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The Church And Governmental Rulings

Von: garibaldi (djunus0724@verizon.net) [Profil]
Datum: 01.06.2007 09:18
Message-ID: <1LP7i.12172$296.2486@newsread4.news.pas.earthlink.net>
Newsgroup: soc.culture.indonesia alt.religion.angels alt.religion.afterlife alt.religion.africa alt.religion
The Church And Governmental Rulings
There are times when the church is confronted with the laws of certain
countries that limit freedom of speech, or antidefamation laws that prohibit
any expression that tends to discredit the government, its official
institutions, or the religious bodies of the country. It is in these
circumstances that some expressions of The Great Controversy could place the


church in legal difficulties. The concern of the leaders of the church in
those areas, and the advice of the trustees of the Ellen White Estate of
what to do under those circumstances, may be illustrated by two experiences,
one in Europe, and the other in South America.

During the 1950s, the German Penal Code was modified and an antidefamation
law added that declared the following:

A person who gives offense by blasphemy in publically pronouncing insulting
utterances against God, or who publicly makes insulting remarks against any
one of the Christian churches or any other religious denomination enjoying
corporation rights in the German Bundesrepublik, or their institutions, or
their rites, or who commits some insulting mischief in a church building or
any other place destined for religious gatherings will be punished with
imprisonment up to three years.[66]

The leaders of the then Central European Division immediately requested
authorization to change or to remove some twenty-five sentences from The
Great Controversy that could be considered offensive against Catholics. As a
result, the trustees of the White Estate took the following action:

That in the matter of The Great Controversy to be published in Hamburg, we
approve the deletions that have been proposed by the Central European
Division, and that in so doing the Trustees wish it explicitly understood
that these deletions do not involve in any instance


any editing of the remaining material or any changes in the E. G. White

A similar situation presented itself in South America during the 1970s. The
editor-in-chief of the publishing house there expressed his deep concern
about the problem in the following letter directed to the Trustees:

The government of [the country] where our publishing house is located, has
issued a law that establishes heavy punishments to every one, religious or
not, that offends any other religious organization. The fact is that The
Great Controversy, as it is in Spanish right now, has a lot of words and
phrases that easily can be interpreted as insults to the Catholic Church,
with which the government is united.[68]

The trustees of the Ellen White writings, knowing that similar experiences
existed in other places, had already made a recommendation in 1949 based on
the suggestion from the author herself in 1913:

VOTED: That we leave the matter of the use of the terms designating the
Catholic Church to the individual fields. In those places where it is deemed
that the present terminology of Great Controversy on this point would be
offensive, the Trustees are agreed to the substitution of terms which do not
in any way change the meaning. In those fields where present wording is not
offensive, it is recommended that we abide by the original wording.[69]


This may not be the end of the story. The church may yet face new and
difficult situations in the near future. We have already been warned that
this will be the case. Meanwhile, when it is within the church's province to
do so, it follows the recommendation of Ellen White herself that we must not
"publish one sentence, especially by way of personalities . . . that will
stir up our enemies against us."[70]

Fourth Surprise: An Additional Chapter Exists In The Spanish Editions
How many surprises are there yet to come? someone may ask. I guarantee you
that this is the last one that we will analyze in this chapter. As the
reader will understand, the author's only objective is to reconfirm the
faith of the believers as to the way in which the Lord has lead His church
through the prophetic gift. The author is conscious that some of these
"surprises" have disillusioned some believers. That is why an attempt is
made to try to respond to these surprises with all the sincerity and honesty
that they deserve, with the goal of preventing further disillusionment.

It is true that the chapter titled "The Awakening of Spain" is an addition
in the Spanish version of The Great Controversy. It is not in the original
version produced by the author. How is it possible, some believers will
wonder, that a complete chapter has been added when it was not written by
Ellen White? Is that chapter inspired? In the Spanish version a footnote
refers to the chapter as "a contribution. . . included with the approval of
the author." The fact that Ellen White selected and approved its insertion
makes that material part of a book with an inspired message. And the
inclusion of this chapter is one of the best illustrations that can be used
to understand the freedom God


gives to prophets to choose the material that will be included in their

This particular story begins around the year 1911, when the Spanish
translation of The Great Controversy was being done. Eduardo Forga, a
Peruvian writer who was affiliated with the publishing work in England, was
in charge of the translation. This task brought him into contact, not only
with Ellen White but with William White and Clarence Crisler, the author's
assistants. Apparently, it was the latter who suggested the idea of
including some material on the Reformation in Spain. At least, this is the
implication of one of his letters to Mrs. White:

I came down unexpectedly a few days ago, to help gather some material
together for a story of the Reformation in Spain. This is the material that
should be included in the Spanish "Great Controversy," for the encouragement
of our Spanish-speaking brothers and sisters in Spain, in the West Indies,
in the Philippine Islands, in Old Mexico, and in all South America.[71]

It seems certain that Ellen White agreed with the suggestion, since a few
months later, both Elder Crisler[72] and Elder White[73] requested that
Eduardo Forga complete as quickly as possible the translation of the
material on the Reformation in Spain because the publication of the book was
in progress in the editorial office.

The inclusion of a complete chapter within the text of a book affords us an
important illustration about the use of other authors by inspired writers.
The prophet receives from God a message to share with His people or with the
world in general. When writing the message the prophets use either their own


words or any other material they consider capable of expressing the divine
message. In this specific case, the material on the Reformation in Spain
prepared by Ellen White's assistants was considered by the messenger of the
Lord as an excellent contribution, and it ended up being part of the text
(not inspired) of a book that contains the message (inspired) of God.

The Great Controversy has been, and continues to be, one of the most
important instruments to alert sincere souls about the last events in human
history. In the very near future, when many of the events predicted in the
book happen in rapid succession, multitudes will have to make their final
decision; a decision that will carry eternal consequences. This book will
place in the hands of many the materials necessary to make the correct
decision and have the privilege of participating forever in the destiny of
the redeemed. We conclude this chapter with the final and inspiring words of
The Great Controversy on the final victory of the love of God:

The great controversy is ended. Sin and sinners are no more. The entire
universe is clean. One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast
creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness,
throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the
greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed
beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love.[74]

Chapter 7-Human Interpretation
The final step in the process of divine-human communication is very
important. It deals with the reception of the message by the person or
persons to whom it is directed. As stated in the preface, the way in which
human beings perceive, interpret, and finally handle God's message, is of
vital importance for the fulfillment of the divine objectives.

Hermeneutics is the word scholars use to refer to the procedures for
interpreting writings of the past. It comes from a term that means "to
translate" or "to interpret." Actually, any time a person gets up to speak
from the pulpit, to a class of theology students, or even to a Bible study
group in Sabbath School, he or she becomes an interpreter of the inspired
writings, with all the responsibility and seriousness that implies.
Consequently, how the prophetic writings are perceived, interpreted, and
handled have both individual and collective consequences, to the point that
the unity of the faith in the church of God comes into the picture.

Jesus Christ: The Model of Interpretation
Jesus is our model in all things. Following in his foot-steps,


we have no fear of making mistakes. The topic under discussion is no
exception. In the matter of the interpretation of inspired writings, the
Lord put in place, through His actions and words, certain fundamental
principles. We will analyze one of them-His conduct and counsel regarding

At the end of His public ministry, Jesus produced both amazement and
surprise. The evangelist Matthew reminds us that the amazement of the people
had to do with the teachings that Christ presented: "When Jesus had finished
saying these things, the crowds were amazed at his teaching" (Matthew 7:28,
29). The apostle John declares that "the Jews were amazed" (John 7:15).
Christ's answer to these comments-that would be very flattering to more than
one preacher-was awe inspiring: "My teaching is not my own. It comes from
him who sent me. If anyone chooses to do God's will, he will find out
whether my teaching comes from God or whether I speak on my own. He who
speaks on his own does so to gain honor for himself, but he who works for
the honor of the one who sent him is a man of truth; there is nothing false
about him" (John 7:16-18).

The first principle of interpretation Jesus applied was that He did not
allow Himself to become the sole "proprietor" of doctrine. He could have
done so, since He Himself was the author of the teachings of Scripture.
Nevertheless, during His life on this earth, He decided not to do so in
order to leave us an example of conformity to the Father. In fact, doctrine
does not belong to pastors, theologians, church leaders, or to the members
of the church. Doctrine belongs to God, and in His sovereign will He reveals
it, teaches it, and oversees it through the voice of the Spirit.

A second concept made clear in Christ's words above, is the risk of speaking
"on our own." The idea of private or personal


interpretation has no place in Christ's thinking. Quite often believers
appear with private interpretations of the Scriptures or the Testimonies. In
particular the prophecies relative to the end time seem to have, for some, a
certain mystique that tempts them to formulate new interpretations. In these
circumstances we need to take into account Christ's words, also reaffirmed
by other messengers of God. The apostle Peter confirms this fundamental
principle of interpretation of the teachings of Scripture when he says:
"Above all, you must understand that no prophecy of Scripture came about by
the prophet's own interpretation. For prophecy never had its origin in the
will of man, but men spoke from God as they were carried along by the Holy
Spirit" (2 Peter 1:20, 21). Peter's argument is clear: no prophecy should be
privately interpreted or personalized by a believer, because it is the voice
of the Spirit that has priority.

The Place of The "Body of Christ" In Interpretation
Ellen White also reaffirms the principle that Christ established. No one
person should consider himself the owner of truth, or become a private
interpreter of the prophecies:

God has not passed His people by and chosen one solitary man here and
another there as the only ones worthy to be entrusted with His truth. He
does not give one man new light contrary to the established faith of the
body. . . Let none be self-confident, as though God had given them special
light above their brethren.[75]

A new ingredient is added in this statement: the people of God, or Christ's
body. In the thought expressed, priority for corporate interpretation is
given to the people of God, not the


private interpretation of solitary individuals here and there. What role
does the church, as the body of Christ, play in the interpretation of

From the first chapter of this book, the church has been referred to as the
body of Christ. The acceptance of this biblical concept carries with it the
responsibility of accepting the analogous concept that Christ is the head of
the church. This divine-human relationship makes the church, in spite of
being made up of imperfect and feeble individuals, a tower of truth and a
rampart against error. It is not the church that makes itself into a
bulwark. It is the Head who makes it worthy.

The prophetic Scriptures use virtually sublime terms in speaking of the
church of God. "The church of the living God, the pillar and foundation of
the truth"(l Timothy 3:15). Referring to the church as Christ's body, the
apostle uses even more sublime expressions: "which he exerted in Christ when
he raised him from the dead and seated him at his right hand in the heavenly
realms, far above all rule and authority, power and dominion, and every
title that can be given, not only in the present age but also in the one to
come. And God placed all things under his feet and appointed him to be head
over everything for the church, which is his body, the fullness of him who
fills everything in every way" (Ephesians 1:20-23).

Those of us who are members of God's church know ourselves very well, and we
recognize our weaknesses and imperfections. As a result, we tend to use less
sublime terms to refer to the church. Some even spend their time criticizing
and reviling it, probably without realizing that they are reviling and
criticizing themselves because they are part of the church of God.
Nevertheless, the biblical concept is clear-the church is Christ's body. It
is the human expression of "the fullness of him who


fills everything in every way," and is, in addition, the object of God's
supreme regard:

I testify to my brethren and sisters that the church of Christ, enfeebled
and defective as it may be, is the only object on earth on which He bestows
His supreme regard. While He extends to all the world His invitation to come
to Him and be saved, He commissions His angels to render divine help to
every soul that cometh to Him in repentance and contrition, and He comes
personally by His Holy Spirit into the midst of His church.[76]

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