Adventists and Politics

A compilation and analysis of Ellen G. White's statements concerning Adventist attitudes to public, political, and civic affairs.

LEIF KR. TOBIASSEN Professor of History and Political Science  Andrews University

[A compilation and analysis of Ellen G. White's statements concerning Adventist attitudes to public, political, and civic affairs—Ed.]

The purpose of this compilation is not to settle anybody's problem for him. Each Adventist must make up his own mind after individual consideration of the problem in the light of his own study of the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy instruction. The pur­pose of this compilation is merely to point out certain references and make a few sug­gestions that might be helpful in applying the statements to present-day situations. The statements referred to in this compila­tion should all be studied carefully in their full context. There are many other perti­nent statements in the various Ellen G. White documents; this compilation will aid mainly the beginner.

Becoming an Adventist may mean revision of opinions: "We are not to compromise principle by yielding to the opinions and prejudices which we may have encouraged before we united with God's commandment-keeping people."—Gospel Workers, p. 392.

The Adventist point of view should be founded on the teachings of the Bible and the instruction from the Spirit of Prophecy; the Adventist point of view in regard to public affairs must be molded by our under­standing of prophecy and by our philosophy of history.

The guiding principle for the Adventist in public affairs: "The question may be asked, Are we to have no union whatever with the world? The word of the Lord is to be our guide. Any connection with infidels and unbelievers that would identify us with them, is forbidden by the Word."—Ibid., p. 394.

In his attitude to and possible participa­tion in public affairs, the Adventist must ever remain fully and intelligently inde­pendent, always fully an Adventist. He needs also to be well educated in the Ad­ventist way of life.

One purpose of Adventist education: "God's pur­pose for the children growing up beside our hearths is wider, deeper, higher, than our restricted vision has comprehended. From the humblest lot those whom He has seen faithful have in time past been called to witness for Him in the world's highest places. And many a lad of today, growing up as did Daniel in his Judean home, studying God's word and His works, and learning the lessons of faithful service, will yet stand in legislative assemblies, in halls of justice, or in royal courts, as a witness for the King of kings. Multitudes will be called to a wider ministry."—Education, p. 262.

One legitimate purpose in life may be participa­tion in certain public affairs: "Dear youth, what is the aim and purpose of your life? Are you ambitious for education that you may have a name and posi­tion in the world? Have you thoughts that you dare not express, that you may one day stand upon the summit of intellectual greatness; that you may sit in deliberative and legislative councils, and help to enact laws for the nation? There is nothing wrong in these aspirations."—Fundamentals of Education, p.82.

Holding public office not always necessarily cor­rupting: "The case of Daniel has a lesson for us. It reveals the fact that a businessman is not neces­sarily a sharp, policy man. He can be instructed by God at every step. Daniel, while prime minister of the kingdom of Babylon, was a prophet of God, receiving the light of heavenly inspiration. . . . There is need of businessmen who will weave the grand principles of truth into all their transactions. And their talents should be perfected by most thorough study and training."—Christ's Object Les­sons, p. 350. (See page 286, and Education, page 51, which speak about Joseph.)

The Ellen G. White term "businessman" does not mean merely merchant, but admin­istrator, executive, man of affairs, organizer, et cetera. Another characteristic term of hers is "policy man"—someone guided by oppor­tunism, seeking the immediate advantage, passing the buck, avoiding sticking his neck out. The two terms occur often in her writ­ings.

Political organization was a part of the divinely appointed system of education in Israel: "What an industrial school was that in the wilderness, having for its instructors Christ and His angels! . . . From the outset of the journey from Egypt, lessons had been given for their training and discipline. Even before they left Egypt a temporary organization had been effected, and the people were arranged in companies, under appointed leaders. At Sinai the arrangements for organization were completed. The order so strikingly displayed in all the works of God was manifest in the Hebrew economy. God was the center of authority and government. Moses, as His representative, was to administer the laws in His name. Then came the council of seventy, then the priests and the princes, under these 'captains over thousands, and captains over hundreds, and captains over fifties, and captains over tens' (Num. 11:16, 17; Deut. 1:15), and, lastly, officers appointed for spe­cial duties. The camp was arranged in exact order, the tabernacle, the abiding place of God, in the midst, and around it the tents of the priests and the Levites. Outside of these each tribe encamped beside its own standard. Thoroughgoing sanitary regula­tions were enforced.... The education of the Israel­ites included all their habits of life."—Education, pp. 37, 38.

Law, economics among the subjects taught: "In apportioning the inheritance of His people, it was God's purpose to teach them, and through them the people of after generations, correct principles con­cerning the ownership of the land. . . . A further provision for education was the suspension of agri­cultural labor every seventh year. . . . Thus was given opportunity for . . . study."—/bid., p. 43.

Schools of the prophets designed to educate politi­cal leaders: "These schools were intended . . . to promote the prosperity of the nation by furnishing it with men qualified to act in the fear of God as leaders and counselors. To this end, Samuel gathered companies of young men who were pious, intelligent, and studious."—/bid., p. 46. "These schools proved to be one of the means most effective in promoting that righteousness which 'exalteth a nation.' In no small degree they aided in laying the foundation of that marvelous prosperity which distinguished the reigns of David and Solomon."—/bid., pp. 47, 48.

The conclusion would not be warranted that it is God's design to promote His king­dom today by His servants seeking public office; the statements indicate, however, that God's people cannot fully ignore the public aspects of life. Adventist education must pay some attention to public affairs.

Adventist education must be in realistic contact with present-day life: "Upon their graduation, thou­sands find themselves out of touch with life. They have so long dealt with the abstract and the theo­retical that when the whole being must be roused to meet the sharp contests of real life, they are un­prepared. . . . The world is robbed of the service it might have received; and God is robbed."—Ibid., p. 265.

Adventists should study contemporary affairs rather than only past history: "Instead of burdening their memories with an array of names and theories that have no bearing upon their lives, and to which, once outside the schoolroom, they rarely give a thought, let them study all lands in the light of missionary effort, and become acquainted with the peoples and their needs."—/bid., p. 269.

Study of world sociology: "To awaken in the chil­dren and youth sympathy and the spirit of sacrifice for the suffering millions in the 'regions beyond,' let them become acquainted with these lands and their peoples. In this line much might be accom­plished in our schools."—/bid.

The truly Christian outlook is international, rather than provincial: "Christ recognized no dis­tinction of nationality or rank or creed. The scribes and Pharisees desired to make a local and a national benefit of all the gifts of heaven and to exclude the rest of God's family in the world. But Christ came to break down every wall of partition. He came to show that His gift of mercy and love is as unconfined as the air, the light, or the showers of rain that refresh the earth. The life of Christ established a religion in which there is no caste, a religion by which Jew and Gentile, free and bond, are linked in a common brotherhood, equal before God. No question of policy influenced His movements."—Testimonies, vol. 9, pp. 190, 191.

Dignified national symbols not obnoxious to Ellen G. White: "An American flag was placed as a canopy above the pulpit; this was an attention which I highly appreciated."--Historical Sketches, p. 207. (About a public meeting in the capital of Norway, 1886.)

While Ellen G. White's statements stress the need for an international outlook on the part of the individual Adventist, she also stresses the Christian's duty to render respect and reasonable service to his own nation. The Adventist will always be an alert, loyal, willing, and intelligent citizen of the country to which he belongs. The Adventist will recognize the claims even of Caesar so long as they do not limit freedom of religious activity or impede the free exer­cise of the dictates of the individual con­science.

Personal study of government and its relation to religion essential: "The people of God will recog­nize human government as an ordinance of divine appointment and will teach obedience to it as a sacred duty within its legitimate sphere. . . . The banner of truth and religious liberty . . . has in this last conflict been committed to us. . . . And we can appreciate these truths only as we search them out by personal study."—Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 402.

Study of international relations by Adventists essential: "There is a study . . . that is not to be condemned. . . . Today we are to consider the deal­ings of God with the nations of the earth. We are to . . . understand the progress of events in the marshaling of the nations for the final conflict of the great controversy. Such study will give broad, com­prehensive views of life. It will help us to under­stand something of its relations and dependencies, how wonderfully we are bound together in the great brotherhood of society and nations, and to how great an extent the oppression and degradation of one member means loss to all. . . . Few study the working out of His purpose in the rise and fall of nations."—Counsels to Parents and Teachers, pp. 379, 380.

International affairs should be comprehended by Adventists: "The present is a time of overwhelming interest to all living. Rulers and statesmen, men who occupy positions of trust and authority, think­ing men and women of all classes, have their atten­tion fixed upon the events taking place about us. They are watching the strained, restless relations that exist among the nations."—Education, p. 179.

"To us who are standing on the very verge of their fulfillment, of what deep moment, what living inter­est, are these delineations of the things to come. . .. It is these great truths that old and young need to learn. We need to study the working out of God's purpose in the history of nations."—Ibid., pp. 183, 184.

Christ's forerunner a student of current affairs: "But the life of John was not spent in idleness. . . . He was ever an interested observer of what was passing in the world. From his quiet retreat he watched the unfolding of events."—Testimonies, vol. 8, pp. 221, 222.

Adventist women also should take an intelligent interest in public affairs: "There are speculations as to woman's rights and duties in regard to voting. Many are in no way disciplined to understand the bearing of important questions.... Such women are not prepared to intelligently take a prominent po­sition in political matters. They are mere creatures of fashion and circumstance. Let this order of things be changed."—/bid., vol. 3, p. 565.

The conclusions might be drawn (1) that it is inappropriate for women (and men) to exercise the "duties in regard to voting" unless they have been "disciplined to understand the bearing of important questions"; (2) that such understanding and intelligence should be acquired.

(To be continued)


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LEIF KR. TOBIASSEN Professor of History and Political Science  Andrews University

October 1968

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