It is hard to describe to someone who did not grow up a Seventh Day Adventist how integral the Great Controversy motif is to their worldview. We are taught this perspective from a very tender age, and it is made to sound fun. I used to look forward to seminars on such topics because to me it was like watching Star Wars. I enjoyed the graphic art, imagery, and apocalyptic language.
In this post I will attempt to define my understanding of the Great Controversy and then analyze it to determine the major premises it is predicated upon.
The Great Controversy Defined
Below is a cut and paste from the 8th fundamental belief of the Seventh Day Adventist Church that defines the belief well enough. It is important to remember that the fundamental beliefs of SDA don’t define the whole scope of their teachings, but since this is one of the fundamental beliefs it allows Ellen White’s teachings on the topic in the door as they are the only source of the hermeneutic.
“All humanity is now involved in a great controversy between Christ and Satan regarding the character of God, His law, and His sovereignty over the universe. This conflict originated in heaven when a created being, endowed with freedom of choice, in self-exaltation became Satan, God’s adversary, and led into rebellion a portion of the angels. He introduced the spirit of rebellion into this world when he led Adam and Eve into sin. This human sin resulted in the distortion of the image of God in humanity, the disordering of the created world, and its eventual devastation at the time of the worldwide flood. Observed by the whole creation, this world became the arena of the universal conflict, out of which the God of love will ultimately be vindicated. To assist His people in this controversy, Christ sends the Holy Spirit and the loyal angels to guide, protect, and sustain them in the way of salvation.”
Though the SDA confession touches on these things I will expound with a few extra details that you have to attend their seminars to learn. After this rebellion kicked off in heaven a third of the angels are cast to the Earth right after the fall along with the Devil. While this is going on created beings on other planets are curious and cannot discern who is wrong and who is right so they are watching Earth to see how everything shakes out.
What they won’t plainly state is that in this view the Devil is seen as an equal with God, not in the divine sense, but certainlyInvestigative Judgment in the sense of a rival. In this motif it is actually possible for Satan to win and for the universe to fall into darkness. Fortunately, Jesus pulled it off and managed to defeat Satan by the skin of his teeth on the cross and everyone breathed a sigh of relief.
SDA believe that it was made clear at the cross to all of the other created planets which side was right afterall. SDA will tell you that today the Great Controversy is over who we will choose. Will you choose to be saved by keeping the Sabbath day and proving your loyalty or will you choose to serve the Devil and go to church on sunday instead? Ultimately SDA believe that the Great Controversy is God’s plan of proving his character and vindicating himself from those who have wrongly accused him of evil.
What is sad is that I am not putting forth a straw man argument, this is actually what they teach. In this series I am going to Biblically disprove this heresy thesis by thesis in the same fashion that I did the Investigative Judgment.
Great Controversy Analysis
My assessment of the Great Controversy Doctrine is that it is based on a few Biblical claims that if fairly evaluated and proven false would topple the whole framework. Because of this I am going to focus on each one at a time.
Aliens: According to the Great Controversy Aliens not only exist on other planets but this fact is taught in scripture and we have just missed it the whole time. Is this true? What does the Bible really say?
The Nature of God: For the Great Controversy to work there must on some level be an equality with God and Satan in that it could at least have been theoretically possible for Satan to win and defeat God at some point in the Biblical narrative. How does such a view distort the scriptures on the nature of God?
Burden of the Law: Part of the Great Controversy motif is that the Devil accused God of making the law too burdensome. In this Great Controversy it is God’s ultimate goal to prove that the Devil was wrong and that the law isn’t too hard to keep after-all.
Example of Christ: A key element of the Great Controversy is the means by which the character of God is vindicated. To do this human beings are called to ultimately reach a plane of sinlessness in this life. Doing so gets God off the hook for presumably making the law too difficult.
Vindication of God: For the Great Controversy to be true it would need to be Biblically necessary for the character of God to be in question. Also, the scriptures would have to teach that created beings are in some way standing in judgement over God at least in the same sense as a Jury does over a defendant in a court of law.
The Nature of Man: For the Great Controversy to work unregenerate man must posses a salvifically relevant free will. By that I mean, such free will must have the cosmic power to in some way assist in their own salvation and alter or impact the divine Will of God.
I will be examining each of the above topics one by one. It is my assessment that if even one of these can be proven not to work in line with SDA teaching the Great Controversy motif would collapse completely as it is presupposes all of them in a systematic framework.
Do you think that I missed something important? Please drop a comment and let me know. Also, if you would like to study the same material you now have my outline so please feel free to add your thoughts with each post if that is something you want to do.