Divine Revelation Is The Great Disappointment

"Disappointed!" - Hercules
“Disappointed!” – Hercules

From 1827-1915, there lived a woman named Ellen G. White. As I turn my head, I can see several of her books sitting on my shelf, including The Desire of Ages, Peace Above the Storm, and The Great Controversy, books that I used to rudely peddle to people’s doors in the middle of the day, asking them to consider filling the void I knew was in their lives with the truths I knew were in these books. I’m told that she valued this last one above all her other books, and recommended that it be circulated to all[1].

Speaking of controversy: Some people [shocker] threw skepticism toward EG Dubbs, thinking that maybe she wasn’t the real deal.

She didn’t seem to have trouble getting the word out, and now her 100,000 pages of manuscript, 40 books, and 5,000 periodical articles constitute over 100 titles available in English today. Her book Steps to Christ, about Christian living, has been translated into over 140 languages, and she is the most translated female non-fiction author in the history of literature, as well as the most translated American non-fiction author of either gender.[2]

We’re…uh…letting the “non-fiction author” bit go…

You’ve probably never heard of her. But within Seventh-Day Adventism, the church that she and her husband formed and the one that I came from, she is well-respected. “Revered” would not be out of place. People in my church seem just as likely to pull out an EGW quote for a sermon as they are to look at the Bible, and sometimes, even when I’m paying attention, I’m not always sure whose words are being used, those of the greater light or the lesser one.

White was positively famous for her visions, starting in 1844 and lasting well into old age. She had anywhere from 100 to 200 of them, mostly in public places when she was young, and in the middle of the night at home when she was old. The SDA Church considers EGW to be a prophet, speaking under the divine influence of God, and having his authority and wisdom coming through her and her inspired writings. But here’s the question about divine revelation: how do you know? What leads you to believe that someone is a prophet, that they have the ability to speak for God?

What leads you to believe that someone has the ability to speak for God?

From what I can gather from a brief glance around the internet, the standards for knowing someone has had a revelation from God are…not ideal, to say the least. One of the things that seems to be universally agreed upon is that prophets must be 100% accurate with their predictions. I guess we’re just going to skip over the time when 100,000 Millerites took part in something subsequently christened The Great Disappointment, when the trumpets didn’t blow and the earth didn’t shake with the second coming of the lord, as they had predicted. Many people lambaste religion for not being flexible, but man, you have got to be flexible in order to spin a mistake that grand. You know how they did it? They claimed that they didn’t have the date wrong, they had the event wrong. October 22, 1844 was actually Jesus moving into the Most Holy place, coincidentally something else that the people have no tangible access to in any way.

Steps to a good lie:

1: Come up with something outlandish.

2: Say that it’s necessary to believe it.

3: Make sure it’s out of the possible understanding or testable reach of the person you’re telling it to (the bottom of the sea, atop a perilous mountain, or outside of space and time altogether work great.)

4: Put in elements of rewards for those that believe, punishments for those who don’t, and explain away those that don’t as being “unenlightened” or some other negative adjective, (maybe like “fool”).

5: Bask.

You might be wondering why I told you about Ellen G. White earlier. Well, soon after the Great Disappointment, good ol’ Sister Egg White begins having her visions, which prove foundational to Adventist Christian theology, the hallmark of which is its insistence on the literal and imminent return of Jesus Christ. In the words of Liam Neeson in Batman Begins, “You will never learn.”

Christians, if I may, I need an exact timeline of how long it is going to take you to realize that what you’re being told is false. You follow up the failure of a false assertion about the return of Christ with the steadfast reaffirmation that Christ is coming imminently? It’s not necessarily surprising, seeing as you often compare yourselves to sheep and repeat ad nauseum stories about groups of people walking around the same mountain for 40 years, but really?

Sam Harris would call this “how you play tennis without the net”. Others might call it “moving the goalposts.” I would say it represents a shocking disregard for the truth. I know pushing a narrative when I see one. How does being wrong convince you that you’re right?

How does being wrong convince you that you’re right?

When you decide what the conclusion will be beforehand, when you choose the answer before you ask the question, you have shown yourselves to be vastly unreasonable. What’s worse is that you have taken this practice of receiving the same output for different inputs and made it into a virtue – faith – and inserted it into a narrative of resisting the zeitgeist of the world at all costs. And unfortunately, if being wrong convinces you that you’re right, if you’re comfortable swallowing lies just because you want to live forever, I’ve got nothing left for you here.

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[1] http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Great_Controversy_(book)#cite_note-3

[2] http://www.whiteestate.org/about/egwbio.asp


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