Monday, May 25, 2009

Absurd Adventism

I'm not sure why but it seems that people I meet often feel comfortable to share their nutty beliefs with me. It started when I went into see this one patient who from the very beginning upon my entrance into the exam room was eyeing my yarmulkah. This happens from time to time and nothing usually comes of it. Sometimes things do, obviously, but generally the patients don't seem to care much. Anyway, that was the way this interaction seemed to be heading since nothing came of it throughout the standard history and physical that I do for every patient. But as things were wrapping up, he gave me a strange little look and asks, "You Jewish?"

"That I am." I respond, entirely unsuspicious. For some people it's rare for them to have extended interaction with a Jew of any stripe and so they'll often ask me an innocuous question or two.

"Ah," he says, "I thought so."

So I answer dry as a bone, "Oh, what gave it away?"

He laughs, tells me I'm a funny guy - and then the conversation turns weird.

After confirming that I observe the Sabbath on Saturdays he reveals that he's a Seventh Day Adventist and asks me if I'm worried about that. Worried about observing Shabbos? Not really, I answer. He goes on to tell me that I should be because the Pope is planning on enforcing a one-day Sabbath observance and that it'll be on Sunday. Now I'm not exactly an expert on Papal policy, nor do I closely follow Vatican movements, but that didn't sound like something high on the Pope's agenda - and in any event, I didn't care much about the Pope's efforts on that issue. I tell him that the Saturday/Sunday divide has been an issue between Christians and Jews for some time now and I wasn't expecting the Pope to start religious coercion over the Sabbath in modern day.

Not so, he responds, the day is coming soon for when we'll all have to *run to the mountains* to escape this coming religious persecution or otherwise suffer martyrdom! He directs me to read Revelations and the Book of Daniel, where he insists that this whole course of events is clearly written.

Woah.

That's some wacky stuff. Eschatological beliefs in general tend to approximate different forms of nuttiness, but as the beliefs become more specific and the timeline more acute it becomes only more obvious. I was willing to chalk this one up to one man's weird understanding of religion or Papal conspiracy paranoia since I had some affinity to Seventh-day Adventists, but it turns out that this is basic ideology of the original Adventist Church!

So sayeth Wiki, "The pioneers of the church taught that the Seventh-day Sabbath will be a test, leading to the sealing of God's people during the end times. Ellen G. White interpreted Daniel 7:25, Revelation 13:15, Revelation 7, Ezekiel 20: 12, 20 and Exodus 31:13 this way. Where the subject of persecution appeared in prophecy, it was thought to be about the Sabbath commandment. Some early Adventists were jailed for working on Sunday, in violation of various local "Sunday laws" or blue laws which legislated Sundays as a day of rest. It was expected that a universal Sunday law would soon be enforced, as a sign of the end times."

An interesting aside is that the Adventists were early critics of the Blue Laws, which were designed in the early part of the last century to protect the so-believed Christian heritage of the nation by enforcing certain aspects of Sunday. Some of the Blue Laws still persist today throughout the country, including limitations on liquor stores to not operate on Sunday mornings and the fact that the United States Postal Service does not deliver on Sunday. In this manner, the Adventists have been suspicious of government intrusion into religious life - an orientation that benefited all minority faiths in this country.

See, it's strange how rational-appearing people can have truly way-out-there understandings of the world laying right below the surface. Though, on retrospect, that should not have been so shocking from the Adventists, given that it is a religion founded on the *thrice-failed* predictions of William Miller and Samuel Snow regarding Jesus' immanent return in 1843/1844. As a religion focused on eschatology (hence the "advent" part of Adventist), I wonder whether there is anything to be concerned about over this rapidly expanding religion.

23 comments:

lars shalom said...

i liek thee way oyu write


groovy

Baal Habos said...

>See, it's strange how rational-appearing people can have truly way-out-there understandings of the world laying right below the surface

No yarmulke = rational appearing?

Orthoprax said...

Baal,

"No yarmulke = rational appearing?"

No, that's not it at all. It's not about the external covering of a person but the way you can have extended conversations on unrelated topics without hint of strangeness.

E-Man said...

It sounded like this guy thought the Messiah was coming. Is that what was happening or was it something else? If it was a belief that the messiah was coming is that so strange?

Orthoprax said...

E-man,

Anyone with an apocalypse-coming-soon-to-a-world-near-you worldview is weird, irrational and potentially dangerous. And, as I said, the more specific and more immediate the belief, the more all of the above increases.

E-Man said...

IHear ya. Like Shabbtai Tzvi

Anonymous said...

SDAs make me glad I was born into OJ. It's "good" to know it could have been worse.

The Leader, Garnel Ironheart said...

Trying working in small rural ER's where all the folks are fundamentalists.

Two stories: I have this one older lady, in for a cold. She looks at me and says "You're Jewish". I stifle the urge to say "No, I just like the beanie" and nod. She gets a serious look on her face. "Every Sunday in my church we pray for the well being of the priests in the Temple in Jerusalem."

I didn't know how to tell her about Tisha B'Av.

Another time I'm in this ER with two med students, both of whom are frum boys. One's in with a patient and the other is standing at the nursing station writing up his note. Now this is a small country ER so the people who bring the patients sometimes wait in the main area. This morning it was a local reverend who brought down a congregant who wasn't feeling so well. So the reverend sees my student (I'm in the doctor's area out of view but I can hear everything) and strikes up a conversation. "Ah, so you're Jewish." And my student, without looking up say "Yeah" and keeps writing.
"So you follow... the Law" says the Reverend.
"I try my best" says my student."
"Well you know," the Reverend says going for the kill, "Paul came and abolished the law so if you truly love the Lord..."
I couldn't take it anymore at this point so I walk out and into plain view. The reverend takes a step back in shock and says "Oh my, another one!"

And then my other student, kippah and all, comes out of the exam room!

Nice Jewish Guy said...

Orthoprax, hope you called for a psych consult...! ;)

Fundies of any stripe are weird. You've met some Baalei Tshuvah, no?

Garnel, what's the end of the story?

Anyway, I get this also, and all I can say is, get used to it. It keeps happening. Last year I got a manila envelope in the mail from a (n otherwise normal, I thought) patient whom I hadn't seen in at least three years. Inside was some wacko messianic Christian book that seemed to be aimed at convincing Jews that Jesus was the messiah, and a personal letter imploring me to read it because she had found the Truth. I discarded it. Funny thing is, I don't recall ever talking religion with her, certainly not in any way like that.

alex said...

My friend got a bet from a man working on his yard. He bet a thousand dollars that my friend couldn't disprove his thesis. The thesis is that originally, the Sabbath was on the 7th, 14th, 21st, and 28th day of each month.

After a good deal of rebuttals and the man's refusal to accept any of them, my friend gave up. Too bad; I would've altered the conditions of the bet and shoot for $500.

Jewish Atheist said...

He just assumed you were Orthodox, not Orthoprax. If you were, you'd already believe all sorts of wacky stuff, so why not a little more?

Orthoprax said...

JA,

"He just assumed you were Orthodox, not Orthoprax. If you were, you'd already believe all sorts of wacky stuff, so why not a little more?"

Even when I was Orthodox I was at least aware enough to realize how other people would perceive my beliefs. And I never went about discussing theology with my dentist. It's bizarre.

Shalmo said...

You should learn about people's religion from wiki, and I'm fairly certain you wouldn't want them doing the same with Judaism

That said the Adventists are an interesting dilemma. Christianity has always been divided on the Old Testament (Tanakh), mainly because Paul contradicts everyone Jesus ever knew personally, including Jesus himself

Jesus abundantly (or at least the writer speaking for him) claims that the law (613 mitvohs) are eternal and will remain till heaven and earth pass away (Mathew 15). Paul says the law is a curse and is replaced with grace aka belief in Christ

Evangelical christians for instance will follow Paul and make weird semantical arguments for why reconcilling Jesus vs Paul contradiction

Others like Adventists take reconcile this contradiction by keeping some Torah laws like shabbat, etc.

Its interesting you mentioned the Book of Daniel. Daniel like most other prophecies in the Jewish books was written after the said events happened. One of the most famous examples of an alleged after-the-fact prophecy is the Little Apocalypse recorded in the Olivet Discourse of the Gospel of Mark. It predicts the siege of Jerusalem and destruction of the Jewish Temple at the hands of the Romans in 70 AD. The Book of Daniel is also a good example of this. It pretends to have been written during the time of the Jewish exile, that is around the sixth century BCE. Today, it is has been shown that Daniel was actually written around the second century BCE.

How can anyone take the biblical prophecies seriously, including people like John Haggee who Jesus is coming back any day when so many other prophecies from the bible clearly failed:

Isaiah also spoke of a prophecy God made to Ahaz, the King of Judah that he would not be harmed by his enemies (Isaiah 7:1-7), yet according to II Chronicles, Syria and Pekah did conquer Judah (II Chronicles 28:1, 5-6)

Or what about Ezekiel 26:7-14? The whole passage clearly prophesied the sack and complete destruction of Tyre by Nebuchadnezzar. However, the vivid description of the sack and fall of Tyre never happened. After a siege of thirteen years, until 573BC, Nebuchadnezzar lifted his siege on Tyre and had to arrive at a compromised agreement. Thus Nebuchadnezzar did not destroy Tyre. Tyre was destroyed by Alexander the Great, 240 years later. And furthermore, despite the prophet, the city of Tyre was eventually rebuilt.

Ezekiel 29:20 says Nebuchadnezzar would conquer Egypt, but indeed we know he never did.

Jeremiah prophesied that Jehoiakim will have no successor (Jeremiah 36:30), BUT II Kings 24:6 shows this prophecy failed as well.

Prophecies that can fail are further evidence that the Bible is by no means an error free book. How do they think the prophecies on Jesus or moshiach ben David are coming true, when so many other so-called prophecies are a bust?

E-Man said...

Did this guy think he was going to be able to force you to only keep Sabbath on sunday? Does he really think the Pope has that kind of power? Forget the fact that he thought the world was ending, was he threatening you?

Orthoprax said...

No, as an Adventist he saw himself among the likely persecutees. He was warning me of what was to come.

Anonymous said...

"Anyone with an apocalypse-coming-soon-to-a-world-near-you worldview is weird, irrational and potentially dangerous."

Well, that tells us where you're coming from. This happens to be the belief of all evangelical Christians.

Orthoprax said...

I stand by my statement.

David Atkins said...

Hello all,

This was an interesting post to read, especially considering that I used to be an Adventist. I also found the comments rather fascinating. For instance,

Orthoprax said, "And I never went about discussing theology with my dentist. It's bizarre."

Yeah right, like a dentist isn't a human being that can't be spoken to about, I don't know, whatever.

And this,

Shalmo said, "Christianity has always been divided on the Old Testament (Tanakh), mainly because Paul contradicts everyone Jesus ever knew personally, including Jesus himself"

Um...No. Ancient Christian teaching and understanding regarding the Old Testament has not "always been divided". Also, the Church has never seen a contradiction between the Apostle Paul and Christ, or any of the other Apostles. Just as human beings do, St. Paul expressed the teachings of Jesus in his own way. This is true of the other Apostles as well. None of them contradict.

Shalmo also said, "Jesus abundantly (or at least the writer speaking for him) claims that the law (613 mitvohs) are eternal and will remain till heaven and earth pass away (Mathew 15)."

This statement is illogical. How can something be "eternal" (i.e. never ending) if they will remain only as long as "heaven and earth" remain? Jesus never claimed that the torah of Moses was eternal. He did claim that His own torah is superior to that of Moses (cf. Matthew 5:17-48), and that His words will last forever (cf. Matthew 24:35).

Moses' teachings cannot touch Jesus'. Even the analects of Confucius are of better moral quality than Moses' commandments.

Shalmo goes on, "Paul says the law is a curse and is replaced with grace aka belief in Christ"

Sigh...St. Paul DOES NOT say that the Law is a "curse". He says this,

"All who rely on observing the law are under a curse, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who does not continue to do everything written in the Book of the Law.' (Devarim 27:26)...Christ redeemed us from the curse of the law by becoming a curse for us, for it is written: 'Cursed is everyone who is hung on a tree.' " (Devarim 21:22-23). Galatians 3:10,13.

Please notice that He says Christ redeemed us from the curse "of" the law. The law is not a curse, it was the curse pronounced in the law that he is referring to. He also says this about the law,

"So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good...We know that the law is spiritual; but I am unspiritual, sold as a slave to sin." Romans 7:12,14.

cont...

David Atkins said...

Shalmo also said, "Its interesting you mentioned the Book of Daniel. Daniel like most other prophecies in the Jewish books was written after the said events happened...The Book of Daniel is also a good example of this. It pretends to have been written during the time of the Jewish exile, that is around the sixth century BCE. Today, it is has been shown that Daniel was actually written around the second century BCE."

Sigh again. Just because the oldest copy of Daniel we have at the moment happens to be from the dead sea scrolls does not necessarily mean that there is not an older one out there somewhere. When it comes to written documents, it is very difficult to tell when the original was written since copying was a common practice. Therefore, when it comes to setting the date of a writing, the best scholars can offer is an approximation based upon available manuscripts. It is not meant to be an "end all be all" to a manuscript's origin date.

Shalmo said, "One of the most famous examples of an alleged after-the-fact prophecy is the Little Apocalypse recorded in the Olivet Discourse of the Gospel of Mark. It predicts the siege of Jerusalem and destruction of the Jewish Temple at the hands of the Romans in 70 AD."

The Gospel of Mark is believed by scholars to be the earliest Gospel written based upon certain factors. The 70 AD date is but one opinion based upon the material in the writing. There are other dates being considered by scholars, most earlier and some even later. It is difficult to determine precisely because it is a written document. To say with a definite attitude when it was written is presumptuous, as it is for just about any other ancient writing.

I would recommend to everyone on here to examine the ancient Christian understanding of Moses, Jesus, and the new covenant Gospel message of Christianity. All of these themes can be found in the early Christian writings such as 1) the New Testament, 2) the Apostolic Fathers, 3) the Ante-Nicene Fathers. All of these can be read for free online.

You just might be surprised by what you find, if you care to give authentic Christianity a chance.

Blessings to all!

Orthoprax said...

David,

"Yeah right, like a dentist isn't a human being that can't be spoken to about, I don't know, whatever."

'A' dentist, sure. But it's weird to make an appointment with your dentist and discuss theology with him in a professional environment - especially if he is of a different religion than you.

The rest of that stuff delving into Christian apologetics and Shalmo's inherent hyperbole are not things I even care to get into.

David Atkins said...

Hi Orthoprax,

You said, "'A' dentist, sure. But it's weird to make an appointment with your dentist and discuss theology with him in a professional environment - especially if he is of a different religion than you."

I guess it just depends. Some people actually don't mind, even enjoy it, while others do not. And all of this regardless of a person's religious affiliation. Everyone's an individual, as they say.

You also said, "The rest of that stuff delving into Christian apologetics and Shalmo's inherent hyperbole are not things I even care to get into."

Your honesty is commendable, and I respect you for it.

God bless you and yours always!

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