Tuesday, September 20, 2011

7th Day Adventists having another go at it? The Great Controversy is back!

An interesting thing occurred today that gave cause for my first post.

I had for some time been noting that, since the late 90s, I have heard or seen very little from anti-Catholic groups compared to the days before the Internet became accessible to most people. Now, I am not referring to anti-clerical people or those who are all over the Church for their pathetic failure to address the issue of pedophile priests until now. What I am talking about is the good old-fashioned anti-Catholic propaganda that we remember from Jack Chick tracts and others, those that paint as lurid pictures of the Church and her doctrines as possible. These were infamous for their taking the twisting and outright falsification of history to new levels. The Grandaddy of all of these was The Great Controversy. Ellen G. White, an extremely influential member of the early Adventist movement in the United States, authored the work in the late 19th century. In its 370 pages, in her effort to prove that Christians should be following Mosaic Law and thus worship on Saturday, Ms. White goes after the church almost page-by-page, rarely missing the chance to completely misrepresent the events to which she refers. Her utter lack of knowledge of the structure, practices, and beliefs of the early Christian church would not hold Ellen back. The spectacular claims of Christians worshiping on Saturday until Constantine (who of course created the Catholic Church according to her) is rivaled only by her empathy towards the German Emperor Henry IV as she recounts his treatment at the hands of Pope Gregory VII. From what we gather, to Ms. White it must have been perfectly fine for a lay ruler to keep for himself the right to appoint Bishops of his choice. Time and space forbid going into detail about the Investiture Controversy, but let's say that Ms. White would probably not have liked if the President or the Governor decided that he had the authority to appoint those who would be in charge of the 7th Day Adventists of her time.

A prologue to today's little spark: Shortly after returning home following the end of my enlistment with the Marine Corps in 1989, I began to note that what I then would have called "born again Christians" were not only highly aggressive in their proselytizing, it also that their work was so widespread. The efforts seemed to be almost entirely aimed at the Catholics in the workplace, among friends, at the mall (if that could be ascertained), etc. I would watch as Methodists, Presbyterians and others were left alone. (These groups have far more in common with Catholics than with Fundamentalists ie. belief in Baptismal Regeneration) Perhaps they were next on the list after the Catholics were beaten. Baptists and others who never the less worship on Sunday were also taking part in the free-for all against the poor, deluded Catholics. The 7th day Adventists seemed to be the most aggressive, even conducting repeated door-to-door campaigns that made the Jehovah's Witnesses look lazy. Their arguments were well-prepared and they sometimes really seemed to know what they were talking about. I myself felt that I was responsible to see if they were right and began reading and reading and reading. Ignatius Press and Apologetics organization such as Catholic Answers provided an in inexhaustible source of information.The more that I read, the more their positions subsequently weakened. This did not have the effect that I expected - those who were so full of enthusiasm to tell me how wrong my church was, once I began to explain that their arguments did not even start with firm foundations, now began to give answers that I would not have been allowed to give a few shorts months earlier. I would hear things like "Well I guess what matters in that you have faith". The proselytizing stopped almost immediately with most. The few who continued on like the poor WWII Japanese soldier found in the 50s on Guam too eventually to a one withdrew when faced with a whole new source of information - the Internet. All of a sudden, whole works of the early Christian Fathers and Catholic websites were available to anyone who could get their mitts on a computer with Internet access. The proselytizers seemed to have disappeared along with the advent of the new tool.  Even the facts about the founders of these organizations (including Ms. White) were within the reach of literally anyone. Aside from a few flare-ups, it appeared that the efforts of these people would from that point on  be confined to their own websites and blogs.

And today: In my mailbox was a copy of the Great Controversy. So here I sit and wonder. Are we in the West, while we keep an eye on those who would hope to bring Socialism and radical Islam among us, to go back to making sure that Christianity does not get subverted by others who themselves profess to be Christains but seek to completely redefine it?

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