Many Adventists, no doubt, including myself, have long considered “spiritualism” to be strictly about talking to “dead people.” We would never fall for it. Clearly, we know that when a person dies that is it for him or her. There is no communication with a dead person.
But could we actually be unwittingly sliding into spiritualism and not realize it?
I was quite surprised yesterday when my dad pointed out a quote from Ellen White that I had not given much thought to in the past. I’ve noticed it before; it’s underlined in my copy of The Great Controversy. But never before has this thought seemed to be more relevant than what we see in the present landscape of Adventism. I think it is an important – and loving – warning to all of us. Spiritualism is alive and well in the Adventist Church.
Notice how Ellen White defines spiritualism within the Christian context, and reflect upon how that might relate to Adventism today:
It is true that spiritualism is now changing its form and, veiling some of its more objectionable features, is assuming a Christian guise. But its utterances from the platform and the press have been before the public for many years, and in these its real character stands revealed. These teachings cannot be denied or hidden.
Even in its present form, so far from being more worthy of toleration than formerly, it is really a more dangerous, because a more subtle, deception. While it formerly denounced Christ and the Bible, it now professes to accept both. But the Bible is interpreted in a manner that is pleasing to the unrenewed heart, while its solemn and vital truths are made of no effect. Love is dwelt upon as the chief attribute of God, but it is degraded to a weak sentimentalism, making little distinction between good and evil. God’s justice, His denunciations of sin, the requirements of His holy law, are all kept out of sight. The people are taught to regard the Decalogue as a dead letter. Pleasing, bewitching fables captivate the senses and lead men to reject the Bible as the foundation of their faith. Christ is as verily denied as before; but Satan has so blinded the eyes of the people that the deception is not discerned.
There are few who have any just conception of the deceptive power of spiritualism and the danger of coming under its influence. . . . Let them once be induced to submit their minds to [Satan’s] direction, and he holds them captive. It is impossible, in their own strength, to break away from the bewitching, alluring spell. Nothing but the power of God, granted in answer to the earnest prayer of faith, can deliver these ensnared souls.
All who indulge sinful traits of character, or willfully cherish a known sin, are inviting the temptations of Satan. They separate themselves from God and from the watchcare of His angels; as the evil one presents his deceptions, they are without defense and fall an easy prey. Those who thus place themselves in his power little realize where their course will end. Having achieved their overthrow, the tempter will employ them as his agents to lure others to ruin.” (The Great Controversy, pp. 557-559).
This is a stern warning to me – both in my personal life and in my ministry. I know that a great temptation for me is to dwell chiefly upon the “love of God,” while ignoring the requirements of the law, and the denunciation of sin. I also know that a great temptation of mine when preaching upon the Bible is to mix in a “bewitching fable” or two that captivates the audience’s mind but subtly undermines the authority of Scripture. The Word of God is cheapened when I resort to such measures.
Sadly, I wish that I could say I was alone in all this, but I see it becoming more and more prevalent in the Adventist Church. As we talk more about Jesus, we need to make sure – by God’s grace – that we are not falling into this trap. We know that there will be many “false Christs” (in Greek, pseudochristos), false prophets, and false revivals. We need to remain ever true to the Word, submitting ourselves to its authority and praising God for a prophetic voice in these last days that is able to help us discern true revival from false.