We fully recognize the heartening fact that a host of true followers of Christ
are scattered all through the various churches of Christendom, including the
Roman Catholic communion. These God clearly recognizes as His own. Such do not
form a part of the "Babylon" portrayed in the Apocalypse. The matter
of loyalty or disloyalty to truth is, in the ultimate, a question of personal
relationship to God and the fundamental principles of truth. What is
denominated "Babylon," in Scripture, obviously embraces those who
have broken with the spirit and essence of true Christianity, and have followed
the way of apostasy. Such are under the censure of Heaven.
1. Historical Background Imperative.—In order to set forth what Seventh-day
Adventists believe on this point, it is essential first to get the background
of historical applications that reach back some eight hundred years. The
earliest application of the symbolic term
"Babylon" to the Papacy, or the Roman Catholic Church, appears in the
writings of the twelfth-century Waldenses and Albigenses. But along with their
identification of the dominant ecclesiastical apostasy of their day as the
organization portrayed in the Bible prophecies, they also stated that many of
God's children were still in papal Babylon. And these they were constrained to
"call out," or urge to separate, from her apostasies. A long list of
spiritual-minded medieval Catholics follow in the fourteenth and fifteenth
centuries—including pseudo-Joachim, Olivi, Eberhard, Wycliffe, Huss, and
Savonarola—all boldly asserting that "Babylon" represents the
corrupted church of Rome, and warning of her coming retribution. And for this
some even went to the stake.
2. Used by Protestant Founders.—During the Protestant Reformation all leaders
taught essentially the same, from Luther, in 1520, onward. These men were
scattered over Germany, Switzerland, France, and England. In Britain were men
like William Tyndale, Bishops Ridley and Hooper, Archbishop Cranmer, Bishops
Bale, Jewell, and Coverdale, and John Knox and Lord Napier in Scotland.
Ridley's farewell letter before his martyrdom, in 1555, repeatedly referred to
"Babylon," and called for separation from Rome.
3. Continued in Post-Reformation.—In post-Reformation times some thirty
prominent expositors maintained the same position, including such famous men as
King James I, Joseph Mede, Sir Isaac Newton, Bishop Thomas Newton, Methodism's
founder John Wesley, and Johann Bengel and various other Continentals. Even in
Colonial America, John Cotton,
Roger Williams, Increase Mather, Samuel Hopkins, and more than a score of
others, down to President Timothy Dwight of Yale in 1812, made similar
applications. One was the noted Baptist historian Isaac Backus, who in 1767
wrote: " 'She ['the church of Rome'] is the mother of harlots, and all
churches who go after any lovers but Christ, for a temporal living, are guilty
of playing the harlot.' " (See Prophetic Faith of Our Fathers, vol. 3, p.
213.) Earlier, Roger Williams had complained to the British Parliament about
Protestants' clinging to the spirit and doing the deeds of papal Babylon.
Meanwhile, several Old World Protestant writers had noted that Babylon, the
"mother" of Revelation 17, had "daughters" that bore the
same family name. And believing that certain other Protestant bodies had
retained some of the characteristics and errors of the Papacy, they began to
include them under the family name "Babylon." Among these writers
were such non-conformists as Browne, Barrow, and John Milton.
4. Babylon, Mother and Daughters.—In the early nineteenth-century Old World
Advent awakening, Lacunza, from within Catholicism, called Babylon "Rome
on the Tiber." And various Anglican and non-conformist leaders—such as
Cuninghame, Brown, M'Neile, and Ash—pressed the application. The Protestant
Association, organized in Exeter Hall in 1835—with such men as Croly and
Melvill—in 1839 sounded the "out of Babylon" call, including both
Protestantism and Popery.
And the Dublin Christian Herald, edited by Anglican Rector Edward N. Hoare,
asserted in 1830 that the abominations of papal Babylon, the mother, "covered all
Christendom." Alexander Fraser, of Scotland, and Anglican David Simpson,
of England, held similar views. Fraser said that all churches were tinged with
the spirit of Babylon. And Simpson declared that Protestant churches, of
"whatever denomination," which partake of the same spirit and
doctrines and circumstances, must be considered daughters.
In North America, passing Elias Smith and Lorenzo Dow, who wrote strongly on
the Protestant daughters as related to Rome, Disciples churchman Samuel M.
McCorkle declared that Protestantism had been befuddled by the wine of Babylon,
and insisted that the "mother" church had Protestant daughters. And
prominent Baptist clergyman Isaac T. Hinton (1799-1847) plainly hinted that
nationally established Protestant churches are, because of church-state union
and compromise, daughters of Babylon.
5. Employed in Advent Awakening.—Then, during the Second Advent Movement in
America in the 1830's and 1840's, there was growing proscription among the
larger Protestant bodies against those who held premillennialist views, and
increasing ecclesiastical opposition to emphasis on the Second
Advent—particularly among the Methodists and Congregationalists of New
England—forbidding the dissemination of Adventism. This opposition led to the
sounding of the call to "come out" from the churches that rejected
the Second Advent message and that clung to the tainted doctrines of Babylon.
That was how the "call" came to be sounded at that time. It was not a
condemnation of the host of godly individuals in the various Protestant
churches, but of the official attitudes and actions in rejecting the vital
Second Advent truth. (A historical record appears in Prophetic Faith of Our
Fathers, vols. 1-4.)
6. A Thousand Years of Precedent.—In the light of the historical record of a
thousand years, there is nothing new or strange about Adventist employment of
the term that had constantly been used by other bodies, as they felt that light
and truth had been rejected and opposed. And the application of the term
"daughters" of Babylon has similarly been used for some three hundred
Groups and organizations such as the Fundamentalists, the International Council
of Christian Churches, and the National Association of Evangelicals have
withdrawn from the older organizations because of what they believed to be
modernist apostasy entrenched in the controlling leadership of various
7. Evidence of Departure.—Such are the historic precedents. Adventists
believe that the term "Babylon," referred to in Revelation 17, has
been rightly applied to the Papacy. Great Babylon, however, according to verse
5, is mentioned as a "mother." So the term "Babylon"
rightly belongs to others also. We therefore believe that wherever there are
individuals, or groups of individuals, that hold to and advocate the
unchristian doctrines, practices, and procedures of the papal church, such may
justifiably be denominated "Babylon"—hence, part of the great
apostasy. Wherever such conditions obtain, Adventists, with others, believe
that the guilty organizations may rightly be denominated "Babylon."
8. Matter of Personal Relationship.—We believe that conditions in the
religious world will worsen, not improve, as we approach the world's climax (1
Tim. 4:1, 2; 2 Tim. 3:1, 5). And the gulf between apostasy and fidelity to
truth will become wider and wider as prophecy fulfills before our eyes. But our
statements regarding Babylon do not have the defamatory character that some
would impute to us. They are uttered in sorrow, not for invidious comparisons.
We are conscious of the fact that membership in any church is not, in itself,
evidence either of fellowship with Christ or of fidelity to the fundamentals of
the gospel. As was the case of Israel of old, the Christian church throughout
the centuries has been plagued by the presence of a "mixed multitude"
(Ex. 12:38; Num. 11:4; Neh. 13:3). And this is particularly true of these
latter times, when many have departed from the faith, as clearly foretold in
Bible prophecy (1 Tim. 4:1; 2 Tim. 4:3, 4). We firmly believe that God is
calling today for His children to break with everything that is alien to the
fundamental, apostolic principles of truth.