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More Than Common Error
And, as quoted early in this review of experiences, the topic of the relation of God and nature was also dealt with the messages of 1899. It was along this line that speculative philosophy about God would bring peril to us. We did not understand what this meant then, but now these very deceptions had swept in upon us. It was spiritualism for Seventh-day Adventists. Recall that message at the 1903 General Conference, already quoted at length:
Long had the messages tried to forewarn us. But there was something supernatural in the working of this thing. We who first came in contact with real inwardness of the teaching at close quarters had felt that power working in this philosophy. Friends of the teaching smiled at the idea that there was anything mysterious in it. For myself I knew there was mystic, hypnotic power in it. I knew by painful experience that I had to fight it, resist it in my soul or I would be swept off my feet. And I never got free from the paralyzing fear of it and challenge [of] it in face to face committee work. Yet some smiled at the idea of
danger. At the 1903 General Conference the author of the book in question declared:
At the preceding Autumn Council, of 1902, one veteran minister, to whom we had looked for years as a teaching leader, begged us to read the book, "Living Temple," with "confidence." It was that confidence in partaking of the mixture of truth and error dealing with speculative views of the Deity, that betrayed our brother. For two days in that council he had stood with the General Conference executives. Then time came when he spent some hours in counsel with promoters of the new ideas, and he came out as an advocate of them. In the Council he told us the book taught true ideas of God from the scientific standpoint. Now he would teach the same things from the Scriptures. Scornfully he told us that what a lot of Seventh-day Adventists needed was a "new God;" that many were worshipping a God altogether too small for the larger and true idea. He then set forth this idea from Scripture. It was later brought out by the Good Health Publishing Company as a tract entitled, "The Revelation of God."
Two paragraphs will suffice:
The fatal error was the assumption that the prophet Isaiah (Isaiah 40) was endeavoring to impress us with the greatness of God's form. It is "the greatness of His might" (Verse 26) that the prophet is describing in these figures of speech. This philosophic view, set forth as the true one, was but repeating the ancient heathen philosophy of the Universe-God, sometimes thus given colossal members and parts, and again represented as an ether-like personality pervading all. The Hindu philosophy says: All this (universe) is Brahma." And Pike, an old Washington jurist, professor, and philosopher said of the Persian view: "It was thought the universe should be deemed an immense being." In the Egyptian and other philosophies, he says:
It was conceived that great power must imply great size. It was thought Deity must be great in form in order to be great in power. So came the idea of colossal form, such as we had pictured to us in the vestry of the Tabernacle in that Council of 1902.
The error was due to failure to apprehend that which is the only hope of our salvation. God's power is manifested by His word. He is "upholding all things by the word of His power." He saves us by this all-powerful word which works within. It is not infinite form but infinite power and love and mercy. The sinner redeemed will not have to search the universe to view, a little at a time, a form that the logic of the philosophy must necessarily picture as greater than the universe, one whose smallest measurementsit is an awful suggestionmust be beyond all human conception. The redeemed, in the flesh, immortal, will "see God." They can approach a Father upon His throne in the heavenly temple. "They shall see His face." And by the Father's side we shall
see "the man Christ Jesus""this same Jesus" that the disciples sawin form like unto the Father.
The heathen philosophy takes the thought away from infinite power, which is our hope of salvation, to fasten it upon the mind-staggering conception of infinite form. It is truly a god "that our fathers knew not," as the record of Israel says, speaking of idolatry that crept into the Exodus movement.
The message, "Decided Action to be Taken Now," said of the issue facing us: "The development seen in the cause of God is similar to the development seen when Balaam caused Israel to sin just before they entered the promised land."
The Bible story of the way in which the ancient people of Israel were lured into idolatry seemed heretofore to have recorded perils from our own path to the promised land; but here we were in danger of going into idolatry ourselves. This "commingling" of the pantheistic idea of a pervasive personality in living things with the other idea of an infinite form seems illogical, but it is characteristic of some of the ancient heathen philosophies. And the author of "Living Temple" laid hold of the idea of colossal form as soon as it was set forth before us in that Council. A paragraph was added to the proofs, and appeared as follows when the book was published:
One might ask, How could the same book teach both these ideasof God as intelligence pervading all nature, and as a colossal form? How could both ideas be set forth together? But this seeming contradiction is characteristic of pantheism. One of the most often quoted portions of the Khandogya Upanishad (14th hap., 3rd part) had this declaration:
The flinging about of these new-old teachings, infected with the contagion of spiritualistic heathenism, led the Spirit of prophecy, to rush off that first message to catch us in the midst of the Washington Council. The message cried out:
Until the Spirit of the Lord lifted up a standard against it, the teaching was spreading like a plague. It was spiritualism for Seventh-day Adventists.
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