In November's newsletter we considered some questions about our own vulnerability to deception. Now I want us to reflect on some questions to ask of those who would entice us, our family, or our friends to push against the fence or to leave the church’s sheltering fold altogether.
Do they profess to have “new light,” and does that “light” have a tendency to unsettle faith in the generally accepted doctrinal positions held by Seventh-day Adventists?
“Men and women will arise professing to have some new light or some new revelation whose tendency is to unsettle faith in the old landmarks. Their doctrines will not bear the test of God’s word, yet souls will be deceived” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, p. 295). New interpretations of Bible prophecy, new revelations regarding the nature of the deity, new understandings of righteousness by faith—these are samples of the tested and tried traps for the unwary. Now it is certainly not wrong for any of us to desire a deeper understanding of what the Bible teaches. In fact, that is encouraged. But that should never weaken our attachment to God’s remnant church.
Are they willing to have their beliefs reviewed by “brethren of experience,” and are they ready to accept their counsel?
God has given us the “multitude-of-counselors” principle in Proverbs 11:14. The Seventh-day Adventist church has carefully-spelled-out policies for examining and accepting or rejecting “new light.” Those who are unwilling to submit their views to that process should not be trusted. Observance of this one rule alone would keep thousands from being pulled into the whirlpool of deception.
‘The only safety for any of us is in receiving no new doctrine, no new interpretation of the Scriptures, without first submitting it to brethren of experience. Lay it before them in a humble, teachable spirit, with earnest prayer; and if they see no light in it, yield to their judgment” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 5, pp. 291-293).
Is theirs a negative message, finding fault with nearly everyone and everything in the church, while positive reports of the advance of the gospel are ignored?
“There are many who find special enjoyment in discoursing and dwelling upon the defects, whether real or imaginary, of those who bear heavy responsibilities in connection with the institutions of God’s cause. They overlook the good that has been accomplished, the benefits that have resulted from arduous labor and unflinching devotion to the cause . . .” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 4, p. 196). I think such critics should be asked, “Where is your Mission Spotlight?”
Do they manifest a strong, independent, anti-organization spirit, while at the same time talking and acting as if they were the church?
There are some today who have great difficulty submitting to the authority of the church. They will not be answerable to boards and committees. They will not take counsel from pastors and Conference leaders. They flaunt the authority of the Church Manual. They not only behave as if they do not need the church; they behave as if they are the church.
“The spirit of pulling away from our fellow laborers, the spirit of disorganization, is in the very air we breathe. By some, all efforts to establish order are regarded as dangerous—as a restriction of personal liberty, and hence to be regarded as popery” (Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 488, 489).
Do they have a burden for soul-winning?
I have never known of even one person involved with a dissident group who was deeply involved in bringing new members into the Seventh-day Adventist church. The reasons are obvious. First, they are typically antisocial, isolating themselves from others for fear of contamination. Second, they look upon the church, not the world, as their mission field. Third, they prize smallness. “There are little companies rising who believe that God is only with the very few, the very scattered, and their influence is to tear down and scatter that which God’s servants build up” (Testimonies for the Church, vol. 1, p. 417).
Do they ask you to support them with tithe and offerings, and are their financial records open to public scrutiny or at least available to donors?
“And through covetousness shall they with feigned words make merchandise of you” (2 Pet. 2:15). Ellen White says there are “those who are . . . in opposition to organization, in opposition to the plain command of God spoken by Malachi in regard to bringing all the tithes into the treasury of God’s house” (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 53).
Well, what about the playful wolves on the left?
Even though I may have slanted the foregoing toward the ultra-conservative, independent-minded element on the far right, I would emphasize that the reader could ask many of these questions of those on the liberalizing left. Can they, too, profess to have “new light”? Yes, especially “light” that makes light of obedience and strict conformity to the revealed will of God. Do they find fault with church leadership? Yes, especially with those leaders perceived as being opposed to their worldly lifestyles. Do they have a burden for soul-winning? No.
Satan sees them as his very best allies. He says of them, “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” (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 474).
We are challenged to be kind and courteous to all of these dear people, both right and left. Kind but cautious. Loving but wise. Gentle but firm. “They are to be met and opposed, not because they are bad men, but because they are teachers of falsehood and are endeavoring to put upon falsehood the stamp of truth” (Testimonies to Ministers, p. 55).
Prodigals do come home. It is not our place to judge any of these brothers and sisters as hopeless. It is our place to be firm in protecting ourselves and our fellow believers from those predators who would make raids upon God’s flock.
--Lee Roy Holmes, retired Seventh-day Adventist pastor, College Place, WA.