Confessions of a Badventist – Part 4 – Appendix – “I always feel like… somebody’s watching me.”

“Lost” pages (alternate ending to “Confessions of a Badventist – part 1”)

I originally deleted the following portion of…whatever this is I’ve written here, because there was no good tie in to the rest of what I was trying to say, and because….well you’ll see. However, I figured if you read all the way through the rest of it, you may want to know some reasons behind why the committee actually kept the changes to Fundamental Belief 6.

[what you already read from “part 1”

In 2014, the Seventh Day Adventist Church updated the language in the 28 Fundamental Beliefs. No big changes, just minor tweaks; however Fundamental Belief #6’s update caused a controversy within the church when it appeared to address this cosmic question [what existed before earth’s creation]: 

Fundamental Belief 6 from original version:

 God is Creator of all things, and has revealed in Scripture the authentic account of His creative activity. In six days the Lord made “the heaven and the earth” and all living things upon the earth, and rested on the seventh day of that first week. Thus He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of His completed creative work. The first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was “very good,” declaring the glory of God.

Fundamental Belief 6 from the current version:

 God has revealed in Scripture the authentic and historical account of His creative activity. He created the universe, and in a recent six-day creation the Lord made “the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” and rested on the seventh day. Thus He established the Sabbath as a perpetual memorial of the work He performed and completed during six literal days that together with the Sabbath constituted the same unit of time that we call a week today. The first man and woman were made in the image of God as the crowning work of Creation, given dominion over the world, and charged with responsibility to care for it. When the world was finished it was “very good,” declaring the glory of God.

I originally thought the changes were a more conservative doubling down. I figured adding in “historical” and expressly referencing God’s creation of “the universe” served the purpose of evefurther separating ourselves from the randomness encapsulated in the theories of the Big Bang and evolution. Turns out, I was wrong. The draft writers notes were included. Those notes stated that this Fundamental Belief used to say, “heaven and earth” and was being changed to say “heavens and the earth” to reflect the language from Exodus 20:11 instead of Genesis 1:1 (KJV). The reasoning the draft writers gave was:  

“terminology used in Exodus [the fourth commandment of keeping Sabbath] seems to restrict the creative act to what took place during the 6 days of creation and not necessarily dealing with the creation of the cosmos… By quoting Exodus instead of Genesis, we leave open the possibility that Genesis 1:1 is dealing with the creation of the Cosmos (Universe) and the creation week is about life on the planet.” I originally thought the changes were a more conservative doubling down. I figured adding in “historical” and expressly referencing God’s creation of the universe” served the purpose of even further separating ourselves from the randomness encapsulated in the theories of the Big Bang and evolution. Turns out, I was wrong. The draft writers’ notes were included. Those notes stated that this Fundamental Belief used to say, “heaven and earth” and was being changed to say “heavens and the earth…” to reflect the language from Exodus 20:11 instead of Genesis 1:1 (KJV). The reasoning the draft writers gave was:

I was relieved! I thought this reasoning was somewhat of a progressive move wherein Adventism was creating the beginnings of a bridge to scientific discovery. As a person who, like basically all of you, has at one time or another observed light from the Andromeda Galaxy from 2 million lightyears away (which we should not be able to see for another 1.994 million years, give or take, in a biblically literal creationist view), I hoped that this rationale was suggesting that, at the very least, the universe could be as old as it seems.

As it turns out, this drafter’s note re-ignited a bitter rift. I found a 22-page document that was presented to the General Conference Fundamental Belief Review Committee about how dangerous the reasoning given behind this ONE change could be to the very fabric of our church and core understandings, even though the reasoning isn’t expressly captured in the new language. The big debate was over the last clause in the draft note that said, “the creation week is about life on the planet.”

There was worry that this language meant we were conceding the possibility that not just the universe at large, but even the Earth’s raw material was potentially as old as it seemed too. If God created Heaven and Earth in Genesis 1:1, but Earth was formless and void for some period of time. It is not expressly unbiblical to think that “In the Beginning” could have occurred at any random point in infinite history. Maybe only once God said “Let there be Light” in verse 3, and began organizing Earth, did the 6,000-year clock started and a day became a day of 24 hours.

Of course, you don’t really get any of that from reading the text of the belief. It is apparently “snuck” behind the clause: “He created the universe, and in a recent six-day creation the Lord made ‘the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them’ and rested on the seventh day.”

I wouldn’t have even caught this if not for the 22-page rebuttal. The problem was that one of the drafters behind the changes, Richard M. Davidson, believed this old raw Earth theory 20 years, and it hadn’t been forgotten. The 22-page document condemning the change said this of Davidson:

“Davidson has now (2015) gone askew from the Biblical doctrine of ordination to defending the allowance of women’s ordination, and back in 1995 he also had gone askew from the doctrine of creation as it is given in the 4th Commandment. He still believes in the literal 24-hour day, 7-day week, of Creation, but also believes that it is “possible” that it is only depicting the creation of “life on earth” and not the creation of the “raw earth” or the planet itself. He says the earth was still created by God out of nothing (no pre-existing matter) when He spoke it into existence, but this was “perhaps” some “millions or billions of years” prior to the beginning of the first day of the six days of Creation Week. He holds that BOTH views are “possible” because of the ambiguity of “the Hebrew text” of Genesis 1:1.”

They were worried that this concept, even if silently weaved in the background, might ultimately infect its membership. The author said “The changes may appear insignificant at first, but when one reads the explanation for those changes…there should be cause for alarm.” The very possibility that I had gone back in search of was the very possibility the church adamantly wanted to avoid accepting.

Obviously, the changes were kept, but the real reasoning wasn’t about the possibility of an old earth at all…]


[‘Lost’ pages]

It was not so much that the drafters of the Adventist Beliefs needed to allow for billions of years to exist before the full creation of our local solar system, they just wanted to reflect that some time had passed, even if very brief. The reason expressly given for pointing out that our belief speaks only to the creation of our world was:

“the Bible makes clear that during the creation of the earth, other intelligent beings already existed in the cosmos (Job 38:7.) We also believe that sin originated in heaven among the angels before the creation of humans. Therefore, our creation statement should reflect this biblical information without developing it.”

The proposed changes were making no concessions to scientific discovery or development, even if Davidson might have wanted to in his past. This was a purposely subtle change from literalism to literalism to  passively address the belief that other intelligent beings already existed in the cosmos before the completed creation of Earth. Why would that important? What is it that Job 38:7 makes “clear?” What did the draft writer choose not to develop?

…Aliens!

img_2686-1

Didn’t see that coming did you?

Follow me:

All Job 38:7 says is “when the morning stars sang together, and all the sons of God shouted for joy.” It’s not even a full sentence, so why is it referenced as proof of intelligent beings in the cosmos and where sin originated? What’s happening here?

In the narrative of the Job story, God, in Chapter 38, is executing the ultimate flex. Job has lost everything even though he’s been the most faithful and upright human on earth. Job is the guy God is supposed to protect and he’s been abandoned. Job kind of wants answers, if for nothing else than to shut up his friends that keep slapping him with theology.

God responds by reading off His resume:

“Where were you when I laid the foundations of the earth?” “Where were you when I determined the width and breadth and length of it, when the morning stars sang, and the heavenly beings shouted for joy?”

“Morning stars singing” and “sons of God shouting” are not uniformly interpreted phrases. They actually do need to be developed a bit. There is debate over these terms and their intended meaning within biblical scholarship, but typically, they are believed to mean angels. For instance, Lucifer is referred to as a “morning star.” However, there is room for the term to apply to other supernatural beings than angels. Jesus is not an angel, yet he refers to Himself as “the bright and morning star.” He’s also often described as “Son of God.”

Angels and Jesus? Sure; scripture points in those directions. But aliens?

Like I said, I’ve been around since there were just “27 Fundamental Beliefs,” and I have a copy of the book on my shelf. There is some commentary in “The Creation Belief” (#6) that also pertains to Job:

“The Bible pictures the sons of God, probably the Adams of all the unfallen worlds, meeting with God in some distant corner of the universe. So far, space probes have discovered no other inhabited planets. They, apparently, are situated in the vastness of space – well beyond the reach of our sin-polluted solar system quarantined against the infection of sin.”[1]

The Biblical scene that this comment refers to is the Divine Council meetings in Job 1 and Job 2. The Fundamental Beliefs are saying that “sons of God” are not just angels, but probably (an adverb meaning “almost certainly; as far as one knows or can tell”) aliens from other worlds who were either too smart or too loyal to eat from their Trees of Knowledge of Good and Evil or otherwise fail whatever Divine test they were given, especially after observing what sin has done here on Earth.[2]

Incorporated within the Adventist belief in the Biblical Creation Story, is the belief not just that there might be aliens on other worlds, but that there definitely are, and they are able to observe us and travel freely to and from Heaven for meetings. But let’s be honest here, Job 38:7 easily could just stars and planets, or if you want something ‘alive’ it could be referencing Angels, so why take this extra (terrestrial) step? Why go so far as to confirm alien lifeforms in committing to a literal interpretation of the Creation Story? What does one thing have to do with the other?

…Everything!

 

All of this alludes to and ties into ideas written in the almost 800-page book by Ellen G. White and Fundamental Belief #8 which are both called “The Great Controversy.”

Fundamental Belief 8 reads as follows:

“All humanity is now involved in a great controversy between Christ and Satan regarding the character of God, His law, and His sovereignty over the universe. This conflict originated in heaven when a created being, endowed with freedom of choice, in self-exaltation became Satan, God’s adversary, and led into rebellion a portion of the angels. He introduced the spirit of rebellion into this world when he led Adam and Eve into sin. This human sin resulted in the distortion of the image of God in humanity, the disordering of the created world, and its eventual devastation at the time of the global flood, as presented in the historical account of Genesis 1-11. Observed by the whole creation, this world became the arena of the universal conflict, out of which the God of love will ultimately be vindicated. To assist His people in this controversy, Christ sends the Holy Spirit and the loyal angels to guide, protect, and sustain them in the way of salvation.”

Adventism fundamentally believes that there are many other worlds where God created complex, conscious life-like humanity on Earth. When Lucifer rebelled and challenged the fairness of God’s rule, God’s character was put on trial. Satan was banished to Earth as punishment, but it was here, with humanity, that he further planted the seed of rebellion.

The sentence before the commentary about the Adams of other worlds states that “the Earth, instead of being Christ’s first creations, was most likely His last one.” Adventism teaches that the rest of the populated universe is watching us, and watched Jesus, seeing if some bit of humanity can get ourselves together enough, living and walking in proper obedience, to prove God’s perfect will and rule is justified in the face of Satan’s accusations.

The process of salvation and sanctification on Earth, to Adventism, is not just about God reconciling his crown jewel of creation back to Himself. These processes are not just about saving some humans from Hell, they are ultimately about clearing God’s name and character when He sends the rest of us there. That is the crux of “The Great Controversy.” The closest thing to a biblical verse supporting this, apparently, is Job 38’s reference to Morning Stars and Sons of God observing mankind’s creation.

Keep in mind, ALL of that, and much more, was packed into simply pluralizing “heavens” and adding the phrase “He created the universe” into the Adventist Creation Belief. (This, by the way, is what I mean when I say 28 is a lot because a lot of theology went into the diction of these beliefs, the chosen words themselves, not just what the cumulative paragraph appears to mean.)

Now, the sheer vastness of the known universe would seem to indicate there is a likelihood that intelligent life exists elsewhere. I’m fine with some good Sci-Fi, so the existence of aliens as a possibility doesn’t bother me.

The presumption of their existence being fundamental to my religion kind of does.

The presumption that they are so far away as to avoid our detecting them but are able to actively observe us in real-time across the gap of space-time kind of does.

The presumption that God would give these other worlds free access to Heaven to personally experience and know that He is real and good while also quarantining them from Satan’s rebellious, evil influence but at the same time has since trapped that influence here with us AND has given us a life or death test over it kind of does

Personal feelings aside,there’s a tally a couple practical problems with interpreting Job 38:7 like this:

First, God’s speech is riddled with metaphorical imagery.

God asks things like:

“Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb?”

“Whereupon are the foundations (of the earth) set?” and “who laid its cornerstone?”

“What is the way to the abode of light?” and “where does darkness reside?”

He speaks of making garments out of clouds and swaddling bands out of thickness.

He gives the morning orders and shows dawn to its place. Every single line of the speech is clearly poetic, metaphorical, or somehow personifies an inanimate object.

So why then are the “morning stars” and “sons of God” clearly something more? Why is only verse 7, which is the second half of a sentence the only portion of this entire speech that refers to actual living things? How did we determine that these were “clearly” not the same kind of metaphors used in the rest of the chapter? For that matter what about the rest of the verse? The first half of verse 7 discusses the width, length, and breadth of the foundations of a floating globe.[3] How do we know these terms in verse 7 aren’t clearly poetic ways of pointing to planetary and stellar objects, as would properly fit the structure of the rest of the speech? Our interpretational choice here is suspect.

Second, by taking these metaphors literally and expressly defining the “morning stars” and “sons of God” as clearly referring to otherworldly intelligent beings, we have to consider and accept what else the Word tell us the “sons of God” do as clear.

For one, they take meetings with God and Satan, in Job 1 and 2 (which is what the 27 fundamental beliefs is referring to with the “Adams of the unfallen worlds meeting with God.”) This is already confusing, as Adventism lore would say that Satan’s fall was of such magnitude and such a change in Lucifer’s stature that “all heaven might be marred should he be taken back” (1sg 18.1), yet there he was.

We also just talked about how the “sons of God” are so far away as to remain quarantined from the infection of sin, so why do these isolated aliens repeatedly subject themselves to the author of the sin and all meet up with Satan to chat from time to time anyway?

How and why do these consistent encounters between “the Evil One” and the “Ancient of Days” keep occurring without Satan’s destruction in the presence of pure goodness, righteousness, and light that is Yahweh, when such a thing shouldn’t be possible?

Why does the All-knowing God have to keep asking Satan where he’s coming from when He banished and confined Satan to Earth Himself? (These are all interesting side tangents that I’ll try very hard not to take right now. We’re talking about what the Sons of God do, not whether or not Job is (just maybe) a little bit parabolic.)

Genesis 6 gives more insight: Slipped just before the Flood story, the Sons of God are said to have been mating (I guess that’s the word for it) with the daughters of men, creating the Nephilim, “mighty men of old” – giants.

So also packed into this new “s” that brought in the ideas held in Job 38, is the idea that during the time of the flood, Angels or Unfallen Adam-aliens of some kind, and human women were making demi-god, giant babies. Nephilim existed in the time of the flood, AND AFTER, as the text goes on to say.

Meaning: whatever evil was going on in the world, pre-flood, that required God to hit the reset button on creation[4], these unnatural unions between angels/aliens and human women weren’t among the things God sought to end in Noah’s day but continued after. If the offspring existed before the flood and after, but none were on the ark, when exactly did angels/aliens stop taking human wives, and why? Is this where all the giants came from? David’s claim to fame is taking down a giant named Goliath. Was Goliath’s father an angel, or maybe his great grandfather?

Now, most modern-day biblical literalists view the “sons of God” in Genesis 6 to not be angels, aliens, or anything special at all. They are often considered to likely be the male descendants of Adam and Eve’s third son, Seth. The “daughters of men” are considered likely to be the female descendants of Seth’s brother, Cain. While this interpretation makes more sense to people trying to remove oddities from Scripture, such as stories mirroring Greek and Roman Mythology, in all fairness, there’s nothing particularly special about Seth’s kids in comparison to Cain’s. They would be from the same stock (Adam and Eve after the fruit), so why would their combined offspring become giants and “mighty men of old?” And why, if “sons of God” means angels and aliens in Job, and Jesus elsewhere in Scripture, would it simply mean Adam’s grandchildren from his third son in the beginning of Genesis 6? How clear can the terms be if their meanings change throughout the same divinely inspired texts?

What is true is that Adventism needed a verse that supported its belief that beings existed prior to the creation of humanity for a bunch of reasons. Job 38: 1-7 arguably does this, assuming Job is something more than a wisdom story. However, to definitively state that the author of Job (in chapters 1 and 2) and YHWH himself (in chapter 38) are referencing angels and/or other perfect Adams from other inhabited planets, you have to follow this same logic and believe in these Genesis 6 – half-angel, half-human type beings inhabiting this planet fairly recently. Not as a potential possibility, but as facts that have been deemed “fundamental” truths and incorporated in Beliefs 6 and 8.

This, an Adventist must accept, in the face of reason, without any visible tangible evidence of it, and without ever really thinking about it (as I imagine the average Adventist reader has never thought much about it and have likely never heard a sermon outwardly expressing this.) Simultaneously, the Adventist must patently deny or contradict mountains of readily available scientific evidence older than 6,000 years; like distant starlight, age of dinosaur bones, infinite space, and the first and second iterations of the Aldabra Rail.

The story of a bird you can physically go see for yourself, should you happen across the Aldabra Atoll, should apparently be met with much more scrutiny and skepticism than a story resembling that of Greek or Marvel Myth. As half-men, half-dieties, Hercules and Starlord are technically more biblically sound and plausible than the Aldabra Rail under the above used hermeneutic.

This whole interstellar Alien sex thing is only one odd intersection that Adventist literalist, historicist interpretation will lead you to if you care enough to pay close attention (though quite the entertaining one if you ask me.) But what happens if an Adventist begins to question or reject some of these teachings – not ‘the Gospel,’ not ‘the Bible’, not ‘Faith”, just our immensely intricate and delicate interpretational house of cards?

What happens if an Adventist begins to read and understand the Scriptures differently?…

[1] http://www.oakwood.edu/additional_sites/goldmine/sdoc/27fb/chapter_6.htm

[2] This is an interesting belief, because it presumes, as fundamental to Adventism, that aliens definitely exist, but because they know the consequence of sin, aliens, being devout to the Creator, would never come here and risk the pollution of sin. Aliens existing is a given in Adventism, but alien visitation is impossible, so while an Adventist might believe in aliens as a matter of divine fact, one won’t believe they’ve ever or would ever visit Earth.

[3] While, admittedly, Earth is not a perfect sphere, it still must be considered metaphorical to discuss it having such dimensions. What is the long side of a spherical object?

[4] Which is what is happening in the Flood story. It’s not just raining. The waters from below spring up and the windows of heaven unleashed the waters from above. The waters which God separated to create dry land were released back to their natural position.

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