A Little Leaven ...

by Rolaant McKenzie

Adventism was built on the investigative judgment, a false doctrine used to excuse its unbiblical (and unfulfilled) date-setting. Soul sleep was developed to support the investigative judgment, and the resulting belief in the purely physical nature of man has led to Adventism’s practice and support of abortion.

Several years ago, I heard a portion of an interview of Cecile Richards, the previous president of Planned Parenthood, on Fusion TV’s America With Jorge Ramos (February 27, 2014). She was asked the question, “When does life begin?” After some evasiveness, she expressed her view that her children began to live when she delivered them. This reminded me of a common Adventist belief that a person is not truly alive until the first breath of air is taken at birth.

This belief is illustrated in an excerpt from “Seventh-Day Adventists Believe”, which is an explanation of the organization’s 28 Fundamental Beliefs. It clearly states that a soul comes into existence when a child is born:

As we have already mentioned, in the Old Testament “soul” is a translation of the Hebrew nephesh. In Genesis 2:7 it denotes man as a living being after the breath of life entered into a physical body formed from the elements of the earth. Similarly, a new soul comes into existence whenever a child is born, each “soul” being a new unit of life uniquely different and separate from other similar units. This quality of individuality in each living being, which constitute it a unique entity, seems to be the idea emphasized by the Hebrew term nephesh. When used in this sense, nephesh is not a part of the person; it is the person and, in many instances, is translated “person” (Seventh-day Adventists Believe, 2005 ed., pp. 94-95).

This foundational belief, that a person becomes alive when he takes his first breath, helps to explain why many Adventists have a pro-choice, really pro-abortion, viewpoint. This belief is also why Adventist hospitals perform abortions. The rationale is that since the child has not taken his first breath, he is not truly alive, and so a living human being is not really being killed.

The Progression of Leaven

The Bible says, “A little leaven leavens the whole lump” (Galatians 5:9). Leaven is used often in Scripture to illustrate how sin can start in such a seemingly innocuous way and lead to much greater and pervasive sin.

How did this teaching come to have such a foundational place in Adventism? The early Adventists disregarded Jesus’ teaching that no one could know the day or the hour of His return (Mark 13:32) by setting the date of October 22, 1844 for His return. When this date-setting message failed, instead of repenting and returning to Scriptural teaching, the early Adventists formulated the doctrine of the investigative judgment to validate their date-setting message.

The doctrine euphemistically known as “soul sleep” was adopted to support the investigative judgment teaching. It was reasoned that a person cannot have an immaterial soul that goes to heaven at the death of the body before the investigative judgment was completed, otherwise the Lord would have to expel people from heaven who did not pass it.

As a result, the nature of man came to be understood in Adventism as being a physical body plus breath, with no immaterial “soul”. This belief led to the de facto dehumanization of unborn children and the disposal of an unwanted child through abortion being permissible.

An Important Conversation

About 10 years ago, I was doing information technology support work at a local Jewish Community Center. The Jewish librarian, knowing I was a Christian, asked me a question regarding what I thought of the abortion issue. She was in favor of keeping this practice legal. I think I gave her an answer that she did not expect, because it was not really a political one.

I told her that 150 years ago people that looked like me were considered less than fully human. Consequently, it was permissible to enslave people like me and dispose of us when we were no longer considered useful or convenient. More than 65 years ago in much of Europe, people like her were declared to be less than human, the cause of the ills of society, and inconvenient to be allowed to exist. Therefore, it was permissible and mandated that they be exterminated. Today, there is another group that has been similarly dehumanized because they were not considered useful or convenient. Tens of millions of this group have been killed already. They are babies in the womb.

I went on to say that when a society dehumanizes and exterminates the weakest and most vulnerable among them, none of us is safe from being similarly treated. Where there is no sanctity of human life, when we come to some point in life when society deems us to be inconvenient or not useful, then we will likewise be dehumanized and eliminated.

I do not know if she ever changed her mind regarding abortion, but I could tell that what was said gave her something to seriously consider.

Creeping Consequences of False Doctrine

One of the reasons God found so many of the inhabitants of Canaan so detestable that He sent the children of Israel to utterly destroy them was because they practiced, among other evil things, passing their children through the fire. That is, they sacrificed children as burnt offerings to their gods.

As Israel prepared to enter the Promised Land, the Lord through Moses gave the following warning:

When you enter the land which the LORD your God gives you, you shall not learn to imitate the detestable things of those nations. There shall not be found among you anyone who makes his son or his daughter pass through the fire, one who uses divination, one who practices witchcraft, or one who interprets omens, or a sorcerer, or one who casts a spell, or a medium, or a spiritist, or one who calls up the dead. For whoever does these things is detestable to the LORD; and because of these detestable things the LORD your God will drive them out before you (Deuteronomy 18:9-12).

Having sons or daughters “pass through the fire” meant making them a burnt offering to the false pagan god Molech. If the Lord so judged those nations that were engaged in child sacrifice, I wonder what will become of nations today that do so on a greater, more industrial scale through abortion?

Some Adventists may object and say that their organization does not advocate for or practice this kind of child sacrifice. That may be so, but the point is to show the progression of false doctrine and the catastrophic consequences it can have. The inhabitants of Canaan over time adopted a wrong view of man that allowed them to view their own children as a sacrificial commodity by which they could “purchase” benefits from their gods.

Much of western society, however imperfect, previously had a strong Judeo-Christian foundation. It held to a belief in God and our accountability to Him. There was a general belief in the Biblical view of humanity. In addition to being God’s special creation made in His image, human beings were more than physical bodies plus breath. There was an immaterial aspect to each person formed from the womb that made human life unique and sacred, consistent with being made in the image of God (Genesis 9:6). But when western society centuries later adopted Darwinian evolution and rejected God, materialism became the prevailing view. Human beings were no longer made in God’s image, but were just body plus breath formed out of random chance with no immateriality. In time this view has contributed to the idea that a person is not alive until birth and the first breath of air taken. Children in the womb could be sacrificed when deemed inconvenient or profitable. Today, there are even some in society openly promoting and working to pass laws to kill babies after they are born.

Similar to many who hold to a Darwinian evolutionary worldview, Adventists have a materialistic view of man. It presents the idea that human beings are merely body plus breath, with spiritual life residing in a physical brain. The spiritual, or immaterial, aspect is denied. This unbiblical view has contributed to the development of the belief that a person is not truly alive until the first breath of air is taken at birth; therefore it is permissible for Adventist hospitals to terminate a child in the womb.

The small amount of leaven in the dough that started this downward path began with not believing the words of Jesus regarding setting a date for His return. Refusing to repent of this error and formulating new and unbiblical teachings to save face has led to the leavening of the whole lump, and the participation in modern western culture’s shedding of innocent human blood on an industrial scale.

Acceptance of this practice in its hospitals while claiming to be the “remnant church” is reminiscent of Jewish religious leaders of Jesus’ day who maintained the belief in their exclusive relationship with God and adherence to the Law, faithfully and piously going to the synagogue every Sabbath, while plotting the betrayal and murder of Jesus.

Can Leavened Dough Become Unleavened?

Of all the kings of Judah and Israel, Manasseh of Judah was probably the most evil one of all. His story can be found in 2 Kings 21 and 2 Chronicles 33. He engaged in the kind of evil that characterized the abominations of the nations that God had driven out before Israel. He erected altars to pagan gods, worshiped the host of heaven, and built altars for them in the temple courts, shed much innocent blood from one end of Jerusalem to the other, practiced witchcraft and divination, and took part in sorcery and consulted mediums. He even made his own sons pass through the fire. His reign of evil misled and encouraged the people of Judah to sin more than the nations that the Lord destroyed before Israel.

At some point early in his life, Manasseh chose not to follow the godly example of Hezekiah his father. This likely did not begin with one big decision, but with small choices that gradually led to his life becoming engulfed in evil. This corruption, like leaven spreading through a lump of dough, filtered down to the common people of the kingdom.

Even though God spoke to Manasseh and the residents of Judah, they refused to listen and turn back from their downward spiral into depravity. In response, the Lord sent the nation of Assyria against Judah. Manasseh was captured, bound, and carried off in humiliation to Babylon.

But in Manasseh’s affliction, something wonderful happened.

When he was in distress, he entreated the LORD his God and humbled himself greatly before the God of his fathers. When he prayed to Him, He was moved by his entreaty and heard his supplication, and brought him again to Jerusalem to his kingdom. Then Manasseh knew that the LORD was God (2 Chronicles 33:12-13).

The rich grace and restoration of God led Manasseh to a genuine repentance (Romans 2:4). For the remainder of his reign, he worked to undo all the evil he had done. He destroyed the pagan idols and altars, and called upon the people of Judah to serve the LORD God of Israel (2 Chronicles 33:15-16). This return to the Lord set the stage for the great national revival that took place under his grandson King Josiah.

Josiah removed all the abominations from all the lands belonging to the sons of Israel, and made all who were present in Israel to serve the LORD their God. Throughout his lifetime they did not turn from following the LORD God of their fathers (2 Chronicles 34:33).

Then the king commanded all the people saying, “Celebrate the Passover to the LORD your God as it is written in this book of the covenant.” Surely such a Passover had not been celebrated from the days of the judges who judged Israel, nor in all the days of the kings of Israel and of the kings of Judah. But in the eighteenth year of King Josiah, this Passover was observed to the LORD in Jerusalem. Moreover, Josiah removed the mediums and the spiritists and the teraphim and the idols and all the abominations that were seen in the land of Judah and in Jerusalem, that he might confirm the words of the law which were written in the book that Hilkiah the priest found in the house of the LORD. Before him there was no king like him who turned to the LORD with all his heart and with all his soul and with all his might, according to all the law of Moses; nor did any like him arise after him (2 Kings 23:21-25).

Many of us previously in life held to false religious or philosophical worldviews. Assent to these views may have started as small steps away from truth that over time developed into acceptance of, or participation in, some very evil things. But thanks be to God for the grace and forgiveness that is found in Jesus Christ. Just how big is God’s forgiveness? It is big enough to forgive the worst of sins and the worst of sinners. How great is the cleansing power of Jesus’ blood? It can make the most deeply embedded crimson stain of sin whiter than snow (Isaiah 1:18).

For while we were still helpless, at the right time Christ died for the ungodly. For one will hardly die for a righteous man; though perhaps for the good man someone would dare even to die. But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. Much more then, having now been justified by His blood, we shall be saved from the wrath of God through Him. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God through the death of His Son, much more, having been reconciled, we shall be saved by His life (Romans 5:6-1).

By the grace of God, even people in leadership who have been led astray can experience miraculous change and set the stage for those who follow them to change also. Repenting of the error of participating in setting a date for Jesus’ second coming, of promoting extra-biblical revelations as inspired messages of God on par with Scripture, of the subsequent manipulation of Scripture in formulating doctrines teaching an incomplete atonement at the cross, and of an incorrect view of humanity would set the stage for the unleavening of the dough. Such repentance would open the door to not only embracing a Biblical view of humanity and the sacredness of the life of the unborn, but the salvation of a people formerly in darkness through believing the Biblical gospel.

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