Eugene, Seventh-day Adventists should sit up and take notice of your article on the classification of Adventism into seven distinct factions. The truths you have presented are not baseless criticisms, but reality. As a Seventh-day Adventist for the past 32 years, I have known that each of these factions exists; but until now I haven't seen the bigger picture. Most Adventists have seen legalists, pacifists, and even papists in the church. What many of us have not realized yet is that it is the very presence of six of these seven factions that makes us as a people the Laodicea of prophecy. If we are ever to benefit by the so-called Laodicean message, we must first acknowledge that we are Laodicea.
I'd like to offer a few comments on the seven spiritual factions.
As you pointed out, some of these Aggressives have already left, setting up a seemingly endless number of websites to slam the church. Their rhetoric is filled with “rancor and disgust.” They believe that they are doing the work of God, but the nature of their work is only to accuse and condemn. Many seem to be on a mission to convince all Adventists to leave the church. Yes, we do need to be made aware of the sad spiritual condition of the modern church (or else inspiration would have never mentioned it) and to be warned of false teachers and self-serving leaders. God will cause the rocks to cry out if those who should be sounding the alarm choose to stick their heads in the sand; but let all who speak out proceed with care so that no one's faith in the Seventh-day Adventist message is shattered.
I was blown over by this quote that you used to describe the Aggressives: “…many, even of the professed followers of Christ, are thinking, planning, and working so eagerly for self-exaltation that in order to gain the sympathy and support of the people they are ready to pervert the truth, falsifying and misrepresenting the Lord's servants, and even charging them with the base and selfish motives that inspire their own hearts.” I just can’t relate to that frame of mind. May the Lord put me in my grave before I ever get that way.
I couldn’t agree more with your description of Legalists as “typically ignorant zealots.” In the first few years after joining the church (in 1975), I ran into many Adventists who fit that description. They were zealous for “the truth,” but just step on their toes and watch them come unraveled and lash out in self-righteousness and revenge. As I read some of the scathing rebukes that Mrs. White wrote to this class of Legalists, I was greatly impressed with how she had such insight into the personal characters of the people she was describing (who in most cases were total strangers). There is no way to explain her insight other than the fact that she was a genuine prophetess. People can put Ellen White down all they care to, but at the end of the day, it was the gift of prophecy alone that could enable her to write those counsels with such truth and authority.
One characteristic you pointed out of Legalists is how, as Ellen White wrote, “They have lived some time watching to keep their brethren straight—watching for every fault to make trouble with them.” I cringe when I run into people like that within the church. I think that this is the most hopeless of all professed Adventists—those who cannot help but fault-find their brethren. I have sat at the dinner tables of those who take pride in being Seventh-day Adventists and listened as they verbally chewed other people up and swallowed them whole. I believe it was Dan, one of the sons of Jacob, who will be lost, primarily because of his constant verbal attacks on others. Accusing words can murder another person’s spirit. Constant criticism in a self-righteous manner is like a spiritual cancer that eats away at the soul. That is what Mrs. White meant when she wrote that “some are withering spiritually.”
Regarding the faction of Spiritualists, your separate article titled “The Spiritualism of Adventism” says it all. I wish that every Seventh-day Adventist could read it. There is not a day that goes by that I do not grieve for the Adventists who so easily fall prey to this most obvious deception. I can’t stomach reading or hearing any more of Graham Maxwell’s hypnotic gibberish, and I never visit the HeavenlySanctuary.com forum anymore. Upon close examination, the theology of these individuals is identical to the New Age, spiritualistic theories that the whole world is following after. There are those who wish to be identified with the Seventh-day Adventist movement but whose doctrines blatantly contradict the inspired word. There are ample warnings in the Spirit of Prophecy regarding how spiritualism will run rampant within our ranks in the very last days. Few are hearing or reading those warnings; and the few who are trying to sound the alarm are pegged as heretics or written off as wild-eyed fanatics.
The Papists faction is a slap in the face of every Seventh-day Adventist—and rightfully so. Here we are as a people who get on the “beast” and ride it with spurs, and yet who must witness that same spirit right within our own ranks. I like how you described the papist spirit as being one "that seeks the mastery over others.” That spirit can be destructive in households where the husband lords it over the wife; in church unions and conferences (also the GC) where one man seeks to dominate the wills and actions of others; and in churches where the pastor or a clique wants to have the final say on everything. They try to drive away anyone who is not of their ilk. Knowing your past experiences with some in the Richardson church, I would say that this group is the most frustrating of all spiritual factions to deal with. Power, position, and authority just seem to go to some people’s heads, and they become blind to their own faults. Just as lepers have no feeling of pain as their flesh wastes away, these spiritual lepers have no clue as to the degree to which they are destroying their own souls by lording it over their fellow man. This spirit is at the very heart of antichrist.
As I was reading your description of the Papists faction, I was particularly disturbed by how in a dream Ellen White predicted the rise of popery within the SDA church. I can only shake my head as I ponder how such a thing could happen. The following statement you made is the most sobering thought of the article: “Satan has such perfect control of the Seventh-day Adventist hierarchy that even the enemies of truth laugh at the blindness of SDA leaders for being so devoid of the Spirit of God that Adventism’s best and brightest can’t see how they themselves have adopted medieval popery.” There are some Adventists who would take offense to that statement; but they should not be too quick to criticize. Let them walk a mile in the shoes of those who have borne the abuse of a few well-intentioned but misguided church leaders. The fact that there are some leaders and pastors within my denomination who would stoop to lording it over those who disagree with them makes me almost ashamed to call myself a Seventh-day Adventist.
The Pacifists make me angry. That faction has sat mutely by over the past four decades while men like A. Graham Maxwell sowed the seeds of modern spiritualism in the minds of thousands of young Adventist minds. I think that groups like HeavenlySanctuary.com are only the tip of the iceberg. I would not want to be in the shoes of these whimpy, God-is-too-good-to-punish-the-wicked theorists when their cases come up for review in the judgment.
As I read through your article and pondered the inspired quotes that you presented, I had to wonder how it is that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has survived all of these years and maintained some semblance of order and organization. The Lord must have had His hand of protection over us in spite of the self-defeating influence of the six negative factions.
As for the Sheeple, that verse in Jeremiah tells the whole story. These people come and go through the church doors because they don’t know what else to do on the Sabbath. They can sit and listen to boring sermons and then go stuff their faces at potluck. I would lump a large portion of SDAs into this faction.
The final group—Seventh-day Adventists—is where I long to be, but I feel so inadequate and unworthy to belong to this genuine group of saints. I wish I were more active and focused on doing God’s work like I used to be; but age and physical ailments have taken their toll on my energy and enthusiasm. Your subtitle “The Shaking Produces A New Seventh-day Adventist Leadership” presents a sobering thought. Today there are few leaders who may be admired. I realize that there are those who with great joy give their talents and energies to the cause of God, and for those individuals I am grateful. But many now in leadership positions will disappear when persecution comes. I believe that most Adventists have not yet learned that it will be the eleventh-hour workers that come in from other Christian groups and join with true Sabbath-keepers who will lead out in the loud cry. Many devout Christians who are not now Adventists will step forward during the Sunday law crisis to take the final message of mercy to the world with great power.
I love to dwell on the fact that God still has His elect within our ranks. It is a rare treat when I come to know church members who do not seem to fit into any of the negative spiritual factions. I know a couple in my church who are unassuming, who always step forward when duty calls, and who have no guile in their words. They are kind, sweet, and humble people. They are not the most educated and eloquent people I know, but they possess the spirit of a true Adventist Christian. Over the years I have had to consciously resist the temptation to just stop going to church because the pews are so filled with Adventists like some you have described. Whenever I get to looking down my nose too much at my fellow church members, the Lord opens my eyes and makes me realize that I am sorely lacking in spiritual character.
Your article is a sad commentary, but true nonetheless. You have much insight about the Adventist people. Eugene, the thing that impressed me the most about the article is that you accurately identified the sad spiritual condition of these various factions within Adventism, yet there is no sting in your words. You can’t be accused by an honest person of accusing the brethren. Your words do not reveal an angry or spiteful spirit. I feel much more of a spiritual kinship with you than I do the majority of church-going Adventists. I will share your article with others I know who will appreciate it.