Posts tagged Conspiracy Theories
"Therefore Keep Watch" - Watching the Signs vs. Conspiracy Theorizing
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“Therefore keep watch, because you do not know on what day your Lord will come.” – Jesus Christ, Matthew 24:42

Watching the signs of the times is not an optional matter but a direct command. Not only is watching a direct command but it is an enormous blessing as well. The blessing comes in how the signs divulge to us the immanency of Jesus’ return. Likewise, they
advise us to keep our priorities straight and rouse us when we are dispirited. Not watching, therefore, would not only be disobedience to Jesus’ mandate, but it would be foolish as well. Don Hosser, author of Jesus' Warning to "Watch" - Just What Did He Mean? put it well when he wrote:
Our God-ordained responsibility is to watch and pray. Ignorance comes from ignoring, and God does not want us to be ignorant and "in darkness" (see 1 Thessalonians 5:1-10). Our Master and role model Jesus Christ certainly understood the issues, politics and personalities of His day. We should do likewise.[i]
Jesus said, “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near. Even so, when you see these things happening, you know that the kingdom of God is near.”[ii] In the same way that a New Jersey resident knows the summer is near because the cherry blossoms are sprouting up everywhere and a pregnant woman knows that the delivery is near because the contractions get closer and closer, Jesus says that we too can know when His return is near because of the signs that will be taking place. Therefore, we should watch and be vigilant.

But how exactly do we watch the signs of the times? Do we install a program in our computer that updates us whenever there is a natural disaster? Do we search endlessly for charts and data on modern epidemics and plagues? Do we scour through the newspaper each day looking for any possible hint of upcoming wars? Most importantly, do we enter the realm of speculation more commonly known as conspiracy theorizing?

In the past month I have written two articles dealing with the issue of Christians and Conspiracy Theories and Ellen White and Conspiracy Theories. My intention in writing these articles is not to contend negatively with anyone who finds great value in this type of activity, nor is it to judge, criticize or condemn. Instead, my intention is to call attention to what I believe is one of the most damaging diversions that affect Christians today. A Seventh-day Adventist pastor and theology professor who commented on the basis of anonymity stated,
There is a lot of speculative theorizing both inside and outside the church. It needs to stop. It does not help our witness at all, but turns people away from the truth as it is in Jesus.[iii]
I could not have said it better myself. While worldliness appeals to the love of the flesh, conspiracies appeal to the love of prophecy and the mandate of Jesus to “watch.” Many marvelous Christians caught up in this way of thinking do not even consider the material that they embrace as speculation or conspiracy thinking but view it as indisputable truth. I remember when I used to be fascinated with such things. In my opinion, those who rejected the “conspiracy theories” were foolish and had their eyes shut to what was truly going on. They were, in my estimation, delusional optimists who preferred their comfortable ignorance to the uncomfortable realities of our modern society, and as such would be easily deceived by the lies of governments and institutions. However, what I soon came to discover was that it was I who was deceived for in all of my zealous vindication of conspiracy theories (which I considered obvious facts and not theories) I had missed one crucial matter – the development of a Christlike character. I have since come to realize that not only was I un-Christlike but also everyone I knew who was engulfed in such profligate trumpery. Indeed, all of my “watching the signs of the times” had made me more like the wicked in character than like the righteous. While I won’t elaborate on the negative effects that brooding over conspiracy theories does to one’s character here, (I have already done that in the article Christians and Conspiracy Theories) I would like to point out that due to its harmful effects such activity cannot possibly be what Jesus meant when He commanded us to “watch.”
So how do you watch the signs of the times without being allured by the sensational speculations of brilliant men and women who claim to know “what’s truly going on”? In fact, it seems that in many cases, it is not even possible to watch without researching such material. In order to unravel this puzzle it is first necessary to explore the difference between Jesus’ mandate to “watch” the signs of the times and conspiracy theorizing.

Stephen Bauer, professor of theology and ethics, reminds us that “watching is commanded by Christ….” However, according to Bauer, “conspiracy theories speculate on how the end events may occur. This is not the same as looking for events themselves.”[iv] This distinction is seconded by professor of biblical studies Greg A. King when he states that, “watching the signs of the times, as it is biblically encouraged for us to do, would be viewing prophecies like Matthew 24 and the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation.” King encourages us to “be aware of the lines of prophetic interpretation” but simultaneously encourages not to “focus so much on the sensational or the spectacular events.” King reminds us that the true sign that Jesus is coming soon is not a political sign but the gospel being preached to all the world. This, according to King, should be our main focus.[v]

Thus, the primary difference between watching the signs of the times and conspiracy theorizing is that one focuses on clear biblical truths while the other speculates regarding those truths. A article on this topic got it right when it states that “conspiracy theories… place too much emphasis on worldly matters.”[vi] Not only this, but conspiracy theorizing places too much emphasis on the work of the devil. Sure, as Lance Winslow wrote, “conspiracy theories are fun to think about and they are interesting,”[vii] however, the reality is that they are not what Jesus had in mind when he told us to “watch.” Not once in the Biblical record do you find Jesus or his apostles speculating or preaching sensational things like conspiracy theories – and they would have had plenty to say! Each of them was persecuted by government and religious institutions yet you never find any chapters speculating about government secrets or plans to persecute the church. Instead, the Biblical writers always stick to the obvious, never going beyond what is clear, and even then they don’t give the work of evil too much focus. When Jesus commanded us to watch the signs of the times he intended that we would be aware of his soon return and not that we would be obsessed with the Illuminati, Freemasons, or the truth behind 911. Jesus said, “Look at the fig tree and all the trees. When they sprout leaves, you can see for yourselves and know that summer is near.” This is watching the signs of the times. Conspiracy theorizing, however, would be equivalent to using magnifying glass and a microscope to analyze every little detail in the tree. If you saw someone doing this, wouldn’t you think they were wasting their time?

So we know that watching the signs of the times is not the same as conspiracy theorizing, but at what point does a study on end time events become a study on speculation? One theologian put it well when he said,
…when one moves away from the facts to guessing about peoples’ motives or how things will turn out in the future rather than considering the events of the past or present, one moves into speculation.  It is critical when studying end-time events to stick to objective facts about the past or present, not speculating about the future or about motives of people or organizations.[viii] 
The rule of thumb is simple. Once you approach the tree (signs of the times) with a magnifying glass (conspiracy theories/ speculation) you have crossed the line between watching and speculating. Some may argue and say that it is not speculation or conspiracy theorizing if the evidence is insurmountable. However, this is the same as saying that so long as you are telling the truth about someone then it’s not gossip. It still is gossip because regardless of how true it is it is damaging and hurtful to those involved in it. Conspiracy theories may, in fact, be 100% accurate, but they are still damaging to those who pay them attention. Thus, the truth remains that “[e]ndless speculation about conspiracy theories is, at best, a waste of time.[ix] Always remember that speculation begins when you “go beyond the basic textual facts to try to figure out exactly… [what] will happen.”[x]

However, this brings up a fundamental question. It is necessary, when studying prophecy, to study extra biblical material such as history books. This extra-biblical material helps us understand the events, nations, and dangers that the prophecies are delineating. Extra-biblical material is, therefore, needful when studying prophecy. For example, the proper use of history helps Daniel 2 come alive. However, while there are tons of historical, political, and sociological books that can help us understand prophecy, “not all of it is valid, useful, or accurate. Evaluating sources of information that you are considering using in your writing is an important step in any research activity.”[xi] So how do we know when the extra biblical material we are using is reliable? The best rule of thumb is variety. “The more sources who see the same thing, the more credible.”[xii] For example, many Seventh-day Adventist evangelists have been known to tell a story with utterly no historical support besides protestant propaganda. This story is the one that purports that Constantine baptized his entire pagan army into Christianity by having them march through a river. Many Adventist evangelists could have avoided spreading an undocumented rumor if they had simply read more than one book from different sources. Many Christians end up with all kinds of odd theories because they read a book that supposedly reveals the real truth behind some issue. However, variety is not the only rule of thumb. While we should always remember to “[be] wary of one historian who is the only one who thinks X is the case,”[xiii] we should also remember that in our study “[t]here needs to be documentation from reliable sources.”[xiv] Peer reviewed scholarly sources are the most reliable because they go through a review process in which the claims and work of the author come under scrutiny by a variety of experts. This automatically gets rid of the vast majority of books claiming to unveil some secret conspiracy theory because “[c]onspiracy theories are not generally documented from reliable sources. They are speculative theories, generally put forward by people who do not have a balanced view and whose theories are not supported by mainstream media or reputable investigative reporting.”[xv] Finally, when choosing material for your research, always remember that “[i]f you believe everything you read you will begin to read everything you believe.”[xvi]

While all this may be helpful, none of it will make any difference to the individual who sees no harm in entertaining conspiracy theories. In Christians and Conspiracy theories I delineate a variety of harmful effects that such activity can promulgate. The reality is that “[m]any conspiracy theories feed fear and prey on ignorance and gullibility.”[xvii] A study published in The Journal of Social Psychology provides evidence of a connection between conspiracy theorizing and attitude change. In other words, entertaining and believing such things actually has an effect on our behavior.[xviii] In my experience, Christians who engage in conspiracy theorizing do exhibit behavioral change. A family member who commented on the basis of anonymity stated,
A very close relative of mine was the sweetest lady I had ever known, very Christlike, care free, positive, optimistic, fun, and happy. After being introduced by fellow Adventists (who would be considered extremists by the Adventist church) to conspiracy theories about 70% of her personality changed for the worst. She’s still sweet and would do anything for you if she could but she is more negative, afraid, and suspicious of everyone and everything, critical, anxious, pessimistic, and you rarely hear her commenting on the gospel anymore. Her focus is now on theories that are negative which has negatively affected her outlook on life. I’m not saying she’s a mean person but she’s definitely not who she used to be. When I myself started to get into conspiracy theories my attitude began to change the same way. Today I stay away from those sorts of things and in fact I actually hate them. Unlike before I now experience the abundant life that God promises to his children.[xix]  
What other dangerous effects of conspiracy theorizing are there? Stephen Bauer summarizes the dangers of conspiracy theorizing well:
1) We undermine Scripture by going beyond it, yet treating our speculations like they are Scripture.  Eve did this, adding the "don't touch" provision beyond what God said.  Thus, when the snake threw the fruit into her hands (as per Ellen White) and she touched the fruit without dying, it undermined in her mind what God actually said.  50-60 years ago, SDA evangelists included strong assertions that the Israelite nation would never be rebuilt. So the inception of Israel in 1948 destroyed their credibility to many minds.  Best not to over-claim [than to] be proven wrong. It will undermine confidence in Scripture and in the speaker! 2. It fuels a sensationalism - religion rooted in excitement and feeling instead of living quietly by faith. As such this undermines the principles of Righteousness by Faith.[xx]
In conclusion, Jesus expects us to watch the signs of the times, but delving into conspiracies is not what he had in mind when he asked us to watch and be vigilant. Therefore, when studying end time events we should keep a sharp eye as to when we are crossing the line between Biblical and historical evidence into speculation. A good way to avoid this is to be cautious during the research process, being intentional about seeking a variety of views, and utilizing only those materials which are reliable. Even if conspiracy theories are true, they shouldn’t commandeer our attention. Entertaining conspiracy theories is actually harmful – especially to those who profess faith in Christ. So when watching the signs of the times, or studying the apocalyptic literature of scripture, be careful to “[s]tick to descriptive, objective, well documented facts from the past and present. [And] [a]void predicting the future or judging motives.”[xxi] Even when studying Biblical prophecy do not let that overshadow the rest of scripture. Greg King put it well when he said that although we should study the prophecies we should also remember Psalms 23 – The Lord is my Shepherd.[xxii] Above all things, ask the Holy Spirit to lead you. God is our strong tower. So long as we let Him lead we can be sure that we will arrive safely to the heavenly shore.

Further Reading:

[i] Hosser, Don. Jesus' Warning to "Watch" - Just What Did He Mean?
[ii] Luke 21:29, NIV
[iii] Anonymous, Professor Religion. e-mail to author, January 28, 2013.
[iv] Bauer, Stephen. e-mail to author, January 28, 2013.
[v] King, Greg. Interview. January 28, 2013.
[vii] Winslow, Lance. Conspiracy Theory Case Study - US President Is an Alien
[viii] Anonymous, Professor Religion. e-mail to author, January 28, 2013.
[x] Bauer, Stephen. e-mail to author, January 28, 2013.
[xi] Driscoll, Dana Lynn & Allen Brizee. Evaluating Sources: Overview
[xii] Bauer, Stephen. e-mail to author, January 28, 2013.
[xiii] ibid.
[xiv] Anonymous, Professor Religion. e-mail to author, January 28, 2013.
[xv] ibid.
[xvi] Grant, Victoria A. Conspiracy Theories and Secret Societies! Article Source:
[xviii] Douglas, Karen M., & Robbie M. Sutton. The Journal of Social Psychology
[xix] Anonymous. Personal interview. January 31, 2013
[xx] Bauer, Stephen. e-mail to author, January 28, 2013
[xxi] Anonymous, Professor Religion. e-mail to author, January 28, 2013.
[xxii] King, Greg A. Personal interview. January 28, 2013.
Ellen G. White and Conspiracy Narratives

I recently shared an article titled The End Times and Conspiracy Narratives. In it I shared some thoughts regarding the relationship between Christians in general and the ever increasing popularity of conspiracy narratives. In this post, I would like to focus more on Seventh-day Adventists and their relationship to conspiracy narratives/theories by sharing some thoughts from the life of church co-founder and prophetess Ellen G. White.

The first thing to point out is that Ellen White didn’t really deal with the issue of conspiracy theories. Conspiracy theories, while growing in her day, where not as widespread as they are today. However, she certainly lived in a time when indulgence in conspiracy theories was growing. The Illuminati and Free Masons were already on the scene, and strange narratives regarding their agenda, power, and political control were spreading. In an article in titled “The Illuminati Freemason Conspiracy” the author states that “[t]he idea of a widespread freemason conspiracy originated in the late 1700's and flourished in the US in the 1800's.”[i] Nevertheless, Ellen White herself never engaged in such activity. 

For example, the Illuminati was founded in 1776, just fifty-one years before Ellen White was born. If knowledge of the Illuminati and their inner workings were necessary then apparently God didn’t see fit to tell Ellen White about it. In all of her writings there is not one syllable devoted to the Illuminati. The Free Masons were also born late in the 16th or early 17th century. During Ellen Whites day, Free Mason conspiracy theories abounded. Yet once again, Ellen Whites writings are void of such conspiracy theories.

Ellen White did talk about the Free Masons. Nevertheless, when dealing with the Free Masons it’s important to note what she said and what she didn’t say. Ellen White counseled, under Gods direction, that Christians stay away from the Free Mason society for practical and obvious reasons. She even worked personally with an Adventist who was involved in the fraternity and God gave her special knowledge of their inner workings in order to impress upon the mind of this man that he was indeed speaking through her. However, not only did Ellen White never go on to share the inside knowledge God gave her in any of her work, but even the reasons she gave in opposition to joining the fraternity were simply practical and void of any promulgation of conspiracy narratives.

So far we have seen that Ellen White, though certainly having had opportunities, never engaged in conspiracy theory talk. This should in and of itself cause those of us who value her prophetic example and are nevertheless fascinated with such things to wonder if perhaps we are wasting our time with pointless investigations. However, I would also like to point out some quotations from Ellen White (with personal comments in brackets) that give us principles to keep in mind when dealing with this issue.

“We need far less controversy [a characteristic of conspiracy theories], and far more presentation of Christ. Our Redeemer is the center of all our faith and hope” (EV, 172).

“Our work is not to make a raid on the Government but to prepare a people to stand in the great day of the Lord. The fewer attacks we make on authorities and powers, the more work will we do for God....[Conspiracy theories do exactly what we are told not to do in this quote] Do all in your power to reflect the light, but do not speak words that will irritate or provoke” (EV, 173).

“You should have a clear apprehension of the gospel. The religious life is not one of gloom and of sadness but of peace and joy coupled with Christlike dignity and holy solemnity [Those fascinated with conspiracy theories often exemplify a doom and gloom version of Christianity and not the peace and joy that should be had]. We are not encouraged by our Saviour to cherish doubts and fears and distressing forebodings; these bring no relief to the soul and should be rebuked rather than praised [Conspiracy theories nourish doubts, fears, and distressing forebodings. Rather than praise these things by our focus on them we should rebuke them by ignoring them]. We may have joy unspeakable and full of glory. Let us put away our indolence and study God’s Word more constantly” (EV, 180).

“I have been shown that it is the device of the enemy to divert men’s minds to some obscure or unimportant point, something that is not fully revealed or is not essential to salvation [a classic description of conspiracy theories]. This is made the absorbing theme, the “present truth,” when all the investigations and suppositions only serve to make matters more obscure and to confuse the minds of some who ought to be seeking for oneness through sanctification of the truth” (EV, 182).

“A noble, devoted, spiritual worker will see in the great testing truths that constitute the solemn message to be given to the world, sufficient reason for keeping all minor differences concealed, rather than to bring them forth to become subjects of contention. Let the mind dwell upon the great work of redemption, the soon coming of Christ, and the commandments of God; and it will be found that there is enough food for thought in these subjects to take up the entire attention [If we spent more time getting to know Jesus we wouldn’t have time for speculations. Conspiracy theorists often have much knowledge of many things but they are lacking in the preciousness of Jesus. Rather than allure they repel those around them]” (EV, 183).

“Satan is pleased when we magnify his power [This is the nature of conspiracy theories]. Why not talk of Jesus? Why not magnify His power and His love” (MHH, 43)?

While these statements may not be directly dealing with the issue of conspiracy theories I don’t see how one can engage in entertaining such things without violating the principles they advocate. With this in mind, it is clear that Ellen White did not see conspiracy theorizing as a necessary element of preparing for last day deceptions.

However, Ellen White is not our example – Jesus Christ is. In Jesus we find our pattern, one that focused on showing mercy, love, and empathy to the suffering and whom wasted no time engaging in such fruitless things as conspiracy narratives. Ellen White wrote,

Millions upon millions of human beings, in sickness and ignorance and sin, have never so much as heard of Christ’s love for them. If our condition and theirs were to be reversed, what would we want them to do for us? All this, so far as lies in our power, we are to do for them. Christ’s rule of life by which every one of us must stand or fall in the judgment is, “‘Whatever you want men to do to you, do also to them.’” Matthew 7:12[ii]

In conclusion I ask, what would you want a Christian to do for you if you were lost? Would you want him/her to share with you how the shirt you are wearing has masonic symbols, a DVD on how the Bush administration plotted 911, or how the music you like has satanic lyrics recorded backwards? Or would you like her to tell you of Jesus love for you? What would you want him to say? When your heart is bleeding, when your debt is overwhelming, when your marriage is ending, when your guilt is so strong its crushing you, sitting there in your living room with your world falling to pieces around you – what would you want to hear? I don’t know about you, but I would want to hear that there is a Savior who “regards with infinite tenderness the souls whom He has purchased with His own blood. They are the claim of His love. He looks upon them with unutterable longing.”[iii] I would want to know that there is one whose name is Jesus who can save the worst of the worst. When my heart is broken, speak to me of His love! When sin has me bound in iron chains, tell me of His power! When I am lost, nowhere left to go, talk to me of the “One who can calm the raging seas, give sight to the blind, pull the lame up to their feet”.[iv] Tell me “God loves you Marcos," "[w]ith a love so strong he'll never let you go... you [are] not alone”.[v]

Seventh-day Adventist, I appeal to you – speak of Jesus. Tell of His love. Tell of His grace. Tell of His power. Tell of His soon return! Talk of how He longs for us to be with Him. Talk of how He can save the worst of sinners. Let Him be your theme and song. Let Him be your every breath. If you and I would do this, if we would choose daily to lift Him up we would never go wrong. Never.


[ii] White, Ellen G. The Ministry of Health and Healing, p 48.
[iii] ibid, p 20.
[iv] Wickham, Phil. Safe.
[v] ibid.
The End Times and Conspiracy Narratives

The Lord has given me a strong warning not to think like everyone else does. He said, ‘Don’t call everything a conspiracy, like they do, and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble.'” – Isaiah 8:11-13
The current presidential campaign in the USA is insane. Trump is definitely the weirdest candidate to ever run for president, and the long list of ethical question marks on Clinton's profile have many wondering if she is any better. And as is true of all presidential elections, conspiracy narratives abound. In this article, I would like to share some wisdom on how we as Christians should approach conspiracy narratives. I am not here to suggest that they are or are not true and neither am I here to encourage passivity and a "head in the sand" attitude. Our world is wild right now and things are not looking good. Nevertheless, how should we as Jesus-followers, believers in the one who is sovereign above all things, respond to the numerous conspiracy narratives hitting us from every angle?

According to author Michael Tracey, “Conspiracy theories have always been popular in America to one degree or another.”[1] In my younger years (and I’m still young) I found myself captivated and attracted by conspiracy narratives. They were fascinating and the more I learned of them, the more I felt as though I had some “inside” knowledge that no one else seemed to have.

As a Seventh-day Adventist, I have noticed that many Christians tend to get wrapped up in conspiracy narratives. Certain preachers and ministries work hard to make conspiracy narratives especially attractive within our church and the rest of the evangelical world is not far behind either.

Conspiracy narratives are, nevertheless, harmful. My intention therefore is to suggest a balance when it comes to this issue.  Jennifer Schwirzer got it right when she said, “Conspiracy theories supposedly expose the dark deeds and covert alliances of governments, secret societies and prominent individuals. One feels very powerful in the role of “knowing.” But the knowing can degenerate into an unhealthy fascination with the mystery of iniquity leaving some so consumed with evil that they lose sight of the Savior.”[2]

Most proponents and supporters of conspiracy narratives are often under the impression that they are simply “watching the signs of the times” or “exposing the deeds of Satan so as not to be deceived.” There is something truly commendable here: The desire to be faithful to God. Understand that most who find themselves wrapped up in conspiracy naratives are not wackos or nut cases (though there are those as well). Instead, most of them (at least in Christian circles) are sincere disciples of Christ whose ultimate goal is to remain faithful and loyal to God. However, I would like to propose four reasons why conspiracy narratives, rather than helping, can actually hinder our Christian walk and damage our witness.

1. Conspiracy narratives distract from Jesus
Some may argue and say that they don’t. To those I would say, if delving into conspiracy narratives draws you closer to Jesus, then please don’t stop. However, I am certain that the vast majority of us are not really drawn closer to Jesus at all. We just feel as though we are.

Conspiracy narratives have a way of making us feel like we are more spiritual than others because of the information we have. I have noticed that whenever my spiritual life is suffering I tend to be more vulnerable to conspiracy narratives. This is because they create a false sense of spirituality. I may not be praying more or reading the Bible more or leading others to Jesus more but because I know who killed JFK and I know about the Illuminati, I feel more spiritual. This is self-deception.
Paul encourages us to, “Examine yourselves to see if your faith is genuine. Test yourselves. Surely you know that Jesus Christ is among you; if not, you have failed the test of genuine faith.”

Conspiracy narratives, rather than helping, actually hinder our spiritual growth because they distract us from Jesus while simultaneously making us feel as if we’re closer to Him. If there ever was a true conspiracy taking place right now it’s this one: Satan is working overtime to keep you as distracted from Jesus and His word as possible, and he will do whatever it takes to take your eyes off Him. Wasting time poring over conspiracy narratives is one of many ways he accomplishes this goal.

2. Conspiracy narratives generate a spirit of fear and anxiety
The opening text for this article comes from Isaiah 8:11-13. At this time Isaiah was prophesying to Ahaz, the King of Judah. The kingdoms of Syria and Israel had formed an alliance together to destroy Judah. Ahaz was so afraid of this conspiracy formed against him that he turned to the nation of Assyria and asked their king, Tiglath-pileser, for help. God was angry with Ahaz because he allowed himself to become afraid and instead of trusting in God, he turned to a man for help. God, speaking to Isaiah and Judah told them, “Don’t call everything a conspiracy… and don’t live in dread of what frightens them. Make the Lord of Heaven’s Armies holy in your life. He is the one you should fear. He is the one who should make you tremble.”

In this story we notice several things. Firstly, the conspiracy was not just a “theory.” It was real. Likewise, many conspiracy theories floating around may in fact be real. However, Ahaz and Judah became so distracted by the conspiracy that, instead of turning to God for help, they turned to the king of Assyria. In the same way, conspiracy narratives fill us with so much fear that we become afraid. Some stock their basements with canned food, run to the mountains, and do all kinds of bizarre things because they are afraid. Instead of trusting that God will take care of them they turn to the “Assyria within” for help. They trust in their own efforts and strength to save them in the time of trouble.

While there is nothing wrong with preparation for the coming crisis, moving to the country or mountains, and learning how to live off of the land, if one does so out of fear it is not the Spirit of God that is leading, “For God has not given us a spirit of fear and timidity, but of power, love, and self-discipline” (2 Timothy 1:7). “Don’t fear the conspiracies” is the message of Isaiah. Fear God. Satan wants everything that belongs to God, including fear, and conspiracy narratives is one way that he gets it.

3. Conspiracy narratives generate a spirit of distrust.
John F Kennedy once said:
"They [conspiracy proponents] look suspiciously at their neighbors and their leaders. They call for a ‘man on horseback’ because they do not trust the people. They find treason in our finest churches, in our highest court, and even in the treatment of our water."[3]
As Kennedy so eloquently pointed out, those who focus on conspiracy narratives eventually become distrustful of everything and everyone. They can’t see the world the same way again because their “knowledge” has opened their eyes to the “truth.” As a result, nearly everything that happens is a conspiracy of some sort.

Those who focus on conspiracy narratives become so distrustful that nearly everything becomes a conspiracy. The logo for Taco Bell supposedly has Free Mason symbols. The latest movie has Illuminati undertones. The pastor’s wave looks like the hand sign of a secret society. The U.S. president is going to become a dictator and oppress Americans. The General Conference of the church is in league with the anti-Christ.  Protestant universities are now under the control of the Jesuits who have introduced heresies to our theology majors. The church has rewritten its history to deceive us. There are secret agents for the papacy in each of our Protestant churches. The government listens to all of our phone calls and reads all our emails. The Catholic Church is responsible for all the new versions of the Bible because they want to erase true doctrine. Everyone is out to get you. Don’t trust anyone. And on and on. Perhaps the same kind of thing was happening in Judah during the days of King Ahaz which is why God told them, “Don’t call everything a conspiracy.”

4. Conspiracy narratives damage our character and our witness.
I have a friend who is not a Christian but has Christian family members. Some of them are high on conspiracy narratives to such an extent that they always seem fearful, worried, and anxious about something. How do you think their non-Christian family member feels? This person looks at them and wonders why they worry so much when they are supposed to trust in God. Other conspiracy theorists seem full of pride, arrogance, and a “holier-than-thou” attitude. While not all conspiracy proponents are like this. many of them are, and those who aren’t, seem to attract and produce followers of that nature. Thus, many begin to think that all Christians are like this, and that, if they were become a Christians, they would be the same. Their natural reaction is to stay as far away from Christianity as possible.

Ellen White warned us of this when she wrote,
“We should never give to the world the false impression that Christians are a gloomy, unhappy people. If our eyes are fixed on Jesus, we shall see a compassionate Redeemer, and shall catch light from His countenance. Wherever His Spirit reigns, there peace abides. And there will be joy also, for there is a calm, holy trust in God.”[4]
Conspiracy theorizing ruins our credibility and witness among thinking people. Many conspiracy proponents are actually brilliant professionals who could do much good for the church, however their credibility has been deeply damaged by a focus on conspiracy narratives and division rather than revival follows them wherever they go. Some conferences and many pastors don’t want these presenters in their churches – not because they speaks the “truth” and they don’t like it – but because they speak conspiracy narratives that do more harm than good. While these presenters may have reached a lot of people for Christ, they would accomplish a much greater work if they were to focus on biblical truth.

Not only do conspiracy narratives damage our character and our witness but they reduce our ability to engage in evangelism. In many cases this is due to an inability to get along with others who don’t share the same views. In other cases it is due to a lack of interest – preferring to speak of how the U.S. invaded Iraq for their oil – rather than of the cross of Christ. In his article ‘Why Some Christians Still Love Conspiracy Theories,’ former pastor and author John H. Armstrong said,

What’s the harm in a little innocent speculation, or such conspiracy thinking?’ The short answer is that this conspiracy business keeps people from living the really important eschatological aspects of biblical teaching…. if we remain focused on all these conspiracies we will miss the present opportunity ‘to do justice and to love kindness, and to walk humbly with your God’ (Micah 6:8). I am convinced that most Christians who are preoccupied with conspiracies, whether the secular or religious variety it does not matter, will be rendered fairly useless to the real work of the church in the world today. They have no deep and abiding interest in the missional mandate of Jesus.[5]

Not everything is the result of a conspiracy
If you believe in conspiracy narratives, I want to appeal to you right now: Not everything is a conspiracy. Not everyone is out to get you. And no I am not a Luciferian posing as a Seventh-day Adventist pastor to “deceive” you and lead you into error and eternal doom. There are evil people in the world who do evil things to get their evil way. But there is no need for us, as God’s people, to concern ourselves with those “secret” things and become so obsessed that we turn into worry warts instead of mighty warriors for God.

Some conspiracy proponents argue "they are not theories, they are facts!" and they could very well be right. The point is not whether the theory is fact or fiction, the point is that regardless of how true it may be such things are, nevertheless, meaningless and speculative. Scripture tells us, “We should not indulge in useless speculation that takes time and effort away from our work for Christ…”[6] 1 Timothy 1:4 says, “Don’t let them waste their time in endless discussion of myths and spiritual pedigrees [genealogies]. These things only lead to meaningless speculations, which don’t help people live a life of faith in God.” While this text is not talking about conspiracies – much like myths and spiritual genealogies, conspiracy narratives also lead to “meaningless speculations.”

So is the solution then to be gullible and believe everything the media tells us? No. We shouldn’t walk around as if everything is perfect. There is a real battle going on between good and evil. Everything is not OK. The west is under the spell of consumerism, the papacy is regaining its universal influence and political power, and current events clearly show that the world is being prepared for a showdown against God. Revelation 13 seems more possible today than it ever has. But we need not fear, for “if God is for us who can be against us (Romans 8:31)?”

Rather than entertaining conspiracies, as Christians we should be students of prophecy. Biblical prophecy exposes much of what will happen behind the scenes in the end times and prepare us for the coming events.

What’s different between studying prophecy and conspiracy narratives?
There is a world of difference. One is biblical revelation that was given to inspired writers by God Himself. The other is the pursuit of rabbit trails, obscure history, and limited data in order to arrive at a conclusion that supposedly reveals the absolute truth. One has Christ at the center and consistently uplifts the risen Savior while diminishing the forces of darkness. The other has pride at the center and consistently uplifts the forces of darkness. One is truth. The other is speculation.

As puts it,
Speaking up and uncovering the truth is certainly biblical. The prophet Nathan uncovered David’s conspiracy to cover up his sin of murder (2 Samuel 12). Paul’s nephew uncovered a plot to assassinate Paul, and his knowledge foiled the attempt (Acts 23). Wickedness likes to hide. John 3:20 says, ‘Everyone who does evil hates the light, and will not come into the light for fear that his deeds will be exposed.’ We should always seek the truth. ‘Love truth and peace’ (Zechariah 8:19)…. [However, while] [e]xposing the truth is good. Obsessing over rumor and hearsay and half-proven theories is harmful. Ephesians 5:11-14 is an excellent guideline. Verse 11 says to expose ‘the fruitless deeds of darkness.’ But verse 12 says not to mention them. How do we expose them? Not by conjecture or worry or fear or never-ending deliberation, but by waiting on the words of verses 13 and 14: ‘Everything exposed by the light becomes visible, for it is light that makes everything visible.’ Speak the truth and wait for God’s timing.[7]
Focus on Jesus instead
I am not condemning those who believe in conspiracy narratives. But I appeal to you to devote the time, intelligence and energy now devoted to conspiracy narratives into knowing Christ more and proclaiming the good news of salvation. Whether the conspiracy narratives are true or not, whether the governments and the police are out to recreate Hitler’s Holocaust on U.S. soil, or whether Hollywood is conspiring to deceive the world into thinking that Jesus is evil and Satan is good, should not make us lose sleep or precious time.

Do not be overcome with fear, anxiety, and worry. Fix your eyes on Jesus. Preach the gospel. Proclaim the prophecies. Lift Christ up and let God worry about the wicked. Don’t fret over their plans and purposes so much. Don’t freak out over their evil deeds and secret activities. No matter how powerful they are, or what they plan or conjure up, it is written, “The kings of the earth prepare for battle; the rulers plot together against the Lord…. But the one who rules in heaven laughs. The Lord scoffs at them” (Psalms 2:2, 4).

Halleluiah! We have nothing to fear.

[1] Tracey, Michael. The Explosion of Christian Conspiracy Theories in Obama’s America. 
[2] Schwirzer, Jennifer. Conspiracy Theories or Prophetic Facts? 
[3] Kennedy, John F.  
[4] Ellen G. White, The Desire of Ages, p. 153. 
[5] Armstrong, John H. Why Some Christians Still Love Conspiracy Theories. 
[6] Should a Christian be interested in conspiracy theories? 
[7] Should a Christian be interested in conspiracy theories? 
Top 3 Mistakes to Avoid When Sharing Prophecy

Be guarded. In bearing the message, make no personal thrusts at other churches, not even the Roman Catholic Church. Angels of God see in the different denominations many who can be reached only by the greatest caution. Therefore let us be careful of our words. Let not our ministers follow their own impulses in denouncing and exposing the "mysteries of iniquity." Upon these themes silence is eloquence. Many are deceived. Speak the truth in tomes and words of love. Let Christ be exalted. - Ellen G. White, EV 576
The last few weeks have been pretty intense in the religio-political world. The arrival of Pope Francis in America has elicited all kinds of responses. For some, he is a breath of fresh air. For others, he is no different from any other Pope apart from his "terrific PR".[1] 

Regardless of which position you may take, one thing is certain - Pope Francis is a historic Pope. He is the first Latin-american Pope and the first Jesuit Pope. In addition "[h]is tour [in America] marked several firsts for the papacy: Francis was the first pope to address a joint sitting of US Congress. He also [conducted the]... first canonization to occur on US soil."[2] And if that weren't enough, Christianity Today recently published an article titled "From Antichrist to Brother in Christ: How Protestant Pastors View the Pope" which reveals the results of a Life Way Research project which discovered that "[m]ore than half of evangelical pastors say Pope Francis is their brother in Christ."[3] This is a long shot from Luther, the father of Protestantism, who emphatically declared "I am entirely of the opinion that the papacy is the Antichrist."[4]

Those who share the apocalyptic-consciousness that Luther and the reformers proclaimed continue to view the papacy (not necessarily the pope) as the Antichrist.[5] This consciousness - or state of awareness - is arrived at through the historicist reading of apocalyptic literature. In the Bible, this interpretation chronicles an unfolding of end time events in which spiritual fraud forms the overlying strategy of scriptures protagonist - Satan. At the center of this strategy lies the Roman Papal system and the story that this system tells. A philosophy which, taken as a whole, forms a counter-narrative to the story that Jesus came to tell.

As a result, those who share this consciousness feel a responsibility to warn the world. Thus, while the masses may engage in ardent adulation of Romes pontiff, this group finds itself swimming against that stream. As a historicist I find myself in that very position and wonder, how can I effectively share this story with those who do not share my worldview? And while I have yet to arrive at a complete answer, the last few weeks have taught me 3 things I certainly do not want to do.

False Accusations
The first item on my list is false accusations. I cannot tell you how many Facebook posts I have seen that level false accusations against Pope Francis. The worst of all would have to be a recent article accusing the Pope of declaring Jesus' work on the cross a failure. If this were true, it would be very significant. But it turns out, that's not what Francis actually said. His exact words were: 
The cross shows us a different way of measuring success. Ours is to plant the seeds. God sees to the fruits of our labors. And if at times our efforts and works seem to fail and not produce fruit, we need to remember that we are followers of Jesus Christ and his life, humanly speaking, ended in failure, the failure of the cross.[6]
The relatively unbiased and careful reader would note that the interpretation of this passage rests on the phrase "humanly speaking". In other words, we are not to measure success by way of human standards because "humanly speaking" Jesus' life ended in failure. To say the Pope was actually saying that Jesus was a failure is clearly a false accusation. While such an accusation may convince the sensational and overtly biased it fails to bear the test of scrutiny.

Antichrist or not, Christians do not have the right to label false accusations against Pope Francis. Exodus 20:16 clearly states "You shall not bear false witness against your neighbor." And last I checked Pope Francis is my neighbor. While I may not agree with his meta-narrative he is still a child of God. And while I may fully embrace the apocalyptic warning concerning final events that does not give me licence to break the commandments in the name of "I'm just warning people". If we are going to warn people against deception, lets not resort to deception. If we are going to proclaim truth, lets do so in the Spirit of truth and not vindictiveness and hatred. Our words and discourses regarding this matter should stand the test of scrutiny. As Ellen White said,
It is important that in defending the doctrines which we consider fundamental articles of faith, we should never allow ourselves to employ arguments that are not wholly sound. These may avail to silence an opposer, but they do not honor the truth. We should present sound arguments, that will not only silence our opponents, but will bear the closest and most searching scrutiny. . . .[7]
Hateful Rhetoric
Rhetoric is defined as "the art of effective or persuasive speaking or writing, especially the exploitation of figures of speech and other compositional techniques."[8] Combine that with "hateful" and you have got yourself one nasty piece of literature. Paul tells us in Colossians 4:6 "Let your speech always be gracious, seasoned with salt, so that you may know how you ought to answer each person." With such a clear command one would expect Christians to exercise caution when it comes to the kinds of rhetoric that they engage in regarding any topic - including the Pope. And yet, it is from Christians that I have witnessed some of the most hateful rhetoric around. From sarcastic memes to outright insulting statements the internet is crawling with the greatest exhibition of Christian hate that I have seen in a long time. Sadly, most of what I have seen is being promulgated by my Adventist kin. In many ways some (not all, of course) of my own brothers and sisters in faith have become, in the words of Adventist evangelist Roger Hernandez, "the kind of Christian other Christians have to apologize for.”[9]

Examples of hateful rhetoric can include articles and memes insulting the Pope with phrases such as "Marxist", "idolater", "blasphemer", or "man of sin". Now some may argue "but that's what the Bible calls him!" To which I would say, no. That's what we call him while borrowing scriptures language. Truth is, we don't know who the Antichrist is. While I share the conviction that the Antichrist is certainly the papacy, that does not automatically mean that a particular Pope is the Antichrist.* But even if Francis were, what have we accomplished by promulgating this? By calling someone "Antichrist" outside of Revelations narrative does nothing but offend those who do not share our worldview. If we want people to know who the Antichrist is its not about slapping Antichrist on a picture of Francis and sharing it all over social media. Its about inviting people into the story of Daniel and Revelation and lovingly helping them to see the entire tale unfold - a tale which has Jesus, not the pope, as its central theme. If we skip this and instead opt for the shallow meme or the anti-Catholic propaganda, what have we really accomplished? Have we led people to see the beauty of Jesus? Have we drawn people to the truth of the cross? Or have we attempted to simply convince them of the Papacy's evils through our own brand of evil - our hateful words?

The worst part of engaging in hateful rhetoric is that ultimately we are the ones who suffer, not our target. By engaging in hateful rhetoric against the Pope we are sending a message to our friends and neighbors that we are intolerant, unloving, unhealthy, and fanatical. While Pope Francis pours his energy into relieving the suffering of illegal immigrants we raise our hate-speech banners all over Facebook to let everyone know where we stand.[10] In the end, we accomplish nothing of value. Instead, we succeed in making ourselves look like the biggest fools on earth and do damage to the cause of Christ.

Thirst for More
The final point I would like to mention is our seemingly insatiable thirst for more beast and more Antichrist. I recently came across an article which, while rejecting the Catholic worldview, attempted to highlight the areas of Pope Francis' philosophy that all Christians - especially Adventists - can embrace. The author focused exclusively on Francis' appeal to social action, acts of charity, and stewardship of the earth. In the end he concluded that in relation to these positive and necessary pursuits we were in full agreement with Francis. I enjoyed the article and found it to be both balanced and thought provoking. What I found alarming where the comments that followed. Beginning with the very fist comment all the way down the page was one complaint after another on how the author had failed to mention how the Pope is the Antichrist, the beast of Revelation 13, and how he is using social justice as his mask for the Sunday law. 

As soon as I read those comments all I could do was ask, "Haven't you read enough of that already? Do we really need another article on the Antichrist agenda? Do we really need to be told again and again?" 

The article did not deal with the apocalyptic narrative of Revelation 13. Instead, it approached the issue from the angle of "common ground" and called Adventists to recognize the value in social action. In my estimation, this is an angle that is painfully overlooked. Revelation 13 has been extrapolated in countless sermons, articles, documentaries, and books. Do we really need another article repeating the same stuff? And here I discovered one of the greatest dangers to avoid in this whole discussion - the thirst for more. Some, it seems, are constantly and endlessly craving more anti-Catholic and anti-Pope ideologies. It's like we can't get enough of it. Like addicts, we freak out when someone writes an article about the Pope that is not anti-Pope. "I want more anti-Pope!" is the cry of our "itching ears"[11]. And the more we go down this path the more susceptible we are to fanatical conspiracy theories, an imbalanced apocalyptic-consciousness, apocalyptic paranoia, and an unhealthy witness.[12]

So here is my main objective with this article. I wholeheartedly embrace the reformers historicist interpretation of Daniel and Revelation. I am all for giving the warning. I am all for preaching final events. But it can never be done via false accusations, hateful rhetoric, or a continual thirst for more anti-Papacy discourses which leave the avenues of our souls wide open to the dangers of apocalyptic paranoia. When discussing Revelations narrative we must remember that it is the "Revelation of Jesus", that our words should always be seasoned with salt, that we are never to bear false witness,** and that if there is one thing that we should thirst for more and more it is Jesus and Jesus only. Psalm 42:1 says "As the deer pants for streams of water, so my soul pants for you, my God." May this prayer be ours.


* Some have raised significant concern over the statement "We don't know who the antichrist is". I have added this footnote to clarify any misunderstandings. The above statement does not negate Adventisms prophetic understanding concerning antichrist. Adventism has never sought to identify a particular or specific individual as antichrist. It is the system of papacy that we identify as antichrist but that does not mean we know exactly who the climactic antichrist will be. Does the Pope - as the visible leader of Catholicism - fill an antichrist role? Undoubtedly yes. But that does not mean that he is the climactic antichrist. The identify of this individual we simply do not know. According to the Amazing Facts study guide Who is the AntiChrist?:
Antichrist is an organization--the papacy. The words "eyes of man" in Daniel 7:8, however, do point to a leader. Revelation 13:18 speaks of man with a number being involved. In Daniel chapter 8, Greece is represented by a goat and its leader, Alexander the Great, is symbolized by a horn. The same is true of Antichrist. The organization is the papacy. The pope in office is its representative. The prophecy of Daniel chapter 7 is not saying that popes are evil and that Catholics are not Christians. There are many warm, loving Catholic Christians. The system, however, is called Antichrist because it has usurped Jesus' authority and attempted to change His law. (Emphasis added)
The view espoused here is the same view that I and many other SDA pastors, theologians, and scholars hold. The papacy as a system is antichrist. But the personal identify of the climactic antichrist remains unknown.

** One of the main reasons why false information continues to spread is because many have not educated themselves on how to identify it and evaluate it. Here are 3 articles which should be of help with this endeavor:

"Therefore Keep Watch" - Watching the Signs vs. Conspiracy Theorizing
Does LOL Really Stand for "Lucifer Our Lord"?
Bruno Mars’ Masonic Baby Haircut and 5 Ways to STOP Misinformation on the Internet

[11] "For the time will come when people will not put up with sound doctrine. Instead, to suit their own desires, they will gather around them a great number of teachers to say what their itching ears want to hear." - 2 Timothy 4:3
[12] See: Christians and Conspiracy Theories -
Is The "New World Order" Theory Part of Adventisms Message?
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“As a conspiracy theory, the term New World Order or NWO refers to the emergence of a totalitarian one-world government. The common theme in conspiracy theories about a New World Order is that a secretive power elite with a globalist agenda is conspiring to eventually rule the world through an authoritarian world government—which replaces sovereign nation-states… Prior to the early 1990s, New World Order conspiracism was limited to two American countercultures, primarily the militantly anti-government right, and secondarily fundamentalist Christians concerned with end-time emergence of the Antichrist.” -Wikipedia

Growing up I always thought that part of Adventism’s end time message was the idea of a “New World Order.” The concept of the New World Order as I understood it is basically this: The Roman Catholic Church will unite all of the world empires into one unified government that will persecute Gods people in the last days. The Pope will be the head of this movement and will control, enforce, and dictate issues of conscience. Of course, recent political talk of a “New Economic World Order” only served to add fuel to this belief. In my mind, when the governments of the world began to unite under the papacy then it was clear that, as in the Dark Ages, Catholicism had once again managed to become the dominant religio-political power of the world. Then one day I found a theological inconsistency in Adventism’s message of the New World Order and Adventism’s understanding of the feet and toes of Daniel chapter 2. According to Daniel 2, the feet and toes of the statue represent the final phase of earth’s political history. This phase is characterized by governmental division. In other words, in the last days the kingdoms of the world will be divided and nothing will unite them. They will remain this way until Christ comes and establishes his kingdom on earth after having cleansed the earth of sin and sinners. So how was I supposed to reconcile this clear biblical message with the “New World Order” theory that teaches that all world governments will be united under the Pope in the end times? I wasn’t too sure and for a long time, didn’t even think about it. That is, until I picked up a little book by Allen Roesch called, The “New World Order” Part of Adventism?

In this book Roesch demonstrates three points that allowed me to reconcile the New World Order with Daniel 2. These three points are separated into three questions:

Who is warning us about the coming New World Order?

Who is not warning us about the coming New World Order?

Who else is not warning us about the coming New World Order?

The first question sets the stage. According to Roesch those warning us about the coming New World Order are, among others, Malachi Martin, Gary Kah, Don McAlvany, and Gary North. Malachi Martin is an Irish Catholic Priest and former Jesuit priest who exposed the New World Order agenda in his book The Keys of this Blood. Kah, Mclvany, and North have all been involved in political and economic circles and are all well known for their proliferation of the New World Order agenda. However, what is interesting is that not a single one of these gentlemen is a Seventh-day Adventist. Not a single one of them preaches, teaches, or even remotely believes in the same prophetic message that the Seventh-day Adventist church proclaims. Now there's nothing wrong with not being an Adventist. But what is interesting is that a message that I thought to be central to SDA eschatology does not originate in the SDA church at all. The following two questions clarify.

The second question, Who is not warning us about the coming New World Order? explores the writings of some of the most influential Adventist pioneers. These include James White (husband of Ellen White), Uriah Smith (Adventist historian), J.N. Loughborough, and Stephen Haskell. Roesch points out that the idea of the New World Order is not found in any of their writings. If this message were a central pillar of Adventist eschatology, why is it not found among the writings of some of Adventism’s most respected pioneers? The answer is: The New World Order is not a part of Adventism. It is a conspiracy theory that originated with men who have much different views than that of the SDA church. It is not, and has never been, a part of Adventist eschatology.

The third and final question, Who else is not warning us about the coming New World Order? is a section dealing with Ellen Whites views on the topic, particularly in her book The Great Controversy which deals primarily with end time events. Once again, Roesch points out that nowhere in Ellen Whites writings, including The Great Controversy, is there any mention whatsoever to a New World Order. The closest you will come to it is in Ellen Whites mention of the papacy striving for the political domination he once had. However, the papacy striving for this domination and the papacy establishing a NWO are two totally different things. The way I grew up it seemed as though this theme was the most important aspect of our message and one that demanded our utmost attention and careful study, however, it’s not found anywhere in the writings of Ellen White. How is it that the woman Adventists believe to be a prophet could write about last day events and never once mention something that is supposedly so central and urgent to our message? The answer is simple. It’s not central to our message. As a matter of fact it’s not even marginal to our message. Just like Y2K, which many Adventists (and other Christians for that matter) freaked out over, the coming New World Order has nothing at all to do with our end time message. If you want to find it you will have to look to guys like Malachi Martin and Gary North because you will not find it in Adventist theology anywhere.

So how do I reconcile the New World Order theory with Daniel 2? Well it’s really quite simple. The only New World Order in Daniel 2 and Adventist eschatology is the New World Order of the Kingdom of Christ, the stone which destroys the statue representing the kingdom of God which will come to this world and never end.

While I don’t agree with all of Roesch points in The “New World Order” Part of Adventism? or even like the way that Roesch goes about some of his research regarding the four gentlemen that proclaim the New World Order message, I do appreciate his effort in disproving the notion that this doctrine is part of Adventist eschatology. For that I thank him.
In conclusion I would like to leave all of us with the following Ellen White statements:
The end is near, and now is the time when Satan will make special efforts to distract the interest and separate it from the all-important subjects that should arrest every mind to consecrated action. - III Selected messages 23, 24
As Christ’s ambassadors, they are to search the Scriptures, to seek for the truths that have been hidden beneath the rubbish of error. And every ray of light received is to be communicated to others. One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other,—Christ our righteousness. - 1888 Materials, 765