When the Beast became a Lamb

Dr. Ciro Sepulveda, chair of the History department at Oakwood College, wrote an article entitled “Reinventing Adventist History.” You can find the abridged version of the article at Adventist Today. The full article can be found at the Oakwod College Website.

Lamb Horned Beast to Lamb Like Beast

In this article Dr. Sepulveda traces the develoment of Adventist understanding of the American power. In this article we see the early Adventists “…considered the United States to be a two-horned beast of Revelation 13, a demonic power in collusion with forces of evil.”

Joseph Bates stated that “Then I suppose we shall begin to think (if not before) that the third woe has come upon this nation, this boasted land of liberty, this heaven-daring, soul destroying, slave holding, murdering country.”

Over time Sepulveda notes, the Adventist understanding of the United States changed from a beast with lamblike horns to a lamblike beast. In his final paragraph he states:

In summary, the historiography of the Adventist church helped create a new identity for the modern Adventist, no longer burdened by the troublesome baggage or worldview of the early founders, and no longer seeing the government as an evil beast in collusion with satanic powers. They no longer pressed to proclaim the second coming of Jesus because the world, after all, is not that bad. Unlike the Adventists of the middle nineteenth century who saw the nation as a warmongering two-horned beast, the modern Adventist feels very comfortable embracing the values and culture of the nation and its never-ending search for power and dominance.

Liberals and Conservatives disagree with the Pioneers

As I think about this work it hits me how many Adventists “conservative” and “liberal” would have problems with this characterization of the United States as an unredeemable beast bent on savagery. We have conservatives among us who seek to defend the policies and practices of the United States at all costs even to the point of taking up arms and dieing in the wars of this nation. Some of these may say that in the future America will be a beast, but would argue that today the United States is the best hope for humanity’s good.

In addition, we have liberals who work for peace and justice in the United States believing that their work can make the United States a better place. They might say that the United States acts beastly, but acting beastly is not necessarily the obvious outcome of all its actions. In other words our work can make the beast less of a beast.

Beast or Lamb?

Is the United States a Beast or a Lamb in its heart? Should we support it when desception is used to rationalize wars? Should we resign in the belief that it is unredeemable? Whatever one’s beleifs on that question we must admit that there have been reforms in the United States throughout history that have made the world a better place.

As an African American I am happy that people did not just assume that America was a beast that could not be reformed. Those in the Civil Rights, peace, and other movements acted in the belief that some good can come from their work. Is it a beast or a lamb? Whatever it is, our calling as Christians is to demonstrate the principles of God in this world. Such a demonstration will place us at odds with the powers of this world. But, our witness to the principles of Christ will be a blessing to others in the world.

The Sabbath as Mindset – Summary of Posts

Is the Sabbath a day we keep? Is it just 24 hours in which we worship God and become strengthened for living the life we are all called to live? Or is it more?

In earlier posts I have looked at principles from the Sabbath. We have seen the Sabbath as Participation in Coming Kingdom. Here the Sabbath provides time to live as if the Kingdom of God has been more fully realized. We have also seen the Sabbath as Disengagement from the Present World. Here is a time to more fully separate from a world bent on destruction so that we can come back to that world with added vigor and faith that what we do does matter. We have also seen the Sabbath as a Celebration of our Communities. Here we spend time with our families and larger families to strengthen the bond between us and recognize that we do really need each other. Finally we have seen how contemplation of the creation that the Sabbath Celebrates helps us to victory.

All of these things point to the Sabbath being more than just a day that we rest on, but a mindset that informs us as we live every day. I can truly sing that old song that we don’t sing anymore, Don’t Forget The Sabbath. If you forget the Sabbath you lose something that will help you through the dark night we find ourselves in.

Praise God for the Sabbath!

Return to the Good Old Days?

James Nix wrote an article for the Adventist Review entitled Growing Up Adventist: No Apologies Needed. You can find some reader’s reaction and appreciation for the article also on the Adventist Review Site. In addition, at the Ellen White Estate site you can find an unabridged copy of the original presentation.

The article appears to be a look back to what the Author seems to beleive were the good old days when Adventists were Adventists. I understand the frustration that brought this article. It is often assumed by Adventists and non Adventists alike that the Adventism of the 50s and 60s was hopelessly legalistic. This assumption is at the base of much of the materials today that seek to give “Christ Centered” or “gospel centered” presentations in contrast to the assumed “law centered,” “anti-gospel,” and “Christless” presentations of our past.

Now since I was born in 1968, I grew up in the 70s and 80s so I do not know about the 50s and the 60s from experience, but somehow I think that the picture of Adventism as being totally legalistic and anti gospel that has emerged is probably a distortion of that brand of Adventism. However, to act as if there was no need for development or that “those were the days” that we need to return, is to distort the need to follow progressive revelation.

Perhaps leaders of both sides can stop yelling to their followers and attempt a harder thing. Perhaps we can attempt to dialog with each other and learn from each other. We may find that both liberal and conservative have something to bring to the table in the discussion. Maybe a stronger Synthesis that we can celebrate will emerge. Perhaps we can recognize that the history that some want to uphold has something of value to teach us today. In addition we may also recognize that progress can be accomplished without ignoring the past.

I look forward to the day when we all can look back at the past and recognize that while we stand on their shoulders of great pioneers of our faith, we still have to move forward. One day we will also recognize that we cannot simply disavow our past or throw it away…if we do we will lose a part of ourselves.

In short…Praise God for the Good Old Days…I know you all weren’t legalists. I know many of you loved Jesus. I know that you attempted to learn something about Jesus which brought forth the doctrines that we continue to teach today. But I also praise God that we are living today and I hope that I will be true to our pioneers spirit of inquiry that made them continue to determine what God has to say to us today…