An Answer to “Letting Roman Catholics off the Hook.”

letting catholics off the hookAdventist Today is a magazine not published by or authorized by the General Conference, whose mission statement declares:

Adventist Today reports on contemporary issues of importance to Adventist church members. Following basic principles of ethics and canons of journalism, this publication strives for fairness, candor, and good taste. (http://www.atoday.com/about-adventist-today)

Adventist Today’s mission statement says nothing about being opposed to the corporate church, nor do they have any desire to work in opposition to the corporate church, but they do, according to their staff, present controversial material with which many in the corporate management of the church agree and would like to see shared but cannot do so for political reasons.

This may help to explain an article that Adventist Today published in the Winter 2010 edition written by Loren Seibold, pastor of the Worthington, Ohio, Seventh-day Adventist Church entitled “Letting Roman Catholics off the Hook.” In this article, Seibold makes a seven-point argument about why it may be time to question the role of the papacy in apocalyptic prophecy. The purpose of the article you are now reading is to examine these arguments and to share inspiration’s perspective upon the matter.

Seibold has written for the Adventist Review and has published several articles in The Signs of the Times; therefore, one would think that he is at least somewhat representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and its views.

We begin our review by noting that the title of the article is misleading. It is not “Roman Catholics” as individuals that the Bible speaks against or Adventism has ever challenged to be evil. Some, perhaps many, Catholics are people of God. Christ calls them “my people” (Revelation 18:4), but he calls them to come out of their corrupt system of faith and religion. Now let us briefly examine Seibold’s seven points.

Point 1: “More than a hundred years have passed since our prophet approved these prophetic applications.” Seibold notes that the apostles and Ellen White all believed that Jesus would come in their lifetimes, but it did not happen. Time has passed on, and we are informed by Seibold that we are “not sure why that [the second coming] hasn’t happened.” His main point, though, is that many prophecies about Israel were not fulfilled due to their conditional nature, and the same is implied concerning Seventh-day Adventism.

Answer: It is true that Ellen White, at first, thought that Jesus would come in her lifetime, but later she realized that “We may have to remain here in this world because of insubordination many more years, as did the children of Israel; but for Christ’s sake, His people should not add sin to sin by charging God with the consequence of their own wrong course of action” (Letter to P. T. Magan, December 7, 1941, Manuscript Releases, vol. 20, p. 313). Several times in the later years of her life, Ellen White expressed the need for provisions to be made concerning the continuation of her writings after her death (The Later Elmshaven Years, p. 361), yet though she knew she would die before Jesus returned, she never changed her view on Roman Catholicism nor encouraged the church to change its position. Two years before she died, we find these words of Ellen White published in Bible Training School, February 1, 1913:

Wherever the papal Sabbath is honored in preference to the Sabbath of the Lord, there is the man of sin exalted above the Creator of the heavens and the earth.

As to the main charge of “conditional prophecy,” it is true that some prophecies about Israel were never fulfilled in their time. The temple of Ezekiel is an example; however, the prophecies of Daniel and especially Revelation are not conditional prophecies. The very beginning of Revelation states that it is prophecy “which must shortly come to pass” (Revelation 1:1; all emphasis supplied unless otherwise noted). Jesus recognized at least one prophecy of Daniel as being guaranteed to happen (Matthew 24:15), and there is no reason to think that Jesus felt any differently about the other prophecies in Daniel.

Point 2: “Principles might be more diagnostic than players.” Seibold correctly states that it would be wrong to “legislate matters that should be left to an individual’s conscience.” He suggests that understanding the principles is more important than knowing the specific players of the biblical prophecies because if “someone other than the Roman Catholic Church begins to act like the beast of Revelation 13, we will be more ready to respond if we are watching for a violation of the principle than if waiting for one specific group to offend” (emphasis in original).

Answer: While knowing the principles is good, principles should be held in connection with, and not as a substitute for, knowing the agents that fulfill the prophecies. Interestingly, knowing the principle has not worked in reality for the mainline church, who has herself begun to act like a beast by using the arm of the government to fulfill her wishes concerning those who would try to use the name Seventh-day Adventist without her permission.

Point 3: “Ellen White fingered Catholicism in a very different world.” Seibold claims that part of our “anti-Catholicism” grew as a reaction to the times of the 19th century. He asks, “Why can’t we preach the gospel without identifying Roman Catholicism as Satan’s exclusive tool?”

Answer: While the world is indeed rapidly changing, inspiration declares: “Rome never changes. She claims infallibility. It is Protestantism that will change” (Ellen G. White, Review and Herald, June 1, 1886).

The real issue is not who Ellen White “fingered” or the times she lived in, but what does the word of God state? Room does not allow a detailed explanation of the biblical teaching on the man of sin, but before Ellen White wrote the book The Great Controversy, the Bible pointed to the papacy as the man of sin! Only the papacy can match the requirements of Daniel 7 and Revelation 13. No other power so perfectly fulfills these prophecies to the letter! Interestingly, Ellen White tells us that the papacy is a “masterpiece” of Satan’s power to deceive (The Great Controversy, p. 50). She also said that “Satan’s masterpiece of deception is popery” (The Signs of the Times, February 19, 1894). Satan has certainly done his work well.

Point 4: “The Roman Catholic Church of today is a much different institution than it was during Ellen White’s time.” The Vatican II Council is given as evidence to this change.

Answer: Inspiration says, “The papacy is just what prophecy declared that she would be, the apostasy of the latter times. 2 Thessalonians 2:3, 4. It is a part of her policy to assume the character which will best accomplish her purpose; but beneath the variable appearance of the chameleon she conceals the invariable venom of the serpent” (The Great Controversy, p. 571).

Point 5: “By focusing on Roman Catholicism, we may miss more dangerous anti-Christian opponents.” Pastor Seibold noted that “far more Christians have been killed, persecuted, or denied their religious liberty by Communism, military Fascism, and Islamist extremism in the past century than by Roman Catholics.” He further notes that “religious liberty still has more dangerous enemies than Catholicism–in the United States, perhaps even some of our fellow conservative Protestants.”

Answer: Actually, history tells us of many powers and nations that persecuted God’s people. Before the papacy was formed, the nation of Rome killed many Christians. This is not to be denied. In fact, Rome is prophesied of in Revelation 12, and communism is mentioned in Daniel 11. While neither we nor the Bible disregard these powers, they are not the biblical focus of those who brought a 1260-year attack or who will bring an end-time attack against God’s people. Concerning both Protestantism and Catholicism, we have been told:

Romanism in the Old World and apostate Protestantism in the New will pursue a similar course toward those who honor all the divine precepts. (The Great Controversy, p. 616)

We agree that Protestants will play the major role in the New World. This is described in Revelation 13:11-18, but we do not need to look beyond our own borders to see all this in action as the Seventh-day Adventist Corporation, the legal arm of the sixteen million member church, is right now using the United States government to obtain her will over a very small church in Guys, Tennessee, that refuses to concede their conscience for civil freedom.

Point 6: “God has given us time to become a world church, and that changes the cast of characters in our eschatology.” Here the author speaks of “antichrists” from non-conventional sources. Instead of the papacy, he points to “radical imams or cruel dictators.” He says that “an eschatology that expects only Roman Catholics to initiate religious oppression, only in the United States, and only around the Sabbath question, may fail to speak prophetically should apocalyptic markers appear elsewhere.”

Answer: No good student of Bible prophecy says that Catholicism is the only religious power to bring oppression. Adventists have for years seen a much broader picture than that, but who is antichrist according to the Bible? Here we have an interesting point to consider. If Seibold is saying that the papacy is not the only antichrist, then we certainly agree with him, but the only true definition for antichrist is the one found in the Bible. The term antichrist only occurs in the epistles of First and Second John. Let us notice the first statement in the Bible where antichrist is mentioned:

Little children, it is the last time: and as ye have heard that antichrist shall come, even now are there many antichrists; whereby we know that it is the last time. … Who is a liar but he that denieth that Jesus is the Christ? He is antichrist, that denieth the Father and the Son. Whosoever denieth the Son, the same hath not the Father: (but) he that acknowledgeth the Son hath the Father also. (1 John 2:18, 22, 23).

In this text and in the other two references to antichrist (1 John 4:3; 2 John 1:7), we do not find a mention of the seventh-day Sabbath. What we do find is a clear statement that antichrist is one who denies the Father and Son. John did not say God and Christ but choose to state the titles that express the relationship between Yahweh and Jesus, that of Father and Son. With the Bible definition, we see that anyone who denies that God is really the Father of Jesus and that Jesus is his Son, is antichrist. Clearly Islam, who accepts Jesus as a prophet but denies that he is the Son of God is antichrist. All non-Christian religions deny that Jesus is the Son of God. Communism, of course, as well as all eastern religions, deny this. Within professed Christianity the doctrine of the trinity is taught which actually denies that Jesus is the Son of God. Jesus is said to be a co-equal, co-eternal person of the Godhead, one equal to the Father who only plays the role of a son. This is certainly antichrist, for Jesus testified in many places that he was the only begotten Son of God. For example, when Jesus spoke to Nicodemus he called himself the “only begotten son” of God” (John 3:16). When Jesus was on trial for his life, the high priest asked him under oath if he was the Son of the Highest, to which Jesus replied, “I am” (Mark 14:62).

Point 7: “Religious liberty has arguably improved in countries where Catholicism has influence.” Seibold speaks of Pope John Paul II’s work to help open the Iron Curtain. He notes: “Consider the irony that our evangelists are employing anti-Catholic teachings for soul winning in countries where the papacy helped win them that freedom!”

Answer: The author overlooks that this work for freedom was not designed by John Paul II to give freedom to all for anything but, rather, to give the Catholic Church the freedom, where it had been restricted before, to fulfill its will.

To proclaim the loud cry of Revelation 18 and to give the three angels’ messages demand that the papacy be exposed for exactly what the Bible declares her to be — “the man of sin.”

Seibold speaks of Christians currently being persecuted in Nigeria. I have been to Nigeria and know firsthand that there are issues there, as well as in China and many other places. While this is certainly true and not to be denied, what the Bible says is coming concerning the papacy and the image of the beast is still present truth.

The whole issue boils down to whether or not we will believe Bible prophecy or believe certain appearances before our eyes. The Christian is to “walk by faith, not by sight” (2 Corinthians 5:7). Jesus indicated that before he returns, there will be little real faith in the world (Luke 18:8). I think what Jesus said is becoming clearer all the time!

We are sure that many who consider themselves to be conservative or historic Adventists have bristled at Seibold’s article. To think of giving up our view of Rome seems impossible to many. What they do not realize is that Seibold has not given up any official view or accepted any view in his article that is contrary to any of the twenty-eight fundamentals which define the official position of the church. There was a time, however, when the Seventh-day Adventist Church did take a public position against the papacy in their Fundamental Principles. The first statement of Fundamental Principles published by Seventh-day Adventists was in 1872. Statement number thirteen said:

That as the man of sin, the papacy, has thought to change times and laws (the laws of God), Dan. 7:25, and has misled almost all Christendom in regard to the fourth commandment, we find a prophecy of a reform in this respect to be wrought among believers just before the coming of Christ.  Isa. 56:1, 2, 1 Pet. 1:5, Rev. 14:12, c.

This statement was published in the first edition of The Signs of the Times in 1874 and then in the  1889, the 1905, and the 1907-1914 Yearbooks.

The next statement of Fundamental Principles did not appear until 1931, and this statement has no mention of the papacy or the papal power anywhere. The 1872 statement also carried a section on the place of the study of prophecy:

That the world’s history from specified dates in the past, the rise and fall of empires, and chronological succession of events down to the setting up of God’s everlasting kingdom, are outlined in numerous great chains of prophecy; and that these prophecies are now all fulfilled except the closing scenes. (Statement VII)

This statement was also deleted from the 1931 statement of beliefs. Neither of these statements appear in the current statement first approved in 1980 at the General Conference Session held in Dallas, Texas.

It is interesting, however, that the 1931 statement was the first set of Fundamental Principles that included a statement on the trinity which was later expanded in 1980. While we might not approve of either the included statement on the trinity or the lack of the statements on prophecy and the papacy, the authors of the 1931 and 1980 statements were at least consistent with reason and logic. With the acceptance of the central doctrine of Catholic faith, it would now be out of place to officially speak against the papacy.

Those who decry Pastor Seibold for “leaving the faith” without protesting the change in our statement of Fundamental Principles either do not know our history or are promoting a double standard!

Surely, what we are seeing in such articles as “Letting Roman Catholics off the Hook” and such practices as the many Easter sonrise services that happened this spring are simply the hens coming home to roost. This is the natural result of accepting the doctrine of the  trinity. Notice what an official Catholic source says:

The mystery of the Trinity is the central doctrine of the Catholic Faith. Upon it are based all the other teachings of the Church. (Handbook for Today’s Catholic, p. 16)

Furthermore, Sunday is the day dedicated to the trinity!

It is a day dedicated by the Apostles to the honour of the most holy Trinity, and in memory that Christ our Lord arose from the dead upon Sunday, sent down the holy Ghost on a Sunday, &c. and therefore is called the Lord’ s Day. It is also called Sunday from the old Roman denomination of Dies Solis, the day of the sun, to which it was sacred. (The Douay Catechism of 1649, p. 143)

Beloved, there is no way we can give the loud cry if we do not believe we have something to cry about. Of course, each is free to choose what they wish to believe concerning the future final events, but I choose to stand on the solid platform of truth that our pioneers built, based upon the word of God and approved by the Spirit of Prophecy.

old paths smyrnaAs we have noted in the lead articles we have been recently publishing in Old Paths, the prophecy of Ezekiel chapters 8-11 includes a prophecy of the church weeping for Tammuz and then the leaders turning their backs to sanctuary and facing east to worship the sun. Beloved, we are not talking about something that is minor, for only those who “sigh and that cry for all the abominations that be done in the midst” (Ezekiel 9:4) will receive the seal of God! Only those who cry aloud, spare not, and lift up their voices like a trumpet, and show God’s people their transgression (Isaiah 58:1) will receive his approval. Will you? May God have pity upon Israel. Allen Stump


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