by Preston Foster
The term “inside baseball” describes the jargon and shorthand language used by baseball aficionados, while rhapsodizing with each other about the game that they love. Adventists, like members of other intense groups, have our own lingo. Some of it is innocuous. Some of it is offensive. Some of it is dangerous. For example:
“Vege-meat”: Beside the oxymoronic nature of the term, “vege-meat” refers to the nondescript, sodium-laden vegetarian meat substitutes that many of us were raised on and, more than a few of us still eat. The term, “vege-meat” is not unique to Adventism, but it has a special place in our parlance (and in our high blood pressure). Choplets (my all-time favorite), Stripples, and Vegeburger (another favorite) are Hall of Fame “vege” dishes. Nutena and Vegelona are among the vege-substitutes that give “vege-meat” a bad name. No matter. Adventists use the prefix “vege” to refer to any substitute or fake. For example, on some Adventist university campuses, members of the security force are referred to as “vege-cops.”
“Non-Adventist”: This term is applies to persons of other faiths (or of no faith at all), who are not Seventh Day Adventists. Objectively, it sounds (at least to me) as though the great majority of the world is Adventist and only a small and unfortunate minority are “nons.” We Adventists know what we mean. The problem occurs when this term is used in open groups (Saturday at 11 a.m. church service, for example), where visitors are present. It makes those in the “non” group feel inadequate and isolated. Worse, it makes Adventists seem exclusive, superior, and more-than-a-bit out of touch with decorum and reality.
“The Spirit of Prophecy”: Hold on. This has nothing to do with the inspiration of Ellen White. This has to do with how we refer to her writings. “The spirit of prophecy” is very specific language — associated with a named person: Jesus Himself. The Bible defines the Spirit of Prophecy, in the present tense, as “the testimony of Jesus,” (Revelation 19:10 KJV). Ellen White, among others, had (I believe) the gift of prophecy. If Revelation 19:10 KJV is taken literally, only the words of Christ could constitute the spirit of prophecy. To call the words of anyone other than those of Christ Himself the “Spirit of Prophecy” is, I believe, blasphemous. Ask an average Adventist whose words are being referenced when someone says, “The ‘Spirit of Prophecy’ says . . .” Answer: “Ellen White, in one of her books wrote . . .” “But,” some might say, “we know what we mean — EGW was testifying about Jesus and her writings of were inspired by God.” True enough. However, the testimony of corroborating witnesses is never equated to that of the principal witness. Our Catholic friends, who refer to the Pope as “Holy Father” say, “We know the Pontiff is not God Himself, but he is the Vicar of Christ, the symbol of God on earth. We are simply referring to the holder of the office.”
Inside Catholicism, this is not seen as a problem.
The point is we have gotten a bit uncaring about and unnecessarily attached to our language. Some of it is dangerously insular, deafening our ears to the damage it causes. Words have meaning beyond what we intend. Intent and context are not always available.
Offending people of other faiths with thoughtless, naval-gazing language is rude and unproductive. Unintentionally (but repeatedly) equating the writing of EGW with the testimony of Christ creates confusion and, ironically, undercuts the importance of her texts. Undoubtedly, some will make my point for me in this space — equating the words of others to those of Christ. Would not the most conservative and respectful position be to protect, differentiate, and revere the words of Christ above those of others?
Let’s try harder to say what we mean. It’s important.