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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 Assyria remained.
  • 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 feast days.
  • 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 Babylon.
  • 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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