Leadership

February 15, 2017

American Beastly Leadership (2 of 5)-#14 in Series

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Written by: Duane Covrig
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In post #13 on “servant” or “beastly” leadership, I used Revelation 10-14 to show the emergence of Adventists and America in prophecy and as agents of servant leadership.

The strongest match was made for Adventists. The identifiers were:  use of the prophecies (and time frames) of Daniel; honoring”new” (renewed) Bible teachings like health, Sabbath, etc.; reasserting the gospel framed within God’s sanctuary ministry; teaching about God’s judgment; rekindling a respect for God’s law; staying committed to God as creator and belief in a worldwide flood. Adventists fostered these beliefs and  became a global missionary movement.

We also identified the new power in the middle of Revelation 13 as the United States. It grew up in a less populated area away from European conflict and formed some lamb-like (Jesus) qualities of liberty. However, it soon became more like the “beasts” of Daniel. It gained global , military and economic influence, and was continually tempted throughout its history toward withholding liberty to all (women, blacks, religious minorities) and would get more and more oppressive.

To some my interpretation may seem nationally and denominationally-centric as I am an American and Adventist. Why would this passage only apply to my people? Couldn’t it apply to other groupos?

Yes, it could in some ways. Prophecy often is about prognosis and not only one group can get the cure or the disease the prophecy refers to. Often prophecy evokes multiple applications. Many Old Testament prophecies used in the OT often were used again in the NT to talk about Jesus and the early church. Some, for example Joel 2–the pouring out of God’s spirits–may have had three applications, before Christ, at the Day of Pentecost and before the end of time.

However, this section of Rev 10-14 does cycle back and forth between the fall of Satan in heaven and the final days of earth history. The war of servant and beast will characterize much of human history. So in that regard, it applies universally to all places the great controversy is waging.

However, given the central reference to time prophecies (1260 days) throughout this section, we see this linked to the unveiling of the little book (Daniel) that happened in American in the late 1700s and early 1800s, the time America and Adventism emerge.

This passage focuses our attention on the war between Christ and Satan as it plays out in America and Adventism.

So, I see four possible scenerios for these two groups responding to Christ and Satan:

  1. America and Adventists both could continue and/or reclaim faithfulness to seek “greatness of service” (Mt 23:11, Lk 22:26).
  2. Adventists could abandon the mission of service while American keeps going as a global servant.
  3. America could abandon its calling to serve while Adventists keeps growing as global servants.
  4. Both America and Adventists could abandon their calling to serve world needs and reject God’s vision of service and become just another church and nation where beastly leadership hurts people.

This post focuses on prognosis #3. I will return to the other possibilities in later posts.

For this prognosis, I turn to Ellen White’s classic chapter “God’s Law Immutable” from her book The Great Controversy. Interestingly, in some versions of this book, this chapter is also labeled as “America in Prophecy.” It is clear why both labels  characterize this chapter. I believe the immutable law of God is the main theme which shows Adventists desire to follow Christ and America is tempted to abandon that law and become the “new” beast.

Please read the online version of her chapter and make your own conclusions before you read mine.

Like Rev 10-14, this chapter speaks more about Adventists than America. After explaining the rise of Adventism, she turns her attention to America.

“What nation of the New World was in 1798 [the time set by Daniel prophecies] rising into power, giving promise of strength and greatness, and attracting the attention of the world? The application of the symbols admit of no question. One nation, and only one, meets the specifications of this prophecy; it points unmistakably to the United States of America. Again and again the thought, almost the exact words, of the sacred writer has been unconsciously employed by the orator and historian in describing the rise and growth of this nation.” She then quotes directly from some of these.

Further, she notes the “Declaration of Independence” focused the nation on “the great truth that “all men are created equal” and endowed with the inalienable right to “life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness.” And the Constitution guarantees to the people the right of self-government” and “freedom of religious faith was also granted, every man being permitted to worship God according to the dictates of his conscience. Republicanism and Protestantism became the fundamental principles of the nation. These principles are the secret of its power and prosperity. The oppressed and downtrodden throughout Christendom have turned to this land with interest and hope. Millions have sought its shores, and the United States has risen to a place among the most powerful nations of the earth” (pp. 440-441, added emphasis]

Boiling down the main observation of this chapter is that the rise of Adventists as God followers refocusing allpeople on the law, sabbath,  sanctuary, and judgment all framed within the gospel.

This is awkward for us as Adventists to even talk about this belief because America has been good to us. WE ARE SUPPORTIVE OF THE PRINCIPLES THAT UNDERGIRD AMERICA. WE JUST SEE BIBLICAL PROGNOSIS OF HER ABANDONING THOSE PRINCIPLES. AND WE SEE THAT HAPPENING MORE AND MORE!

This is not to deny that the American has DONE MUCH GOOD SERVICE. But it has also fostered major abuse to various groups (native Americans, slaves, blacks, women, etc.). However, its vision of liberty and justice for all managed to improve, but we see prophecy predict it won’t do that for long.

There is “a development of the spirit of intolerance and persecution that was manifested by the nations represented by the dragon and the leopardlike beast” (442). White sees this power “enforcing some observance which shall be an act of homage to the papacy” and “such action would be directly contrary to the principles of [USA] government, to the genius of its free institutions, to the direct and solemn avowals of the Declaration of Independence and to the Constitution” (442-3).

In other words, she sees the US system, originally as faithful to God’s law to foster freedom of worship moving to enforce worship.

This abandonment of the principles of liberty, law and order distinguishes beasts from servants.

Adventist predict that America, as a superpower, will increasingly be tempted to abandon its original mission.

In an amazing way, the 10 commandments remain a distinguishing characteristic as they can be used to invite America, and all people, to live the 10–the first 4–speak of worship, and the second half speaks of public morality. Adventist’s try to embrace both, a deep respect for freedom of conscience needed on the first four areas and for the need for strict alliance on the last 6,  public morality. This is the two fold nature of God’s law–liberty and order. (we return to this later in discussion Nick Millers work on this).

In the next post, we discuss further, how these things might unfold.

P.S.

For a useful look at the powerful pull American religious liberty had on religious refuges see the Library of Congress depiction of America as a Religious Refuge in the Seventeenth Century  https://www.loc.gov/exhibits/religion/rel01.html

I hope we can still be such a place in the 21st century, even for and especially for Muslims.



About the Author

Duane Covrig
I teach leadership and ethics at Andrews University. I am a Seventh-day Adventist eager for the Second Coming of Christ and positive about His judgment hour work (Rev 14:6-12). I use that reality to understand morality and ethics.




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