Great Controversy Errors Investigated: The Albigensians (chapters 6, 15)
By Jeremy Graham and Dirk Anderson
In Great Controversy Ellen White describes the Albingensians in glowing terms:
"Century after century the blood of the saints had been shed. While the Waldenses laid down their lives upon the mountains of Piedmont "for the word of God, and for the testimony of Jesus Christ," similar witness to the truth had been borne by their brethren, the Albigenses of France. In the days of the Reformation its disciples had been put to death with horrible tortures."1
From these quotes we learn the following about the Albigensians:
What is the Truth about the Albigensians?
"The Albigenses (so-called because they were most numerous near Albi, in Southern France), or Cathari (from the Greek word, katharoi, meaning pure ones), although claiming New Testament authority for their beliefs, were a heretical sect formed in the Roman Catholic Church during the twelfth century and resembling the Gnostics and Paulicians. Dualism was at the heart of their teachings--two gods, one evil and one good, matter being the essence of evil, etc. The evil god was the Jehovah of the Old Testament. With matter being evil, they, of course, rejected the incarnation of Christ; Christ, they taught, had no real body; it only appeared so. Since matter is evil, they rejected all the sacraments of the church; the one sacrament which they held to was the consolamentum--the giving of the Spirit by the laying of hands and the Gospel of John on the head. They were extremely ascetic, avoiding marriage with its fleshly and therefore evil pleasures, oaths, war, milk, meat, cheese, and eggs.(!) The use of anything material in worship was forbidden."3
The Encyclopedia adds the following:
"They believed that Jesus only seemed to have a human body. The Albigenses were extremely ascetic, abstaining from flesh in all its forms, including milk and cheese. They comprised two classes, believers and Perfect, the former much more numerous, making up a catechumenate not bound by the stricter rules observed by the Perfect. The Perfect were those who had received the sacrament of consolamentum, a kind of laying on of hands. The Albigenses held their clergy in high regard. An occasional practice was suicide, preferably by starvation; for if this life is essentially evil, its end is to be hastened.
Even the Adventist Review admits there are some issues with the Albigensians:
"I know people who, because of a few comments in Ellen White's book The Great Controversy, have a great fondness for the Albigensians (or Cathars), who were also considered heretics. Many were killed for their faith. These Cathars were very different from the Waldensians. They believed that Jesus was an angel, denied Jesus was really a man who died and was resurrected, and believed the Old Testament came from Satan. They discouraged marriage. They were in their day what David Koresh's Branch Davidians are in ours."5
Was Mrs. White Wrong about the Albigensians?
We know the Albigenses did not preserve the truth "from century to century" because they were wiped out in 100 years. But even for that short period, were the Albigenses really a church established by heaven to preserve the truth?
First, they denied that Christ came in the flesh.
- And every spirit that confesseth not that Jesus Christ is come in the flesh is not of God: and this is that spirit of antichrist... (1 John 4:3)
Why would heaven use antichrist as its agency to preserve the church?
Second, they claimed the Jehovah of the Old Testament was an evil God and the Old Testament was from Satan.
Were these "saints" really a "witness for the truth?"
Third, they avoided marriage and the eating of meat.
1 Timothy 4:1-3 - Now the Spirit speaketh expressly, that in the latter times some shall depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits, and doctrines of devils; speaking lies in hypocrisy; having their conscience seared with a hot iron; forbidding to marry, and commanding to abstain from meats, which God hath created to be received with thanksgiving of them which believe and know the truth.
Why would heaven use a church that has departed from the faith as its agency to preserve the true faith?
1. Ellen G. White, Great Controversy, p. 271.
2. Ibid., p. 97.
3. Fred G. Zaspel, Baptists: Their Historical Relation to the Protestant Reformation And the Roman Catholic Church, 1985.
4. Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition, © 2003.
5. Ed Christian, Adventist Review, Nov. 20, 2003, "One Person's Heretic Is the Next Person's Martyr".