For four nights in Las Vegas, SDA Pastor John Bradshaw of It is Written (now that Shawn Boonstra stepped down) held a prophecy seminar. It's format was SDA cliché-a dramatic animated, techno build-up promo video... (you are expecting something somewhat cool or edgy was about to happen.... at least a B movie with Kirk Cameron playing a naive reporter shocked at the sudden rapture.)
Then, it opens up with a bald, Swiss Lawrence Welk welcoming watchers from all over the planet (smile) starting a running gag about his accent versus the New Zealander John Bradshaw's. (Which by the way--is a great resonant voice, adding the down-undah accent-wow! His voice alone makes the whole seminar seem brilliant no matter what he actually says). Then the Swiss warm-up act jokes around about the feud between those who think Switzerland is more beautiful than New Zealand. Which by the second or third night they actually poll everyone.... (New Zealand won! Oh the homey repartee as a time filler. I couldn't quite decide if this was a religious meeting or a talent show.)
Then the obligatory special music. Then a poll, with the results being showed in real time on a huge screen, indicated that everyone watching is Adventist--(the 9% who thought that the Lord wasn't coming in our lifetimes was me.... I voted several times....)
Then the expected titillating rundown of current disasters, which nature and the economy and Arnold Schwartzeneggar and Lady Gaga have so amply provided. The theme being of course: Babylon rising. So for four nights Bradshaw does the impossible, he doesn't breathe the word Adventist, or anything remotely Ellen Whitish. The whole seminar is the build up to who or what is Babylon.... Babylon Rising...
Babylon, the Great, the whore of Babylon, the sea beat and the dragon--all the code words found in Daniel and Revelation-- but Bradshaw doesn't yet offer any solution to the puzzle.... Just a dramatic buildup with the gospel awkwardly interspersed.
The New Bablyon is like the Old Babylon, full of rebellion; it is a righteousness by works (a fairly new addition to the SDA theological view of the anti-christ), it is spiritual confusion which worships the sun and the dead and is steeped in paganism and will be a world-wide religious threat. I noted that Bradshaw was very careful to point out that Babylon would be found within Christianity--(I am guessing so that we would NOT accidentally think he was speaking of Islam.)
Then a curious thing occurred. Both Arthur and I looked at each other with surprise. Bradshaw teased those who have thought the Mark of the Beast's number 666 was found in numerology (Ronald Reagan and Henry Kissinger) and conspiracy theorists who think the Trilateral Commission or the Illuminati have anything to do with the last days. (I mean... come on.. for years the church has found the number of the beast in pope numerology.)
He said something to the effect of "Let me tell you, anyone who says they know what the mark of the beast is... (Bradshaw looks the ground with a smiling shake of his head and snickers.) No one knows what the mark of the beast is."
WHAT? I wish we could have rewound and listened to that again. An SDA Revelation Seminar preacher claiming that no one can know what the mark of the beast is? I thought that was plainly written in the Great Controversy by the prophetess Ellen White. It is worshipping on Sunday! That is what I was taught in SDA sabbath school, church, church school and in their writings.
Four hours of build up--Babylon Rising! Beware. But don't worry if you love Jesus. But it is going to deceive, but only those who don't keep the commandments and know their Bibles. This great enemy of God, this idol-embracing, persecuting, idolatrous spirituality--(whisper: that sits on seven mountains) IS RISING!
Then the fourth night Babylon falls--mene, mene, tekel, upharsin--and in the end, the Lord wins. Over and goodbye. Closing special music, closing prayer. A total triumph for progressive Adventists. Nothing whatsoever controversial or mean-spirited or... when you think about it.... what Bradshaw did say could have easily been compressed into a ten-minute sermon. The rest was... fluff. What happened?
1. Our prayers were answered. I thanked the Lord with all my heart. No Apostate Protestantism bashing, no anti-catholicism, no Ellen White, very little fear-mongering, nothing bad said about Sunday, nothing good said about Sabbatarianism or vegetarianism.....basically very little of anything was said other than there is a great controversy and God wins, be on God's side. Hallelujah!!
2. Was this seminar throwing a bone to the Progressive Adventists by the new powerful orthodox Adventists?
3. Arthur believes the whole seminar was a loss leader strategy used in marketing to drum up business because at the end Bradshaw announced a January seminar in which details would be given as to who this Babylon is--specifics of Bible prophecy.
Are Adventists changing their beliefs, are they going mainstream Christian theology as this seminar appeared? Perhaps they have just bent to pressure and political correctness, perhaps it is real. However until the doctrines themselves change, until the announcement is made of disassociating itself from Ellen White's visions and prophecies, (like the Lutherans did concerning Luther's anti-semitic writings) I will go directly to the source--the 28 fundamental beliefs to find out what the church is about.
Whatever the motivation or strategy, the facts are that nothing remotely harmful to the human soul was said. And for this I thank the Lord. Baby steps are good, keep walking Adventists!! GOOD FOR YOU!! Hats off to Bradshaw. It was enormously difficult to say so much and so little at the same time. To be walking such a tightrope and not fall off. I will be watching in January to find out if this was an ecumenical blip on the SDA radar screen or a real change of direction.