Unstable Elements

History shows and the Word of God confirms that fanatics and disorderly elements have always been associated with the work of reformation.

 

"In all the history of the church no reformation has been carried forward without encountering serious obstacles. Thus it was in Paul’s day. Wherever the apostle raised up a church, there were some who professed to receive the faith, but who brought in heresies that, if received, would eventually crowd out the love of the truth. Luther also suffered great perplexity and distress from the course of fanatical persons. . . . And the Wesleys, and others who blessed the world by their influence and their faith, encountered at every step the wiles of Satan in pushing overzealous, unbalanced, and unsanctified ones into fanaticism of every grade. . . .

 

"In the days of the Reformation its enemies charged all the evils of fanaticism upon the very ones who were laboring most earnestly against it. A similar course was pursued by the opposers of the advent movement. And not content with misrepresenting and exaggerating the errors of extremists and fanatics, they circulated unfavorable reports that had not the slightest semblance of truth. . . .

 

"The fact that a few fanatics worked their way into the ranks of Adventists is no more reason to decide that the movement was not of God than was the presence of fanatics and deceivers in the church in Paul’s or Luther’s day a sufficient excuse for condemning their work."–The Great Controversy, pp. 396—398.

 

To give the reader an idea of the different forms of fanaticism associated with Seventh-day Adventists in the early days of the movement, we quote from an Adventist book:

 

Difficulties Within the Movement

 "Between 1844 and the organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church nearly twenty years later, but especially in the first few years after the disappointment, the Adventist believers were at times embarrassed by extremes and fanatical movements. A part of Ellen White’s work was to witness against these movements.

 

"Writing of her early experiences, Mrs. White tells of a trip taken with her husband through the New England States in 1850. Many former believers had become bitter from the disappointment. Some were still looking for truth. ‘But we had a still worse element to meet,’ she writes, ‘in a class who claimed that they were sanctified, and they could not sin, that they were sealed and holy, and that all their impressions and notions were the mind of God. . . .’

 

"‘They claimed to heal the sick and to work miracles. They had a satanic, bewitching power; yet they were overbearing, dictatorial, and cruelly oppressive. The Lord used us as instruments to rebuke these fanatics, and to open the eyes of His faithful people to the true character of their work.’–Ellen G. White, in Review, Nov. 20, 1883.

 

"Another group claimed to be sanctified so that they could not sin. Yet they were immoral in their actions, following their own lust and committing presumptuous sin. They even advocated ‘spiritual’ free love.

 

"Fanaticism showed up in some other strange forms. Some got the idea that religion consisted in great excitement and noise. Their behavior irritated unbelievers and aroused hatred against themselves and the doctrines they taught. When they were opposed or mistreated because of their annoying ways, they rejoiced because of the ‘persecution.’

 

"Mrs. White had to rebuke some people who professed great humility and tried to demonstrate it by creeping on the floor like children. They would creep around their houses, on the street, over bridges, and in the church itself.

 

"Another group believed it was a sin to work, although they seemed to think it quite consistent for their wives and others to do the necessary work for them. Animal magnetism, or mesmerism, the forerunner of hypnotism, was practiced by some. The supposed gift of tongues, accompanied by shouting and confusion, appeared in a few places. From time to time some small group would announce a new time for Christ to appear."–Department of Education, General Conference of SDAs, The Story of Our Church, pp. 238, 239.

 

If the previous statement from The Great Controversy is correctly understood, similar difficulties should also be expected in connection with the present-day SDA Reform Movement. There must be a parallel.

 

Sad to realize, history repeats itself also in the distorted picture presented about the relationship of some fanatics with the Reform Movement. In the past, as we just read, the enemies of the reformation made it their business to establish confusion between wild fanatics and true reformers, bunching them together as birds of the same nest. Today the enemies of Reform are doing exactly the same thing. This is as preposterous as affirming that those fanatics mentioned in The Story of Our Church were actually the pioneers of the SDA Church. Worse than that, to create a still more distorted picture, SDA leaders associate with Reform certain elements who never belonged to the organized Reform Movement.

 

Margaret Rowen, a false prophetess, was a member of the SDA Church, not of Reform. Yet her name is often used for the purpose of smudging the name of the Reform Movement.

 

Johann Wieck, a member of the SDA Church, was jailed for refusing to be vaccinated. January 21, 1915, he had some visions in which, he declared, God had shown him that the end of probation would come in the spring of that year. He wanted to see his visions published by the church. As the SDA leaders refused, he got them published on his own and forwarded a copy to each minister and to each church all over Germany. He never belonged to the Reform Movement, but his name is still being used for maligning and slandering us. It has even been declared that he was the founder of the Reform Movement. What an absurd and irresponsible figment!

 

In the discussion that took place in Friedensau, Germany, July 21—23, 1920, this was stated:

 

"Elder A. G. Daniells [the General Conference president]: These here are the documents that were handed to us by Brother Conradi. They should show what relationship they have with this movement. We can select and separate those that you brethren do not regard as belonging to your movement. The first writing is by Wieck.

 

"E. Doerschler [representative of the disfellowshiped minority]: He never belonged to this movement. I have had the privilege of belonging to this movement from the very beginning.

 

"Elder A. G. Daniells: Then how about this second document–by Stobbe?

 

"E. Doerschler: Yes, that belongs to us. . . . I would like to give a short explanation on this subject. Some very unsober people came to us. We could not see what kind of people they were, and they went ahead and published different writings without consulting the committee, because at the beginning we were not as organized as we are now. . . .

 

"Elder A. G. Daniells: Was this Herms with you?

 

"E. Doerschler: For a short time. We marked these people immediately when they did these things behind our backs."

 

This discussion, quoted from the Minutes of the Conference with the Movement of Opposition (held in Friedensau, July 21—23, 1920), published by the three German Unions of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, is sufficient evidence that fanaticism was not the origin of the SDA Reform Movement any more than it had been (as quoted from The Story of Our Church, pp. 238, 239) the starting point of the SDA Church.

 

Nevertheless, in a libel entitled The Aftermath of Fanaticism or A Counterfeit Reformation, published by the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, Elder L. H. Christian makes this gross overstatement: "This fanaticism in Germany as well as in the other countries in Europe is the true origin of the counterfeit reformation movement." This simplistic conclusion is an offense to an honest and intelligent person who can weigh the evidence for himself.

 

In more recent years the SDA leadership published a more decent, but not entirely correct, report about the rise of the Reform Movement. In the SDA Encyclopedia, Commentary Reference Series, vol. 10, p. 1183, they say: "Though the original issue was over visions and time setting, the bone of contention through the years has been the stand taken by the SDA Church concerning the duty of its members in military service." There is at least half a truth in this statement. While it is not true that "visions and time setting" brought the Reform Movement into existence, it is true that the stand taken by the SDA Church concerning the duty of its members in military service and in war, in the light of God’s law, has always been the main bone of contention from the very beginning. The holy law of God has always been the real issue. But, since 1914—1918, new controversial points have arisen, which were briefly mentioned in the preface to this book.