Will Seventh-day Adventists Enter the Kingdom Reading Fiction Books?

by sighandcry on March 24, 2013

Bill Knott

And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books [there is] no end; and much study [is] a weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man.” — Ecclesiastes 12:12, 13

According to Bill Knott, editor of the Adventist Review in his recent editorial in the March 14, 2013 issue of the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s flagship and long standing (164 years) periodical publication it should be anything one fancies including works of fiction from authors such as Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, Nathaniel Hawthorne, etc. Should we be concerned with the fact that these men, far from being God fearing Christian men, are well know in the world as existentialist thinkers, philosophers, moralists who influenced more contemporary writers such as Mahatma Gandhi and Martin Luther King, Jr? Why is Elder Knott trying so hard to justify keeping such works in his own personal library and thereby setting an example and using his influence to the 17 million plus sheep within the Adventist fold?

If one reads this editorial is it quite apparent that Elder Knott is quite angry with a certain group within the church according to his own words.

The tortured shape of this editorial is a grim illustration of the fact that a tiny minority of Adventists is now wielding unwarranted influence on the church’s educational, pastoral, and publishing ministries by stoutly insisting that no reputable thought leader should read, own, or cite from a book by a non-Adventist author. They have invaded pastors’ offices, disrupted worship services, and left a trail of litter across a smattering of Web sites.

It seems that Elder Knott is justifying his reading preferences by trying to discredit a minority element within the church who dare to speak against his so-called “intellectualism” by resorting to a common debating tactic of creating the illusion that all who do not support the reading of fictional authors, existentialists, etc. are thereby ultra-conservative “anti-intellectuals”. However, he categorically fails to prove his case by proper example and illustration.

To be fair minded we would like to bring up the subject as to whether there are certain types of books that would be plainly unwise and inadvisable for any God fearing Seventh-day Adventist to read and have on their library shelves. To meet the need where Elder Knott plainly falls short in his misleading editorial we would like to provide some usefull illustrations and principles guide us as to wisely discern what type of material we want to be consuming that will edify our souls and prepare us to be citizens of God’s soon coming kingdom and to more fully reflect the character of our Lord and Savior Christ Jesus. Accepting first some inspired counsel from the wisest man that ever lived and who knew something about the vanities of worldly authors . . .

And further, by these, my son, be admonished: of making many books [there is] no end; and much study [is] a weariness of the flesh. Let us hear the conclusion of the whole matter: Fear God, and keep his commandments: for this [is] the whole [duty] of man.” — Ecclesiastes 12:12, 13

or the apostle Paul wise counsel to the young preacher Timothy . . .

“Ever learning, and never able to come to the knowledge of the truth.” 2 Timothy 3:7

Perhaps the wise should consider what the servant of the Lord, having only a formal third grade education, has to counsel about what type of books we should be reading.

The Case of Moses Hull Who Spent To Many Hours Studying the Most Able Authors and Lost His Soul

“You do not closely search your own heart. You have studied many works to make your discourses thorough, able, and pleasing; but you have neglected the greatest and most necessary study, the study of yourself. A thorough knowledge of yourself, meditation and prayer, have come in as secondary things. Your success as a minister depends upon your keeping your own heart. You will receive more strength by spending one hour each day in meditation, and in mourning over your failings and heart corruptions and pleading for God’s pardoning love and the assurance of sins forgiven, than you would by spending many hours and days in studying the most able authors, and making yourself acquainted with every objection to our faith, and with the most powerful evidences in its favor.” — Testimonies, Vol. 1, p. 433.1

Counsel Warning About a System of Intellectual Philosophy That Would be Introduced

“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.”  Selected Messages, Vol. 1, p. 204

In the contemporary setting let us examine a few real case scenarios and judge wisely amongst ourselves to determine if we want to follow the example of certain leaders in the church.

Case No. 1:

On one Sabbath afternoon on the campus of Southwestern Adventist University I attended a meeting of Adventist intellectuals who were discussing the merits of the then rising popularity of the first Harry Potter novel. This was in the year 2000. The presenter was from the Education Department of La Sierra University, an Adventist owned institution. After listening for some time about the various merits of having children read this book that openly promotes witchcraft I was left in almost total shock that such a thing would take any serious consideration by professed Adventist intellectuals who are responsible for the education of Adventist youth. Towards the end I felt impressed to ask a question. After acknowledgment, I read Deuteronomy 18:9-14 and then asked the presenter what bearing she felt these verses had on the recommendation of having children read the Harry Potter novel. She was totally confounded and while attempting to give a response the moderator stepped in with some diverting remarks and soon the meeting ended. I will never forget the looks and I received from the audience after asking my question. It seemed to them as if the Holy Bible was a stranger and an unwelcome presence to their intellectual discussion that afternoon.

Case No. 2:

I once attended a Wednesday night prayer meeting at a large Seventh-day Adventist church (3,000 + membership). The senior pastor who led out in this televised session started by reading from a copy of one of the then popular “Chicken Soup for the Soul” books and used this as a basis for his discussion. A fellow believer in the Advent message who had also witnessed this strange event was quite disturbed about the pastor using such a source of material for his inspiration, especially since these books are written by multiple authors who are acknowledged Mormons, New Age spiritualists, feminists, etc. After praying over the matter together we felt convicted to approach the pastor and ask him why he was doing this. So an appointment was made and we meet with the pastor and asking him why he used these books and if he was aware of their spiritual content and the beliefs of the various contributors. After listening to our concerns he then said that he was aware that some of the authors may have questionable beliefs but that he would not use any of their suggestions and that he felt that the value of the lesson was most important rather that who wrote it. We then asked him why he didn’t use Holy Spirit inspired comments and thoughts from the pen of Ellen White to lead out in his prayer meetings? He then responded by saying that some people have a difficult time relating to her writings and that the examples from the “Chicken Soup for the Soul” were more contemporary and people could relate to them better. Although a bit perplexed by the pastor’s reply we could only have pity for him as he revealed himself to be a weak and vacillating man who was afraid to look us in the face when he talked. This same pastor later introduced a mid-week spiritual event for an entire university campus body by bouncing a basketball and telling a story about Michael Jordan, a famous basketball player.

Case No. 3:

On another occasion I attended a convocation of very conservative Seventh-day Adventists and presented a study on the dangers of incorporating iridology and reflexology into our health reform message. As it turns out many in this group were actively studying and practicing these modalities and reading the works of a certain Bernard Jensen considered to be the modern father of iridology. The ministers responsible for the introduction and teaching of these blatant spiritualistic modalities were quick to dismiss the applicable Spirit of Prophecy (S.O.P.) counsels in this regard and resorted to all sorts of justifications and arguments without once proving from the Holy Bible or the S.O.P. that we have a divine endorsement for such practices. The only justification offered that appeared to have any credibility was a reference to a statement where Sister White says that we are to consult the best authors on the subject of health reform (CH 566.3). What they failed to mention is that she included the important caviat that these books should give an better understanding of the laws of health by the study of cause to effect. Iridology and reflexology both categorically fail to do this because they are based on false and unproved scientific theories which do not give us a clear cause to effect understanding of diseases and its remedies. Remarkably, upon inspection of one of Jensen’s treatises on Iridology, not only does he freely cite a number of new age spiritualistic sources in the footnotes of his book, he gives large credit to his inspiration to none other that John H. Kellogg who served as one of his early mentors during the 1930′s. We should recall that Kellogg was responsible for the pantheism crises that shook the Adventist church in the early 1900′s and swept out a number of notable individuals including A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner. Kellogg was disfellowshipped from the SDA church in 1907 primarily due to his pantheistic views as encoded in his infamous book “The Living Temple”. This very book Ellen White was loathe to read out of necessity to refute its spiritualistic teachings about the nature of God. Her response is found in Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 8 and an article she published in the Review and Herald, Oct. 22, 1903. Does she recommend the reading of this book, hardly! It should be shunned like the plague.

So what lessons can be learn from these examples? There are many more we could cite for example, the many contemporary revisionist historical books written by Adventist scholars to confuse the history of the 1888 Minneapolis General Conference Session, but we will have to take these up in anther post. As the scriptures tell us there is the making of many books there is no end and what profit is there to be gained from the endless reading from uninspired authors who reflect a worldly humanistic views when eternity is in the balance. We would suggest that our reading material on spiritual matters should be restricted to inspired sources such as the Holy Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy. These sources have endless themes for spiritual enlightenment which prepare us for the heavenly garner and who can say among us that they have exhausted the endless lines of truth found therein? On the other hand it would be foolish to brand such believers as “anti-intellectuals” for wisely choosing their reading materials. Furthermore, there is plenty of room for the reading of non-Adventist authors along the more practical lines. For example, my personal bookshelf has many books on subjects such as  farming, composting, organic gardening, root cellaring, carpentry, plumbing, etc. that have much practical and useful instruction how to solve problems and learn better ways of working around the home. I also enjoy selected history books on important figures in history such as Roger Williams or significant historians such as Josephus. Such choices would hardly constitute one as a Luddite or an anti-intellectual. On the other hand as far as reading existentialist authors of fiction, no thank you. Why waste my time, and possibly my soul salvation, on content that which is not bread? Should we not hear ye the Rod and He who hath appointed it? (Micah 6:9)

“Ho, every one that thirsteth, come ye to the waters, and he that hath no money; come ye, buy, and eat; yea, come, buy wine and milk without money and without price. Wherefore do ye spend money for [that which is] not bread? and your labour for [that which] satisfieth not? hearken diligently unto me, and eat ye [that which is] good, and let your soul delight itself in fatness. Incline your ear, and come unto me: hear, and your soul shall live; and I will make an everlasting covenant with you, [even] the sure mercies of David.” — Isaiah 55:1-3


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