Teresa and Arthur Beem, It’s Okay NOT to Be a Seventh-day Adventist.

On February 1, 2009, I linked to Ron Corson’s review of Theresa and Arthur Beem’s book, It’s Okay NOT to Be a Seventh-day Adventist. Teresa commented on February 21 that she thought Corson was unfair, and offered to send me a copy. I received it today.

Let me first summarize Ron’s main points of criticism, since that’s how this conversation started:

Part one:

  1. A lack of objectivity, and a clear animus against Adventism.
  2. Slopping and inadequate footnoting (including attributing something to “Ellen G. White Published Writings website” that is actually from an anti-Ellen White webpage.

Part two:

  1. False depiction of Millerism, colored by their animosity
  2. Inaccurate depiction of the development of the Adventist sanctuary teaching

Part three:

  1. Falsifies Ellen White’s self-understanding

Teresa defends against Ron’s criticisms by saying the book isn’t for current Adventists or even non-Adventists, but is intended for former Adventists to give them “historically accurate information” they didn’t get from the Adventist church.

She says to him, “What I am reading of your complaints against the book are legitimate if the book was written to convince a loyal Adventist reader.”

Ron responded:

So far most of my complaints have been about factual errors. From my perspective if you write a book it should be of factual use to any reader, not made to appeal to a certain reader who already believes a particular point of view. Most people who use the term “dangerous cult” are speaking about a cult that ingests poison or separates by mind control family members. The others who use “dangerous cult” are the judgmental types who believe if you don’t believe as they believe on religious issues you will be lost, as if their ideas dictate who God saves or loses. So my perspective, I will have to grant is different than the authors. That I have higher standards of how a book should impart knowledge is neither here nor there, if a book says it is giving us the untold history I want that history to be accurate and not be simply an untold history because it never really happened.

I think Ron is correct. It doesn’t matter who your intended audience is, if you are claiming to be historically accurate, you must be historically accurate. You must footnote in such a way that people can evaluate your sources for themselves. You must use credible sources.

Also in response to Ron’s criticisms, Theresa said to me,

We had almost two dozen copy editors and people who volunteered to help do “checks” on the book ….

They were sloppy. There are typos throughout the book. “Judgement” (a Britishism that should not be used by an American author), “ante-type” (instead of anti-type), “Haley’s Comet” (instead of Halley’s Comet), “O. L. Crosier” (instead of O. R. L. Crosier).

There are historical errors, such as the claim that

Most SDA’s are completely unaware that the Church of God Seventh-day, Advent Christian Church, the Jehovah’s Witnesses, the Worldwide Church of God, 7th day Sabbath Creationists, the First day Adventists and the Second Adventists are all children of the same movement.

Most Adventists know well that Miller’s movement gave birth to the Advent Christian Church. This point is made in every history of the subject. But the rest is mistaken. The Jehovah’s Witnesses were not part of the same movement; their founder, Charles Taze Russell, wasn’t even born until 1852. The Worldwide Church of God wasn’t part of the Millerite movement; it was founded in 1933 by Herbert W. Armstrong, who was born in 1892. The Church of God (Seventh-Day) was an offshoot from Sabbatarian Adventism that rejected the leadership of James and Ellen White; that history is covered in SDA courses on church history and Ellen White. As to 7th Day Sabbath Creationists, maybe she means the Creation 7th Day Adventists, who left the Seventh-day Adventist Church in 1988.

Lots of books have been written on Millerism by fair and reliable historians, including, most recently, David Rowe, God’s Strange Work: William Miller and the End of the World. That’s a better place for the interested non-Adventist to start.

Who is the intended audience of the book? This is really confusing. Teresa told Ron it was former Adventists who didn’t get “the real truth.” And yet the preface begins, “Have you ever wondered about this nice but unusual, vegetarian, Saturday-churchgoing people? You may have met an Adventist” in various ways (xi). Is that how you begin a book for former Adventists?

Elsewhere, the Beems speak of a missionary mandate:

No one is doing the Adventists a favor by allowing them to believe lies. We must bring them the truth of the gospel. (xvi)

The material is organized around a debunking of what the Beems regard as the “pillars” of Adventism: “Ellen White as prophetess, The Three Angels’ Message and Sanctuary Doctrine and lastly the Sabbath Doctrine” (64). But Ellen White is not one of the “pillar doctrines” of Adventism. Here’s how Ellen herself spoke of the “pillars” or “landmarks”:

“The passing of the time in 1844 was a period of great events, opening to our astonished eyes the cleansing of the sanctuary transpiring in heaven, and having decided relation to God’s people upon the earth, [also] the first and second angels’ messages and the third, unfurling the banner on which was inscribed, ‘The commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.’ One of the landmarks under this message was the temple of God, seen by His truth-loving people in heaven, and the ark containing the law of God. The light of the Sabbath of the fourth commandment flashed its strong rays in the pathway of the transgressors of God’s law. The nonimmortality of the wicked is an old landmark. I can call to mind nothing more that can come under the head of the old landmarks. All this cry about changing the old landmarks is all imaginary” (CW 30).

I find it interesting that they devoted so much time to Ellen White ( an important figure, one whom Adventists do believe to have had the gift of prophecy, but not a pillar or landmark doctrine) and yet say nothing about the Adventist teaching on the nature of man and conditional immortality.

I also find it interesting that the authors, who say, “We must bring them the truth of the gospel” (xvi), say nothing about Adventist discussions about the gospel. There is no mention of 1888, of E. J. Waggoner, of A. T. Jones, of Desmond Ford or Robert Brinsmead, of righteousness by faith or justification by faith–subjects that have been the focus of so much debate within Adventism! Yet they cavalierly say Adventists know nothing about the gospel, and are living in despair, burdened by legalism.

Their depiction of Adventism is very dated. Adventist schools do not shun competition (235); most have intramural sports and many, if not most, also have teams that play non-Adventist schools. Contrary to the list on pp. 250-251, Adventists have no problem voting their conscience at the polls (Adventist conference presidents don’t issue voter’s guides). Lots of Adventists wear jewelry these days (for good or ill). Most Adventists don’t send their kids to church schools (ditto).  Adventists watch Christian (and non-Christian) TV. Many Adventists love Billy Graham and C. S. Lewis. Most Adventists don’t fret or worry about the end times–they believe the return of Jesus is “the blessed hope.” Adventists use their imaginations (just look at those prophecy seminar brochures).

For a book that’s supposed to be about helping former Adventists adjust, there’s no guidance for where they might go. The authors thank a Baptist pastor and an Assemblies of God pastor at the beginning. Those churches have very different views on spiritual gifts. The Beems don’t give their former Adventist readers any guidance on this. Or on the subject of other churches’ views on death (a major difference). Or on interpretation of prophecy (is Dispensationalism taught in Scripture?).

And what about the Catholic church? After several years of checking out the evangelical world, the Beems became Catholic–around the same time their book was being published, it would seem. So which gospel do they want former Adventists to embrace–the Baptist gospel or the teachings of the Council of Trent? What do they say about Catholic visionaries like Anne Catherine Emmerich? Or Medjugorje? Or Catholic legalism? Or purgatory, or works of satisfaction, or indulgences? Or Catholic schools (that could perhaps also be described as a “lockdown system to keep families in the organization” (235))?

I think after reading this book a former Adventist may well pat him or herself on the back and say, “See, I was right!” But will they have any sense of where to go next? I don’t think so.

But that’s not really the point, I think. This book isn’t about former Adventists. It isn’t about current Adventists. It isn’t about non-Adventists. It is about Teresa and Arthur. It is really about their need to get off their chest some frustrations and to come to some sort of closure about their Adventist experience. Some people need to do that. I did it when I left. Articles I wrote appear in collections by Marcus Grodi and Lynn Nordhagen (and look where I am now.)

17 thoughts on “Teresa and Arthur Beem, It’s Okay NOT to Be a Seventh-day Adventist.

  1. Not to be petty or anything, but ante-type is correct. (Some dictionaries do not include it, some do not have a hyphen between ante and type.) Also Edmond Haley is the man who discovered the comet–it was named after him. Halley’s has become a more popular spelling (even NASA uses it) but Haley’s is also accepted.

    • Ante- means before; anti- means opposite corresponding to. The Greek is antitupos, hence it is spelled antitype in English. Edmund Halley was the scientist.

  2. Bill,
    Thank you for your review of the book, your criticisms are duly noted. Just a quick note to explain a couple of things. In all the 19th century quotes the word is spelled “judgement.” For consistency sake, we decided to use the alternate form of spelling in the rest of the document.

    Our secondary audience was for family, friends, and pastors who are ministering to a former SDA.

    The different sects you listed are indeed considered historically to have branched off the Millerite movement. Their founders were involved with Miller’s movement even after he died, because the movement continued.

    Because our main audience was baby-boomers, we depicted life as an Adventist when we grew up. However, there are many SDAs my children’s age who describe their experience quite the same. The “pillars” are my personal opinion.

    Our secondary audience was the family, friends and pastors who are ministering to a former SDA. I can see how that can be confusing. It is quite a challenge to address both in one book.

    As far as sending our reader to a certain church, we simply recommended that they choose a grace-oriented mainstream church. Our thoughts were thus: Get them to Christ!! He will lead them to the church they will heal in.

    Bill, we knew that Adventists would take our book wrongly. We certainly understand. We would have been just as upset 15 years ago. But be assured we love our Adventist friends and family and respect them greatly. We have some very passionate disagreements about whether some of their doctrines are founded on scripture. The most important thing is that we discover the truth of Christ! I think we both can agree on that goal.
    God bless you,
    Teresa Beem

  3. Bill: One of your best. Keen, fair, synoptic in your research and understanding the Big Picture. One can’t tilt against windmills forever without revealing the mind of the tilter. Courage and peace, Herb

  4. Thanks, Teresa. Just a couple of comments.

    The different sects you listed are indeed considered historically to have branched off the Millerite movement. Their founders were involved with Miller’s movement even after he died, because the movement continued.

    Well, I don’t mean to be argumentative, but it’s a historical fact that they aren’t. “Miller’s Movement” didn’t just continue amorphously. It was institutionalized as the Advent Christian Church. Those who didn’t join that ran off in other directions. But these others that you mention, that were not SDA offshoots, had no relation to either the Advent Christian Church or to the Millerite movement. They are a generation or more removed (nearly a century, in the case of Armstrong).

    The “pillars” are my personal opinion.

    Clearly. Better to judge a church according to what IT says its pillars are, I would think.

    As far as sending our reader to a certain church, we simply recommended that they choose a grace-oriented mainstream church. Our thoughts were thus: Get them to Christ!! He will lead them to the church they will heal in.

    Would the Assembly of God or Baptist pastor who read the manuscript consider the Catholic church a “grace-oriented” church? No. No Protestant would. More about that point in a sec.

    I notice you have no comments about your omission of “the state of the dead” or the 1888 related subjects. I’d really like to hear from you on this. These are major issues. If it was grace you were looking for, it seems so funny that you didn’t grapple with the proclamations of grace that have taken the Adventist church by storm!

    Bill, we knew that Adventists would take our book wrongly.

    That’s what you’ve said to any Adventist critic. Your readers can’t read your mind or your heart. They can only judge what you wrote. And various folks point out that you were not accurate and you were not fair. These are objective conclusions.

    But let me get back to and underline the importance of the lack of direction you give to people. This is what makes the book seem as if it was written solely for self-justification for why you left. You aren’t pointing people to what was better. You’re a Catholic now. If you believe Catholic teaching, you can’t just say “go to any grace-oriented church.” You must believe that the Catholic church alone is the Church established by Christ.

    Lots of books about conversion have been written–but it seems to me they all focus on what drew the people TO something, not on what was wrong with what they left behind. My own articles for Marcus and for Lynn focused on why, from this background, I was led to Catholicism. Yet in a book published the same year (I believe) you became Catholic, not a hint of it. That is very strange indeed. That makes me think you aren’t really convicted of the claims of Catholicism. I could be wrong, but I can only go on the basis of your interview with Marcus and this book.

  5. Arthur and I wrote the book years before we became Catholic. The process of publishing is very long and tedious.

    To us, the point IS Christ. That is who we direct our audience to. At the foot of the cross is where we all will find grace and peace and direction. It is not up to me to give them a organizational path. At the foot of the cross, beholding the Lamb of God who takes away the sins of the world–for me that is where I plan to stay and ponder anew each day the glories of Christ. That is where I find my hope and my comfort. All we wanted to do was give former Adventists this same hope.

    God bless,
    Teresa Beem

    • And we who are in the Adventist church have that hope. I’m sorry you didn’t hear that (despite the fact that it has been shouted rather loudly from the rooftops).

  6. Bill, I wanted to answer your questions (didn’t have time earlier) about the state of the dead and the 1888 GC. The book originally dealt with these topics, but I had to cut the book down, so they were dropped.

    The New Testament can be confusing about the state of the dead. One can prooftext any number of ideas. So basically I just leave my next adventure after my tent is gone in His hands and don’t worry or even think about it at all–as long as I am with Him I am okay with whatever He does with my soul.

    The 1888 Righteousness by Faith debate at the GC: hummm… that dovetails to what I wanted to comment about your last post.

    I have loved the Lord and had faith in Him since I was a little girl. My father was a great proponent of God’s mercy, grace and how we only had to trust in Him and we would be saved. Sabbath was a delight in our family. There are those people who interpret Adventist doctrines in this manner and never push the darker doctrines of IJ and last -day events. Being an SDA at the Dallas First Church in Texas was wonderful. I was a born-again SDA, so when I left, it has nothing at all to do with needing salvation or hope or mercy personally. Christ found me in Adventism, like He finds us all where we are. Leaving Adventism to me was growing in grace and understanding of scripture. It was only AFTER we left, we discovered there were many SDAs who did not have the same experience within Adventism as we did. They felt hurt, bitter and abandon by God. We feel so privileged to be there for them and minister to their needs. Most of them do not need lectures and indoctrination, but a caring, listening ear, without judgment. So when you say I did not hear hope and mercy and grace within Adventism, I wish to correct you. Like Waggoner and Jones, God caught me in His net within Adventism. I did not have to leave to “get saved.” We left because we found some important doctrines that are simply against what Christ teaches about unity and loving our neighbor. I loved being an active member of the SDA church and love its people, just disagree with its doctrines (like Jones and Waggoner.)
    In Christ!
    Teresa Beem

  7. Teresa Beem is one confused Christian! Does she and her husband now consider themselves ‘Seventh-day Catholics’? How can she, as an author, reconcile Christ’s grace from her former religious belief with her present Catholic worship of Virgin Mary and sin-forgiving ‘fathers’ of the Church?

  8. Bill and others,

    I think you may find one of Teresa’s blogs interesting:

    Here she continues to misrepresent and attack not only Adventists, but also all non-Catholic churches. And yet she states above, “At the foot of the cross is where we all will find grace and peace and direction. It is not up to me to give them a[n] organizational path.” This statement is so inconsistent with what she insinuates in her blog.

    I have to say I was shocked to find out she was a Catholic after all the criticism she has about legalism, grace and truth in Adventism.

    I guess, “It’s Ok to Not Make Sense”.

    God bless!

    • It also shows an ignorance of Catholicism. To say, “The Catholic mass is not a place where evangelization takes place”–that just doesn’t make sense either.

  9. Bill,
    The main purpose of mass is not to evangelize people into Catholicism. Not to say that people do not find God there. The point I was making in the blog is that there are distinct differences in why Catholics go to church and why Protestants go to church.

    Please let me know specifically what is in the blog that misrepresents Adventism or other Protestant churches. I am almost non-plussed at being accused of attacking anyone on that blog.

    I am deeply sorry if my beliefs offend you. I consider us all in the body of Christ.
    In Christ,
    Teresa Beem

  10. One more thing…. this is kind of funny…
    You a former Catholic turned Adventist and myself a former Adventist turned Catholic having this conversation. Does God have a sense of humor or what?

    • Indeed, there is some ironic humor.

      As to what you said to misrepresent Protestantism, I think that would be obvious. Protestants do not go to church just to have a social time. They go to hear the preaching of the Good News of Jesus Christ. They go to be instructed in the Christian life. They go to fellowship with other members of the body of Christ. They go to worship God. They go to receive his sacraments. And guess what–these are the same reasons Catholics go to church.

      But that wasn’t my main concern. I don’t think you understand Catholic teaching on evangelization. I would refer you to Evangelii Nuntiandi:

      Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity. She exists in order to evangelize, that is to say, in order to preach and teach, to be the channel of the gift of grace, to reconcile sinners with God, and to perpetuate Christ’s sacrifice in the Mass, which is the memorial of His death and glorious resurrection.

      As to the suggestion that the sermon is somehow less important, I would direct you to Sacrosanctum Concilium. The liturgy of the word, whose climax is the sermon, is not a lesser part of the mass than the liturgy of the eucharist.

      Because the sermon is part of the liturgical service, the best place for it is to be indicated even in the rubrics, as far as the nature of the rite will allow; the ministry of preaching is to be fulfilled with exactitude and fidelity. The sermon, moreover, should draw its content mainly from scriptural and liturgical sources, and its character should be that of a proclamation of God’s wonderful works in the history of salvation, the mystery of Christ, ever made present and active within us, especially in the celebration of the liturgy.

      See also Presbyterorum Ordinis:

      4. The People of God are joined together primarily by the word of the living God.(1) And rightfully they expect this from their priests.(2) Since no one can be saved who does not first believe,(3) priests, as co-workers with their bishops, have the primary duty of proclaiming the Gospel of God to all.(4) In this way they fulfill the command of the Lord: “Going therefore into the whole world preach the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15),(5) and they establish and build up the People of God. Through the saving word the spark of faith is lit in the hearts of unbelievers, and fed in the hearts of the faithful. This is the way that the congregation of faithful is started and grows, just as the Apostle describes: “Faith comes from hearing, and hearing through the word of Christ” (Rom 10:17).

      The USCCB comments on this:

      Proclamation of the word of God is the primum officium or first task and responsibility of priests. The Second Vatican Council says, “For since nobody can be saved who has not first believed, it is the first task of priests as co-workers of the bishops to preach the Gospel of God to all” (PO, no 4).

      The ministry of proclamation assumes a number of different forms. For example, it can be differentiated by the setting in which it takes place and its particular scope or purpose within that setting. Preaching, teaching, and counseling can all be examples of ministry of the word or proclamation. They do, however, reflect different methods and purposes, even if the ultimate goal is the communication of God’s word to people.

      Another way that the ministry of the word is differentiated is by the nature of its content. For example, kerygmatic or evangelical preaching aims to communicate the basic good news of Jesus Christ and call to faith those who have not heard it. Catechesis, on the other hand, forms those who already believe by deepening and expanding their understanding of faith. Homiletic preaching, which belongs specifically to the ordained, occurs in the context of sacramental celebrations and lets God’s word prompt people to enter the celebration of the sacred mysteries in their lives. Parenesis is moral exhortation, especially as people face difficult or complex sets of moral choices. Prophetic preaching addresses the social situation in light of the demands of God’s word. These are some of the principal ways in which the ministry of the word or proclamation is carried out.

      Lastly, I would point you to the GIRM:

      65. The homily is part of the Liturgy and is strongly recommended, for it is necessary for the nurturing of the Christian life. It should be an exposition of some aspect of the readings from Sacred Scripture or of another text from the Ordinary or from the Proper of the Mass of the day and should take into account both the mystery being celebrated and the particular needs of the listeners.

      66. The Homily should ordinarily be given by the priest celebrant himself. He may entrust it to a concelebrating priest or occasionally, according to circumstances, to the deacon, but never to a lay person. In particular cases and for a just cause, the homily may even be given by a Bishop or a priest who is present at the celebration but cannot concelebrate.

      There is to be a homily on Sundays and holy days of obligation at all Masses that are celebrated with the participation of a congregation; it may not be omitted without a serious reason. It is recommended on other days, especially on the weekdays of Advent, Lent, and the Easter Season, as well as on other festive days and occasions when the people come to church in greater numbers.

      As to the suggestion that “Babies are baptized into the kingdom of God and are seen as full members of God’s body. They do not then later need to be ‘saved.'” Well, they aren’t quite full members, in the Catholic understanding, because they haven’t completed the sacraments of initiation–besides baptism, these include confirmation and eucharist. When adults (or anyone over the age of 7) are baptized, they receive all three sacraments and are indeed full members of the church.

      Finally, let me respond to your suggestion that

      “But to a Catholic, not all are called to preach. Most are called to serve and through service we become Christ to others. When they respond to our love, they are responding to Christ even if there are no words spoken. That is why Catholics sometimes have difficulty explaining the gospel and repeating Bible texts.”

      This is also out of line with Catholic teaching. ALL are called to evangelize, both clergy and laity, and neither can say that silent service is enough. Again, Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi:

      The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mystery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God are not proclaimed.

      And yes, Catholics do have altar calls and emotional appeals–see my article, The History of the Parish Mission.

  11. Bill, I think you misunderstood the whole purpose of my blog post. I was musing as to why Catholics have a harder time explaining the gospel. Rather than making dogmatic statements, I was contrasting Catholic to Protestant. In comparison to Catholics, the purpose of church is not to bring in new members, for socializing, for “saving” people. But I love that you went to so much effort to post what Catholics believe and how close they are to Protestants in so many ways. The whole entire point of my blog is to make Catholicism more understandable. God bless, Teresa Beem

  12. All I can say is wow!! I thank Bill for his comments and clarifications on the erroneous representations of the authors. To the authors of the book, for having been in the Adventist church for 40 years, and to walk away from it all to become Catholic: you obviously did not learn anything, thus failing to search the SCRIPTURES, not doctrine, for your own understanding of the relationship YOU have with Christ. No matter what denomination one belongs to, it is our responsible to search out OUR OWN salvation. Of course, one’s religious experience is not going to be peaches and cream, but as aforementioned, SCRIPTURE not doctrine. If you can say that Catholicism is in total alignment with scripture, then I would say keep searching.

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