If I were to ask you, What is the similarity, the likeness, between a bank president and a town drunkard, what would you say?
If I were to ask you, What is the similarity between a bartender and a college professor, what would you say?
And, if I were to ask you, What is the similarity between a thief and a scientist, what would you say?
What about a gambler and a college president? What is the similarity between them?
I think I know what you would say, and I think I know what you are thinking right now. I believe you are thinking, “Ralph, those are dumb questions. There is no similarity at all between those people.”
But I would respectfully have to disagree with you. I believe that there is a point on which these people are not only similar, they are practically identical. It is on the point of self-idolatry, which Ellen White describes as “the foundation of all sin.” Testimonies, vol. 9, 27.
Self-idolatry lies at the foundation of all sins.
When we hear the word “idolatry” we think of idols and images, things carved out of wood or stone, before which people bow and pray, and even offer sacrifices. In Honolulu I lived for awhile across a narrow street from a Bhuddist temple where the people bowed and prayed before an image of Bhudda. In Japan, I visited a temple of a thousand Bhuddas. There were actually a thousand idols there, standing on their feet in order to use less room than the more familiar seated Bhuddas. Sri Lanka, the island kingdom to the south of India, is a land of many idols and images. Idolatry is not always practiced with images of wood or stone. In Manila I watched a man and a woman walk with bare feet across a bed of hot coal, and afterward bow before the fire and pray to it.
I have seen idols and images of many gods, but I have never seen an image or idol of the god “self,” have you? Yet self-idolatry must be very common, if it lies at the foundation of all sin. We may remember that Lucifer laid the original foundation, as we read in Isaiah 14:12–14: “How art thou fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! how art thou cut down to the ground, which didst weaken the nations! For thou hast said in thine heart, I will ascend into heaven, I will exalt my throne above the stars of God: I will sit also upon the mount of the congregation, in the sides of the north: I will ascend above the heights of the clouds; I will be like the most High.”
When we read these words, we think that surely this was the ultimate insanity, for a created being to think that he could put himself above his own Creator. Such craziness could happen only once in the history of the universe, we feel sure. But actually, this self-idolatry is happening every day, all around us. People on every side of us are daily saying, “I will be like the most High; I will make my own rules; I will be my own god.” Why do they do this? Because of a grim reality that we do not often think about but should. We remember that in Genesis 3:15 the Lord said to Satan, “…I will put enmity between thee and the woman, and between thy seed and her seed.” Let us look carefully at some Spirit of Prophecy comments on this verse:
The Lord says, ‘I will put enmity between thee and the woman.’ The enmity does not exist as a natural fact. As soon as Adam sinned, he was in harmony with the first great apostate and at war with God; and if God had not interfered in man’s behalf, Satan and man would have formed a confederacy against heaven, and carried on united opposition against the God of hosts. Signs of the Times, July 11, 1895.
“There is no natural enmity between evil angels and evil men; both are evil through transgression of the law of God, and evil will always league against good. Fallen men and fallen angels enter into a desperate companionship.” Youth’s Instructor, October 11, 1894.
Note carefully—the evil in both men and angels is defined as transgression of the law of God. That would include everyone in the world, except sincere Christians, for they are all transgressing the law of God. This is the basic point in their similarity. Do you see now why I said there is a point in which the people I mentioned are not different at all? We may divide them into two separate groups. We would put the bank president, the college professor, and the scientist in one group and the drunkard, the bartender, the thief and the gambler in another group and say that the two groups are completely different, but we would be wrong. Except for the few Christians who might be found in the first group, they are all alike in their transgression of the law of God. On this point there is no difference between the drunkard and the bank president or the thief and the scientist, or any of the others who were mentioned. They are all practicing self-idolatry. They are all saying, “I will be like the most High.” In their rejection of God’s Law they are rejecting God, and putting self on the throne, just like Lucifer did.
They are also alike in their association with fallen angels. There is no enmity between them, and they are in a “desperate” companionship, although they may not realize it. And what of their relationship with Christians?
Evil will always league against good.
If you question that statement, just read the newspapers for awhile. They will convince you. I used to read the well-known statement by Ellen White, which calls for men who, among other things, are not afraid “to call sin by its right name.” (See Education, 57.) I would wonder then why calling sin by its right name should require courage, but I do not wonder any more. People are being criticized, denounced, and even sued for calling sin by its right name in our time. The “bad guys” are declaring war on the “good guys” all over the country. Even the Bible is being attacked because it clearly states that certain practices are an abomination to God.
Add it up. There is no enmity between fallen angels and fallen men. Fallen angels and fallen men are in a “desperate companionship.” Fallen angels and fallen men are alike in their transgression of God’s Law. Fallen angels and fallen men are united in a league against good, for evil will always league against good.
Once we get this picture clearly in our minds, we are better able to understand some of the peculiar things that are being done around us by highly trained and highly educated persons. I once hired a university student to help me do some work on my evangelistic equipment. As we worked, he told me about some of his classes. One of his professors, he said, made a point of telling the students, every few days, that Christianity is dead. “He must be a frightened man,” I said.
“Why? What do you mean?” the student asked.
“If you really believed that a man was dead,” I answered, “would you go back and stick your knife into him every few days? It looks to me like your professor is afraid that Christianity is not dead.”
I digress to make a point of which you might not be aware. You have probably understood that Christianity must not be discussed in public school classrooms. This is only partially true. You may freely discuss Christianity in the public school classrooms as long as you are putting it down, discrediting it. If the professor mentioned above had taken time, every few days, to tell his students something favorable about Christianity, he would soon have been in trouble. Evil will always league against good. We must not draw the conclusion that highly educated men are exceptions to this rule. They are not. On this point they are not different from the drunkard, the gambler, or the thief.
Getting Away with Murder
I read with astonishment how a highly respected judge, on the Raphael Perez case, (The General Conference Corporation of Seventh-day Adventists of Silver Spring, Maryland vs Raphael Perez and the Eternal Gospel Church of Miami, Florida, Case #98-2940-CIV-KING) let the lawyers for the General Conference “get away with murder,” to use a familiar expression, in the first few minutes of the trial. The first witness that they called to the stand was a Seventh-day Adventist lawyer named Clark Floyd. The questioning went approximately like this:
“Do you have any degrees in theology?
“Are you a member of any theological society?”
“Do you subscribe to any theological journals?”
“Your honor, I move that this witness be dismissed because he is not qualified to testify in this case.” Ibid., Court Transcript
And the judge dismissed him! And he dismissed the second witness in the same manner. What a mockery of judicial procedure!
What should the judge have done? He should have addressed the lawyer and said to him very firmly, “Counsel, this is not a theological court, it is a court of civil law. We are not dealing with questions of theology; we are dealing with a matter of civil law. You will please confine your questions to matter of civil law, and say no more about theology.” But the judge permitted theological questions all the way through the trial. How are we to understand this? Evil will always league against good. Was the judge consciously trying to do evil against Raphael Perez? Possibly not. He may not have even been aware of what he was doing, but the wrongful trial and the wrongful decision make us keenly aware that Bible Christians cannot expect justice from worldly courts.
This is underscored by the results of the appeal to a higher court. The last report that reached me was that this court was trying to settle the matter through arbitration, whereas they should have declared it a mistrial because of the mixture of theological matters with matters of civil law. This is contrary to the constitution, which guarantees our freedom of religion. But we should not be surprised. Evil will always league against good.
Most Americans are familiar with the tragic story of Aaron Burr, who challenged Alexander Hamilton to a duel because of some small matter, and shot and killed Hamilton, while Hamilton, who did not believe in duels, fired his shot into the air. But public opinion turned strongly against Burr, and his life went downward and downward until he finally committed suicide. Most Americans know that story, but few people know of the experience that lies behind it. While Burr was a student at Princeton University, an evangelist came to town and preached the gospel. Burr attended several of the meetings, and felt a strong conviction that he should become a Christian. Feeling the need of some advice, he asked the President of the University what to do. The President said: “I cannot tell you whether you should be a Christian. You will have to decide that for yourself. But I would advise you to wait until the meetings are all over, and the evangelist has gone on to his next appointment, then think it over and make your decision, by yourself, as to what you want to do.”
Burr accepted this advice. He ignored all of the evangelist’s appeals, and waited until the meetings were over. Then one night, while Burr’s fellow students were studying in their dormitory rooms, they heard a sudden noise. Looking out, they saw that Burr had thrown open his dormitory window, and was leaning out and looking up at the sky. He looked for a long moment, and then the other students heard him say:
“Goodbye, God. I have made my decision.”
That is the experience that lies behind the tragic story of Aaron Burr. We know that the president was not a Christian, because no Christian would ever give that kind of advice to anybody. The president may have thought that he was giving Burr good advice, but he was a fallen man in league with fallen angels, whether he realized it or not. Evil will always league against good.
Put not your trust in princes.
We have to face it, folks. We cannot put our trust in princes of science, or in princes of education, or in princes of industry, or in princes of politics. And we cannot put our trust (are you ready for this?) in princes of the church. Let us go without further delay to the very heart of the problem.
The August 2000 issues of the Adventist Review and Ministry magazines present a report to the church regarding the activities of such independent ministries as Hope International, led by Ron Spear; Hartland Institute, led by Colin Standish; and Remnant Ministries, led by Russell Standish. It proposes that 12 months will be given to them in which they may either submit to the authority of the church or suffer the consequences. The report is filled with grossly false allegations. I have written a firm rebuttal of the false allegations, which is in the November issue of LandMarks magazine, and so I will not repeat them here. But it is my painful duty to point out that these false allegations were concocted and published by princes of the church. It is an appalling, unbelievable, spectacle, but we must face it. As in all times of trial, we go to the inspired writings for guidance. Here is a sampling of what we find there:
As the storm approaches, a large class who have professed faith in the Third Angel’s Message, but have not been sanctified through obedience to the truth, abandon their position and join the ranks of the opposition. By uniting with the world and partaking of its spirit, they have come to view matters in nearly the same light; and when the test is brought, they are prepared to choose the easy, popular side. Men of talent and pleasing address, who once rejoiced in the truth, employ their powers to deceive and mislead souls. They become themost bitter enemies of their former brethren. The Great Controversy, 608. [Emphasis supplied.]
The “men of talent and pleasing address” may well be princes of the church. And carefully consider this:
Through his evil angels, Satan contrives to form an alliance with professedly pious men,…He knows that if he can induce men, as he induced the angels, to join in rebellion, under the guise of servants of God, he will have in them his most successful allies in his enterprise against heaven. Under the name of godliness,he can inspire them with his own accusing spirit, and lead them to charge God’s servants with evil and guile. Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, vol. 4, 1142. [Emphasis supplied.]
Words of Hate
Would you like to sample a foretaste of what she was writing about? Roy Adams, associate editor of the Adventist Review, provides us with a sample. In a book that he wrote called The Nature of Christ he uses the following words to describe historic Adventists and their leaders:
Sour, festering, self-appointed, infected with the virus of judgmentalism and suspicion, disease, martyr complex, seasoned controversialists, spirit of accusation, outraged, aghast, scandalized, pathetic, self-confessed expert, misguided, wrong-headed, steeped in their cherished position, impenetrable to any theological logic, irresponsible, almost dishonest, deluded self-appointed gurus, disgruntled, pious self-appointed prophets, turncoats, charlatans, and scoundrels, like Jim Jones and David Koresh. The Nature of Christ,
He then describes our reasoning and our writings in these terms:
Mumblings, innuendos, broken faith with the church, specious theology, perfectionistic agitation, picayune, disgusting, speciousness, repetitive, exasperating, subtle spin, overblown, vacuousness, subtle legalism, anger, irritation, anger to new heights, radical articulation, fuss, ingenious theological gymnastics, willfulness, mischief, dishonesty, far-fetched explanations, artificial and contrived, totally fabricated, thoughtlessly, narrow, shallow, facile admonitions, simplistic pietism, shrill, provincial, manipulate, dogmatism, trap of perfectionistic legalism, heated, quoted piously, specious reasoning, vehement, inordinate insistence, maliciously accusing, sharpened tongues, navel-gazing, and self-flagellation. Ibid.
An Accusing Spirit
Look again at what Ellen White predicted. The devil will inspire professedly pious men with his own accusing spirit, and they will charge God’s servants with evil and guile. Did she know what she was writing about? Need we wonder what part Adams will take in the court procedures against true Adventists who are on trial for their faith? And how can we doubt that Ellen White was inspired? You would think that she had been shown a copy of Adams’ book. And the book carries on its back cover recommendations from Adventist scholars and from then General Conference President, Robert Folkenberg. Make no mistake about it, dear friend. The report and the ultimatum to historic Adventists that were prepared by princes of the church and published in the Adventist Review and in Ministry magazine, with all of their grossly false accusations, are not to be taken lightly. They are obviously inspired by the same spirit that inspired Adams.
As for the theology that Adams recommends to his readers, here is a sample. In his argument against the idea of character perfection, Adams says that some sins, called chata’ah in Hebrew, cannot be overcome, that they are not counted against us, and that they have nothing to do with our fitness or unfitness for heaven (See Ibid., 97). Let us therefore go to the Old Testament to see what kind of sins are there defined as chata’ah. The list includes:
- The sin of adultery into which Potiphar’s wife tried to lure Joseph. Genesis 39:9.
- The selling of Joseph into slavery by his brothers. Genesis 50:17.
- The sin of idolatry. Exodus 23:33.
- The rebellion of Korah against Moses, for which he died. Numbers 16:22.
- Eli’s sons’ rebellion against the Lord, for which they died. I Samuel 2:25.
- The planned murder of David by Saul. I Samuel 19:5.
- The multiple sins into which Jereboam led Israel, which caused God to reject Israel. I Kings 14:16.
- The sins of Manasseh, who filled Jerusalem with blood and caused Israel to do worse than the heathen. II Kings 21:9, 16.
These sins, according to Adams, cannot be overcome, are not counted, and have nothing to do with out fitness or unfitness for heaven. Need we wonder what spirit is inspiring all of this? Put not your trust in princes, not even the princes of the church.
So How Shall We Relate to These Horrifying Circumstances?
Rejoice. The evidence shows that the end is near; thank God that we have been given ample warning in advance through the precious writings of the Spirit of Prophecy. Marvel again at the uncanny accuracy of Ellen White’s words: Professedly pious men will charge God’s servants with evil and guile.
Do not Panic. The God who was able to tell us in advance about the great apostasy in Adventism is well able to bring us safely through that apostasy and the great time of trouble that will follow it.
Do not Retaliate. Bitter as it is to be betrayed by church leaders, and to see our beautiful truth trashed by persons in high church office, we must not return evil for evil. Jesus was calm and undisturbed while being falsely accused, and by His grace we may do the same. It may be that some of the false accusers and truth trashers will yet repent and be saved.
Stay Close to the Lord. Read, read and reread the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. Guard carefully your prayer program, and cultivate the habit of talking to God while about your daily affairs.
Keep Your Guard Up. Put no blind confidence in anyone. We can no longer take it for granted that persons in high church office will be truthful with us, either in their words or in their writings. The situation is grave now, and it will certainly get worse as the end draws near. But we have read “the last pages in the book,” and we know how it is going to end!
Courage in the Lord!