Thursday, March 19, 2015

Seventh Day Adventism and the Mark of the Beast

In the late 19th century, Ellen Gould White put together the splintered thoughts resulting from a couple of failed predictions of Christ’s second coming by William Miller. What started as an insistence by Joseph Bates that Christians should worship on the Jewish Sabbath (1846-1849) became White’s anti-Catholic beast (pun intended) which we know as Seventh Day Adventism. The SDAs took Bate’s charge that the Catholic Church changed worship from Saturday to Sunday, and came up with several other reasons why the Catholic Church must certainly be the “beast” of Revelation, or the “great harlot” riding the beast. I’ll address some of those here; but first, just a hair more background is in order.

Ellen Gould White is regarded as a prophetess by Seventh Day Adventists (who publish under the guise of “Inspiration Books”, “Amazing Truth Publications”, “Review & Herald Publishing Association”, and “Pilgrims’ Press”; and who often identify as “Seventh Day Apostle” or simply “Adventist”, but not often as “Seventh Day Adventist”). Her writings are believed by Adventists to be inerrant matters of doctrine (as is the Bible), though slightly less honored than the Bible. This fact puts SDAs in a tight predicament when they bring up one of their common charges against the Church:

The Official Title of the Pope, Vicarius Filii Dei equals the number of the beast (666).

For starters, “Vicarius Filii Dei” is NOT now, nor has it ever been, an official title for the Bishop of Rome (a.k.a. the Pope). I have run across one website which claims to have found two Popes using that phrase in two Papal documents. After clicking the links that this website provided, I was taken to the actual Papal documents where the Popes, as plain as day, used the official title “Servus Servorum Dei” (Servant of the Servants of God) in both cases. What that site also failed to see and convey was that 1) neither document used the exact phrase “Vicarius Filii Dei” as a title for the Pope, and 2) those document sections were talking about the fact that Christ, Himself, appointed a vicar on earth. If that SDA website concludes that the spliced-together and cherry-picked words/phrases found in these documents equals 666, and that this proves the identity of the anti-Christ, then SDAs must necessarily conclude that the SDA church has identified Christ as appointing the anti-Christ. That unfortunate conclusion, ludicrous as it may be, is the result of that particular SDA web author blindly accepting (or making) spurious claims without checking the facts and without discerning the logical conclusions of the claims.

Another reason this argument fails, as if being based on false information was not enough, is its reliance on faulty reasoning. Several names of people, places, or things could add up to the nefarious number of the beast. But, that doesn’t mean that they are necessarily the beast. This is akin to a false cause fallacy, or perhaps a non sequitur. Here’s how the number “game” works: you take the name in question, discard the letters which do not represent Roman numeration, account for letters with correlating Roman lettering (“u” is represented by “v” and “w” by “v + v”, etc.) and add them up according to their numeric value. “David”, for example, would be D + V + I + D = 500 + 5 + 1 + 500 = 1,006. “Briana” = I = 1, thus proving that my wife is #1.
What about "Barney the Cute Purple Dinosaur"? Sorry, folks...he's the Beast at a heart wrenching 666.

This is how the SDAs come up with “Vicarius Filii Dei” = V+I+C+I+V+I+L+I+I+D+I = 666. But, this isn’t a title for the Pope anyway. Vicarius Christi (Vicar of Christ), which IS an actual title for the Pope, adds up to only 214. Other titles used by Popes are Servus Servorum Dei (Servant of the Servants of God), Pontifex Maximus (Supreme Pontiff), or Successor Petri (Successor of Peter). NONE of these will add up to 666, which is why you never see any of them used by SDAs. (Never mind the fact that Revelation was written in Greek and that the value for "the beast" is based on the value of the Greek letters, not the Latin.)*

But here’s the clearest example of how faulty such reasoning is: Using the same formula as above, the name of the woman who started the Seventh-Day Adventist church, Ellen Gould White, ALSO adds up to 666. “Ellen Gould White” = L+L+V+L+D+V+V+I = 666. Does this fact prove that she is the beast and that the SDA is the harlot? I challenge any SDA to give an honest answer to this question, and explain why not.

But I believe the whole numbers argument is just a smokescreen to draw attention away from the original reason that the SDA group gave for claiming the Catholic Church was demonic:

The Catholic Church changed the day of worship from the Sabbath (Saturday) to Sunday.

Understood properly, there’s nothing inherently objectionable to that. But this claim is not normally made in the context of understanding that the Catholic Church was founded by Christ, is the Body of Christ, and the original Apostles were the first leaders of this Church and that Christ, not just His Church, changed the day of worship to Sunday.

Scripture shows that the Apostles, after Christ's Resurrection, gathered on the Lord's Day (Sunday), which was the Day Christ rose. It shows us that the Jewish Sabbath is no longer binding on us and that we should worship on the Lord’s Day, Sunday (Acts 20:7, 1Cor 16:2, Col 2:16-17, Rev 1:10). The Church worships God on the day of His Resurrection just like the Apostles did (who were the first leaders of His Church). History shows us that the first Christians understood this and that the Catholic Church has held fast to this through the ages, from the time of the Apostles to today.

Another SDA claim is often claimed by other protestant and fundamentalist groups who would otherwise want to distance themselves from the SDAs:

The Catholic Church removed the Second Commandment against idolatry.

Actually, the Catholic Church understands that the command against idolatry is part of the First Commandment, which says we should have no other gods before God and that we shall worship Him alone. The fact is, Scripture does not numerate the Commandments for us. There are 14 imperative statements in Exodus 20:2-17 and Deuteronomy 5:6-21. Neither of them lists the commands in numerical order. Both accounts make it clear that the prohibition of graven images is directly tied to the worship of those images (Ex 20:4-5, Deut 5:8-9).

SDAs and others that have divided the First Commandment into two often say that, by having statutes or icons, Catholics (and Orthodox, who ALSO numerate the Commandments as those protestant groups do) are breaking the Second Commandment. But God prohibits the making of images for the purpose of worshiping them. He does not prohibit image-making altogether. In fact, He condoned and ordered it. Of course, if what He issued was a blanket prohibition of graven images, we’d all be in big trouble for having crosses on our walls and pictures of pretty scenery or loved ones on our mantels. Recall that the command says “any likeness of any thing” (Ex 20:4, Deut 5:8, KJV, emphasis mine).

Look at Ex 25:18-19; God commands Moses to make the statues of cherubim. In Numbers 21:8, God tells Moses to make the bronze serpent, which the Israelites had to look at in order to be healed. The Israelites also used carved images in the Temple (1Kings 6 and 7). In fact, we are told that the Temple was full of these, and God approved this Temple. David gave Solomon the plan...“made clear by the writing of the hand of the Lord concerning it all” (1Chr 28:18-19). Ezekiel 41:17-18 describes graven images in the idealized Temple shown in a vision.

God warns us against worshiping graven images. As for the images in general, for God’s purposes, God Himself commanded, approved, and wrote with His own Hand concerning them. Catholics use images/icons/statues to remind us of the people they represent and to draw us closer to Christ by recalling Him, His life, and the lives of other Christians who have gone on before us.

There are other claims by Seventh Day Adventism regarding the Church, the Pope, the identity of the antichrist, a future millennium, soul-sleep, a temporary hell, etc. You can read about many of them, and their rebuttals in these Catholic Answers tracts: The Antichrist, The Hell There Is, Hunting the Whore of Babylon, The Whore of Babylon, and Sabbath or Sunday?.

*Many thanks go out to Patrick Madrid for his diligent work on educating folks on all things Catholic. His book "Pope Fiction" is a great resource for dispelling 30 myths about the Pope, including the claims about "the number of the beast".

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

The Church Fathers on: Sabbath vs. Sunday Worship for Christians

Scripture shows that the Jewish Sabbath is no longer binding on us and that we should worship on the Lord’s Day, Sunday (Acts 20:7, 1Cor 16:2, Col 2:16-17, Rev 1:10). The earliest Christian writings give testament to this:

The Didache

"But every Lord’s day . . . gather yourselves together and break bread, and give thanksgiving after having confessed your transgressions, that your sacrifice may be pure. But let no one that is at variance with his fellow come together with you, until they be reconciled, that your sacrifice may not be profaned" (Didache 14 [A.D. 70]).

The Letter of Barnabas

"We keep the eighth day [Sunday] with joyfulness, the day also on which Jesus rose again from the dead" (Letter of Barnabas 15:6–8 [A.D. 74]).

Ignatius of Antioch

"[T]hose who were brought up in the ancient order of things [i.e. Jews] have come to the possession of a new hope, no longer observing the Sabbath, but living in the observance of the Lord’s day, on which also our life has sprung up again by him and by his death" (Letter to the Magnesians 8 [A.D. 110]).

Justin Martyr

"[W]e too would observe the fleshly circumcision, and the Sabbaths, and in short all the feasts, if we did not know for what reason they were enjoined [on] you—namely, on account of your transgressions and the hardness of your heart. . . . [H]ow is it, Trypho, that we would not observe those rites which do not harm us—I speak of fleshly circumcision and Sabbaths and feasts? . . . God enjoined you to keep the Sabbath, and imposed on you other precepts for a sign, as I have already said, on account of your unrighteousness and that of your fathers ..." (Dialogue with Trypho the Jew 18, 21 [A.D. 155]).

"But Sunday is the day on which we all hold our common assembly, because it is the first day on which God, having wrought a change in the darkness and matter, made the world; and Jesus Christ our Savior on the same day rose from the dead" (First Apology 67 [A.D. 155]).


"[L]et him who contends that the Sabbath is still to be observed as a balm of salvation, and circumcision on the eighth day...teach us that, for the time past, righteous men kept the Sabbath or practiced circumcision, and were thus rendered ‘friends of God.’ For if circumcision purges a man, since God made Adam uncircumcised, why did he not circumcise him, even after his sinning, if circumcision purges? ... Therefore, since God originated Adam uncircumcised and unobservant of the Sabbath, consequently his offspring also, Abel, offering him sacrifices, uncircumcised and unobservant of the Sabbath, was by him [God] commended [Gen. 4:1–7, Heb. 11:4]... Noah also, uncircumcised—yes, and unobservant of the Sabbath—God freed from the deluge. For Enoch too, most righteous man, uncircumcised and unobservant of the Sabbath, he translated from this world, who did not first taste death in order that, being a candidate for eternal life, he might show us that we also may, without the burden of the law of Moses, please God" (An Answer to the Jews 2 [A.D. 203]).

The Didascalia

"The apostles further appointed: On the first day of the week let there be service, and the reading of the holy scriptures, and the oblation [sacrifice of the Mass], because on the first day of the week [i.e., Sunday] our Lord rose from the place of the dead, and on the first day of the week he arose upon the world, and on the first day of the week he ascended up to heaven, and on the first day of the week he will appear at last with the angels of heaven" (Didascalia 2 [A.D. 225]).


"Hence it is not possible that the [day of] rest after the Sabbath should have come into existence from the seventh [day] of our God. On the contrary, it is our Savior who, after the pattern of his own rest, caused us to be made in the likeness of his death, and hence also of his resurrection" (Commentary on John 2:28 [A.D. 229]).


"The sixth day [Friday] is called parasceve, that is to say, the preparation of the kingdom. . . . On this day also, on account of the passion of the Lord Jesus Christ, we make either a station to God or a fast. On the seventh day he rested from all his works, and blessed it, and sanctified it. On the former day we are accustomed to fast rigorously, that on the Lord’s day we may go forth to our bread with giving of thanks. And let the parasceve become a rigorous fast, lest we should appear to observe any Sabbath with the Jews...which Sabbath he [Christ] in his body abolished" (The Creation of the World [A.D. 300]).

Eusebius of Caesarea

"They [the early saints of the Old Testament] did not care about circumcision of the body, neither do we [Christians]. They did not care about observing Sabbaths, nor do we. They did not avoid certain kinds of food, neither did they regard the other distinctions which Moses first delivered to their posterity to be observed as symbols; nor do Christians of the present day do such things" (Church History 1:4:8 [A.D. 312]).
"[T]he day of his [Christ’s] light...was the day of his resurrection from the dead, which they say, as being the one and only truly holy day and the Lord’s day, is better than any number of days as we ordinarily understand them, and better than the days set apart by the Mosaic law for feasts, new moons, and Sabbaths, which the apostle [Paul] teaches are the shadow of days and not days in reality
" (Proof of the Gospel 4:16:186 [A.D. 319]).


"The Sabbath was the end of the first creation, the Lord’s day was the beginning of the second, in which he renewed and restored the old in the same way as he prescribed that they should formerly observe the Sabbath as a memorial of the end of the first things, so we honor the Lord’s day as being the memorial of the new creation" (On Sabbath and Circumcision 3 [A.D. 345]).

Cyril of Jerusalem

"Fall not away either into the sect of the Samaritans or into Judaism, for Jesus Christ has henceforth ransomed you. Stand aloof from all observance of Sabbaths and from calling any indifferent meats common or unclean" (Catechetical Lectures 4:37 [A.D. 350]).

Council of Laodicea

"Christians should not Judaize and should not be idle on the Sabbath, but should work on that day; they should, however, particularly reverence the Lord’s day and, if possible, not work on it, because they were Christians" (Canon 29 [A.D. 360]).

John Chrysostom

"[W]hen he [God] said, ‘You shall not kill’ . . . he did not add, ‘because murder is a wicked thing.’ The reason was that conscience had taught this beforehand, and he speaks thus, as to those who know and understand the point. Wherefore when he speaks to us of another commandment, not known to us by the dictate of conscience, he not only prohibits, but adds the reason. When, for instance, he gave commandment concerning the Sabbath— ‘On the seventh day you shall do no work’—he subjoined also the reason for this cessation. What was this? ‘Because on the seventh day God rested from all his works which he had begun to make’ [Ex. 20:10-11]... For what purpose then, I ask, did he add a reason respecting the Sabbath, but did no such thing in regard to murder? Because this commandment was not one of the leading ones. It was not one of those which were accurately defined of our conscience, but a kind of partial and temporary one, and for this reason it was abolished afterward. But those which are necessary and uphold our life are the following: ‘You shall not kill... You shall not commit adultery. ...You shall not steal.’ On this account he adds no reason in this case, nor enters into any instruction on the matter, but is content with the bare prohibition" (Homilies on the Statutes 12:9 [A.D. 387]).

"You have put on Christ, you have become a member of the Lord and been enrolled in the heavenly city, and you still grovel in the law [of Moses]? How is it possible for you to obtain the kingdom? Listen to Paul’s words, that the observance of the law overthrows the gospel, and learn, if you will, how this comes to pass, and tremble, and shun this pitfall. Why do you keep the Sabbath and fast with the Jews?" (Homilies on Galatians 2:17 [A.D. 395]).

"The rite of circumcision was venerable in the Jews’ account, forasmuch as the law itself gave way thereto, and the Sabbath was less esteemed than circumcision. For that circumcision might be performed, the Sabbath was broken; but that the Sabbath might be kept, circumcision was never broken; and mark, I pray, the dispensation of God. This is found to be even more solemn than the Sabbath, as not being omitted at certain times. When then it is done away, much more is the Sabbath" (Homilies on Philippians 10 [A.D. 402]).

The Apostolic Constitutions

"And on the day of our Lord’s resurrection, which is the Lord’s day, meet more diligently, sending praise to God that made the universe by Jesus, and sent him to us, and condescended to let him suffer, and raised him from the dead. Otherwise what apology will he make to God who does not assemble on that which is performed the reading of the prophets, the preaching of the gospel, the oblation of the sacrifice, the gift of the holy food" (Apostolic Constitutions 2:7:60 [A.D. 400]).


"Well, now, I should like to be told what there is in these ten commandments, except the observance of the Sabbath, which ought not to be kept by a Christian... Which of these commandments would anyone say that the Christian ought not to keep? It is possible to contend that it is not the law which was written on those two tables that the apostle [Paul] describes as ‘the letter that kills’ [2 Cor. 3:6], but the law of circumcision and the other sacred rites which are now abolished" (The Spirit and the Letter 24 [A.D. 412]).

Pope Gregory I

"It has come to my ears that certain men of perverse spirit have sown among you some things that are wrong and opposed to the holy faith, so as to forbid any work being done on the Sabbath day. What else can I call these [men] but preachers of Antichrist, who when he comes will cause the Sabbath day as well as the Lord’s day to be kept free from all work. For because he [the Antichrist] pretends to die and rise again, he wishes the Lord’s day to be held in reverence; and because he compels the people to Judaize that he may bring back the outward rite of the law, and subject the perfidy of the Jews to himself, he wishes the Sabbath to be observed. For this which is said by the prophet, ‘You shall bring in no burden through your gates on the Sabbath day’ [Jer. 17:24] could be held to as long as it was lawful for the law to be observed according to the letter. But after that the grace of almighty God, our Lord Jesus Christ, has appeared, the commandments of the law which were spoken figuratively cannot be kept according to the letter. For if anyone says that this about the Sabbath is to be kept, he must needs say that carnal sacrifices are to be offered. He must say too that the commandment about the circumcision of the body is still to be retained. But let him hear the apostle Paul saying in opposition to him: ‘If you be circumcised, Christ will profit you nothing’ [Gal. 5:2]" (Letters 13:1 [A.D. 597]).

(These quotes were assembled by the staff at Catholic Answers in THIS tract.)