Last edition, we looked at how personal Contemplative Prayer, also known as Centering Prayer, is meant to lead one into – well, contemplation. That was the more personal aspect of the new wave hitting the world and our church. In this editorial we look at how this new wave is making – and has made – inroads into the Seventh-day Adventist Church world-wide, and there are subtle reasons why this happens.
We would all agree that there are many circumstances, as a church body, in which we can collaborate and dialogue with other Protestant churches, sharing information on subjects such as creation, science, temperance, religious liberty – to name a few, with the primary purpose to witness to them as the highest priority. The danger is when we seek to learn from them in the areas of theology, personal spiritual growth, methods of evangelism and church growth. In partaking of these latter points of church practice, is when our church becomes undermined and leads us into becoming not only aware of the spiritual new age and formations practised in their churches while we stand back from it, but actually becoming a participant of the whole omega of apostasy. This takes away our God-given discernment and distinctness to the Bible and the prophetic gift of the Spirit of Prophecy. This is the reason we have, as a people, been given such clear and pointed warnings against gathering such information from other Protestant churches.
Here we have to be so careful. It is so easy to participate in the methods used in the vibrant, to even exploding, evangelical communities. “Why not,” many say, “if it works for them, it may work for us.” So with much enthusiasm, the process is put in motion without carefully analysing the material and methods, but just being exuberant about ‘church growth’. From attending and learning from these institutions, we can feel embarrassed about our more legalistic and separate image, and let that distinctness slip to be seen and accepted as a ‘normal’ Protestant church.
While at General Conference 2010, in his inaugural speech, Ted Wilson stated to work within our very own church, to build it up and draw from the materials we have within our denomination, Bible and Spirit of Prophecy firstly and the authors that have gone before us who have endowed the church with wisdom. He counselled not to go outside to learn from others who have not these distinct truths that have put the solid foundation under our feet – those truths we know and understand that have made us what we are.
On the General Conference web page, there is an official statement of how the church should relate to the ecumenical movement. Counsel is given about involvement with other churches.
“In the focalized light of its prophetic understanding... It starts by ‘calling out’ God’s children from ‘fallen’ ecclesial bodies that will increasingly form organized religious opposition to the purposes of God. Together with the ‘calling out’ there is a positive ‘calling in’ to a united, worldwide – that is, ecumenical – movement characterized by ‘faith of Jesus’ and keeping ‘the commandments of God’. — Rev 14:12. In the World Council of Churches, the emphasis is first of all on ‘coming in’ to a fellowship of churches, and then hopefully and gradually ‘coming out’ of corporate disunity. In the Advent movement, the accent is first on ‘coming out’ of Babylonian disunity and confusion and then immediately ‘coming in’ to a fellowship of unity, truth, and love within the globe-encircling Advent family.”
Reach Them; Don’t Join Them
Ellen White gives further counsel to help in this dilemma. “Our ministers should seek to come near to the ministers of other denominations. Pray for and with these men, for whom Christ is interceding. A solemn responsibility is theirs. As Christ's messengers we should manifest a deep, earnest interest in these shepherds of the flock.”
~Testimonies vol. 6, page 78
In this counsel we are to “pray for and with”, but not to go to their seminars to learn new techniques of evangelism, prayer and discipleship. More counsel cautions us to seek their knowledge and theology. “There is to be no compromise with those who make void the law of God. It is not safe to rely upon them as counsellors.”
~2 Selected Messages, page 371
The church advises in regards to ecumenical involvement to co-operate in proclaiming the true gospel, reaching out in mercy to crying humanity, but not to entangle itself with membership and compromising relationships. By attending some of their meetings as advisers and visitors, this helps to understand trends and developments, how Christian leaders are thinking. It provides opportunity to exert a presence and make the Church’s viewpoint known, but membership is not advisable. Being present and making our viewpoint known to them is one thing. That is not seeking what they have to teach and applying it to our own churches, but sadly it can be observed that some dangerous practices have come into our midst. We have to be so wary of methods of bringing in ancient Christian disciplines and practices, thought to improve our relationship with Jesus, but in reality they are Satanic methods of mind control.
Here are some questions that need answers. Why are we so prone, as a people in today’s society, to veer away from the direct counsel given us in the Spirit of Prophecy? What is the need of our people that is apparently not being met, and what is the attraction that these other mega-churches offer that is so alluring to the Seventh-day Adventist Christian? These are fair questions and answers will help us be aware of traps we can easily walk into. None of us are above deception from the wily trickery of the devil to take us away from our pure faith.
The Need to be Accepted
To be accepted by our peers is an inherent trait we all have, and has a strong influence over us. Many times this can be used for the good of witnessing for our God, but there are times when it can be to our detriment, when Satan will take advantage of this inbuilt desire and use it for his evil work. When God asks His ‘peculiar people’– His ‘special people’ – to stand firm on the foundation of truth He has established in His church on the earth, truths which have been built upon over the progress of the reformation from generations past, the temptation can be to compromise those precious truths to apparently improve our image, seeking acceptance to the image of the plethora of churches around us in our modern day setting.
This tolerance in the church that has allowed the acceptance of these ‘new’ techniques comes at a price against the better judgment and counsel from our inspired writings. To the advocates for change to keep up with society, there are dangers of seeing our foundations as ‘old fashioned’; that we have particular truths that make us distinct; that we are the remnant church of Bible Prophecy; are God’s chosen people and are the only ones who have the unique last day message for the world. For some, this thinking separates us from being part of the greater church in the world at large. It makes us elite, proud, separatists and even ignorant of the ‘popular beliefs’ of the current day church. Those who want to uphold our distinct and peculiar truths are often labelled as backward, regressive, uncreative, closed-minded, and even considered ‘wrong’ in the church and are treated as such.
For years we, as a corporate church, have been involved with other churches, largely ignoring our own counsel, but dialoguing with other faiths, trying to come out of the stiff and formal ages of Seventh-day Adventism into the post-modern world of Christianity. In many church activities such as seminars, colleges, workers meetings, etc., Seventh-day Adventists are learning the methods and techniques of the other ‘Protestant’ churches, attempting to ‘fix’ the dysfunctioning blemishes in our own church, joining the sisterhood of churches to help us function in what is now seen as a ‘normal’ way.
A More Sure Word of Prophecy
Could these efforts have far-reaching reactions and be destructive to our proclaiming the three angels messages to the world? We may think our sound foundation of Scripture may be enough to lean on and not be deceived into any new erroneous belief, that we would only observe the teachings of these other churches. But inspiration gives counsel about this. “There is to be no compromise with those who make void the law of God. It is not safe to rely upon them as counsellors. Our testimony is not to be less decided now than formerly; our real position is not to be cloaked in order to please the world's great men. They may desire us to unite with them and accept their plans, and may make propositions in regard to our course of action which may give the enemy an advantage over us. ‘Say ye not, A confederacy, to all them to whom this people shall say, A confederacy’ (Isaiah 8:12). While we should not seek for controversy, and should not needlessly offend, we must present the truth clearly and decidedly, and stand firm to what God has taught us in His Word. You are not to look to the world in order to learn what you shall write and publish or what you shall speak. Let all your words and works testify, ‘We have not followed cunningly devised fables.’ ‘We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place.’”
~2 Selected Messages, page 371
Here Ellen White is giving strong counsel about learning from other churches – not to refrain from enjoyment and social interaction, but to protect us from deception and eventual ruin. The Seventh-day Adventist Church has been given the oracles of God for the soul purpose of proclaiming the distinct message firstly to its own people, then to carry the message to the whole world. By having these truths given to it, it must uphold every one of these truths without compromise, or lose the favour of God. The real danger is sitting at the feet of the so-called Protestant churches, we take on what they are teaching us, hence weakening our hold on our distinct message. As these churches are well versed in Spiritual Formation and all its adherent doctrines, some rubs off and we finish up bringing those teachings into our own ranks, causing no end of mayhem, diluting our distinctness and causing disunity among our people.
Are We Under Attack?
Some would vouch that we have not compromised, but just keeping up with the times and if these mega-churches have grown to such proportions, then we can well learn from them to build our churches up also. If they are having revivals of such magnitude, then we can really learn much from them, because we pale into insignificance with our growth numbers. But is it really big churches and big numbers coming in the doors that really count?
Inspiration comments on the following. “The enemy of souls has sought to bring in the supposition that a great reformation was to take place among Seventh-day Adventists, and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith, and engaging in a process of reorganization. Were this reformation to take place, what would result? The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church, would be discarded. Our religion would be changed. The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last fifty years would be accounted as error. A new organization would be established. Books of a new order would be written. A system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced. The founders of this system would go into the cities, and do a wonderful work. The Sabbath of course, would be lightly regarded, as also the God who created it. Nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of the new movement. The leaders would teach that virtue is better than vice, but God being removed, they would place their dependence on human power, which, without God, is worthless. Their foundation would be built on the sand, and storm and tempest would sweep away the structure.
“Who has authority to begin such a movement? We have our Bibles. We have our experience, attested to by the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit. We have a truth that admits of no compromise. Shall we not repudiate everything that is not in harmony with this truth?”
~1 Selected Messages, pages 204,205
Beware of Change
Many faithful Seventh-day Adventists now believe this is happening at present. Something new is happening in our church. Just to converse with those who have been in the church for the last 20 years and longer will agree that there have been changes – dramatic changes. There is no doubt there is change and it continues at a rapid pace, perhaps not so much in local areas, but more noticeable in the world sphere. Again, the danger is when speakers from other denominations come to ‘help’ us and bring their erroneous teachings with them. These people now being invited into our pulpits are members of other denominations that disfellowshipped the founders of our own church those many years ago for Sabbath-keeping; from churches who actively speak against the keeping of all ten of God’s commandments, warning their parishioners to be wary of Seventh-day Adventists.
Many of these speakers and teachers that come to our meetings, especially coming to work with our young people, have been trained in Spiritual Formation. The practice of this dangerous ‘Omega of Apostasy’ has moved, and is still moving through the Protestant church world and has now extended into Seventh-day Adventism. It is not a new discipline, but a renewal of the Roman Catholic teachings based on the spiritual exercises of Ignatius Loyola. In the centre of its teachings is the supernatural experience when the person reaches the ‘silence’, where the presence of God is experienced. This is taught to be absolutely essential to have any genuine Christian growth, for that is where God is received according to their teaching.
This ‘contemplative, mystical prayer is a method of prayer that leads to different levels of consciousness where thoughts cease and eventually get to this silence, where many believe they experience the presence of God. To get to this stage, one must focus on centering prayer and centering the mind, eventually leading the mind to an altered state. Once mastered, this centering leads the participant into a level of consciousness that is similar to a state of hypnotism. It brings the person to relaxing repose, to an awareness of their relationship to the rest of the universe.
Closing Words of Caution
There is more one could write on this subject, much more. Sufficient to say in this brief editorial is that we are in danger in the Seventh-day Adventist Church of partaking of this subtle and deceptive practice, more than we may realise. It is very dangerous for any pastor, educator, elder, member, or believer of any level to attempt to justify that this teaching and practice is tolerable in our church congregations in any way. It is a satanic-inspired supernatural hypnotic mysticism that we should have nothing to do with. It is real and actually happens to people, but that doesn't make it right. We should check all these teachings with our yard ruler, our Bible and Spirit of Prophecy.
Books have now been written and DVD’s are available from those who God in His infinite wisdom has brought into this remnant church, not only to save them from the fatal deception, but also to warn the church of these offending practices to save it from falling into darkness. There is no doubt that Satan’s mysticism has appeared again with this revival of Spiritual Formation. It will only be after the world closes and we will look back on our day that we will see all things clearly, but we can be sure in our day going forward that this deception has all the omega-like symptoms and has most assuredly already gained a foothold among God’s professed people.
As this editorial is published, it may labelled as critical and divisive. Please don’t come to that shallow conclusion. Articles written offering caution and concern are not all necessarily critical. This article is not written with a criticising spirit, but with concern for the direction and destination of our people. When Jesus went from the Holy Place into the Most Holy Place in 1844, a group of people went with Him by faith and a new cluster of truths opened up to them, which is detailed in the first angels message of Revelation 14:6-12. These people worshipped God in all its fullness and became the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Many did not go into that Most Holy Place experience and we are told they received power all right, but it was the power of the devil, not the power of God. Only those that went in with Christ received His blessing and greater light.
~Early Writings, pages 42-45
This article is written with the earnestness to see our faith preserved and kept pure, not to be compromised. One day soon Jesus will return and will ask some pretty awkward questions as to where His precious flock is and what we have done with His priceless message to save the world. We have the freedom of choice, that will never be denied us, but which side will each of us be standing on when those awkward questions are asked? Will there be a hiding and a crying for the rocks to fall on each one, or will it be a chorus ascending to our returning Saviour, “Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.”
Study based and drawn from “The Omega Rebellion” by Rick Howard, chapters 6 and 9