The First Doubts
The Story of Nikos
I took with me the Holy Scriptures, a New Testament concordance and some books of the organization. Primarily however, I relied on a small booklet briefly referring to the history of the church full of negative scandalizing elements. The reason I used this particular booklet, was because of its synod approval stamp on the first page. Thus I believed that whatever I would show to my [nemesis, (challenger)] would be irrefutable. I was not aware that the Holy Synod approves books without always reading them, and that the approvals of the Synod of the Bishops are not always acceptable by the church.
--- Before we begin our discussion, he said to me, we that need to establish our sources of truth. You must know then that we as Orthodox along with the Holy Scriptures accept the Ecumenical Synods, and in short, the entire Holy Tradition of the Church. At this point I will agree to base our discussion solely on the Holy Scriptures out of concession, in order to help you out. Do you accept all the books of you organization in addition to the Holy Scriptures?
--- Only those, which were not reevaluated based on a newer and better understanding by the organization! I answered, to block him from bringing up all kinds of “new light changes” of the organization over the years. However, I already had a problem. With his initial comments he already rendered useless my little booklet against the Church, because it wasn’t approved by a Ecumenical Synod! After this we began our discussion and I preferred to begin first, so I can always keep him on the defensive so he would not have an opportunity to structure an attack. After I exhausted my time referring to all the negativities of the small book, commented that this particular author, maybe a theologian, but he is not truly Orthodox, but of a very protestant mindset. Consequently his book is seriously flawed and inappropriate for this discussion. After this, he began to answer everyone of my arguments with very simple answers, often with one phrase, to the point where he refuted my entire argumentative procedure in a few minutes. I was looking at him expressionless and he must have sensed this because he told me:
--- I’m sorry that I’ve destroyed your arguments so quickly, but these things are very simple! Being that we had divided our discussion period in equal sections and his time was already finished, I needed to talk again, and I would continue to keep him on the defensive. So I began the attack, forcing him to defend his entire time. This went on for six hours! But since I kept him continuously defending his position, he did not find the time or the opportunity to begin to dissect some serious issues of my religion. A few minutes before the completion of our discussion and while accusing Saint Constantine for a number of things I had heard and read, I took out an encyclopedia volume. This volume was full of many bad accusations against the Saint.
--- Do you believe everything you read in encyclopedias he asked me?
--- Yes, except about evolution, I replied.
--- Then you must also believe this: he said and he took a photocopy out of his briefcase from some encyclopedia.
The subject was about Jerusalem. Among other things it wrote that the destruction of Jerusalem took place in 587 B.C. and not in 607 B.C. as I was taught from the “Watch Tower” organization. This has great ramifications on all the doctrines of this Adventist Organization because this date serves as the foundation of its central dogma, holding that the second Presence of Christ took place in 1914. Almost all the doctrines of the organization even its allegation of being the “organization of God” after 1919, are based on this dogma of 1914. Of course, at the time the significance of this had not struck me, so I looked at the dogma of 1914 as a date without any special importance. This was also true for my challenger, who simply looked at this as a cacodox dogma that needed to be refuted. Thus, when I took out a book of the organization “Thy Kingdom Come”, with the purpose of proving that Jerusalem was destroyed in 607 B.C. he did not insist much, saying: “The organization wants to pull the wool over our eyes managing to lead us astray with such distorted articles, to keep us from discovering the truth”.
I had not understood exactly what the book wrote, but I remembered this subject in a form of a footnote. What I did not know was that the author of this footnote, Raymond Frans, member of the “Governing Body” and a nephew of President Frans, was accused of apostasy and expelled because he no longer believed in this date! When still in jail, I had heard that the nephew of President Frans was in apostasy and left the “Governing Body” but at the time I did not pay any special attention to this, not even now was I aware that this was connected to the topic under discussion. However the fact that I was not very well versed on this topic was very upsetting to me. If I would have studied the footnote carefully I would be able to answer him properly, so he could learn the truth, seeing that the organization is worth far more than any encyclopedia. Incidentally he had squashed one more of my arguments against Saint Constantine since I myself discredited all the encyclopedias as untrustworthy!
At this point we were forced to adjourn our discussion because my wife and my mother-in-law were knocking on my door being somewhat alarmed from my six-hour absence. I was feeling empty, mainly because all my arguments against the Orthodox were answered quite unexpectedly, even though he did not have a chance to say much against my religion. So I was disarmed, yet I was not convinced that he was right in being Orthodox. I was eager to repeat this discussion and I was beginning to feel that we were friends. Unfortunately he did not share in these feelings.
The next day I went out for “street work”. As it often happened, the man I discussed with approached me. This time I was happy to see him and I greeted him with joy. His response was very shocking to me:
--- You are not only an agent (of Brooklyn) but even a bribed one!, he yelled very angrily. Apparently he believed that he had convinced me of being in the wrong faith and despite all this I chose to ignore the truth. In turn I also became very angry against him expecting more kindness after so many hours of friendly discussion. Thus all the beneficial things he built inside me he demolished in a few seconds. The Orthodox took once again their old position in my eyes, as liars, worthy of destruction, people with every evil quality. However, the seed he planted about the date of Jerusalem’s destruction did not perish. This man could have been my enemy, but he touched on something that was an excellent topic for search. I needed to learn how to deal with this argument more appropriately the following time it would come up. So I began to research this topic using different resources within the organization. Not that I was able to understand everything, but I grasped some idea about the problem and I could at least now defend 1914 by repeating the arguments of the organization like a parrot.
A new development however compelled me to continue this research. One day, my sister-in-law who worked with me at the time, told me that some “witnesses” that she was acquainted with informed her that the Organization had found proof that the dogma of 1914 was wrong and a change was to be soon in the works. I considered this very possible without any bias, and I was ready to accept it as “new light”. But the fact that I had wrestled with this subject a few months prior, and being that I had seen a different date in the encyclopedia than the one held by the Organization, made me restless. I could not sit back and wait for the change to be publicized by the “Watch Tower”. Therefore I began a new round of research on the subject with a different goal this time.
The study needed to take into account only the Holy Scriptures this time, so if there were some mistakes on this dogma, it would be made overt and supported scripturaly. Afterwards I would compare my findings with the articles of the Organization to see if there was a difference in the train of thought. In reality however, I did not expect to find a difference, hoping that the information of my sister-in-law’s acquaintance was wrong. This study went on for six months on a daily basis. I studied and recorded important elements many hours every day. I was amazed by the complexity of the events of the period involved. I was under the impression that the Jews migrated to Babylon only once and here I discovered that there were four separate such migrations! This complicated matters, because I needed to determine at every point which migration was the text referring to. Confusing was also the constant change of Israel’s Kings, as I was attempting to determine the years of their reign. And to make matters even worse, there were two different kingdoms, one with ten tribes and the other with two tribes, each having its own king. Another complexity was the difference of our calendar with the Hebraic and the Babylonian, which gave different numbers from book to book of the Holy Scriptures!
Toward the end of this almost six-month period, I had come up with some conclusions. I organized my findings in a chronological index, according to the order of events, and afterwards I opened the books of the Organization to compare notes. The comparison was highly disappointing. In the corresponding chronological index of the organization, I found much void and obscurity from which originated a great series of different chronologies. Strangely enough, in following the argumentation of the footnote of the book “Thy Kingdom Come” I could not even agree with the chronologies of the historians. After tormenting myself for some time to find some compromise for the differences, I reckoned: “It is impossible for me to find in six months, something that the organization of God did not find in a century. I probably made a mistake somewhere”. So I placed a question mark on the dogma of 1914 and I glued my study inside the Holy Scriptures. “God, will solve this puzzle for me at the opportune time”, I thought.