SECTION FIVE: INQUISITION
Chapter XI – How Shall We Relate To The Great Adventist Inquisition?
by Dr. Ralph Larson
If thou hast run with the footmen, and they have wearied thee, then how canst thou contend with horses? and if in the land of peace, wherein thou trusted, they wearied thee, then how wilt thou do in the swelling of Jordan? Jeremiah 12: 5.
The Jordan is swelling. The horsemen are here. By their publication of the Issues tract and book, the North American Division leaders, no doubt acting in counsel with General Conference leaders, have clearly announced their intention of seeking out those who have been associating with and supporting “certain private organizations” and dealing with them as a cancer in the body of the church, which must be cut out. This will be the historic Adventist’s reward for persistently calling for loyalty to our historic faith and for insistently raising questions about unauthorized changes in our church’s doctrines.
It will be no small task. The Historic Movement is growing very rapidly in North America and has adherents numbering in the thousands. It also has sympathizers in high places who will come forward like Nicodemus when circumstances require such an action. In overseas divisions, excepting Australia, New Zealand and Western Europe, those who hold to our historic faith are the overwhelming majority. Most of the members in mission fields will be astonished beyond measure when they learn that in North America church members are being disciplined for believing the very doctrines that those in the mission fields have been taught and still hold.
As one considers the magnitude of this Inquisition, the question is likely to occur, Would it not be simpler and easier to just repudiate the unauthorized changes in our doctrines and return to the purity of our faith? But it does not appear that this solution to the problem is even being considered.
This is unfortunate. Such an approach would have brought a positive solution to the problem, rather than a negative solution. Surgery would not be necessary. The dissidents would cease to be dissident and would joyfully give full support to the church administration. Tithes and offerings would flow through the regular channels, and the independent ministries would willingly go out of business because they would no longer be needed.
But we must accept the grim reality. Given the choice between reforming our theology or silencing the voices of those who are calling for reform, the North American Division leaders appear to have chosen the latter course. This is a fateful decision. It will touch off such a “witch- hunt” as has never before been seen in Adventism, although it has been seen before in the history of Christianity.
The early Christians were hounded out of the Jewish synagogues; the Protestants were hounded out of the Catholic church; and the Millerite Adventists were hounded out of the Protestant churches, all for the same reason. All were reacting against apostasy in the church and calling for reform. In each case the church authorities refused to consider reform and chose rather to silence the Reformers’ voices.
The Pharisees had just cut one off from the fold because he had acknowledged that Jesus had wrought a wonderful miracle, and had opened his eyes. . . . They were false shepherds indeed, and sought to scatter the sheep. … in no gentle manner they thrust him out of the synagogue. The sheep was cast out of the fold for being a living witness to the power of Christ. Many have been cast out of the church whose names were registered upon the book of life. Wolves in sheep’s clothing were ready to cast out of the fold and devour one who was entitled to the Lord’s pasture; but Jesus, the True Shepherd, sought him, and gave him a place within the fold.— ST 12- 4- 1893. (This does not mean that Jesus went to Caiphas and got the man’s name back on the roll of the synagogue.)
We seem to be witnessing a demonstration of the principle that those who cannot learn from history are condemned to repeat it. Unless God intervenes in a way not presently foreseeable, many of us are going to be called upon to submit to trial in our various home churches. How shall we meet this situation? Let us consider both the words and the example of our Lord.
We observe first that Jesus did not refuse to stand trial, although He could very easily have resisted arrest or concealed Himself from Judas and the mob. Let us follow His example and not refuse to stand trial. Our testimony there may well bring salvation to someone. Then let us study the records of His trial and the inspired commentary in The Desire of Ages, chapters 75 and 77. (Chapter 76 deals with the sad experience of Judas.) From these chapters we glean lines like these: (Emphasis supplied.)
He spoke no burning words of retaliation. Page 700.
His calm answer came from a heart sinless, patient, and gentle, that would not be provoked. Page 700.
Patiently Jesus listened to the conflicting testimonies. Page 706.
On His face he [Pilate] saw no sign of guilt, no expression of fear, no boldness or defiance. Page 724.
He stood unmoved by the fury of the waves that beat about Him. Page 726.
Pilate was filled with amazement at the uncomplaining patience of the Saviour. Page 736.
The Son of God had taken upon Himself man’s nature. He must do as man must do in like circumstances. Page 729.
Jesus is our example, and to glorify Him by our conduct when we are placed on trial will be our privilege and our honor. If we are faithful, we will be standing in direct line with those of all ages who have been dealt with unjustly by church authorities, including Jesus Himself. We need have no fear. We know it is all going to end in the triumph of truth over error, of right over wrong, of Christ over Satan.