CHIPS Program, Hope, British Columbia —Dec. 1-3, 2000 © 2000 Herbert E. Douglass, Th.D.
Talk #1: From Bacon to Gluten—"Step by Step" by Herbert E. Douglass, Th.D.
Introduction: When I became an Adventist in my early teens, vegetarianism was not something pushed by our pastors. Further, magazines and newspapers and the medical world in general were silent as a tomb regarding the benefits of vegetarianism. In fact, experts in nutrition ridiculed such a flaky idea. I was an avid reader of EGW in my teen years but when I read her counsel on this subject it seemed to be something from Mars; it didn’t seem to connect with her grand theological themes. And it certainly did not connect with what I heard from the Adventist pulpit.
When I became a pastor in Illinois, I determined that meat would not be served in our home and it never was an issue with my children. But was I shocked to hear the subject of vegetarianism laughed at by the older ministers! In my naiveness, I countered with a few statements from EGW which only increased the laughter. I have never forgotten this particular mentoring by older ministers whom I had been holding in awe. Steaks were the menu of choice whenever we had workers meetings, that is, wherever the Dorcas ladies did not prepare lunch.
And so it has been over the years. I remember when Neal Wilson became General Conference president. He strongly urged all those in his administrative team to lead the way toward a vegetarian diet for many reasons. He was not totally successful although he took the lead which had been his life-long practice anyway.
But when Norma and I were called to Weimar Institute we finally found a place where everyone was on the same page. Norma went through the NEWSTART Lifestyle Program and, wonderful to say, got off heart medicine that she had been taking for about ten years. But something happened to us in our exuberance for the program. I even gave some talks off campus to large groups where I was more zealous than wise. Everything I said was the truth about animal products, sugar, and salt but after awhile I began to really learn something about the subject we are focusing on today.
Some of our gallant zeal did not introduce well the NEWSTART program to our own family. Norma and I wanted to be faithful to a great program but something was wrong with the way we were doing it. And some around us, loving and exceptional people, were doing the same. Weimar Institute was being classed with some of our other health institutions around the country which were turning many Adventists and others away from some great healing principles.
I was determined that Weimar Institute would be known for what it was for, not for what it was against. That became our motto in every aspect of our Institute life, whether in the Academy, College, or NEWSTART Lifestyle Program. I began to study this whole subject with more calmness and common sense. What we will be discussing this weekend is the result of this study. It has given Norma and me much freedom with others and strengthened our own advancement in letting health principles empower our lives.
So let’s take an overview of how early Adventists looked at health principles. Those early Adventists are a helpful microcosm of what has happened to church members ever since, even down to the last Cooking School you conducted.
I. Joseph Bates seemed to be the first and, for some time, the only Adventist leader that we know about, prior to 1844, who had come to terms with certain health principles. As a young sea captain, He had decided in 1824, at the age of 32, to abstain from intoxicating drinks. Earlier he had given up tobacco. Seven years later, he gave up tea and coffee, and by1843, he became a vegetarian. But he was a silent evangelist on health. For him, the new views on the Sabbath and the heavenly sanctuary were enough to focus on.
II. As early as 1848 EGW was shown the harmful effects of tobacco, tea and coffee at a time when these items were often prescribed by physicians for the relief of medical problems..
III. But diet was another matter, the first example of how God led a people "step by step." Why?
A. The growing Sabbatarians had made many life-style changes already, such as the seventh-day Sabbath, understanding the state of the dead, the impact of why Jesus was in the Most Holy Place, etc. Further change, such as self-denial in dietary habits would have been most distracting and a source of much division among these sabbatarians who had not yet even chosen a name for themselves, nor had they organized themselves into a church with standards for both ministers and lay people.
B. Spiritual and doctrinal unity were needed before the introduction of more personal tests.
1. For example: swine’s flesh. Killing the hog in the fall for winter consumption was a common practice for Adventists up to 1863. Angeline Andrews kept a diary for the years 1859-1864. She mentions the butchering of a pig for their winter’s supply. However, some had contended in the early 1850s that the Bible forbids eating pork and Stephen Haskell was pushing the issue zealously by 1858.
2. Note EGW’s counsel to friend Steve in 1858:
"I saw that your views concerning swine’s flesh would prove no injury if you have them to yourselves; but in your judgment and opinion you have made this question a test, and your actions have plainly shown your faith in this matter. . . . If it is the duty of the church to abstain from swine’s flesh, God will discover it to more than two or three. He will teach His church their duty. . . . I saw that the angels of God would lead His people no faster than they could receive and act upon the important truths that are communicated to them."
3. But after Ellen White’s vision on June 6, 1863, at Otsego, MI,, the eating of swine’s flesh was settled among SDAs. Why? On May 21, 1863, at Battle Creek, SDAs had organized themselves under a General Conference that unified their scattered churches. Only three years early, they had decided on their name.
4. It seemed that God waited until the church had completed its organizational struggles and was settled on its main doctrinal platform before He gave them the next step in their assignment, the next step in preparing a people and through them a larger group of honest believers prepared for His return. The next step: the health message.
5. Note James White’s analysis in 1870 of this "step by step" leading of the Lord:
" The Lord also knew how to introduce to His waiting people the great subject of health reform, step by step, so they could bear it, and make a good use of it, without souring the public mind. It was twenty-two years ago  the present autumn, that our minds were called to the injurious effects of tobacco, tea, and coffee, through the testimony of Mrs. White. God has wonderfully blessed the effort to put these things away from us, so that we as a denomination can rejoice in victory, with very few exceptions, over these pernicious indulgences of appetite. . . . When we had gained a good victory over these things, and when the Lord saw that we were able to bear it, light was given relative to food and dress."
III. Psychologically, God’s method of leading could not be otherwise. It was the method of Jesus: "I still have many things to say to you, but you cannot bear them now" (John 16:12). People can not relate to too many changes at once. EGW’s awareness of this principle of "step by step" was one more evidence of her common sense. God is not unreasonable and neither are His prophets.
A. By 1871, she saw the danger of moving ahead by leaps instead of "step by step." About six years after she had written out for the first time her Otsego health vision, and five years after the opening of the Health Reform Institute in Battle Creek, she saw the danger of extremism and the lack of common sense.
1. Dr. Russell T. Trall, head of the Institute, and Pastor William Gage, editor of the magazine, Health Reformer, were advocating the absolute discontinuance of salt, sugar, milk, butter, and eggs, as well as meat. This extremism caused confusion and a severe drop in subscriptions. The health movement was going under fast.
2. After returning from west coast, camp-meeting assignments, EGW saw immediately what the problem was: "The position to entirely discontinue the use of these things [salt, sugar, milk, butter, and eggs] may be right in its order; but the time had not come to take a general stand upon these things." For example: salt, though not a poison, should be used in moderation.
3. Further Gage, the editor, was ill. Why? Because he and others who were supporting these extreme positions for that time in their paper were not following them in their own homes—they were eating those items that they were publicly condemning! Result: confusion and despair and the health reform message was in great trouble.
B. What was EGW’s advice? 3T:pp. 19-21—"Meet people where they are. . .[Allow others] as much time as we have required to come up to the present advanced state in reform . . . [We must not] "advocate positions that we do not put to a practical test in our own families . . . .This is dissimulation, a species of hypocrisy. . . . We know that a free use of these things is positively injurious to health. . . . but at present our burden is not upon these things. The people are so far behind that we see it is all they can bear to have us draw the line upon their injurious indulgences and stimulating narcotics. We bear positive testimony against tobacco, spirituous liquors, snuff, tea, coffee, flesh-meats, butter spices, rich cakes, mince pies, a large mount of salt, and all exciting substances used as articles of food.. . . . We must lead the people along patiently and gradually, remembering the hold of the pit whence we were digged."
C. What was the result of this counsel? Within one year after James White took over the magazine, subscriptions increased from 3,000 to more than 10,000!
III. The lesson: pushing even truth too fast quickly becomes extremism and fanaticism. The principle of "step by step" is the safest guide. Let’s look at some other examples:
A. In 1868 two health reform leaders were doing great damage. EGW called them "extremists and would run the health reform into the ground. . . . their influence would disgust believers and unbelievers, and would drive them farther from reform, instead of bringing them nearer to it. . . . By them the entire theory of our faith is brought into disrepute." 2T:377.
B. One of the men had a sick, pregnant wife and several children, all of them under his extreme dietary restrictions. What was Ellen’s counsel: "Her system craved material to convert into blood; but he would not provide it. A moderate amount of milk and sugar, a little salt, white bread raised with yeast for a change, graham flour prepared in a variety of ways by other hands than her own, plain cake with raisins, rice pudding with raisins, prunes, and figs, occasionally, and many other dishes I might mention, would have answered the demand of appetite. If he could not obtain some of these things, a little domestic wine would have done her no injury; it would have been better for her to have it than to do without it. In some case, even a small amount of the least hurtful meat would do less injury than to suffer strong cravings for it." 2T:384.
C. In 1868 James White wrote an editorial pointing out that extremists made the work of Mrs. White unnecessarily difficult: "While Satan tempts the many to be too slow, he always tempts these [with more zeal than caution] to be too fast. Mrs. W.’s labors are made very hard, and, sometimes perplexing, by reason of the course of extremists, who think the only safe position is to take the extreme view of every expression she has written or spoken upon points where different views may be taken."
D. Both James and Ellen White recognized individual differences. They were patient with others because they knew how long it had taken them to see the logic and beauty in health principles that were affirmed by vision. They further knew that they could not be conscience for anyone else. They could lead only by example and clear teaching.
IV. Both James and Ellen White realized that it took time for them to respond "step by step" to advancing truth. Experience, common sense, and divine insight prompted her often-repeated principle: "The diet reform should be progressive." God has always used this principle in revealing truth.
V. What does this mean for us today?
A. We must remember how long it took us to adjust our dietary program to where we are today.
B. We must remember that we are not consciences for others, even for those in our own families.
C. We must remember that we must not confuse principles with policies, a topic that we will discuss later. For example, vegetarianism is a policy, not a principle.
VI. During those wonderful years when I was at Weimar Institute, I had the privilege of speaking to the NEWSTART guests. I would talk about our Lord God, the most reasonable and most compassionate Person in the universe—and He wanted us to become like Him. And that was His job, to do just that, if we would let Him. I knew I had many nonAdventists in the room and that was my sheer delight. No nonAdventist coming from their animal products regime ever asked me, or challenged me, as many Adventists did: "Look I gave up pork when I was baptized. And I have given up my meat. Do you mean to say, that I have to give up my cheese too!"
My answer always was, "No, not at all. You don’t have to, it just depends on how healthy you want to be."
When health leaders understand "step by step," and when guests in our Chips programs or cooking schools, or wherever else, understand the relation of principle to policy, we will have many boat loads of happy, healthy people on the way to glory. Not beaten down by guilt, or driven by legalism, they are led by truth that comes like the dawning light that brightens more and more until it is noon time in our lives—light that can not be denied.
Copyright © 2000 Herbert E. Douglass. All rights reserved.
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