Conspiracy Adventism

Conspiracy Adventism

Published on: 14 June, 2013

Most Adventists, myself included, greeted with joy the news that Angus T Jones, the actor from the hit sitcom Two and a Half Men, had recently become an Adventist. It was moving listening to the testimony he shared with Voice of Prophecy. The upshot of this initial winsome witness was a focus on meeting Jesus with the potential to attract people to the Gospel. 

Then everything got disastrously derailed. Angus T Jones released a media clip in which he agonised over the immorality in the show Two and a Half Men. The problem was not his comments about the moral content of the sitcom—after all, the show does indeed glorify sin and immorality. The real problem was that he did so in conjunction with conspiratorial Adventism. Almost instantly everything changed from a story about a young actor discovering Jesus, to a story about a young man sucked in by crazy claims about the Freemasons (apparently Jay-Z is one), the Illuminati, bizarre rants likening President Obama to Hitler, and more. In the eyes of many people, Adventists went from a group with a message about Jesus capable of grabbing the heart of a young Hollywood star, to a weird, paranoid cult indulging in the most ludicrous claims and manipulating a young man. The Church wisely and sensitively distanced itself from the conspiracy connection but the damage was done. A credible witness was greatly diminished. 


A wake-up call!

The high profile incident provides an ideal time for Adventists to think long and hard about our mission and methodology. Maybe God allowed this to happen to wake us up to the dangers of conspiracy theories and the disastrous effect it has on our witness. Satan would love nothing better than to shift the focus from Christ to baseless conspiracies. Unfortunately, he appears to have many sincere but unwitting accomplices. 

Adventists are to help people embrace the glorious victory of Jesus in the great controversy, not join in paranoid conjectures about an imaginary grand conspiracy. There is a vast world of difference between being a great controversy Adventist and a grand conspiracy Adventist. The way each narrates history, handles Scripture, shapes discipleship, impacts church community, and forms the mind and heart are often very different. One is our inspired calling from God, the other is a twisted product of man. In the introduction to her book The Great Controversy, Ellen White explains her methodology and aim. She says: “The great events which have marked the progress of reform in past ages are matters of history, well known and universally acknowledged by the Protestant world; they are facts which none can gainsay.” What a contrast to conspiratorial Adventism! This should be our approach. Tragically, conspiracy Adventism turns all of this on its head. Crazy, dubious claims are made the essence of the message. 


A message: open, public and verifiable 

Ellen White's approach is what healthy Adventism has always used. The foundational bedrock prophecy for Adventism is Daniel 2. Here God nestled prophecy within well attested facts of history. Does anyone doubt the exploits of Alexander the Great? Who isn’t fascinated by the amazing archaeological discoveries about ancient Babylon, Greece, Persia and Rome? This is our message. Not fervid conjectures about handshakes and pentagrams. Not spinning a yarn about symbols on the American dollar bill and fantasising that somehow a secret global conspiracy has been established. There is no mistaking the world of difference between the two approaches. One is exciting and the other is embarrassing. 

The reality is that history is out of anyone’s control, except God's. The rise and fall of empires is something that God oversees (see Daniel 2:20-22). No empire can resist this and no human organisation is secretly controlling it. Not even Satan can control history, let alone a rabble of Freemasons or Illuminati! 


Have we forgotten Murphy’s Law?

There is of course the more obvious fact, one known to all people by constant, unyielding and often painful experience: human beings are simply too flawed, fallible, stupid, disorganised, selfish, competitive and gossip prone to secretly control the world. And yet conspiracy theorists credit conspirators with god-like powers. Somehow conspirators can see the future, manage countries and superpowers, keep irreconcilable political enemies submissively on side, and effortlessly orchestrate wars, elections and financial crashes. Are these gods or humans? I would suggest that Murphy’s Law helps us see this for what it really is—an embarrassing flight of fancy that keeps crashing up against the stone cold wall of reality.  

Conspiracy Adventism approaches history in a way reminiscent of Dan Brown and his book The Da Vinci Code. Did you ever wonder how Dan Brown was able to "prove" that Jesus married Mary Magdalene and became the Progenitor of the Merovingian kings of France? Symbology! This is the very same methodology that conspiracy theorists heavily rely upon. Forget facts, documents and the critical analysis of sources. Symbology can prove anything. And it’s much easier than having to deal with real history. 


From Christ to conspiracy 

I have never yet seen an Adventist conspiracy theory presentation that didn’t dramatically move the focus away from Jesus Christ and onto the wildest speculation. Jesus becomes a minor supporting act. Front and centre are always the phantom conspirators and of course the heroic conspiracy theorist himself. Conspiracy theory parasitically lives off its improper attachment to Christianity. And, inevitably, the parasite always ends up killing its host. 


From conspiracy to controversies 

Paul has strong words for those who turn the church away from the truth to speculative fables: “As I urged you . . . charge certain persons not to teach any different doctrine, nor to devote themselves to myths and endless genealogies, which promote speculations rather than the stewardship from God that is by faith” (1 Timothy 1:3,4; see also 1 Timothy 4:7 and 2 Timothy 4:4). In Titus, after encouraging a devotion to the Gospel and good works, Paul warns: “avoid foolish controversies, genealogies, dissensions, and quarrels about the law, for they are unprofitable and worthless” (Titus 3:9). As a pastor you soon learn what produces healthy discipleship and what leads to fanaticism, perpetual immaturity and a harsh, argumentative spirit. Devotion to conspiracy theory is a prime example. Obedience to Paul’s words would immediately eliminate it from Adventism. 

Conspiracy theories raise questions of ethics and morality. My observation is that conspiracy theories place advocates in a position where truth telling is compromised. Unable to offer clear evidence, the temptation to overcompensate, exaggerate and resort to embellishments is almost irresistible. When does it all descend into simple dishonesty? The ease with which any event or person is implicated into the conspiracy reinforces the impression that things are being made up. A classic yet appalling example of this is the frequent accusation that a particular Adventist scholar, pastor or administrator is really an undercover Jesuit. I guess this is not merely dishonest—it is slander. This is the fruit of a paranoid mindset that disdains public verifiable evidence. The ethical quality of our community can only degenerate. There is a price to pay for giving comfort to conspiracy theory. 


Conspiracy real and imagined 

Of course secret societies exist and are wrong. A Christian should never join one. They advance their own interests and often undermine justice. They bind people together in associations which are counter to Christ. Do small conspiracies happen? Of course! Thousands are happening right now. Governments, businesses, armies, politicians, societies (secret or otherwise), church members and probably your own kids are conspiring to various degrees. The world is a ceaseless realm of competing interest groups. Somewhere in the world some faction of a political party is conspiring to oust their leader in a coup. Australians witness this every election cycle. However, this does not in any way validate grand conspiracy theories, which are a completely different order of claim. Just because humans can now run 100 metres in under 10 seconds doesn’t make credible the claim that they will soon be running 100 metres in less than a second. Orders of magnitude mean everything when reasoning from the known to the unknown. Conspiracies do not justify grand conspiracy.     


What will you be?

Most church members I know who are sympathetic to conspiracy theories nevertheless limit the time and focus they give to them. Thankfully, the centrality of the Gospel in their lives squeezes out any significant impact the theories might have. However, this is not always the case and sometimes conspiracy theory bears its unhelpful fruit. My prayer is that we will become great controversy Adventists not grand conspiracy Adventists. There's a world of difference between the two. What will you encourage?            

Anthony MacPherson is pastor of Plenty Valley and Croydon churches, Victoria.

15 comments

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I have to make sure that I have spent my hour in prayer, an adequate mount of time in Bible study, take care of my duties and responsibilities to my family, church, and community, care for my health needs, before I delve into discussions that can quickly and stealthily steal valuable time in even good discussions. Paul admonishes me to note that, "If anyone teaches false doctrine and refuses to agree with the sound words of our Lord Jesus, the Messiah, and godly teaching, he is a conceited person and does not understand anything. He has an unhealthy craving for arguments and debates. This produces jealousy, rivalry, slander, evil suspicions, and incessant conflict between people who are depraved in mind and deprived of truth." (1 Timothy 6:3-5 ISV) Don't I need to seek first the kingdom of God and His righteousness and then to claim the promise that all other things that I need (including understanding of conspiracies real or otherwise) will be added to me?

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If you even look at the comments supporting these theories you'll see a disturbing focus on the power of the enemy.
Jesus is often an afterthought or a minor player. Read them for themselves.

And I'll have to agree that large numbers if church members do indeed look favourably upon these theories. That 50% number is indicative of a very saddening truth.

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Both missions are important to open the eyes of people in the 21st century . conspiracy is Satans Method from the beginning . Humans are needed to play out the machinations of Satan while God uses his human instruments as well. I found walter Veith because I was always looking for the Truth , in also the conspiracies . the Jesuits our enemy use this vehicle exclusively . God will pull the veil of the lies of conspiracy in the end. guess what the Jesuits infiltrated this church and they didn't walk in a say Hi I want to join your church so I can destroy it from the inside. truth .Light exposes the darkness/conspiratorial lies.

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Very well-written article. I hope it is widely read by Adventists. Unfortunately, certain conspiracy theorists attract large audiences wherever they go and they appear to go largely unchallenged. In fact, this is the first article I've read directly criticizing conspiracy theorists within Adventism.

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Hello folks, I am an Adventist.
In many respects I agree that there should be no shocking presentation of events to new Christians.
Perhaps there is a gentle way to present the NWO offensive. Perhaps build a relationship and wait for a question that we can give a meek answer.
To deny the existence of incredible world events that exceed the prelude to WWII in my humble opinion however is to be almost as Prime Minister Chamberlain appeasing Hitler.
It is undeniable that an offensive has been launched and we're about 25 years behind in awareness. Pastors Walter Veith and Brian Neumann and others have very bravely spoken up. Even a little research beyond their claims reveals truth.
I believe that the world is fast waking up to the facts of the NWO. The emergence of a global govt and the insensitive, blundering scramble for world domination.
It's not an easy pill to swallow. Restraint and discretion are important but to call it all a conspiracy theory is fast dropping away. Sincere

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Andrew Macpherson has written a great article on this subject, and RECORD is to be congratulated for publishing it. But I am not sure what to make of the RECORD poll of Conspiracy theories. By my reading of the voting results, well over half of the respondents see some merit in the advocacy of a conspiracist world view. In my opinion, if over 50% of the membership of the church actually believe that conspiracy theories 'Give valuable insight' and 'Help interpret prophecy', then we really are in trouble. Thankfully, I do not believe the poll result reflects the broader range of opinion within the wider body of the SDA church in this division. Nevertheless, there is a lot of work to do in repackaging our message so that our mission is not curtailed by claims of who dare to call us conspiracy theorists. In our publications and book titles and seminar programs and TV / Radio broadcasts, we must avoid the nativist language and idiom of the far right, and of the symbologist code breaker

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I believe that Sheryl Hersom makes a very good point. Yes, a focus on conspiracies and conspiracy theories can be counterproductive, because our focus should be on Jesus Christ. Yet, there should be no illusion that conspiracies do abound.

Satan started one in Heaven, and has ever orchestrated them against God's people (both from without and from within).

Sis White speaks quite extensively about secret societies and human confederacies, so this is not just a topic for the rabid conspiracy nut.

John Wallace makes a very good point about what has happened (and continues to happen) in the South Pacific, with no intervention from the world church.

The enemy of souls is not playing a game -- he is engaged in a serious conflict, and knows that he has a short time. While ever remaining Christ centered, we need to acknowledge that we are not wrestling with flesh and blood, but with principalities and powers and the rules of the darkness of this world.

Sounds almost like a conspiracy!

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Let us be alert and God-centred. Let us be careful who we label a conspiracy THEORIST but not by-pass well- documented, and well-researched FACTS. We should use the information wisely and keep everything in proper perspective. If we are not careful the ninth commandment may be broken on either side of the argument. The Bible contains the basic knowledge and Ellen W. helps us along life's journey marvelously too. Our prime focus needs to be on the inspired instructions.

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The article did bring up some important issues when understanding the times that we live in. The Great Controversy is the battle between Satan and Christ. Do you think Satan has a secret plan to deceived the very elect? Does Satan tell everyone exactly how he will accomplish his total take-over? Will he use Christians to do this? So I will keep my eyes open for the events that are taking place right now. Do you think that Satan will try and deceive some of our leaders and lay-persons? Satan has a master plan and he is ready to implement it. We must stay alert as prophecy is being fulfilled now. Events are happening so fast that even those inside the church can not keep up with them. May God have mercy on us. Let help finish the work now while we can. Thank you

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"These have one mind." There will be a universal bond of union, one great harmony, a confederacy of Satan's forces. "And shall give their power and strength unto the beast." MS 24 1891

While there's no doubt that people can get carried away with this stuff, we shouldn't ever be so dismissive.

Satan is unveiling himself to the point that even people in the world are recognizing it. I meet people everywhere that are talking about the darkness in media and all spheres of life. We have a message that answers these questions and leads them to Christ

In my humble opinion, it's time that people who've grown up in the church stop presuming what people in the world need to hear, because you have not the slightest understanding

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Anthony, I applaud your courage in writing such an honest and eye opening piece.
There would be no one happier than Satan that these conspiracy theories abound and distract a church claiming ownership and stewardship of the truth.
Our message is clearly to spread the gospel and turn the spotlight on Jesus and His amazing grace. Nothing brings Satan into church more than the fanatical distribution of conspiracy theories.
Many of these theories are based on plain and simple un adulterated lies.
I am an airline pilot with more than 30,000 flying hours and some 44 years in the sky. I am constantly bombarded with questions from people who want me to confirm the myth of chemtrails in the skies.
I have never witnessed military or commercial aircraft do anything other than heat a saturated atmosphere to produce condensation that makes cloud.
Atheists also claim that the exploits of Jesus are a conspiracy too. As the keepers of the flame we should be purveyors of truth and not fantasy.

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Well said Anthony (and Sven, in your response). Those Adventist leaders who spin wreckless conspiracies in their presentations around the world have caused immense damage, both to the spirituality of gullible listeners, as well as to our reputation outside the denomination. I believe church administrators and lay leaders alike need to push back far more aggressively to these people who take advantage of an Adventist culture that puts a high value on prophecy and twists known facts into narratives that are unsubstantiated and slanderous of others.

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I agree with this article but:
Is there a non-conspiracy explanation for Seventh-day Adventists keeping Sunday in the South Pacific, and for Adventists being locked out from worshiping in Seventh-day Adventist churches on Saturday? Where is the transparency from leaders? They have been completely silent since 4 Feb 2012 (Record) while hundreds of our faithful brethren and sisters in Samoa have been completely deprived of support and pastoral care for the past 18 months. Families and congregations have been torn apart by the arbitrary Sunday decision. The way to prevent conspiracy theories is to be transparent. The SPD leadership have not been. If they are so confident of the truth of their position, let's have the discussion in public. The reason we haven't is that the Church leaders and theologians made a bad decision for expediency and they are too embarrassed to talk publicly about it for fear that the error will be exposed.
Let's have the discussion!

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I agree with Sven.

The thing about conspiracy theories like the ludicrous one that the "Americans themselves orchestrated 9/11". Can you imagine all the players needed to be involved in such an operation? There would need to be 1000's and yet here we are years later and still nobody has come forward and blown a whistle - nobody has had their conscience get the better of them and come forward and confessed to being involved. This is either the best kept secret in the history of the world or it is a lie and there is no 9/11 conspiracy - thats why nobody has come forward or ever will.

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The insight that this article provides into the major problems with conspiracy theories is profound. I myself have noted the following problems with conspiracy theories:

(1) These conspiracy theories absorb people's time and focus, which are valuable gifts from God;

(2) People get caught in a total web of mistrust or alternatively a meltdown of trust, where they do not know if anyone can be really trusted;

(3) Conspiracy theorists enter a fear-driven state accompanied by practical helplessness;

(4) Conspiracy theorists ignore their own susceptibility towards temptation which are often glaring compared with the secret nature of the conspiracy theories that they are engrossed with;

(5) Spreading the latest news on conspiracy theories participates in a global gossip network.

May Jesus save our church from these spiritual traps and help us to focus on the real solution, which is the mystery of the gospel that has been revealed when Jesus died and rose again for our salvation.

 

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Adventists are to help people embrace the glorious victory of Jesus in the great controversy, not join in paranoid conjectures about an imaginary grand conspiracy.
 

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