SDA church denounces book proclaiming Pope evil

Adventist Anti-Catholic Book Denounced

Book denounced that claims pope in league with devil" read a headline in the San Diego Union Tribune on August 30, 1996. The paper, California’s third largest daily, ran a story describing the book God’s Answers to Your Questions, published by the Review and Herald Publishing Association.

The piece, an Associated Press release that may have run in up to 100 papers nationally, says the book "likens the papacy to the beast in the book of Revelation, an ally of Satan in the world’s final days. The Seventh-day Adventist Church publishes the book and distributes it nationally door to door."

The writer, Jan Clenski, asked several Protestant and Roman Catholic leaders for their comments. They expressed strong feelings. A Bible professor at Union Theological Seminary in Virginia, for example, said he was surprised that the Adventists publish the book. "It’s outrageous and inflammatory and untrue biblically in any sense," he said.

Twice the article refers to the Adventist church as a "major" denomination and conveys surprise that it would link the pope to the devil. It quotes Roman Catholic William Donohue of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights in New York as saying, " ‘For this to come from the Seventh-day Adventists and not from a splinter group makes this offense particularly egregious.’ "

"The book merely follows the lead of such Protestant Reformers as Martin Luther and John Calvin," says George Reid, head of the Biblical Research Institute at Adventist world headquarters. The Review and Herald’s Richard Coffen defends the book: "Our position is that we are criticizing the system and not individual Catholic Christians."

God’s Answers to Your Questions is only a condensed version of Bible Readings for the Home Circle, an Adventist stand-by for over a hundred years. First published in1890, it sold millions of copies during the past 106 years. (The Review and Herald alone has records documenting that it published over 4 million copies). The Associated Press writer apparently did not know this background information. Today, student literature evangelists are the primary means of distribution for God’s Answers to Your Questions.

North American church leaders are concerned about the bad press the denomination could suffer from this AP article. They have put "message points" on the Internet giving statements for local pastors and members to use in case they have to speak to the media about the issue. The following is typical of the 7 points:

"The primary issue is not the identity of the Antichrist, but the attempt by the Antichrist to trample on individual freedom of conscience, to use secular power to make people obey dictates they may not believe in."

In 1975, Neal Wilson (former North American Division president) submitted a brief in a trial document during the Pacific Press equal pay trial in California. His brief included the statement:

"Although it is true that there was a period in the life of the Seventh-day Adventist Church when the denomination took a distinctly anti-Roman Catholic viewpoint, and the term ‘hierarchy’ was used in a pejorative sense to refer to the papal form of church governance, that attitude on the Church’s part was nothing more than a manifestation of widespread antipopery among conservative protestant (sic) denominations in the early part of this century and the latter part of the last, and which has now been consigned to the historical trash heap so far as the Seventh-day Adventist Church is concerned."

Today, varying administrative agendas and ideological pluralism exist in the denomination, and the church is divided on its traditional view of Catholicism.

A group of progressive Adventists object to the denomination’s continued affirmation of traditional anti-Catholic views based in nineteenth century American Protestant fundamentalism. This group is now working on a statement linking the beast of Revelation to the principle of evil.