying on her writings. C. She recognized the primacy of the Bible over any other human teachings. D. Our Adventist leaders had unreasonable expectations from a frail human instrument. E. They forgot that even those the Lord had used in the past with great power had feet of clay; good examples can be evident from the lives of Abraham, Jacob, Moses, King David, Peter, Paul, and many more. God used them in spite of their weaknesses. F. It was unreasonable to expect perfection and infallibility from Ellen White. She was also human and prone to err.
The Authors’ Rejection of Ellen White writings
By rejecting the writings of Ellen White and by attributing the worst motives to the leaders and scholars which participated in the 1919 Bible Conference, the authors of Lying for God revealed a lack of proper logic and consistency. They tacitly imposed a higher threshold on them than the one demanded from the men and women of God found in Scripture. Consistency demanded that they should have also rejected the majority of the biblical characters we hold in high honor in spite of their frailties and shortcomings. I was surprised though to read the following frank admission from the authors:
“In fairness to Andrews it must be noted that a wide number of eyewitnesses of various persuasions testify to the supernatural activity that frequently accompanied Ellen White’s visions. These testimonies cannot easily be dismissed as merely stories concocted to substantiate a legend, and some of the witness accounts come from outside of the control of Adventist circles. After studying a variety of statements by these witnesses, it is our opinion that it is not reasonable to conclude that her visions were not of supernatural origin.” [p23]
My question is: If the writers of this book admit that the evidence suggests that Ellen
White visions were accompanied by supernatural activity; why not also admit that as she grew up in religious experience the Lord might have revealed to her certain truths through less dramatic ways as she read the writings of other people? Don’t we hear quite often the testimony of preachers who say: “The Lord has shown me …”? Do we interpret such claims as equivalent to visionary experience? Does God always communicate his messages to his servants through the whirlwind or more often through the still, small voice which shows us the right path we need to follow?
I conclude from this that the author’s claim that Ellen White was a false prophet is unwarranted and does not fit with their frank admission that she must have experienced genuine visions of supernatural origin at the beginning of her career as a religious writer and spiritual leader. This does not mean, of course, that we are justified in imposing on her unrealistic expectations. After all, her feet must have been made of clay like the feet of all the men and women of God which preceded her. If she was not perfect, so what? Were Moses, King David, Peter, and Paul free from character flaws? Do we reject the writings of King David because at a moment of weakness he was guilty of two terrible sins?
The Origin of Sunday Worship
A major portion of this book is devoted to demonstrate that Ellen White was wrong in attributing the change of worship from Saturday to Sunday to Rome. The argument is that the Bishop of Rome had very little influence over the Christian Church in the first few centuries of the Christian era. “The first council held in the West, Lateran, was held in the year 1123 in the Basilica in Rome after the Great Schism;” while all the previous church councils had taken place in the East, which is evidence that the Eastern church held a preeminent position of influence in Christianity. So how can we credit the Bishop of Rome for the change of worship from Saturday to Sunday?
My response would be: The authors admit that Rome has claimed that the Catholic Church was responsible for this change; why then should we fault Ellen White for crediting the Bishop of Rome for said change? The fact that Sunday worship originated in the East is irrelevant, since history shows that slowly the bishop of Rome did slowly gain power over the Christian church and eventually solidified the practice of Sunday worship.
Much more could be said in response to the many arguments included in this book which is well beyond the limited scope of my brief book review. It contains valuable information, but I question the strong negative assessment of the influence, motivation, and doctrinal teachings of the Seventh-day leaders both past and present. What they wrote is definitely biased against the Seventh-day organization and should be read with this in mind.