The Adventist-Davidian Tradition
Many people want to learn about David Koresh's theology. The most
important thing to understand is that it was a SEVENTH-DAY ADVENTIST heresy.
While SDA leaders strenuously argue that David's "twisted" beliefs should
not be associated with them in any way, and he did take his theology in
radical directions, he jumped off an Adventist base. Most of the members
of the Branch were former Seventh-day Adventists, and describing his teachings
without reference to what came before is distorting.
For instance, one
story mocking David's "capricious" dietary rules tells how he okayed chicken
bologna, but rejected chicken hot dogs. Not mentioned was the fact that
until he joined the Branch Davidians, they practiced Seventh-day Adventist
vegetarianism, and couldn't eat either chicken bologna or hot dogs.
The following is an outline of salient points in the teachings of Adventist
and Davidian leaders.
William Miller: The Loud Cry
Premillennarianism Miller's theology was premillennial, meaning
that he expected the Second Coming to precede the thousand-year rule of
bliss. This might seem so obvious as to hardly be worth mentioning, but
at the time the dominant strain in theology was postmillennialism, that
is that Jesus would return after the millennium. Premillennarianism
was one of the grounds on which Millerites were ridiculed.
Baptist Roots Though the Millerite movement was transdenominational,
Miller himself was a Baptist, and was thus most closely related to the
Baptists, which would be reinforced by the influence of Seventh-day Baptists
on the early SDAs.
Babylon Facing ridicule from the established churches, the
beleaguered Millerites came to see those churches as Babylon, deceiving the
people with their false teachings.
Ellen White: The Spirit of Prophecy
Saturday Sabbath White restored the Saturday Sabbath, and
this hallmark of their beliefs is reflected in their name.
Diet EG White was very concerned with matters of nutrition
and diet. She decided that the Old Testament dietary laws were pointing
the way to vegetarianism, which was adopted by SDAs. She had many other
ideas about nutrition, some ahead of their time, some flaky.
Persecution Ellen White predicted that one day the United
States would pass a national Sunday law, and the government would begin
persecuting Saturday Sabbath-keepers. This prophecy would evolve into the
scenario envisioned by David Koresh.
Anti-Catholicism Ellen White was very anti-Catholic. In
her portrayal, when Satan could not defeat Christianity openly through
persecution, the Pope became his tool for subverting Christianity from
within. Her books denounce "popery" and "priestcraft."
Victor Houteff: The Shepherd's Rod
Continuity It is important to note that VT Houteff saw his
teachings more as fulfilling and supplementing Ellen White's teachings
than superceding them. While SDAs obviously disagree, he endeavored to
show that he was in harmony with her, citing her writings as proof-texts
alongside Biblical verses. Rarely did he openly contradict her. As a result,
some scholars hold that a "conservative" SDA actually has more in common
with a Davidian than with a "liberal" SDA.
Typology Houteff's theology relied heavily on types and
antitypes. A type is something that foreshadows or prefigures something
later; an antitype fulfills a type. Examples in mainstream Christian
theology: Noah's Ark, the only way to be saved in Noah's time, was a type,
accepting Jesus the antitype; Elijah was a type, John the Baptist the antitype; the Temple
was a type, Jesus the antitype; the system of animal sacrifices was a type,
the sacrifice of Jesus on the cross the antitype. Ellen White's writings
also mention typology. However, Houteff took this concept to an extreme,
turning all of Biblical history into types and antitypes.
Laodicea Houteff identified the Seventh-day Adventist church with
Laodicea, the seventh church of Revelation, which is upbraided for being
"neither cold nor hot," but "lukewarm." Houteff believed that SDAs had lost their
spiritual zeal and had become lukewarm.
Ezekiel 9 One of Houteff's most crucial teachings related
to Ezekiel 9, which describes a bloody purification of Jerusalem by angels.
He believed this prophesied the purification of the Seventh-day Adventist
church, which would leave alive the 144,000. (A difference has arisen among
today's Davidians between those who believe he taught that only 144,000
would survive, and others who think he meant that 144,000 of Jewish ancestry
would live, and that there would also be additional survivors of purely
Gentile blood. However, even the latter group clearly expects a decided
majority of Adventists to perish.) [Note: Davidians charge that SDA leaders
have falsely spread the story that Davidians believe they themselves, not
angels, are to carry out the slaughter in Ezekiel 9, so that ordinary SDAs
will refuse to listen to them out of fear and disgust. Whether deliberately
fostered or not, this misimpression is out there among rank and file SDAs.]
Assyria In 1943, Houteff predicted that Hitler would win
World War II, breaking the "Assyrian yoke." As Hitler's coming defeat became
obvious, Houteff explained that another would come to resume the work that
Hitler had started, and the identification of the US government with antitypical
Separatism When VT Houteff established the Mt. Carmel
colony in 1935, one reason for selecting the location was that it was out
of town. Davidians attempted to make Mt. Carmel as self-sufficient as possible,
growing their own food. Community leaders decided what news from the outside
world to tell residents. Mt. Carmel had its own currency and its own schools,
and Davidian children pledged allegiance to the Davidian flag "and to the
theocracy for which it stands" alongside the American flag.
Asceticism Life at Mt. Carmel was quite spartan.
Bifurcation However, while residents of Mt. Carmel dedicated
all their energy to spreading the word, the majority of Davidians continued
to live in the world, supporting the work with tithes. This split between
the dedicated minority living at Mt. Carmel and the majority living on
the outside would continue in the Branch Davidian movement until 1992,
when David called for an ingathering of believers to Waco.
Benjamin Roden: The Branch
Judaization Roden, who was born Jewish, restored the Biblical
New Mt. Carmel Although the move from Mt. Carmel's original
location to the site that would become notorious was undertaken by a rival
Davidian leader whose legitimacy he rejected, and was criticized by him,
Branches came to have a deep attachment to New Mt. Carmel. Just why the
Branch Davidians formed this bond is unclear; it is memories of Old Mt.
Carmel that stir the hearts of other Davidians.
Colony The Rodens established a Branch colony in Israel
in the 1960s, but this effort seems to have gradually fizzled out.
Adventist Babylon While Houteff explicitly stated that
the SDA church was not part of spiritual Babylon, Roden included it in
Theocracy Ben Roden is said to have had a vision at Pentecost
1970, which marked the beginning of "theocracy," when the legitimate authority
of the world's governments passed to the Davidic government.
Lois Roden: Living Waters
Holy Spirit Lois is best known for her teaching that the Holy
Spirit is feminine, the Mother counterpart of the Father. After some initial
resistance, especially by the men, she convinced her flock. In fact, this
teaching gained her minor notoriety in feminist circles.
Seven Years Lois also taught that 1977 marked the beginning
of a "seven-year prophecy," which would involve "something big" happening
in 1981, and a grand culmination in 1984. Unfortunately for her, this would
come back to haunt her: it was in 1981 that David Koresh joined the Branch
Davidians, and when he made his break with her in 1984, many followers
concluded that the event she had been predicting was the passing of the
prophetic torch to him!
David Koresh: The Seven Seals
Sinful Messiah David's "sinful messiah" teaching has often
been misunderstood as an admission that he was an "evil" messiah. Actually,
it meant that he was ordinarily, not extraordinarily, sinful.
Sealed Book Revelation speaks of a book "sealed with seven
seals," which only the Lamb can open. According to David, this sealed book
is no less than the Bible itself, whose true meaning man is too selfish and
world-centered to see until
the Lamb opens the seals and reveals it. This was his rationale for making
the "Seven Seals" the center of his theology.
Key of David In Revelation, the Book of Life is opened by
the "key of David." David Koresh believed this "key" to be Psalms.
Oralist In contrast to the often voluminous output of his
predecessors, David Koresh declared that his teachings would not be put down
in writing- a position he did not change until the end, when he began working
on his Seven Seals manuscript. Such a stance may not seem surprising coming
from David, whose charismatic oratory contrasted with his dyslexic spelling, but
besides reflecting a personal proclivity, it may also be related to the destruction
of Mt. Carmel's printing press in a 1983 fire, which took away their ability to
print literature cheaply.
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