Now we are prepared to look into the classic strategy of Satan as he applies his sin-bait to earth’s final generation of Seventh-day Adventists. While focusing on his refined, disguised appeal-package for the last days, we must not forget that he will use other weapons also to weaken the remnant. In fact, he has already shaken the faith of thousands by raising up articulate inside dissenters and critics of the three angels’ messages. The true doctrine of righteousness by faith has been diluted by g excluding sanctification; the Spirit of Prophecy has been attacked; the law has been downgraded; the judgment message has been emasculated-in fact, these sharp, frontal attacks on the basic pillars of the faith have yielded unexpected results in terms of apostasy.
“The demon of heresy has mapped out the world, and has resolved to possess it as his kingdom. Those who are in his army are numerous. They are disguised, and are subtle and persevering. They resist every divine influence, and employ every instrumentality in order to compass the ruin of even one soul. They possess a zeal, tact, and ability that is marvelous, and press their way into every new opening where the standard of truth is uplifted.” The Upward Look, p. 275.
“Many will stand in our pulpits with the torch of false prophecy in their hands, kindled from the hellish torch of Satan.” Testimonies to Ministers, pp, 409, 410.
Nevertheless, the great majority have not been influenced to give up their faith because of heretical teachings. It seems very likely that they will never be swayed from the truth by theological arguments against the foundational doctrines, at least not in their present state of mind. For these Adventists, Satan sees that another approach is needed to unsettle their faith. If he can’t influence them to give up the Sabbath through intellectual appeals, he will use emotional appeals-the same kind that worked so well against Eve and the Israelites. If he can create an atmosphere that causes the spiritual mind to relax and allow him to start accessing even one of the five sensory lanes, he will have a chance to capture the main terminal of decision and will, the brain.
Look around you today and witness the most masterful array of satanic instruments and devices ever assembled at one time on this planet. Every one of them has been designed to get a small foothold in somebody’s mind. Except for their more varied forms and sophisticated appeal they have been fashioned after the Eden model, with the object in mind to break down the enmity between the Christian and the world.
Right here it might be in order to make a few specific observations on what is wrong with the world. Consider these broad, basic factors which place the world in diametrical opposition to biblical principles:
ITS LANGUAGE. None can avoid the shock of exposure to the rapid deterioration of this medium. Not only are we hearing more profane and vulgar words in the market place where we all must interrelate from time to time, but the formal channels of radio, television and newspapers are being saturated with expletives which offend the spiritual senses. It has become popular and quite acceptable for media personalities to sprinkle their commentaries with gutter language.
An article entitled, A Protocol for Female Cussing appeared in The Washington Post July 8, 1987. The shocking thrust of the article was in defense of the, increasing use of profanity by women. The lady (?) columnist wrote:
“As long as women abide by certain conventions—what might be termed ‘business swearing etiquette’—they can get away with, and even benefit from, the judicious use of profanity.
“This new linguistic license for women has come about because swearing in the work place is reportedly on the upswing among both sexes. The increase has been variously attributed to the trend toward informality, the decline of religion, the heightening pressures in the work place and, among the age group that can remember it, the revolution of the ’60s. Whatever the reason, women have simply picked up the language of the locker room while they were learning the game from men. And, as many have found, colorful language often comes in handy.”
Then follows a list of advantages for women who can master the indelicacies of proper swearing and cursing. Said the author, “Although cursing like a sailor is guaranteed to destroy one’s femininity rating, it can be an effective strategy for some women.”
Without question, the more we mingle with the world, the more our own conversation will be infected with slang expressions which unconsciously lead to larger infractions of God’s “yea and nay” rule of communication.
Many Seventh-day Adventists have inorporated the polite swearing of popular “slanguage” without realizing that it is really taking God’s name in vain. According to the dictionary, words like “gee,” “golly,” and “gosh” are actual derivatives of the names of deity. In many instances, substitute words are used instead of God’s name—words which describe the attributes of God—and those synonyms are used freely in careless, casual conversation. Often such expressions are heard even from the pulpit. “For goodness’ sake” is merely replacing the word “God” for one of His attributes. The same is true of such phrases as “for heaven’s sake” and “for pity sake.” If holy, sinless angels veil their faces when they speak His name, how much more reverently should fallen beings take God’s sacred name and titles upon their lips.
ITS MATERIALISM. Every aspect of modern society is laden with this grasping spirit of self-aggrandizement. Success is measured by just one factor—income. When reports are given on the newscast about prominent people leaving positions in government or industry, there is the inevitable reference to their new salary which motivated their transfer.
Recognition of worth, merit, and success is always related to the kind of contract one can secure from the employing organization. Much of the media content revolves around strikes, union demands, and contract holdouts. From medical doctors to airline pilots to football teams, the primary goal seems to be mercenary; and materialistic. Rarely indeed is the professional or governmental public servant dedicated to the higher principle of serving others.
ITS DECEPTION. A recent issue of Newsweek, magazine featured LYING on its front cover. Most of the content focused upon the universally-accepted, unspoken principle of telling lies in order to achieve goals. The great majority of people take it for granted that subterfuge and deception is a standard element in the business world. Advertising is almost wholly based upon misrepresentation. Few ads indeed are totally free of distorted concepts.
During the Iran-Contra hearings, Americans were, shocked to learn that many functions of government are also rooted in covert actions requiring deliberate misrepresentation. Departmental policies require agents of this government to tell lies both to the public and to foreign powers. Listening to the logical explanation of why such lying was done under the prevailing circumstances, many Christians were almost persuaded that it’s not really so bad after all. I had to resist the temptation to agree with Colonel North as he described the necessity of misleading everyone concerning the true nature of his operation.
Is the general public favorably disposed to all this business and governmental deceit and cover-up of the truth? The fact is that this lying format is a way of life for almost everyone. Each time I ride a plane, I watch the people around me with their heads buried in colorful, paperback novels. During that entire flight, they are living a lie. Their emotions are under the direct control of the author’s imaginative fantasies. Between the novels and the television movies, their minds have been permeated with make-believe characters embroiled in fictitious plots, making the lies of real life almost innocuous and inconsequential in comparison.
ITS SELFISHNESS. Have you noticed that the most popularized concepts today are geared to making it to the top? There is a constant competition to be the greatest, the richest or the strongest. When legitimate means fail to exalt self, some people turn to crime or violence to achieve recognition.
All commercialized sports are based on the principle of self-exaltation at the expense of others, and at any cost. The newspapers are full of stories about fights, bribes, or drugs in almost every area of professional sports. Greedy players hold out for multi-million dollar contracts, and the more they can extract for their season of play, the more they are admired and idolized.
Even the most staid and respected brokerage offices of Wall Street have been exposed as accomplices in stealing millions from corporations of America in the ultimate scam scheme. And the epitome of selfishness and egotism is revealed in the televangelist scandal with its sordid revelations of sin in high places.
ITS PRIDE. Even some of the worldly commentators have observed the ridiculous tides of modern dress and undress. As styles shift back and forth, Christians are swept along in the wake of whatever is most popular at the moment. They struggle to meet the test of fashion, no matter how scandalous it is, rather than the inspired principles of modesty and good taste. Miniskirts come and go, and a very few men—many of them homosexuals—actually dictate the kind of clothes most Americans will be wearing during the coming season. Can we not understand why Sister White had so much to say about the subject of modest attire?
ITS SEX OBSESSION. This is probably one of the most obvious carnal manifestations of Satan’s control of this planet. Filthy, obscene words, which were not even whispered among decent people a few years ago have now become the major topic on popular television panels. The most sacred, private acts and relationships have been lowered to the level of mocking, hilarious talk shows, and absolutely nothing has been spared.
Birth control devices have been advertised in the public media, discussed in high school forums, and explained to elementary school children.
Every aspect of advertising has been filled with sexual innuendos and double talk. It is now impossible for Christians not to see and hear snatches of evil elements from Satan’s kingdom of darkness. But by God’s grace and power, those wicked perversions can be screened from entering the mind which is under divine control. Yet few today seem to be taking firm, protective stances against these assorted, blatant attacks of worldliness.
Is it hard to understand why God always kept His people away from these corrupt influences? They will become a part of our value system if we do not devise special ways to protect ourselves. It happens automatically if we mix with them, listen to them, and erect no barriers of separation. This is the reason we can’t recognize church members as readily as we could years ago; they dress, eat, and talk very much like the fleshly world around them. Most of the change can be credited to the mischievous influence of what is fed into the mind.
Many fail to recognize the destructive nature of indiscriminate reading habits. Minds have been disqualified for serious Bible study by dwelling on cheap, trashy themes. My own break with such literature came as a result of reading Messages to Young People when I was ten or eleven years old. No one had to prove to me that the statements were true. My compulsive addiction to exciting stories had robbed me of any real joy in Christ, and I knew they had to go. Words like these burned my conscience like fire:
“The readers of fiction are indulging an evil that destroys spirituality, eclipsing the beauty of the sacred page. It creates an unhealthy excitement, fevers the imagination, unfits the mind for usefulness, weans the soul from prayer, and disqualifies it for any spiritual exercise.” Messages to Young People, p. 272.
For a while, I tried to rationalize my appetite for historical and religious novels, but deep inside I knew what they were doing to me. Three statements finally convinced me that there could be no compromise in my decision.
“The enormities, the cruelties, the licentious practices, portrayed in some of the strictly historical writings have acted as leaven on many minds, leading to the commission of similar acts.
“Books that delineate the satanic practices of human beings are giving publicity to evil. These horrible particulars need not be lived over, and no one who believes the truth for this time should act a part in perpetuating the memory of them.” Messages to Young People, p. 284.
“Love stories, frivolous and exciting tales, and even that class of books called religious novels,—books in which the author attaches to his story a moral lesson,—are a curse to the readers. Religious sentiments may be woven all through a story-book, but, in most cases, Satan is but clothed in angel robes, the more effectively to deceive and allure.” Messages to Young People, p. 272.
“Even fiction which contains no suggestion of impurity, and which may be intended to teach excellent principles, is harmful. It encourages the habit of hasty and superficial reading, merely for the story. Thus it tends to destroy the power of connected and vigorous thought; it unfits the soul to contemplate the great problems of duty and destiny....
“It is often urged that in order to win the youth from sensational or worthless literature, we should supply them with a better class of fiction. This is like trying to cure a drunkard by giving him, in the place of whisky or brandy, the milder intoxicants, such as wine, beer, or cider. The use of these would continually foster the appetite for stronger stimulants. The only safety for the inebriate, and the only safeguard for the temperate man, is total abstinence. For the lover of fiction the same rule holds true. Total abstinence is his only safety.” Counsels to Parents and Teachers, pp. 383, 384.
Would this explain the weak witness of so many Seventh-day Adventist Christians today? How hard it is to deal with spiritual realities when the mind, like a garbage collection center, is overflowing with the refuse of all that has filtered through it. The Spirit of God cannot communicate through physical nerve channels that have been deadened by such a surcharge of filth.
Try to visualize that your brain becomes a permanent repository of the essential ideas and principles which pour into it from all the books you read. If the sentiments contained in that reading matter are not true and pure and virtuous, then they leave a mental scar that may never heal. For years to come, there will be flashbacks of recollection, bringing fresh impressions of those impure sentiments. Even after my baptism, I still remember battling against those recurring memories of past reading material.
This brings into focus one of the most destructive effects of wrong reading habits. The way in which the brain is constituted, with its billions of neural connections and its memory bank, makes it almost impossible to ever blot out entirely the residual influence of that which is read. Once it has entered into the learning center of the mind, it becomes almost a permanent part of the knowledge pool from which all decision and action is drawn.
The fact is that when we open our minds to the concentrated thoughts and ideas of unchristian authors, we are also consenting for their mind-set to become a part of our own thought pattern. Eventually, it also translates into the kind of character we develop. What a solemn thought it is that every book we read is making us just a little bit like the person who wrote it, in both mind and character. In effect, we are allowing someone else to make the decision as to the kind of person we are going to be.
Word pictures have the same power to stir the imagination as real pictures do. This is why intense readers can be so deeply absorbed in the plot of their story. Their emotions are affected in the same way as television viewers. Mentally, they actually participate in all the actions of their hero or heroine in the make-believe situation. Pulse races, tears flow, and all the other physical reactions follow as they are vicariously involved in the good or evil being graphically described by the author.
Can it be a dangerous practice to yield the mind and emotions to the performance of all the deeds of imaginary characters in a book? In such cases, the writer is creating and controlling your every thought and mood. By his skill with words, he is pulling you into the scene and compelling you to share the joy, sorrow or guilt of every person being portrayed.
Does God hold us accountable for sins which are only carried out in the mind? Yes. He declared: “Whosoever looketh on a woman to lust after her bath committed adultery with her already in his heart.” Matthew 5:28. Can we not see then how Satan is able to stir up sin in millions of minds by simply manipulating the thoughts and words of one unprincipled author? It is mind-boggling to consider how Christians can be so easily transformed into Satan’s own image if they allow themselves to feed on the wrong reading material. Wrote the prophet:
“When the intellect is fed and stimulated by this depraved food, the thoughts become impure and sensual.” Messages to Young People, p. 284.
Whether we realize it or not, the author of what we read is placing a mold upon our life which can produce eternal consequences. Many will be lost as a result of absorbing the doubts of skeptical writers. Others may be lost by saturating their minds with the permissiveness of so-called Christian authors who subtly communicate false, liberal ideas about God and the Bible. It is of the utmost importance that we carefully examine and test all our reading material by the apostle’s rule: “Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things are honest, whatsoever things are just, whatsoever things are pure, whatsoever things are lovely, whatsoever things are of good report; if there be any virtue, and if there be any praise, think on these things.” Philippians 4:8.
Consider for a few moments the artificial, glamorized appeal of the theater. Almost one hundred percent of its adulterated fare is designed to destroy religious impressions. What possible reason would a Christian have for sitting under the hypnotic influence of its foul language and distorted moral concepts? What messages are being conveyed into the memory banks of the master brain computer? We have found that God created the cells of the mind to configure with whatever the communication lines bring in from the five senses. Why would one with a Christ-controlled, converted mind find such scenes enjoyable or entertaining? They could not. It is impossible for the mind of Christ to accept anything which is not pure and true and virtuous. Only the carnal mind delights in the kind of productions pouring out of Hollywood.
Are there sound principles behind the long-held position of this church against attendance at the theater? Did Sister White manufacture her strong prohibitive statements on this subject, or did she indeed receive them from the Lord? If the theater was a dangerous, questionable place for Christians a hundred years ago, has it become less objectionable today? These are issues that need to be settled by every Seventh-day Adventist.
Two very important principles make it impossible for the movie house to be a part of the Adventist lifestyle. How can a true child of God conscientiously patronize and keep in business an enterprise which spends ninetynine percent of its time destroying everything which we are trying to build up one hundred percent of our time? It doesn’t make sense. How can we support such an operation which is diametrically opposed to everything we stand for? There should be a tremendous moral aversion to helping maintain an institution which is corrupting and destroying so many minds.
The second principle involved in theatergoing is the moral influence issue. Non-Christians who see a Seventh-day Adventist enter the theater do not assume that he is going in there to see that “one-in-a-hundred” picture which might meet the Bible test; he assumes that this professing saint of God is feeding on the same run-of-the-mill garbage that he enjoys. What a twisted testimony! And what a travesty on the pure, exalted religion of Jesus Christ!
If you want to read an amazing statement about the influence of television and movies, consider these words which were written under inspiration over fifty years before motion pictures were invented.
“By beholding we become changed. By the indulgence of impure thoughts man can so educate his mind that sin which he once loathed can become pleasant to him. Satan is using every means to make crime and debasing vice popular.... The mind is educated to familiarity with sin. The course pursued by the base and vile is kept before the people in the periodicals of the day, and everything that can excite passion is brought before them in exciting stories. They hear and read so much of debasing crime that the once tender conscience, which would have recoiled with horror from such scenes, becomes hardened, and they dwell upon these things with greedy interest.” Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 459.
Mrs. White could not have described the picture more perfectly if she had been viewing last night’s Nielsen-rated detective drama in person. Not only are we made familiar with sin, but we become tolerant of sin as well. There are sound psychological reasons why the mind becomes totally conditioned by what is seen on television. The deliberate, fastscene-changing of flashing TV pictures does not give the conscious mind time to evaluate or censor what is being viewed. Research has proven that the rapid-fire sequence of pictures actually bypasses the critical judgment of the conscious brain and feeds directly into the subconscious. Without our being aware of it, the mind is cleverly influenced to be more and more acceptant of what is seen and heard.
We may pride ourselves on being able to tune out commercials and programs we don’t like, but they are scientifically designed, at the expense of millions of dollars, to shape our thinking WHETHER WE CHOOSE IT OR NOT! There is no such thing as innocent TV programming. Subliminal advertising has guaranteed that every viewer will be influenced, with or without his consent or agreement. Satan’s messages are being communicated even through the most innocentappearing ads and commercials.
A few days ago, a catalogue came in my mailbox from a company called Mind Communication, Incorporated. It advertised hundreds of subliminal audio and video tapes which were touted to be one hundred percent effective in providing “effortless self-improvement” for almost every character weakness known to man.
The tapes were described in these words: “A series of subliminal messages are hidden or ‘disguised’ within a background sound of music or waves. The messages are placed at a slightly lower decibel level than that of the music. The messages are then ‘piggy-backed’ into the listeners brain along with the music, but without the listener’s awareness of having received them. The messages are just below conscious detection level.”
The video tapes on weight control and smoking were described as so potent that “it is nearly impossible for the subconscious mind to resist the energy and power of our subliminal videos. These videos bombard and saturate your brain cells so totally that you become ready, able and willing to lose weight or throw away the cigarettes—now and forever.”
Red-letter warning notices throughout the catalogue state: “Maximum strength weightloss video tape causes weight loss in those who view and/or listen to it. Do not play in the presence of those not needing to lose weight.”
We would be naive to think that such a powerful advertising tool is not being used by greedy corporations to sell their products. No one knows the full extent to which subliminal commercials have invaded the world of media advertising. What we do know is that we cannot depend upon the conscience of big business to save us from subliminal influences; we must take steps to protect our own minds from unwelcome invasion. What can we say about Seventh-day Adventist Christians who feed for hours at a time upon the polluted, filthy double-talk of soap operas and sitcoms? There is not a tiny chance that they can love spiritual things and carnal things at the same time. The Bible says, “If any man love the world, the love of the Father is not in him.” James 4:4. It is not presumptuous or judgmental to say that those people are not truly converted.
How Satan must rejoice as he watches the television set destroy the mind’s ability to discriminate between the clean and the unclean. God’s plea is ignored, “My son, give me thine heart, and let thine eyes observe my ways.” Proverbs 23:26. No one could possibly believe the movie screen to be a reflector of God’s ways.
David, whose eyes had led him to lust and murder, leaves this powerful personal testimony: “I will set no wicked thing before mine eyes ... he that telleth lies shall not tarry in my sight.” Psalm 101:3, 7. If David could not resist the temptation which was unintentionally brought before his eyes, what can we say about those who deliberately bring the temptation into their living room through television? Undoubtedly more nakedness can be seen nightly on TV than David observed in his few moments of watching long ago, and the effect on the mind is just as demoralizing and enslaving as it was upon David. The fallen nature, for six thousand years, has been stimulated by exactly the same carnal appeals.
After he was restored from his terrible backsliding, David determined that his eyes would never again look upon evil. As a man after God’s own heart, he would “set” no evil thing before his eyes. David was not talking about a TV “set,” of course, but he was committed to follow no course that would bring such enticing scenes to his vision again. Neither would he allow him “that telleth lies” to “tarry in my sight.” If David remained true to those principles, he certainly would never choose to attend a theater or feast on the common diet of modern television. And if we are going to be true to those inspired principles, we will not choose to look at those things either. It would be a rare mixture for even one out of a hundred of those media films to meet David’s criteria of not being evil to the sight or telling lies to the ears.
The interesting fact is that most Seventhday Adventists agree that there is almost nothing good coming out of Hollywood and its affiliated production centers. Yet surveys reveal that they reluctantly admit to watching, from time to time, their sex-saturated programs. The April, 1985 Ministry magazine reported on a study of Seventh-day Adventist families relating to Christian standards. To their surprise and dismay, the surveyors had to report: “The Adventist stand on movies appears a lost cause, with only a fifth of our youth in harmony with it, and less than half their parents supporting the traditional view.... As to divorce, jewelry, and the movies, our historical positions simply do not correspond to our members’ general practice.”
The fact is that every aspect of traditional Adventist lifestyle was found to be disappearing from the modern church, according to the compilers of the report. They urged that a research committee be set up to probe the reasons for such wholesale abandonment of our standards, and to redefine for our members where the church stands on these issues, and the biblical basis for such a stand.
Later that year, The Adventist Review printed a similar appeal from the officers of the North Pacific Union Conference. President Richard Fearing stated that church standards would be emphasized in the next few years because “we are at a crossroads in this church as to whether we will go the way of what we classify as mainline, nominal Protestantism, or whether we will uphold the standards of Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy. We, in the Northwest, are going to hold to the standards of the church.” (August 1, 1985, p. 14.)
Jack Harris, Union Conference Secretary, predicted that there would be a “head-on collision between what is happening in our colleges and churches, and what the church has been teaching and preaching.” He pointed to problems in the use of alcohol, attendance at movies and dances, increased wearing of jewelry, lax Sabbath observance and use of caffeinated drinks, as signs of spiritual declension.
A month after that challenging article appeared, an editor of The Adventist Review responded with an editorial of endorsement, applauding the leaders of the North Pacific Union for their bold stand, and closing with the words “May their tribe increase.” Unfortunately, that gutsy example by the Northwest leadership was not acclaimed by too many others, and the tribe did not mushroom as Eugene Durand’s editorial dared to hope. In fact, there ensued nothing more than what can be described as an embarrassed silence. Nevertheless, the words of Richard Fearing cannot be negated. We do stand at the crossroads on this issue. We either continue the course of gradual conformity to the popular Protestant position, or we draw back and take our stand upon the original Adventist foundation of high moral standards.
History reveals that every religious movement before us has followed exactly the same course that we seem to be now taking. The Ministry magazine article shows us moving rapidly to the side of the majority practices of our surrounding culture. It has certainly not taken us totally by surprise, because we understood very well from the inspired writings that such a deviation would take place. Sister White, with many tears, described the final movements of worldly compromise that would divide the church and bring a traumatic “shaking” experience. She wrote graphically about the “step by step” accommodations that would be made to social demands and worldliness. Literally hundreds of pages of counsel flowed from her pen against the very steps that we see being taken by the church and its leadership. All of us are acquainted with those statements, yet few seem willing to make them the basis of a strong public call to repentance and reformation.
In one instance, she was permitted to hear and record an actual planning session of the evil one with his demon followers. These are the words Satan used in addressing his evil angels:
“Lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God will be our most effective helpers. Those of this class who are apt and intelligent will serve as decoys to draw others into our snares. Many will not fear their influence, because they profess the same faith. We will thus lead them to conclude that the requirements of Christ are less strict than they once believed, and that by conformity to the world they would exert a greater influence with worldlings. Thus they will separate from Christ; they will have no strength to resist our power, and erelong they will be ready to ridicule their former zeal and devotion.” Testimonies to Ministers, p. 474. (Emphasis supplied.)
Notice how apt, intelligent, influential members will be used to convince others that we can have greater influence on worldlings by being less strict than in the past. How fortunate we are that God has exposed the tactics of Satan by giving us this amazing account from our enemy’s own lips.
If you think Satan has not already launched that program of using influential people in the church to make the requirements seem too restrictive, take another look. From many quarters voices are proclaiming that we have been too strict and legalistic. We have lost our young people, they say, by speaking out against specific, popular activities such as movie-attendance and wearing jewelry. Don’t condemn any particular practices. Just teach the youth the principle of love, and however they choose to apply it should be the accepted standard.
Please read the following paragraphs which were lifted from the Letters Column of a recent Adventist Review. Respondents were commenting on the subject of standards and how they should be applied to young people in the church. All of these statements were made by denominational workers who carry credentials from the General Conference, or from local conferences.
“Why not teach them how to choose appropriate dress and entertainment and quit trying to judge the rightness or wrongness of specifics?”
“Instead of emphasizing service and love, we seem to focus on dress, jewelry, movies or other behavior we think is ‘wrong.’”
“I don’t think we fully grasp the widespread frustrations youth—our future leaders—feel as they view the arbitrary standards we impose upon them.”
“With 90 percent of our youth attending movies, and the majority wearing some kind of jewelry, we try to ‘overcome evil with good’ by asking them to draw the line SOMEWHERE, rather than telling them where to draw it. We discuss how a Christian chooses what to wear or what movies to see. They don’t need standards preached.... If Christ accepts us as we are, don’t we owe the same to each other?”
“We need to teach simplicity rather than ‘no jewelry....’ But we have majored in minors so long it will be difficult to change.... Basic values are falling while the church quibbles over rings and movies.... All movies are not bad; students should learn how to choose the good rather than categorically condemning the theater....”
When pastors and teachers, employees of the church, can boldly affirm in the Review their convictions against the historic standards of the church, how long will it be before those standards are quietly and officially ushered out the back door? Even more significantly, how long can an organized church continue to hold positions which are publicly rejected and denounced in its own journals by its own leaders?
Please notice the interesting fact that this is all being done in the name of spirituality, and by assigning legalistic motives to all who attempt to obey specifics of Christian lifestyle. In order to guarantee the success of his program to infiltrate the remnant church with worldliness, Satan has succeeded in generating the incredible falsehood that those who take specific stands on standards are in the wrong-they are the bad guys-and only those who leave details to individual judgment are correct. This is not to say that love and relationship are not important, but to teach those principles WITHOUT making any application to real life leaves the young people still floundering. It is like teaching Baptists and Methodists the important principle of obedience without telling them which day the Sabbath is. We cannot assume that everyone will automatically be taught and convicted on how to apply the details.
No doubt mistakes have been made by some in their MANNER of teaching standards, leaving out the love motive, but a much worse mistake is made when we teach only love without the corresponding works of love. The truth is that we have miserably failed to give Bible reasons for our standards. This is why the youth have been confused!
Some of the Review respondents implied that there is no valid biblical basis for teaching against movies, jewelry, etc. One letter spoke of the “imposition of arbitrary standards.” HERE IS THE REAL PROBLEM! I can understand opposition to applying specific standards if they are perceived as arbitrary. But this is a misperception. None of our standards are arbitrary. They are biblical! For forty years I have dealt with souls over these issues. As a pastor for eighteen years and a fulltime evangelist for twenty-two years, I found no difficulty in leading young people into a joyful acceptance of our standards, based upon loving God supremely. The only problem I encountered was when adults (parents, teachers, etc.) began to impute wrong motives to the youth for being so particular about their lifestyle. Finally they were able to convince the young people that it is legalistic to make such detailed application of principle to the daily experience-the same twisted idea that came through in so many of the Review letters. (August 27, 1987.)
The servant of the Lord minced no words in describing the deceptive manner in which compromise would infiltrate the ranks of God’s people:
“It is conformity to the world that is causing our people to lose their bearings. The perversion of right principles has not been brought about suddenly. The angel of the Lord presented this matter to me in symbols. It seemed as if a thief were stealthily moving closer and still closer, and gradually but surely stealing away the identity of God’s work by leading our brethren to conform to worldly policies.... The Lord calls for a reformation. In every place where believers have adopted worldly principles, He desires a voice of warning to be raised. ‘Cry aloud,’ He says, ‘spare not, lift up thy voice like a trumpet, and show my people their transgression, and the house of Jacob their sins.”’ The Upward Look, p. 202.
Some interesting facts are established by this inspired statement. We are told that right principles will be perverted very, very gradually, stealing away the “identity of God’s work.” This slow process will be accomplished by Satan “leading our brethren to conform to worldly policies.” She calls for a voice of warning to be raised like a trumpet “in every place where believers have adopted worldly principles.”
What a challenge to every watchman in Zion! Not one Seventh-day Adventist minister should disobey the command of God to “Cry aloud, spare not ... show my people their transgression.” Isaiah 58:1.
In the name of love, some are sparing the “believers” by not addressing sins in the church. It is not kind or loving to withhold warnings and reproofs as conformity to the world, like a thief, is “stealthily moving closer and still closer.” God’s people, the most precious treasure in His sight, must be warned about sins which are separating them from their Saviour. If we truly love God, we will seek in every possible way to safeguard those who are the apple of His eye. He hates sin in His people. It will shut them out of Heaven if not recognized and overcome. To avoid the unpleasant assignment to point out sin as it appears in the church is to demonstrate a dangerous lack of concern on the part of watchmen. Ministers who shun this duty because it goes against their gentle natures will learn too late that their reluctance to lift up their voice like a trumpet was based on a selfish protection of their own feelings instead of love for God.
“If wrongs are apparent among His people, and if the servants of God pass on indifferent to them, they virtually sustain and justify the sinner, and are alike guilty and will just as surely receive the displeasure of God; for they will be made responsible for the sins of the guilty.... Those who have excused these wrongs have been thought by the people to be very amiable and lovely in disposition, simply because they shunned to discharge a plain Scriptural duty. The task was not agreeable to their feelings; therefore they avoided it.” Testimonies, Vol. 3, p. 266.
“True love seeks first the honor of God and the salvation of souls. Those who have this love will not evade the truth to save themselves from the unpleasant results of plain speaking. When souls are in peril, God’s ministers will not consider self, but will speak the word given them to speak, refusing to excuse or palliate evil.” Prophets and Kings, pp. 141-142.
“While those who have yielding temperaments, who have not courage to condemn wrong, but keep silent when their influence is needed to stand in defense of the right against any pressure, may avoid many heart-aches and escape many perplexities, they will also lose a very rich reward, if not their own souls.” Testimonies, Vol. 3, p. 302.
Some pastors console themselves that they love the church members too much to point out their sins, when the truth is that they are fearful of becoming unpopular with those who need correction. They have no problem pointing out the sins of those who are not keeping the Sabbath holy, but they feel that it would be judgmental to identify sins in the church. But God says, “SHOW MY PEOPLE THEIR TRANSGRESSION.” Isaiah 58:1.
Somehow sin among the saints has not been recognized as a great issue in the closing work. Though none should feel assigned to go about as a detective of the brethren or corrector of heretics, yet every faithful believer should weep in sorrow over the tragic drift toward the world. Those who are sealed will not only recognize the sins which are being committed, but will seek to correct them.
“The true people of God, who have the spirit of the work of the Lord and the salvation of souls at heart, will ever view sin in its real, sinful character. They will always be on the side of faithful and plain dealing with sins which easily beset the people of God. Especially in the closing work for the church, in the sealing time of the one hundred and forty-four thousand who are to stand without fault before the throne of God, will they feel most deeply the wrongs of God’s professed people.” Testimonies, Vol. 3, p. 266.
Please take note that as the final events draw closer, the true and faithful in the church will be characterized by their “plain dealing with sins which easily beset the people of God.... They feel most deeply the wrongs of God’s professed people.”
We dare not oppose those who are led to deal with sins in the church. The sealing work and the Laodicean message requires that it be done. On the other hand, we cannot defend very self-appointed critic who raises a strident voice against wrongs in the church. True reformers will project love for the sinner, heart-broken sorrow for the sin, and deep loyalty to the advent message. But a genuine spirit of revival in the church will boldly address the sins which are being committed by the members themselves.
There exists in the Adventist church today an almost obsessive pride and confidence in the corporate structure of the organization. Any message of revival and reform is almost instantly and categorically rejected as an “attack” on the church. Even the most loyal, supportive members of the church have been branded as critical and judgmental because they expressed sorrow and concern over the alarming drift in standards. I understand why this reactive attitude has developed in the denomination. There have been unjustified attacks against the leadership of our church by a few radical dissidents and it is easy to assume that any negative observation is coming from an enemy of the truth. This false assumption has sometimes resulted in an unwarranted suspicion toward all independent or self-supporting missionary work which is not fully under the direction of the organized body.
It does no good to deny that changes have taken place, or to ignore the weaknesses that have appeared. Sin doesn’t go away and revival doesn’t come by pretending that all is well. I have before me right now copies of the Review and Herald from the 1940s when I was a college and seminary student. In those days our standards were carefully defended by church leaders and then were communicated to our people through the pages of the “good old Review.” In the October 4, 1945 Review and Herald, a report was made of resolutions passed by the Southern California Conference in regard to Christian standards. It was emphasized in the article that these actions represented “principles held by the church through long years.” Here is what appeared under the section on amusements: “Surely no one preparing for the coming of Jesus will be found at the theater, the carnival, the movie house, the opera, the circus, the dance, the card table or in attendance at commercialized sports.... We strongly urge separating from worldly associations at skating rinks and public bathing beaches.”
The same article took a strong stand against jewelry and stated specifically, “No circlet of gold should be worn as a testimony to marriage vows.” The church in those days also held adamantly against taking anyone back into membership who had remarried without clear Bible grounds. Look at the liberalization of the modern church on most of these issues. We have altered by official action our stand on remarriage, the wedding ring, and mixed swimming. And today, anyone who stands where the Southern California Conference stood in 1945 is looked upon as out of the mainstream of Adventism. Our youth are transported by church buses to worldly athletic competition events. Movies are described in our own publications as matters for individual conscience to decide.
I do not mention these facts to be critical of the church, but merely to illustrate a most important point: We are fulfilling Sister White’s prophecy that the line of demarcation would well-nigh disappear between the church and the world. She wrote:
“The line of demarcation between worldlings and many professed Christians is almost indistinguishable. Many who were once earnest Adventists are conforming to the world-to its practices, its customs, its selfishness.... Daily the church is becoming converted to the world.” Testimonies, Vol. 8, pp. 118, 119.
Some would defend the changes which have been made as necessary accommodations to the spirit of the age or to cultural demands. Nothing could be more mistaken. We have been warned about the
danger of such changes.
“We are to enter into no confederacy with the world, supposing that by so doing we could accomplish more.... No line of truth that has made the Seventh-day Adventist people what they are, is to be weakened. We have the old landmarks of truth, experience, and duty, and we are to stand firmly in defense of our principles, in full view of the world.” Testimonies, Vol. 6, p. 17.
None of us should be ashamed to take a position exactly where God counsels us to stand-in defense of those principles which have made us what we are as a people. She says that no line of truth that made us what we are is to be weakened. Have we weakened that line of truth against the wearing of ornaments? Have we weakened the line of truth on modest dress, movies, competitive sports, divorce and remarriage? The easiest way to avoid answering those questions is to begin showing great indignation against the questioner for being “negative” and “critical” of the church. Many years ago the editor of the Review and Herald foresaw what would happen if we ever began to weaken that line of truth concerning the wearing of jewelry. He wrote with almost prophetic insight:
“If the mothers in Israel wear wedding rings, the daughters will feel that they are entitled by the same logic of reasoning to wear engagement rings. Others will feel that they should wear rings as family heirlooms, in memory of dead friends, etc. Where will the influence cease? Where should the line be drawn? Logically at the point of prohibition of all rings.” Review and Herald, January 8, 1920, p. 6.
Thirty-seven years after F. M. Wilcox expressed those fears, another editor of the Review and Herald, F. D. Nichol, wrote a similar editorial in which he stated:
“It is not a far step, for example, from wedding rings to engagement rings, and from both of these to other rings, and from all of these to earrings. We believe that in this matter, as in many others, our safety lies, not in seeing how near we can come to the treacherous edge of the road, but how far we can stay away. We are well aware of the reasoning employed to justify the drift away from the counsel given to our membership in the homeland; namely, that custom is changing in America and that now a woman must wear a ring to avoid criticism.... So far as we know, those who make such statements do not provide any proof other than their personal impression. We doubt very much whether research would reveal that American women today are more given to wearing a wedding ring than in former generations.” Review
and Herald, January 24, 1957.
Notice how this great defender of our faith recognized that the argument about changing social customs in America was simply an effort “to justify the drift away from the counsel given to our membership in the homeland.” Like almost everyone else in those days, he was very clear on the inspired counsel of the Spirit of Prophecy about wearing a wedding ring in this country.
Have the fears of those two editorial giants, F. M. Wilcox and F. D. Nichol, been confirmed by recent developments in the church? In his paper entitled, The Wedding Band, Ellen G. White, and the Seventh-day Adventist Church, Roger Coon, associate secretary of the White Estates, gives this startling picture of the leavening influence of the wedding ring:
“It has, indeed and in fact, opened the door to jewelry generally...and it has paved the way for the tacit acceptance of other rings (engagement rings, class rings, friendship rings, etc.) on the hands of Seventh-day Adventist church members. With the lessening of opposition to the wearing of the wedding band on the campuses of some of our colleges in North America in the early 1970s, we find a more complex problem with jewelry in the early and mid-1980s.” (p. 16).
It is appropriate to ask why the relaxed attitude toward the wedding ring has led to the wearing of other jewelry. The answer has been spelled out very clearly in the General Conference officers’ statement which was adopted by the 1986 Autumn Council. In that action they referred to “the apparent consensus among Seventh-day Adventists in North America and our historic position here which makes little or no distinction between the wedding band and jewelry that is worn strictly for ornamental purposes.”
Since our members see no difference between a ring on the third finger or any other finger, it is not hard to understand why they are becoming defensive of other jewelry as the wedding ring becomes more common place. Roger Coon’s description of the “tacit acceptance of other rings” is only a shadow of what will happen as the custom becomes more widespread in our church.
In May, 1987, a survey was made of under-graduate students at a Seventh-day Adventist university relating to the wearing of rings. Out of two hundred and eleven students who responded to the survey, seventy-four percent said they could see no difference between a wedding ring and an engagement ring. Over half the men students stated that they planned to give an engagement ring to their future wives, and seventy-eight percent of the females felt that if a wedding ring was acceptable, then they could wear an engagement ring as well.
Should these alarming figures give us serious second thoughts about the wisdom of setting up man-made distinctions which the Word of God does not do?
Because the wearing of the wedding ring opens the door to other symbolic jewelry and eventually to ornaments in general, we should begin looking at that custom in a new light. We must appraise it, not only by its inherent merits or demerits, but by the effect it will have upon others. Some see no sin issue at all in wearing the ring. Does the Bible have anything to say about acts I which may not be sinful in themselves, but which could be a stumbling block to lead others into sin? Can we become accountable for the sins of someone else under such circumstances?
Every Seventh-day Adventist should consider the solemn answer to those questions. Paul wrote: “But when ye sin so against the brethren and wound their weak conscience, ye sin against Christ.” 1
What sin was he referring to? What had those Corinthian believers done to wound a weak conscience and to become guilty of sin against Christ? They had eaten food offered to idols. Was that a sin in itself? No, Paul pronounced that it was not wrong, and they had the liberty to eat it. THEN WHY DOES HE CALL IT A SIN? Read the chapter and you will find that Paul called it a sin because the eating of that food was influencing others to eat it also, contrary to their conscientious convictions.
DON’T MISS THIS PROFOUND PRINCIPLE! If it is a sin to influence someone, by your example, to commit an act which is not sinful in itself, it is certainly more of a sin to influence them by your example to do something which is a clear violation of revealed truth. When people use your wedding ring as an excuse to put on other jewelry, because their weak conscience is overwhelmed by your example, the Word of God declares that you are sinning against Christ!
Paul was so deeply impressed by the seriousness of this issue that he came to a conclusion which many consider almost radical: “Wherefore, if meat make my brother to offend, I will eat no flesh while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend.” 1 Corinthians 8:13.
In other words, he would run no risk of sharing the responsibility for another person’s sin. He would simply eliminate forever even that innocent act which could be a stumbling block to that individual.
The General Conference officers have stated the matter correctly. Our people do not recognize a difference between the wedding band and other jewelry. Their conscientious convictions are based upon almost a century and a half of biblical and Spirit of Prophecy teaching. Who now would want to influence those people to violate their consciences either by precept or example? To do so is designated as sin by the inspired apostle.
Who, like Paul, would be willing to declare, “If a wedding ring make my brother to offend, I will wear no wedding ring while the world standeth, lest I make my brother to offend”?
Ellen White used the word “leavening” quite often in describing the effect of sin on the church. The dictionary defines it this way: “Any influence spreading through something and working on it to bring about a gradual change.”
With that definition in mind, we can better understand this statement:
“I feel deeply over this leavening process which seems to be going on in the conformity to custom and fashion. Not one penny should be spent for a circlet of gold to testify that we are married.” Testimonies to Ministers, p. 181.
Do you not see how we were warned that the introduction of the wedding ring would “bring about a, gradual change,” as Webster put it? Sister White was not talking about the economy issue when she said not a penny should be spent for a wedding ring. She was talking about the more serious issue of opening a door, and starting a fermentation process which would penetrate and change the whole church.
Has it done that very thing? We have just presented proof that the prophetess had good reason to “feel deeply” over this small, but powerful, leaven which would have such farreaching influence. When she said, “not one penny should be spent” for a wedding ring, it was just an emphatic way of saying that no one should wear one. She was troubled because of what that little deviation would lead to and how it would become a bad influence upon others. We should be even more concerned as we see how it is breaking down the conscientious convictions against jewelry which we ourselves have built up during all our past years of faithful preaching.
As late as 1977, Elder Neal Wilson, president of the General Conference, expressed convictions about the “leavening” statement on the wedding ring, and how it applied to the United States. At the North American Evangelistic Council of January 7, 1977, he clearly enunciated that the wearing of the ring was not imperative in this country. “There is a rumor that is circulating around, that the church leadership has sold out on thee wedding ring. This is a very incorrect, unfortunate statement. Some people insist that wedding rings are as necessary here in America as overseas. This is debatable. We appeal to our workers, we urge our people to follow the counsel of Ellen G. White found in Testimonies to Ministers, p. 180. We discourage the wedding ring in North America. It is not imperative. Press the claims of the gospel upon the candidates.” (White Estates File Document.)
Elder Wilson was concerned that our members not receive the impression that “church leadership has sold out on the wedding ring.” He, like the Review and Herald editor quoted earlier, understood the inspired counsel of God against wearing the ring and urged our workers and our members “to follow the counsel of Ellen G. White found in Testimonies to Ministers, p. 180.” That is the statement, by the way, which declares that “not one penny should be spent for a circlet of gold to testify that we are married.” (Ibid. p. 181.)
Five years earlier, another president of the General Conference, Elder Robert Pierson, had used that same statement about the wedding ring as the basis for an impassioned appeal in the Review and Herald for a revival and reformation. In his heart-to-heart talk entitled, This Leavening Process, he wrote:
“When I see the extreme fashions, the rings, the necklaces, the large brooches, the lockets, the highly ornamental watches, and the elaborate men’s jewelry more and more apparent among us, it is not the precious stones that cause me most concern: it is that ‘leavening process’-that pride, that love of self, the love of the world, that compromise-that these objects reveal, that makes me anxious for God’s people ... too many of us are heading back into the world. If the love of the world is in our hearts the love of the Father just can’t be there too.” Review and Herald, December 17, 1972.
Obviously, we have come to a time when the “old landmarks of truth, experience and duty” need to be reaffirmed and strengthened. Sister White indicated that “we are to stand firmly in defense of our principles, in full view of the world.”