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The People of God

Gregory Matthews

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There are two opposite views that we hold in Adventism. We can find evidence for both in Mrs. White. Part of it comes from her personal growth and we try to fit all she says into the myth of what we think a prophet should be due to Fundamentalism's "inerrancy" We need to remember that Mrs. White grew from being a "closed door" Adventist, to becoming very involved with other religions and becoming a very popular preacher in non-Adventist churches on Sunday mornings. 

The basic and which I believe is a good understanding to one the opposites, is on the one hand seeing ourselves as the "remnant church" yet respecting the faith of others, and our emphasis on "liberty of conscience." But too often we read the wrong things into the idea of being the "remnant church". It does NOT mean that we are the exclusive club. Mrs. White describes this aspect of our church as having a prophetic or pastoral role among the churches. What would happen if a pastor kicks out their members unless they all become pastors? Yet, we think that is appropriate for how we treat other believers. 

We are the "remnant church" because of things unique in our message that others can benefit from; such as the health message, eschatology (except that we make it too exclusive, and upon baptism or birth to those born Adventists, we get an "auto correct" on the nerves that leave the eye and the ear before they reach the brain. When ever Mrs. White discusses the larger principle of "liberty of conscience" our auto correct changes it to "Sunday Law" before the words reach the brain.) The nature of hell fire, the issues of the great controversy, the principle of no use of force, and the willingness to seriously study the Bible and not just cling to traditions which is reflected in both us wanting to worship on the only day given in scripture, as well as the proximity of 1844 to the return and printing the accounts of Edward Robinson's first trip to the Holy Land and how it opened the door to the age of exegesis.  We are NOT the remnant church because of who we are, but because of the information we have available to us to study and share. 

Don't forget the issues found in choosing a church name. Many members wanted something like "Church of God" or "Church of Christ" or other such superior, better than everyone else, names. But Mrs. White encouraged the more humble and descriptive "Seventh-day Adventists". While we officially settled on the more humble and descriptive name, the superior attitude carried on. We sadly use this attitude as we define our role as the "remnant"  and thus have the two truths out of harmony and competing with each other in how we see and treat others. 

We can learn a lot not only from Mrs. White's written words but from her actions; especially after 1888 and her being sent to Australia. While she did her job there, C. Mervin Maxwell points our that she also had a way of distancing herself from the organized church and world work with people to simply lead them to Jesus and not worry so much about where they worshiped. Her work in other churches and events. (Now, I have not seen proof to prove this, but I came across a paper in the White Estate vault that indicated that Mrs. White and P. T. Barnum became friends. Now, I have found that Willie wanted to bring his children to Barnum's circus, but members kept bringing up a Ellen White quote against going to the circus, so how could her grandchildren go to the circus? Now, when Mrs. White wrote that quote, circuses in America were unsavory places, more "adult" oriented and a haven for thieves swindlers and pickpockets. Mrs. White's warning was voiced by many pastors and others in society; but then people, such as Barnum and others took these warnings to heart and started what was called "Sunday School Circuses." Willie recognized the difference between Barnum's show and the shows that Mrs. White was warning against. But instead of explaining this to people, he decided not to take his children to the circus.

When Mrs. White preached in non-Adventist churches, her message was not on the mark of the beast or telling people that the Seventh-day Adventists were the remnant church and that they need to leave their church and join us. Her message was on how much Jesus lives us and about health. At Elmshaven she would make food and bring it to the migrant workers and told them about Jesus' love for them, even though if they decided to take her message to heart that they would naturally attend the Roman Catholic church. 

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