Criticism of John Thiel’s Sermon – Understanding Fanaticism

Criticism of John Thiel’s Sermon – Understanding Fanaticism

By Georead

In May 2011 the sermon titled “Understanding Fanaticism” was posted online. [1] In this sermon, according to John Thiel, a fanatic is defined as a person who is focused on small works that neglects large works. While a person focused both on small and large works is not fanatical. The following text is used to support this claim. “Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye pay tithe of mint and anise and cummin, and have omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith: these ought ye to have done, and not to leave the other undone.” Matthew 23:23

John Thiel comments on the fanatic: – “He is a person who is so exact, just like everyone else is who follows the Lord, the tithes every little thing and Jesus said this you should do. But the fanatic is so particular about the tiny little details and ignores the weightier ones which are what? You can be so particular about tithing, the little details of health and dress reform which we should be, don’t let me suggest you shouldn’t be but not to leave the others undone which are what? Judgement, mercy and faith. As a fanatic you can be particular down to the enth degree yet very harsh and unmerciful to others. You can have lack of understanding of others people’s feelings. These aspects of mercy, judgement and faith are weightier than the little details but we can concentrate on the little details and leave weightier matters undone. This is fanaticism.”

The idea conveyed above is that, the weightier matters ought to be done, plus the small things such as the tithing of mint, anise and cummin. John Thiel uses this idea to justify not leaving undone small works in dress and health reform.

However, in the writings of E. G. White we read a different idea than what is presented by John Thiel.

“(Matthew 23:23 quoted)—In these words Christ again condemns the abuse of sacred obligation. The obligation itself He does not set aside.” {DA 616.3}.

“According to the requirements of God the tithing system was obligatory upon the Jews. But the priests did not leave the people to carry out their convictions of duty in giving to the Lord one-tenth of all the increase of the marketable products of the land. They carried the requirements of the tithing system to extremes, making them embrace such trifling things as anise, mint and other small herbs which were cultivated to a limited extent. This caused the tithing plan to be attended with such care and perplexity that it was a wearisome burden. While they were so exact in things which God had never required of them, and were confusing their judgment and lessening the dignity of the divine system of benevolence by their narrow views, they were making clean the outside of the platter while the inside was corrupt. Exact in matters of little consequence, Jesus accuses them of having “omitted the weightier matters of the law, judgment, mercy, and faith.”” {3SP 63.1}

God never required the Pharisees to tithe small herbs. It was an abuse of the tithing system. It led to attitudes of spiritual pride. John Thiel wrongly uses the small works abuse described in Matthew 23:23, to justify doing other small works in health and dress reform. John Thiel’s idea that a person is not fanatical if he is focused on both the small and the large works is not found in Matthew 23:23. This suggests to us that John Thiel does not understand fanaticism as the title of his sermon would suggest.

At the beginning of the sermon “Understanding Fanaticism” John Thiel points out, that God’s people will be “a peculiar people, zealous of good works” Titus 2:14. He makes a strong point that works are important to be done by the Christian. Our criticism on this point is that there are two sorts of works, some acceptable to God and some not. Titus refers to works that are the fruit of the Holy Spirit that are acceptable to God. The small works abuse of Matthew 23:23 are not a fruit of the Holy Spirit. Yet John Thiel uses Titus 2:4 followed by Matthew 23:23 giving the impression that the abusive small works of Matthew 23:23 are fruit of the Holy Spirit.

In this sermon John Thiel makes the point, that those who do not understand the workings of the Holy Spirit and who have a form of godliness, will call God’s people fanatics and extremists. He quotes the following from E. G. White:-

“. . . many who now claim to believe the truth would know so very little of the operation of the Holy Spirit that they would cry, “Beware of fanaticism.” They would say of those who were filled with the Spirit, “They are filled with new wine” [Acts 2:13, NRSV]. . . {CTr 371.4} . . . those who are content with the form of godliness exclaim, “Be careful; do not go to extremes.”” {CTr 371.5}

In the past John Thiel and his group have been criticised as fanatics and extremists. John Thiel defends against this criticism. He implies that those who criticise do not understand the workings of the Holy Spirit and have a form of godliness. On the other hand John Thiel himself does not recognise that the small works of Matthew 23:23 are not fruit of the Holy Spirit. John Thiel’s critics may well be filled with the Holy Spirit enabling them identify, challenge, and expose fanaticism. E. G. White, was filled with the Holy Spirit, and many times come up against fanaticism.

John Thiel’s followers tend to become fanatical because the message of works is preached so strongly. The strongest quotes are used to the exclusion of other quotes. When John Thiel sees his own people becoming fanatical he laments that he never taught them these things. However, he does not seem to realise that his strong focus on small works causes his followers tend to look to other small works for salvation.

In September 2011 John Thiel’s sermon titled “Addressing the Balance of Truth” [2] was posted online. This sermon was preached specifically to address fanaticism in John Thiel’s own group. It appears that John Thiel considers himself an authority on what is fanaticism and what is not. However as shown above John Thiel does not even understand fanaticism. How can stand in the pulpit professing to be an authority on what is fanatical and what is not?

To understand how John Thiel is facilitating and encouraging fanaticism we can write about one standard among many others that we could use. Over the years the standard concerning footwear has been strongly promoted within John Thiel’s group.

John Thiel advocates a book, written by Rose Child, titled “Advanced Dress Reform.” In Rose Child’s dress reform book it states that: “Jesus wore shoes not sandals Matthew 3:11.”  Indeed the Bible does use the word “shoes” in Matthew 3:11 but commenting on the same Bible text E. G. White writes: “When asked if he was the Christ, John declared himself unworthy even to unloose his Master’s sandals.” {ST, July 7, 1887 par. 10}. When the Bible says shoes it means sandals. It is a fact that Jesus, Saviour of the World, God wore open footwear when He trod this earth.

Rose Child’s dress reform book states: “The Sandal: With almost complete exposure of the naked foot nothing is left to the imagination.” This attitude makes us wonder if they would also condemn Jesus for wearing open sandals?

In December 2005 a church conference held in Sydney. At the conference a church leader spoke to John Thiel about footwear. The church leader said it is unhealthy to wear fully closed in footwear in a hot environment. He explained that fungus and bacteria can grow in a hot sweaty environment. John Thiel argued strongly in favour of closed in footwear. The discussion ended in an impasse.

In July 2007 when a church member said that there was nothing wrong with wearing open footwear a follower John Thiel became extremely contentious. He loudly exclaimed that Jesus wore shoes and not sandals. His loud exclamations went on for about ten minutes.

The follow is an extract from John Thiel’s sermon titled “Dress Reform and the Sanctuary.” [3]

John Thiel: – “Exodus 28:42 ‘And thou shalt make them linen breeches to cover their nakedness; from the loins even unto the thighs they shall reach:’ What sort of covering was made for them?  As you look at the priest, can you see the covering?  Can you see anything of human form of that person? Just like the sanctuary, you couldn’t see in. That was for glory, beauty and holiness. These are all the ingredients of this dress the priest had. The nakedness was covered and breeches were made as underneath those coats the nakedness was still to be covered from the loins to the thighs. Why were they to be covered from underneath? Exodus 20:26 ‘Neither shalt thou go up by steps unto mine altar, that thy nakedness be not discovered thereon.’ . . . In case there was an opportunity to see underneath the garment. If there was such an occasion but they were not even to go up on steps to reveal the nakedness. God reveals here a fact that covering has to do with holiness. Everything was covered. It is to do with holiness and beauty.”

John Thiel says that “we use the priesthood example in regard to dress reform.” The priests ministering in the sanctuary were commanded to wear breeches. John Thiel’s group follow this example and wear breeches. However they fail to recognise that the priests were also commanded to wear bare feet in the sanctuary.

“Moses at the burning bush was directed to put off his sandals, for the ground whereon he stood was holy. So the priests were not to enter the sanctuary with shoes upon their feet. Particles of dust cleaving to them would desecrate the holy place.” {PP 350.2}

The priesthood example is conveniently ignored when it comes to the feet. This shows that John Thiel’s group will enter into various speculations to establish their false standards.

The statement more commonly read by John Thiel concerning footwear is as follows:

“We cannot, if we would, conceal the fact that women have feet and limbs that were made for use. But in regard to the exposure, this is on the other side of the question. We have traveled extensively the past twenty-five years, and have been eye-witnesses to many indecent exposures of the limbs. But the most common exposure is seen upon the streets in light snow, or wet and mud. Both hands are required to elevate the dress, that it may clear the wet and filth. It is a common thing to see the dress raised one-half of a yard, exposing an almost unclad ankle to the sight of gentlemen, but no one seems to blush at this immodest exposure. No one’s sensitive modesty seems shocked for the reason that this is customary. It is fashion, and for this reason it is endured. No outcry of immodesty is heard, although it is so in the fullest sense.”  {HR, May 1, 1872 par. 18}

Should we use the above statement to make a rule or a standard for footwear? Is it relevant for every time and every place without exception?

In Victorian Era (1839-1901), “Even the glimpse of an ankle was considered scandalous within polite society.” [4] In those days showing an ankle was considered immodest. Even among the worldly women that wore low-cut dresses “a woman’s bared legs, ankles, or shoulders being considered to be more risqué than exposed breasts.” [5]

More reading of Heath Reformer periodical of May 1, 1872 shows that E. G. White is writing against a double standard. She writes a criticism against the wearing long dresses that dragged on the ground. The long dress worn in an apparent display of modesty had occasion to be lifted exposing the ankles and limbs. Twice in the periodical E. G. White declares this to be a standard of false modesty. She decries the hypocrisy of a society where the exposure of ankles was considered immodest and yet nothing was said about the foolishness of the long dress which necessitated such an exposure. E. G. White wrote about the inconsistency of that society in 1872 and indeed the exposure of the ankles, in that society, was considered immodest. But this does not say that God thinks it is immodest or that it is a universal rule with God. Yet so often John Thiel reads this very statement to say that God thinks that it is immodest. John Thiel puts his own construction onto the statement of E. G. White.

In Jesus’ day everyone wore open sandals. It was not considered immodest. Because they wore open sandals their feet soon became dusty. Thus there was established a foot washing custom. “He who came from the bath was clean, but the sandaled feet soon became dusty, and again needed to be washed.” {DA 646.3} “In the East a common courtesy granted to travelers as they were welcomed to a house, was that a servant should remove their sandals and wash their feet.” {RH, June 21, 1898 par. 9} If they had been wearing socks and closed in shoes there would have been no dust wash only sweat and perhaps some cotton lint from the socks.

John Thiel’s followers give feet and ankles an excessive sensuality. They hype up sensuality of any bare flesh. For example Rose Child’s “Advanced Dress Reform” book states:

“The feet should be clad not only for warmth but for modesty with pants under dress to protect us from sensual feelings which keep the sexual organs constantly on fire.”

Wherever unclad flesh is concerned John Thiel raises the fear of the sensual. This is done even where the sensual does not enter into the mind.

John Thiel and his followers were expelled from a church organisation in 2008. Subsequently they created their own organisation. It is wrong to support their ongoing fanaticism by attending their meetings, posting their material online, or supporting their group in any way shape or form.

“One fanatic, with his strong spirit and radical ideas, who will oppress the conscience of those who want to be right, will do great harm. The church needs to be purified from all such influences.”  {HS 212.1}







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13 Responses to Criticism of John Thiel’s Sermon – Understanding Fanaticism

  1. great read, this man j thiel is denifitly a fanatic, i have met a lot of them inmy life , as to dress form and wearing long pants re woman, In jesus ,s time men did not wear pants they wore dresses, am i wrong, got no where with ari on this comment,

  2. Simon O'Rourke says:

    Sabbath Sermons. You now admit that we have “All truth” ,that is correct thank you for clarifying that point. The only difference between us and you is you have long sleeves and cheese abstinence, that IS the sum total of your religion, the fancy dress cheese people.
    Talking of “Murder”, in my time with the Thielites I heard the man behind this blog described as ‘Judas’, a ‘Thief’, a ‘Liar’, an ‘Embezzler, an ‘Empty vessel’, a ‘Schizophrenic’ and ‘under the influence of Satan’. However as Pilot said ‘I can find no fault in him’, so your protestestations regarding spiritual murder don’t carry much weight. You’re upset because you’re putting your salvation in the hands of one man and his man made rules, us questioning his doctrines is causing cognative dissidence to occur because as you have admitted we have “Valid points”, this causes your mind to smoke ,fizzle and go pop.
    We all love you Sabbath Sermons, it’s error we hate, error and false teachers.

  3. Terrific post however I was wanting to know if you could write a litte more on this topic? I’d be very grateful if you could elaborate a little bit more. Cheers!

  4. the typist says:

    I spoke to the author of the book you quote above about dress reform and she stated that it was never a book meant for the public. I since removed it off my websites as it’s for church members only. She stands by her statement regarding covering the limbs. However, since it has been read, I thought I’d get to the bottom of the pants on fire theory:

    The hormones are affected by our flesh and what we wear because of the prevailing sensual malaria we live amongst. Our hormones are affected by our thinking also.

    The mind is befogged by sensual malaria. The thoughts need purifying. What might not men and women have been had they realized that the treatment of the body has everything to do with the vigor and purity of mind and heart! . . . Men and women have been bought with a price, and what a price! Even the life of the Son of God. What a terrible thing it is for them to place themselves in a position where their physical, mental, and moral powers are corrupted, where they lose their vigor and purity. Such men and women cannot offer an acceptable sacrifice to God. {HP 200.2}

    Will you allow temporal, earthly employment to lead you into temptation? Will you doubt your Lord, who loves you? Will you neglect the work given you, of doing service for God? Your associations are with a class who are earthly, sensual, and devilish. You have breathed moral malaria, and you are in serious danger of failing where you might win if you would place yourself in right relation with Jesus, making His life and character your criterion. Now, in order to escape the corruption that is in the world through lust, you must be a partaker of the divine nature. It is your duty to keep your soul in the atmosphere of heaven. {8MR 308.1}

    In regards to Jesus wearing shoes, the book she said is her personal testimony and conviction that Jesus wore shoes because John the Baptist says he was not worthy to lose the shoe latchet of Jesus shoes. She has no problem if others out there believe he wore sandals and it’s not a mandate by her or anyone if Jesus worse shoes or sandals. Its her personal belief.

    Ellen White says a woman can was a mans feet but a man not a womans. It’s quite possible it’s okay for a man to bare his feet but not so a woman.

    Jesus also ate fish and meat. We don’t today. We now have the Spirit of Prophecy as a guideline for life today.

  5. wildport says:

    We thank the Lord for the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy,Isaiah 8.20 says.To the law and to the Testimony,if they speak not according to this it is because there is no light in them.This measuring tool or test’ has been applied to John’s Thiel’s messages and unfortunately it has failed the examination.His messages have too many holes in it ,it is not sound proof

  6. the typist says:

    The issue I have is that the dress reform issue is not a belief unique to John Thiel. Its also held by some globally.

    • Simon O'Rourke says:

      Let these conscientious sisters who would enter upon the work of dress reform walk circumspectly and work in a manner that will correspond with the burden of the message for this time. The surrender of heart, soul, and mind in obedience to the commandments of God is as a thread of gold, binding up the precious things of God and revealing their value in the time of trial. SHM-apx 444.2

      Therefore I say to my sisters, Enter into no controversy in regard to outward apparel, but be sure you have the inward adorning of a meek and quiet spirit. Let all who accept the truth show their true colors. We are a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men. False prudence, mock modesty, may be shown by the outward apparel, while the heart is in great need of the inward adorning. Stand ever committed to the right. SHM-apx 445.3

      • Listening to gossip will keep a person out of heaven:

        Proverbs 10:11 The mouth of a righteous [man is] a well of life: but violence covereth the mouth of the wicked. 12 Hatred stirreth up strifes: but love covereth all sins.

        Anything that would encourage ungenerous criticism, a disposition to notice and expose every defect or error, is wrong. It fosters distrust and suspicion, which are contrary to the character of Christ, and detrimental to the mind thus exercised. {GW 334.1}
        People who expose the error and the sin of others have their own mind destroyed.

        Those who are engaged in this work, gradually depart from the true spirit of Christianity. {GW 334.1}

        It pains me to say that there are unruly tongues among church members. There are false tongues that feed on mischief. There are sly, whispering tongues. There is tattling, impertinent meddling, adroit quizzing. Among the lovers of gossip some are actuated by curiosity, others by jealousy, many by hatred against those through whom God has spoken to reprove them. All these discordant elements are at work. Some conceal their real sentiments, while others are eager to publish all they know, or even suspect, of evil against another. {5T 94.2}

        Leviticus 19:16 Thou shalt not go up and down [as] a talebearer among thy people: neither shalt thou stand against the blood of thy neighbour: I [am] the LORD.
        We are not to go among Gods people as a tale barer. We are not to spread stories about others as it is forbidden by God. Some people think if it’s true, it is not gossip but that is also wrong.

        Proverbs 11:13 A tale barer revealeth secrets but he that is of a faithful spirit concealeth the matter.

        Proverbs 18:8 The words of a tale barer are as wounds as they go down into the inner most parts of the belly.

        1 Peter 4:15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or [as] a thief, or [as] an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.

        A busybody is on the same level as a murderer and an evil doer.

        Philippians 4:8 Finally, brethren, whatsoever things are true, whatsoever things [are] honest, whatsoever things [are] just, whatsoever things [are] pure, whatsoever things [are] lovely, whatsoever things [are] of good report; if [there be] any virtue, and if [there be] any praise, think on these things.

        We think with horror of the cannibal who feasts on the still warm and trembling flesh of his victim; but are the results of even this practice more terrible than are the agony and ruin caused by misrepresenting motive, blackening reputation, dissecting character? Let the children, and the youth as well, learn what God says about these things: “Death and life are in the power of the tongue.” {AH 440.5}

      • georead says:

        We should never give sanction to sin by our words or our deeds, our silence or our presence. {DA 152.3}

        Would you have us give sanction to sin by our silence. There is place for just criticism, the exposure of error and sin. There is a place for speaking out as Martin Luther did. Why is it we cannot test a man’s public teaching by the Scriptures? Why is it we cannot bring to light the errors of a man’s teachings?

        John 3:20 For every one that doeth evil hateth the light, neither cometh to the light, lest his deeds should be reproved.

      • georead says:

        We think your criticism of us as murders and your blackening our own reputations is unjust. Why don’t you answer the doctrinal points we have raised? Is the man you follow divinely inspired as you suggested before? Is he a prophet?

      • You might have all truth, you may have valid points in regards to the short comings of others but listening to gossip and partaking of gossip it is equated on the same level as murder:

        1 Peter 4:15 But let none of you suffer as a murderer, or [as] a thief, or [as] an evildoer, or as a busybody in other men’s matters.

        I don’t believe in going public to complain about a certain person associated with this blog admin.

      • georead says:

        We allow you to publicly criticise us and call us murderers and evil gossips but we’re not allowed to warn others of wrong doctrine that you publicly post?

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