Bulletin of Prophetic Historicism
9 March 2014 Editor and Proprietor
Edwin de Kock
Bulletin # 12
The editor/proprietor assumes responsibility for his own contributions. He is not, however, responsible or liable for the ideas expressed in pieces by other writers, also sometimes mentioned or cited.
Where Do We Go From Here?
ulletins 9, 10, and 11 all dealt with Christ and Antichrist in Prophecy and History (2013) as well as The Truth About 666 and the Story of the Great Apostasy (2013). Both of them have now been reprinted. If any of these Bulletins have failed to reach you, please review them on website propheticum.com. Should you need help, I can send such an item as an attachment. Just let me know. Those Bulletins especially tell how the Lord worked marvelously to supply the means for republishing The Truth About 666 as three soft-cover volumes, still at a very affordable $40.00 per set.
In them, I mention a major factor that holds back the sales of my books on prophecy: so far, our denominational journals have not reviewed them, though this may change. Another reason is that several self-supporting ministries who previously ordered from me still have unsold copies of The Truth About 666 in the 2011 edition. This factor will naturally phase itself out. We have done our best to promote my books. For instance, in both February and March we ran a paid advertisement in Southern Tidings, because both individuals and ABCs of Southern Union Conference have reacted favorably to these books.
Unfortunately we incurred a distressing problem: a credit card debt of more than $3,600. This was for a few extra expenses, to shrink-wrap every three-volume set together with transparent plastic, and especially freight charges to ship the books from the printer in Benton Park, Michigan, to our home as well as other points of sale in the United States.
Normally this would not be much of a problem. If we sell enough books, whether The Truth About 666 or Christ and Antichrist—or either of the other two—we can liquidate this debt quite easily. But so far the results have been meager. Why?
Bookstores and Publishing Houses Are Dying
We are experiencing new difficulties in wholesaling my books to Adventist Book Centers. It used to be much easier. A major problem, not only within our ranks but throughout the world as a whole, is that it is a bad time for both publishers and bookstores. People are not buying publications as they used to. What is wrong? A major problem is that bookstores as well as publishing houses are dying, and outlets that have survived are reluctant to add to their inventory.
In February 2011, Borders, a massive chain of book stores, began to close a third of its 659 branches. By July, it announced the liquidation of the remaining 399. It was a sad end to a great American enterprise, which had started forty years earlier in Ann Arbor, Michigan. The pundits realized that the Recession had undoubtedly played a role but also pondered other probable causes, which could also apply to Seventh-day Adventist publishers. Writing in Time Magazine on 19 July 2011, Josh Sanburn mentioned five explanations:
1. It was too late to the Web. That is, its website redirected inquirers to Amazon.com, “relinquishing control to another company.” This “hurt Borders’ branding strategies and cut into its customer base.” Indeed! This is one reason why I am chary of Amazon.
2. It was too late to e-books. Unlike Amazon and later Barnes & Noble, it did not foresee the rise and importance of e-books, nor did it develop its own device like the Kindle or the Nook. That is more or less how Sanburn put it. He really meant gadgets using e-ink. Actually, in a larger sense e-books have existed for about twenty years, though without e-ink. Further, there are also other gadgets which display electronic text, including the i-pad and i-phones.
3. It opened too many stores. Seventy percent branches of Borders competed with Barnes & Noble, “offering a glut of book stores even as people were shifting to online shopping.” Somewhat similarly our Adventist Book Centers proliferated. Twenty-five of them depended on Pacific Press Publishing Association for financial support. But Pacific Press, itself in trouble, has now cancelled all the contracts that it used to have with them. Many if not most of these ABCs have had to close. Some are trying to remain afloat through special arrangements with the Conferences within which they are situated. Even those that have never had a contract with Pacific Press are experiencing uncertainty.
4. It had too much debt. According to Sanburn, Borders restructured twice since 2008 to pay down $350 million. Likewise within our ranks, both Pacific Press and Review and Herald Publishing Association were suffering financial woes. They even thought of merging,
but then decided against it. I sincerely hope they will survive.
5. It over-invested in music sales. In the 1990s, Borders invested heavily in CD sales, but from 2001 people began buying iPods instead. These, like other electronic devices, can store large quantities of music, photos, videos, games, etc. We do not know to what extent our ABCs have also suffered from technological obsolescence, but this is surely a cautionary tale for us.
Though smaller, often specialty, book stores have survived, many of the larger ones are teetering on the brink of extinction. More startling is the elimination of publishing houses. Adam Davidson, writing in The New York Times Magazine on 13 November 2012, referred to the giant merger of Penguin and Random House, which was destined to control a quarter of the global book market. He speculated about the possibility of more mergers that could soon bring down the total number of publishing houses to two or even one. On the other hand, the survivor(s) would “compete with every blogger and self-published e-book author.”
Davidson referred to the envelope industry and the lot of several big companies that marketed them in the early 1900s. “Then the mergers started, and an industry of numerous small companies became two giants. Eventually, the envelope industry wasn’t large enough to sustain itself, and the companies became tiny divisions of larger conglomerates. U.S. Envelope still lives as a small part of the packaging manufacturer MeadWestvaco.” One wonders what will happen now that e-mails have largely eliminated ordinary “snail-mail” letters. Other, even more powerful analogies exist. What happened to all the candle-makers after electric lights became common?
There is a further issue that Publishing Houses must be aware of and a question that they dread to ask: Are we going to survive? Authors have an intimately related question: Why do we need them? We can bypass them and self-publish.
Publishing Houses could respond that they provide editorial services. Indeed they do, but authors can arrange for cheaper ones. In my case, I began with my wife and also had highly qualified friends who helped me with editing and much detailed advice on improving my books. It cost me nothing and greatly reduced unit price. For instance, a functionary of Review and Herald Publishing Association said they could not publish The Truth About 666 because it would not sell. Why not? Because it would have to be priced at about $80.00! I am selling it at $40.00.
Let us now ask:
Are People Reading Less?
This is a very important question. Fortunately they are not. As a matter of fact, they are reading more than ever, though often not printed books or magazines. How is this possible? For information about anything under the sun, they mostly turn to the Internet, to Google, to Wikipedia, and to other suchlike sources. There they can learn how to do their taxes, make marmalade, build a house, and whatever, depending on who they are and what they are interested in. What about studying ancient Egyptian hieroglyphs or Sumerian cuneiform? No problem. Searching the Internet will make it all available. And, best of all, it is all free or very cheap.
But the Internet has also destroyed a tremendous range of printed matter. Of this, the most spectacular has been the world-famous Encyclopaedia Britannica. It appeared continuously for 244 years in luxurious multi-volume sets. According to Julie Bosman (Media Decoder, 13 March 2012), as recently as 1990, its sales peaked in the United States at 120,000 sets. It used to be a treasured source of data in the English-speaking world and beyond. And yet, in 2010, just twenty years later, the printed edition accounted for less than 1 percent of Britannica’s income. Therefore, in that year, the last edition was printed, selling for $1,395. Of 12,000 sets, only 8,000 sets were sold, with the remaining 4,000 going into a warehouse. The famous encyclopedia still exists but only online at a yearly subscription of $70.00. Its great selling point is the quality of its articles, often by eminent writers.
But one wonders how long this will continue. Why? The Britannica is being killed by the much more comprehensive Wikipedia with more than four million articles. Connoisseurs still quibble about their quality, but their quantity is unmatchable—and free of charge.
Online many publications are now offered, more cheaply than in printed form, or gratis. Here is where all manner of e-books, iPads, and the like come in. This undercuts all print media.
None of this means that the market with physical books has disappeared, but it has been greatly reduced. It has also been obscured by the many free items offered on the Internet. A truly great problem is a glut of books on prophecy by Seventh-day Adventists as well as other writers. Of the former, many largely repeat what other such works assert, despite the shortcomings, like historical errors, that some of them contain. The effect is to make some potential readers think: “Oh no, another book on prophecy! There are too many of them.”
Above all, we will have to do more to highlight the uniqueness of my books in comparison with others. Many have commented on their pleasant readability. That is in itself a good recommendation, for the style of such works is often dull. But, and this is even more important, is the grasp of history that my books reveal. Here are a few rather blatant examples.
Seventh-day Adventist writers and evangelists often assert that in or after a.d. 476 the Western Roman Empire was invaded by and divided among ten Germanic tribes. The invasion theory is simplistic and in several ways untrue. For one, the Visigoths, hard pressed by the Huns, requested and received permission to cross the Danube into the Empire a hundred years earlier, in a.d. 376. After that, things went wrong because the Romans ill-treated and exploited them. Other Germans had entered as peaceful immigrants. Many of them were abundantly recruited into the Roman army. And these were not Germanic tribes but Germanic peoples. Some of them consisted of several tribes. Let me quote myself on this issue:
“The Alamanni were always ‘a loosely knit confederation of tribes (pagi)—the Juthungi, the Lentienses, the Bucinobantes and others.’33 Even their name, All-mann (‘all people’), betrays this fact. The Suebi were ‘a group of Germanic peoples . . . Several Suebic tribes have their own separate history.’34 The Saxons reached the Rhine in the fourth century, ‘absorbing many ancient tribes on the way.’35” That is a paragraph from Christ and Antichrist in Prophecy and History, indispensable reading for serious Seventh-day Adventist and other Historicists.
Another common error is that these Germanic peoples were Arians who believed that Christ was a created being. No, they were not. They were ancient Sabbath-keepers, whom the Roman Church had eliminated with military assistance from the Byzantine Empire whose headquarters were in Constantinople, because they would not submit to the papacy. As for the pontificate, it did not originate in a.d. 538 but much earlier.
It is also not true, as many Seventh-day Adventists have suggested, that pagan Rome yielded place to “Christian” Rome in that year. The changeover took place two centuries earlier, when Constantine I was converted. For this, a good date would be a.d. 325, when the Council of Nicaea took place. After Constantine, all the Roman Emperors were Christians, with the exception of Julian the Apostate (331-363), who lasted for only nineteen months.
I go into these and many other historical issues in both Christ and Antichrist and the Truth About 666. A scrupulous respect for historical truth is a hallmark of all four my books on prophecy. Especially for this reason, our people need them. Even more serious: practically all our literature on these topics ought to be rewritten.
How You Can Assist
Part of our aforementioned credit card debt has now been paid off. A dear brother, whom we are not allowed to name, had bought a large quantity of the new Christ and Antichrist (2013) at 60 percent discount. The Spirit of the Lord moved on him to pay back this discount. His check, together with more of our meager savings, diminished what is still owed on the credit card to about $2,000.
If enough of my books are sold, the proceeds can wipe out the rest of our credit card debt on The Truth About 666, without my appealing for direct donations—which I am reluctant to do, though we gratefully accept them.
You, dear reader, can help, in one of several ways. First, please acquire such copies of my four books on prophecy as you do not yet have. They are listed below. Second, you may wish to follow the example of the brother who bought a goodly quantity of my books at a special discount of 60 percent and then sell them or use them as gifts. Third, if you see your way clear to do so, please act as a colporteur for me on 50 percent commission. In this case, I can send you books on consignment. Four, kindly recommend them to your friends. Five, if you have your own website, please mention my writing there. Also our website propheticum.com.
Recently I sent a consignment of 25 boxes containing The Truth About 666 (2013) to a brother in California. Twenty were for possible sale in his state. But accompanying them were 5 boxes as a gift to send to prisoners in Ghana. Amazingly, there are now almost a million Seventh-day Adventists in that country, that is, about as many as in the North American Division. A helping hand with my freight charges would be greatly appreciated.
All My Books on Prophecy
For readers who would like to possess all four my books on prophecy, there is the following very special jumbo pack:
Christ and Antichrist in Prophecy and History (2013) 19.95
The Truth About 666 and the Story of the Great Apostasy, 3 Vols. (2013) 40.00
The Use and Abuse of Prophecy: History, Methodology, and Myth (2007) 14.95 Seven Heads and Ten Horns in Daniel and the Revelation (2012) 20.00
This is a total retail value of $94.90, which does not include shipping and handling. But if you buy them all together, I can discount it to $85.00 and also pay for shipping the six books to you by priority mail in a medium flat-rate box. For this, the postage is $12.35, at least for the time being. That makes a total savings of more than $22.00. When you order them all, please remind us of this special offer.
New Items Added to Our Website
Under Articles and Letters, are several pieces that you make like and find valuable. Some of them contain Greek and Hebrew text, though everything is transliterated. Hopefully this will not prove to be intimidating. There are articles that focus on Self-supporting Ministries, Exegesis and the Apocalypse, the Meaning of Hebrews 9:12, and Dr. William H. Shea. The last mentioned is titled “A Special Tribute” and contains an autobiographical sketch about his and his wife’s experiences in mission and other service for the Lord. The article that deals with Hebrews 9:12 concerns the heavenly sanctuary, the only major doctrine that is unique to Seventh-day Adventists.
I am also writing about Josiah Litch’s calculation that the Ottoman Empire lost its self-determination on 11 August 1840, which Ellen G. White endorsed. A grave problem is that some scholars in our Church are debunking his arithmetic and, even worse, her status as an inspired writer. When I have finished and carefully checked this article, it will also go onto the website.
As usual, this Prophetic Bulletin is also being added there.
The Thorny Issue of Women’s Ordination
As a Seventh-day Adventist, I am extremely concerned about this topic. A conflict has developed between two sets of Divisions in our world Church and threatens to tear our denomination apart. It centers on the question as to whether or not we should allow women to be ordained as ministers, whereby they can also become Conference Presidents. Not as elders—for this is something we already permit—but as pastors. Because I love my Church, I do not want to see its worldwide unity destroyed. Therefore I have written a book of 140 pages, entitled The Labyrinth of Women’s Ordination: A Way Out (2013).
In it, I show what a dangerous issue this can be, especially with a survey of what it has done to the Southern Baptists since 1979. They are a warning and an object lesson for us. Their two sides in the controversy used all the arguments, theological, cultural, and whatever, which our own scholars have come up with. But it was no use; they did not reach a fruitful consensus. They lacerated one another and tore themselves into pieces. Even former President Jimmy Carter gave up being a Southern Baptist after a membership of more than sixty years.
During the twentieth century, Seventh-day Adventists have likewise argued for decades about women’s ordination, as detailed in my book. It brings to light astounding facts. For instance, Latin American machismo and patriarchalism in sub-Saharan Africa are related to culture as well as religion in ways that most North Americans find abhorrent. For instance, in African countries some Seventh-day Adventists practice female genital mutilation.
When our General Conference meets in session at San Antonio during 2015, it will have to make a final decision. Five of our thirteen world Divisions, including North America, Europe, and Australasia generally favor the ordination of women as pastors. Most of the others strongly oppose it. We are in dire danger of schism. Fortunately, if we read the Bible and our own history correctly, we can escape that dilemma. How?
Southern Baptists have two basic orders of clergy: elders and deacons. Seventh-day Adventists now have three: pastors, elders, and deacons. But in the nineteenth century we also had only two: elders and deacons. This was likewise true of the early Christian Church as described in the New Testament. Apart from the Apostles, it also had elders and deacons. No pastors. That is our key to preventing an unnecessary tragedy at San Antonio next year, if we will boldly seize and use it.
If you are also worried and would like to acquire The Labyrinth of Women’s Ordination: A Way Out, please mail me $10.00 (U.S.), and I will send it to you as an attachment to an e-mail. For $20, I can copy it on a data CD and mail it to you. For this, I would obviously need your postal address.
Please feel free to get in touch with us, in one of the following ways, which is also our order of preference:
Telephone: (956) 583-2859
Mailing address: 12916 Los Terrazos Blvd., Edinburg, TX 78541
All helpful suggestions will be welcomed and considered. We appreciate your forwarding this information to your friends. May the Lord bless, sustain, and lead you daily in the paths of righteousness for his name’s sake.