1975 Jan-MarVIII 1(75) - VIII 3(75)
1975 Apr-Jun VIII 4(75) - VIII 6(75)
1975 Jul-Sep VIII 7(75) - VIII 9(75)
1975 Oct-Dec VIII 10(75) - VIII 12(75)
1976 Jan-Mar IX 1(76) - IX 3(76)
1976 Apr-Jun IX 4(76) - IX 6(76)
1976 Jul-Sep IX 7(76) - IX 9(76)
1976 Oct-Dec IX 10(76) - IX 12(76)
1977 Jan-MarX 1(77) - X 3(77)
1977 Apr-Jun X 4(77) - X 6(77)
1977 Jul-Sep X 7(77) - X 9(77)
1977 Oct-DecX 10(77) - X 12(77)
1978 Jan-Mar XI 1(78) - XI 3(78)
1978 Apr-Jun XI 4(78) - XI 6(78)
1978 Jul-Sep XI 7(78) - XI 9(78)
1978 Oct-Dec XI 10(78) - XI 12(78)
1979 Jan-Mar XI 1(79) - XI 3(79)
1979 Apr-Jun XI 4(79) - XI 6(79)
1979 Jul-Sep XI 7(79) - XI 9(79)
1979 Oct-DecXI 10(79) - XI 12(79)
Feb Knight Descends On Jones. 1of 4.
Mar Knight Descends On Jones. 2 of 4.
1988 Apr-Jun 3 & 4 of 4.
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SHORT STUDIES - William H. Grotheer -
End Time Line Re-Surveyed Parts 1 & 2 - Adventist Layman's Foundation
- Legal Documents
Holy Flesh Movement 1899-1901, The - William H. Grotheer
Hour and the End is Striking at You, The - William H. Grotheer
the Form of a Slave
In Bible Prophecy
Doctrinal Comparisons - Statements of Belief 1872-1980
Paul VI Given Gold Medallion by Adventist Church Leader
Sacred Trust BETRAYED!, The - William H. Grotheer
Seal of God
Adventist Evangelical Conferences of 1955-1956
SIGN of the END of TIME, The - William H. Grotheer
of the Gentiles Fulfilled, The - A Study in Depth of Luke 21:24
BOOKS OF THE BIBLE
Song of Solomon - Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary
Ten Commandments - as Compared in the New International Version & the King James Version & the Hebrew Interlinear
OTHER BOOKS, MANUSCRIPTS & ARTICLES:
Various Studies --
Bible As History - Werner Keller
Canons of the Bible, The - Raymond A. Cutts
Daniel and the Revelation - Uriah Smith
Facts of Faith - Christian Edwardson
Individuality in Religion - Alonzo T. Jones
"Is the Bible Inspired or Expired?" - J. J. Williamson
Letters to the Churches - M. L. Andreasen
Place of the Bible In Education, The - Alonzo T. Jones
Sabbath, The - M. L. Andreasen
So Much In Common - WCC/SDA
Which Banner? - Jon A. Vannoy
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Any portion of the thought paper may be reproduced without further permission by adding the credit line - "Reprinted from WWN, Victoria, BC Canada."
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WWN 1998 Jul - Sep
-- XXXI -- 7(98) --SOME
This assessment would not be complete if
we did not note the issue of congregationalism which marks the governance
concept of these new churches in contrast to the conference churches.
Congregationalism has much to commend it, since the actual functioning
of the main body is slanted toward the hierarchical form of church governance.
The ideal under which the Adventist Church professes to function, the
representative, is outlined in the Writings. The problem is, it is not
carried out in practice. One Federal Judge of the American court system
has described the Adventist Church governance in these words; "Next
to the Roman Catholic Church, the Adventist Church is the most centralized
of all the major Christian denominations in this country." Congregationalism
could then be considered as a reaction to a church which has abandoned
its original type of structuring.
Both of the break-a-way churches discussed
in WWN have looked to Willow Creek as a model by which to operate.
Since many of our readers do not know about Willow Creek, we have summarized
an interview with Bill Hybels, the senior pastor of the Willow Creek Church,
by two editors of Christianity Today, which he invited to come
to Willow Creek so that he could answer the questions which critics have
raised about the "seeker-church movement" of which Willow Creek
is the prototype.
In the editorial, "Let's Talk It Over,"
we have commented on basic aspects of the whole developing picture.
p 2 --SOME
ASSESSMENTS -- Part
3 -- The Seventh-day Adventist Church
has embarked on a new experiment called "Church Planting." At
the Rocky Mountain Conference's annual retreat for its Executive Committee
last year at Glacier View Ranch, Ron Gladden, newly appointed Mid American
Union Church Planting Consultant, "challenged the committee to understand
the importance of recognizing the difference between territorial church
placement and targeted, market sensitive church planting." (Rocky
Mountain Conference Update, November 5,1997, p.1) He illustrated his
point by comparing Denny's restaurant chain and Taco Bell. Both are food
providers but are targeted to different tastes.
This very illustration should sound warning
bells. Do we give a message to meet the religious tastes of a given population
area, or do we have a message that changes the "tastes" of people?
The Everlasting Gospel, which was committed to the Seventh-day Adventist
Church, was to go to every nation, tongue and people regardless of their
"taste" preference. If they do not like the "taste"
of the goodness of the Lord's provision in the everlasting gospel, they
are free to worship the beast and his image. You do not set up a church
to adapt to the "taste" of a given area, but to give any given
area the opportunity to know and understand the "taste" of truth,
pure and unadulterated.
Gladden emphasized one "absolute"
in his illustration of the food franchises: "The quality of the food
must remain consistent from franchise to franchise. Thus as the Adventist
Church moves forward with church plantings, our doctrine must remain focused
and faithful to the church's understanding of our role in prophecy. There
is always room for individual style in communicating truth, but communication
styles must not compromise the balance and clarity of the church's voted
Applying the illustration further. If one
goes to Denny's in one place and then in travel finds a Denny's in another
place, his same taste desire is met. In other words, no matter how consistent
from franchise to franchise, there is no attempt to alter the tastes of
those who are Taco Bell oriented. Was the truth committed to the Church
in the beginning just one truth among many, or was it really the truth
as it is in Jesus? Observe closely that Gladden does not say that there
should be no compromise with Biblical truth, but no compromise on the
"church's voted decisions." If the church in general session
can vote what is truth, then cannot a local church also vote what it perceives
to be truth? This is exactly what has happened in the Rocky Mountain Conference.
A "company" formed as the Christ Advent Fellowship (CAF) under
the pastoral care of Elder Clay Peck, has broken away from the Conference
and voted its own perception of truth. At this annual retreat, the executive
committee voted that "CAF is no longer recognized as a company of
the RMC as of November 5, 1997." The group was denied the use of
the name, Christ Advent Fellowship, and the members of the group were
urged to transfer their membership to another church in the Rocky Mountain
Conference. Those who did not so choose would be retained as "members
of the conference church in regular standing." [Is not Dr. Desmond
Ford still a member of the Pacific Union College Seventh-day Adventist
Church "in regular standing"?] Besides the matter of doctrinal
integrity, the question of the form of church organization has now surfaced
- should it be congregational, or remain as professed by the Church -
CAF was an "important experiment"
of the Rocky Mountain Conference. The leadership of the conference went
all out to find a workable solution to the problems which arose. They
"pled with CAF leadership not to follow the foot steps of Richard
Frederichs and the Damascus church." (See WWN, May, 1998)
At a conference constituency meeting in June, the delegates were informed
that "administration was very much in favor of trying to find a way
to keep the experiment alive." The conference leadership deemed that
"CAF has done a wonderful job in so many ways of winning the confidence
of its target audience: the burned, bored and bypassed." (p.2) It
is obvious that the experiment with CAF was not targeted toward the non-Adventist
as the new experiments planned for by the conference will be, but rather
to the Adventist disillusioned with the status quo. Whatever
group targeted, the issue focuses on truth, whether it is truly Biblical
or "church voted decisions" of what is truth. (A church as a
whole, or congregationally can vote what they consider to be truth, or
what they will accept as truth, or they may simply affirm in a statement
what the Bible declares is truth.)
One of the factors of "the sad ending
of this most important experiment" listed by the conference was over
"defining our beliefs or theology." (p.1) There were others,
but let us note first the theological factors. In the issue of the Rocky
Mountain Conference Update from which we are quoting, there is summarized
what is perceived as "the three distinct attributes of theology"
which make Adventists "unique:" - "the gospel, the Christian
walk, and Preparation for the soon return of Jesus." (p.4) In noting
these three distinctives, and what is written in regard to each, there
is little, if anything, that could be seriously questioned. Yet I can
read, except for the allusion to the Messages of Revelation 14, the same
things in Evangelical journals.
In the confrontation between the Conference
and CAF, three professors from Andrews University attempted a reconciliation.
While commendatory of certain aspirations of CAF, the signed statement
of the three professors, Dederen, Knight, and Kilcher, expressed concern
over certain doctrinal stances of CAF including the Sabbath, "ministry-authority"
of Ellen G. White [a new role?], the SDA Church as a remnant people, the
teaching in regard to
p 3 -- the pre-Advent judgment and 1844, and the concept of tithing.
Since doctrinal authority can be stated
in a "church's voted decisions," what doctrinal beliefs have
been voted by the new congregational successor to CAF, Christ Advent Ministries
(CAM)? Their "Statement of Faith" is prefaced with the affirmation
- "In essential beliefs we have UNITY. In non-essential beliefs we
have LIBERTY. In all our beliefs we have CHARITY." In the Statement
proper it is stated:
1) The Scriptures
- "The sole basis of our beliefs is the Bible. ..."
This "Statement of Faith" formulated by CAM,
also known as "Grace Place", and the RMC conference's generalized
statement on what makes Adventism "unique," share one thing
in common - the complete omission of the sanctuary typology which formed
the foundation of original Adventism. Until we can get our Atonement theology
straightened up, freed from the errors with which tradition has laced
its teachings, we shall continue to miss the real purpose of our existence,
and continue to grope in misunderstandings and schisms. Until we are willing
to do so, the charge against the teaching by Barnhouse during the SDA-Evangelical
dialogues in 1955-1956 that "it is stale,
flat, and unprofitable,"
will continue to haunt us.
While Grace Place affirms clearly their belief in the
Trinity as taught by Romanism; Eternal Security which marks the Evangelicals;
the Universality of the Church as held by the World Council of Churches;
and omits in their perception of Last Things the Millenium of Revelation
20, they do have some positive declarations of faith - the Bible as the
sole basis of Beliefs; Salvation is God's free gift to us, through grace
alone; Death is an unconscious state; and the total annihilation of the
wicked. The one statement which marks this declaration as unique is the
statement on the Sabbath, which we have quoted in full. In some twenty
odd years in evangelism, I thought I had confronted every item on the
Sabbath both pro and con, but this is the first time in my ministry that
I ever read the Sabbath doctrine presented as this statement does. In
one brief phrase - "not untaught in the NT" - the whole of the
arguments used by Sunday promoters based on NT perceptions is swept away.
At the same time the statement in one faulty perception nullifies the
uniqueness of the Sabbath over the other six days. We are to serve
God, not worship Him, six days. God has limited the worship of Himself
to the Sabbath. But their position removes all barriers to ecumenical
fellowship, and even transfer of membership from a Sunday keeping church
to Grace Place and visa versa.
p 4 -- Basically the statement of faith on the
Sabbath is hinged on the Evangelical concept that the atonement was finished
on the Cross. It is made to be a symbol of the sacrifice which Christ
did provide through the cross. But Jesus had already given those symbols
in the Upper Room, the evening before His death on Friday. He, as a common
priest, ministered at Calvary, but by His resurrection, He was called
to be an High Priest to minister a final atonement. A new phase of His
office of Sonship began (Acts 13:33; Heb. 5:5-6).
The RMC did well to take the action which they did, but
they are in difficulty in challenging some of the positions stated in
the CAM "Statement of Faith" inasmuch as the Church has affirmed
and continues to affirm its adherence to the teachings set forth in
Questions on Doctrine. Grace Place, as well as Dr. Desmond Ford, whose
teachings are echoed in their "Statement of Faith," are merely
the "chickens come home to roost" from the SDA-Evangelical Conferences.
They are carrying to the ultimate conclusions the compromises made at
the conferences by the Church's leadership.
In both the report in the Adventist Review by its editor on the break-a-way church in the Potomac Conference, and the report from the RMC on its break-a-way church, a common denominator is in evidence. The conference president, Elder James Brauer, stated - "I just wish CAF leadership was willing to work together on the same team. But they are committed to following every detail of their vision, built on a Willow Creek model, which is exclusively congregational in its decision making." (op. cit., p.3) What is the "Willow Creek" model? This we will note, but first, what about "congregationalism"?
Models -- There are three different forms of church government
- congregational, representative, or hierarchical. Theoretically, the
Seventh-day Adventist Church uses the representative type, but is not
amiss to the hierarchical. The governance form put in place by the two
break-a-way Churches of the Potomac and Rocky Mountain Conferences is
congregationalism. Three scenes which I have observed in my lifetime come
to my mind over this issue.
On an Easter Sunday night I was baptized in a congregational
Baptist Church by its pastor, a Rev. Vietz, a man whom my mother highly
respected, and whose wife was her close friend. Shortly thereafter, he
accepted a call to pastor the Ft. Scott, Kansas, First Baptist Church.
The pastor to follow had just completed advanced seminary training in
Chicago. Dr. Rice immediately began instituting changes making it more
"user" friendly. The prayer meeting became a "box-supper
evening. I remember one such midweek service at which a business meeting
had been scheduled. The older conservative element as well as others had
become perturbed by the modernistic changes introduced into the Church.
I recall the impassioned speech by the grey-haired Head Deacon (The highest
lay officer of the Baptist Church). It was definitely focused on the need
to remove the pastor. The vote by a narrow margin retained him. My mother
decided that she could do a better job at home with my sister and me.
She withdrew from the Baptist Church. The vacuum was filled in the providence
of God by a credentialed retired Bible Worker of the Seventh-day Adventist
In those days, every two years, the Conference session
was connected with the annual Campmeeting. One of the first Campmeetings
that I attended included such a session. Elder R. S. Fries was the president.
Evidently, some of his policies were not popular. He had been pastor of
the church in Des Moines, Iowa, the largest in the conference, prior to
his call to be president. He had begun a radio program over WHO which
covered the state. His successor in Des Moines was Elder Dewit S. Osgood,
who continued the radio ministry. I do not know what the issue might have
been, but after a vehement floor debate and a further committee meeting,
Osgood replaced Fries. This was my introduction to "representative"
After graduating from Union College, I accepted a call
to the Texico Conference. The president was Elder Vance LaGrone, a very
conservative man, and well liked by the laity of the conference. His father,
Elder G. A. LaGrone had been a long time worker in the Conference. Evidently,
Elder LaGrone and the Union President, J. W. Turner, did not see eye to
eye, and at the conference session a move was on foot to remove him from
the presidency. I was on the Press Committee for the Campmeeting, and
assigned to interview various speakers and write a news release for the
local newspaper. One visiting minister was Elder L. H. Christian. He graciously
gave me some details of his ministry and what his messages would seek
to emphasize. After the visit, he said to me - "Young man you know
how to vote tomorrow, don't you?" The laity in the conference were
a formidable block behind Elder LaGrone. I went to the session; I sat
on the back row. I again observed "representative" church government
in action. The result, Elder R. R. Bietz became president, and began his
long term of administrative service which culminated in a Vice Presidency
of the General Conference.
There is no question but that the Testimonies
recommend this form of church governance. The observation reads: Every
member of the church has a voice in choosing the officers of the church.
The church chooses the officers of the state conferences. Delegates chosen
by the state conferences choose the officers of the union conference;
and delegates chosen by the union conferences choose the officers of the
General Conferences. By this arrangement, every conference, every institution,
every church, and every individual, either directly or through representatives,
p 5 -- has
a voice in the election of the men who bear the chief responsibilities
in the General Conference. (Vol.8, pp. 236-237)
This would be a very workable plan if starting at the
local church level, the delegates chosen by the church would meet with
the church in a called business meeting, and having in advance the issues
which were to be discussed at the session, whether men or recommendations,
ascertain the thinking of the individual members. The same could apply
on the state level in addressing the issues to be raised at the Union
session, again whether men or recommendations. I have never known this
to be done. I do recall an incident while teaching at Madison College.
I was among others asked to serve as a delegate of the College Church
to the Kentucky-Tennessee Conference constituency meeting. I went to the
session with the College President, Elder Horace C. Beckner. As we entered
the auditorium, where the session was being held, we were given a booklet
with departmental reports, and the list of conference officers. Later
in the session, the Nominating Committee brought in its report. The chairman
indicated that there would be but minor changes. Elder Beckner took out
his booklet to note the changes, and lo, they had already been recorded
prior to the session.
Really the bottom line is not the form of governance. It is the spirituality of the men operating the structure. It is even conceivable that the hierarchical form could accomplish the purposes of God for His church if the men in control were truly men of God. Congregational churches could accomplish the work of God world-wide even as the Baptist Church does in its mission outreach. Again, it is not the structure, it is the men operating the structure, and the truth upon which the structure rests.
Willow Creek -- Located
amidst upscale homes in one of Chicago's most affluent suburbs is Willow
Creek. It "is not a Fortune 500 company, although its sleek, glass-walled
building, winding lake, and carefully manicured landscape might suggest
it. Nor is it a civic center, although its 5,000-seat auditorium and state
of-the-art audio-visual trappings would provide a perfect setting for
a symphony performance or Broadway show. Instead Willow Creek is a church,
in fact, with 15,000 people attending its services each week, the South
Barrington, Illinois congregation has become the second-largest Protestant
church in America."
Its senior pastor, Bill Hybels goes "against pastoral
stereotype. His high energy style and entrepreneurial spirit gives him
the air of a corporate CEO." His success has been attributed to the
fact that his ministry and church does not have the air nor the feel of
a traditional church. This approach is called seeker sensitive.
Willow Creek is the undisputed prototype of the seeker sensitive/megachurch
What is the seeker-sensitive movement? Hybels responds
that "it is nothing more than a growing awareness among thousands
of church leaders that local churches lost their evangelistic effectiveness
many decades ago and that something should be done about it." Willow
Creek is his solution to that loss. Based on "numbers" his solution
has proven successful. However, from his own Evangelical community he
has received flak. The very titles of the books written against the Willow
Creek experiment vividly reflect the thinking of the opposition. John
MacArthur wrote - Ashamed of the Gospel; Douglas Webster - Selling
Jesus, and Os Guiness titled his - Dining with the Devil. "The
overreaching concern, common to almost all of the critics, is that seeker-sensitive
churches compromise the gospel by tailoring their messages to non-Christians,
that the use of polished entertainment, feel-good sermons, and marketing
techniques subtly alters the gospel that is being communicated."
One Evangelical theologian, David Wells, has said that
he honestly believes that Hybels "doesn't think he's compromising
the gospel by using cultural devices, but he seems blinded to the fact
that culture is not neutral." To this MacArthur adds - "The
simple reality is that one cannot follow a market-driven strategy and
remain faithful to Scripture. Preachers who concern themselves with user-friendliness
cannot fearlessly proclaim the whole counsel of God."
The present Willow Creek church was originally 20 miles
from where it is now. In building the new plant, Hybels conducted a survey
of the community in which they are now located. If the respondent answered,
"No," to the question - "Do you actively attend a local
church? - Hybels asked them to help him understand why they stopped going
to church. From this survey, he learned that the number one reason was
the fund-raising techniques used, and that the services were boring. He
didn't stop asking for money, but in doing so, was aware of the sensitivity
of the community against "too aggressive" fund-raising techniques.
The second objective - boring services - Hybels determined that whatever
they did Biblically in their services, they would add "some variety
so that people [wouldn't] die of boredom."
What was added and why it was added gives an insight into
the thinking of Hybels, and also an understanding of why certain Evangelicals
have levelled the charge that they have. Willow Creek uses "drama,
contemporary Christian music, and multi-media presentations," but
Hybels argues - "But they are never used for the sake of titillation."
He asks - "Who was the master composer? Who created the arts? Whose
idea was it to communicate the truth through a wide variety of artistic
genres? I think it was God."
p 6 -- Based on this concept that God is the author
of all that Willow Creek has added to their services to eliminate boredom,
Hybels argues: Then
why has the church narrowed its options and selected a talking head as
its only form of communicating the most important message on the planet?
Even though preaching is the primary way the truth of God has been and
should be communicated, we add texture and feeling and perspective to
it through the use of music and media and drama. And anyone who has witnessed
our presentations would never use the words, "mere entertainment."
Hybels declares that those who would use the term, "entertainment"
to describe the services at Willow Creek "have never experienced
Spirit-anointed drama, multimedia, and contemporary Christian music."
Other aspects of the format followed, as well as the outreach
of Willow Creek are of interest. When asked about how they deal with doctrinal
questions which might arise, Hybels responded - "Our elders just
study the Scriptures, led by the Holy Spirit. Sometimes we seek counsel
from the outside. We'll call in different theologians and have them sit
with us and mentor us in a topic. But in the final analysis, our elders
will make the call."
Willow Creek perceives that the Church exists for a four-fold
purpose of exaltation, evangelism, edification, and social action. They
seek to emulate what they perceive is a church model given in Acts 2 -
teaching, fellowship, prayer, and Communion. Hybels perceives the traditional
churches as merely "teaching centers," rather than biblically
functioning communities utilizing all the various gifts of the individual.
He says, "what I am trying to help the body of Christ understand
... is I Corinthians 12, where it says there is one Spirit, but many ministries."
In the area of social action, Hybels complained that while
they get press about their buildings, budget and drama, he believes the
spotlight should be focused on the fact that they gave 85 vehicles to
single moms in 1993, that 350 people a month were fed from their food
pantry, and that they gave in 1994, $250,000 to local benevolent ministries.
He said "These are the real signs that Christ is being honored in
Willow Creek is a megachurch. Its 15,000 members sit in
theatre seats under a roof of a 352,000-square-foot building located on
a 120-acre campus. There are no crosses, steeples, or stained-glass windows.
No creeds are recited, or hymnals used. The church's week-end "seeker-services"
are geared to reach the unchurched, employing professional-quality drama
and contemporary Christian music.
Because of Willow Creek's size, the Church leaders feel
participation in small groups is essential to the spiritual support of
its members. And in keeping with its megachurch status, Willow Creek is
loaded with specialized ministries for virtually every need among its
believers: programs for four age divisions of youth, three categories
of single adults, married couples, divorced persons, single parents, and
physically and mentally challenged individuals, as well as outreach services
to the homeless, the poor, and prison inmates, are just a few of the selections
from the church's huge and diverse menu.
Willow Creek's success has not gone unnoticed. Three times
a year the church sponsors a conference at which 500 church leaders gather
to see how it is done. At those conferences have been Adventist ministers.
The leadership of the Church is now seeing and feeling the results in
the Potomac and Rocky Mountain Conferences.
(All direct quotes and data In the above summary report are taken from Christianity Today, July 18, 1994, pp.20-25. The CT article is an interview with Bill Hybels himself as he answers critics of the seeker-church movement. The article is titled - "Selling the House of God?")
LET'S TALK IT OVER
-- As I was writing the above summary of the seeker-church
movement, one text kept ringing in my ears - "It pleased God by the
foolishness of preaching to save them that believe" (I Cor. 1:21).
The Greek culture in which Paul was seeking to establish companies of
Christian believers was drama and art oriented. He had been at the very
center of that culture in Athens, but in coming to Corinth, where commerce
was mingled with the arts and drama, Paul was "determined not to
know anything [among the Corinthians] save Jesus Christ and Him crucified"
(2:2). Later when he wrote to them, he plainly stated, "We preach
Christ crucified, unto the Jews a stumbling block, and unto the Greeks
foolishness" (1:23). He did not adapt his methodology to meet either
the Jews or the Greeks. He did not dramatize the cross, he did not take
the music of the Greeks and make it contemporary Christian music.
Paul did not measure his success by the "numbers" game. When he made his last report to the elders of the Church in Jerusalem, while James could point to "the many thousands of Jews which believed," Paul declared "particularly what things God has wrought among the Gentiles by his ministry," and if required, could only point to "home churches," not megachurches established where he had ministered (Acts 21:19-20; Rom. 16:5; I Cor. 16:19).
Hybels suggests in his response to the questions asked
of him that anyone who would use the term, "entertainment" to
describe the services at Willow Creek "have never experienced Spirit-anointed
drama, multimedia and contemporary Christian music." Has Hybels forgotten
there are two "spirits" contending for the souls of men? His
church model, so he claims, is Acts 2. There is recorded the pouring out
of the Holy Spirit in power, but I do not find drama, or any other "earthy"
props used to bring convictions to the Jewish worshipers assembled - just
p 7 -- which called sin by its right name - murder - the will to kill God. There was no adjustment to the cultural background of those Jews, proselytes, or God-fearers "out of every nation under heaven." The Spirit did only one thing, permitted the message to be given in the language they understood best - "the tongue wherein (they) were born." Perhaps Hybels believes that by drama, and multimedia presentations accompanied by contemporary "Christian"(?) music, he is speaking to this generation in the language wherein it is born. One of the hallmarks of the early Christian Church was that it was other-worldly. Only as the Christian message and worship was diluted and mixed with the religious forces which it confronted, did the great apostasy begin its work, and Christianity became a dominate religion in the Roman Empire. The numbers game took over. When a tree is shaken to obtain the fruit, all the fruit is bruised; and when gathered together without regard to its condition, it is not long till the whole is spoiled. It is hand picked fruit, one by one, that merits the label, "top grade".
It also should be obvious as one reads the "Statement
of Faith" drawn up by Grace Place in Colorado, that the "other
world" which is Christ's kingdom is put on hold. While it is true
that no one knows the hour of Christ's second coming, and that we should
"avoid speculations," our emphasis should not be that of adjustment
to the present hour. "If in this life only we have hope in Christ,
we are of all men most miserable" (I Cor. 15:19). It is the blessed
hope that truly motivates. This is the genuine spirit of true Adventism.
If the Statement of Faith of CAM in Colorado is reflective
of all Adventist groups who wish to pattern their congregational church
after the Willow Creek-style, it should be obvious to any one professing
basic Adventism that something is wrong. The bottom line on the Sabbath
is that we will worship on the seventh day, but if some one elects to
worship on another day, there will be no quarrel, for are we not all believers
in Christ, and therefore but one church? This is ecumenism, and the denial
that God has a unique message to be given to the final generation.
What is the answer? The simple answer is "the truth as it is in Jesus." Translating this into reality becomes much more difficult. Does this mean that we preach just "Jesus" as the ideal person tailored to the culture in which we live, or do we preach truth, pure and unadulterated, since He is the truth, the way and the life? Jesus can be popularized so as to be acceptable to many. But to preach truth based on a plain, "Thus saith the Lord," as demanding a life-style at variance with the world, its philosophy and practices, produces a far different reaction. The crowds followed Jesus so long as they were recipients of His miracles which gave them a longer lease on this world, but when He set forth truth as a total commitment to a different way of life, He finally walked the "last mile" to the Cross, alone!
The Statement of Faith reflected a different issue in regard to truth - the problem within Adventism itself. Is the uniqueness of the truth entrusted to Seventh-day Adventism exactly what the Rocky Mountain Conference countered with in response to the "Statement of Faith"? Hardly. The deeper issue today is the doctrine of the sanctuary, and how the type and antitype is to be understood. The present fracturing in Adventism is the result of nobody really wanting to honestly lay aside traditional concepts and take the Bible and read it for what it says, and find an interpretive understanding of the types given by God to ancient Israel, which harmonizes all the other revelation given by the same God in prophecy, and in Jesus Christ. Until we do, we are going to continue to see "congregational" groups jettisoning the sanctuary truth as "flat, stale and unprofitable" while others clinging to traditional concepts will continue to believe that which they know not, nor why.
An Observation: As we were completing (3/20/98) this issue of WWN, a sister called from a New England State asking if we had carefully considered the last lines of the news report (as reproduced) on the new Frederick, Maryland Church - "glass windows including an eight-foot circular depiction of a risen Christ over the altar area." [WWN-4(98)] The sister had many times as a Roman Catholic seen this same arrangement in old Roman Churches. She indicated "the circular window symbolized the communion wafer," and the "altar area" designation was Catholic, but a term possibly of the staff writer's choosing. --- (1998 Jul) ---End---- TOP
Aug -- XXXI -- 8(98) -- The
New Birth -- Editor's
Preface -- A doctrine once
held by the Church and included as a part of their Fundamental Statements
of Belief until 1930, is reviewed in this issue. Many of us hold a limited
view of the "new birth." Not so the pioneers of the Advent Movement.
They perceived that, as Jesus said, His kingdom was not of this world.
Thus to be born again meant more than a spiritual experience in this world.
They believed Paul when he wrote, "If in this life only we have hope
in Christ, we are all men most miserable" (I Cor. 15:19). The application
of the more comprehensive perception of what the new birth is, involves
the 1888 message which God gave to this Church. These factors are discussed
in the first article.
Just as the first article
was being completed, the January issue of Spectrum was received.
[This was in April] The resume on the "break-away" churches
in Adventism - five at the time of the report in Spectrum caught
our eye Realizing that it contained more data than we had been able to
present in the series on "Some Assessments" in previous issues
of WWN, we thought a summary of the report would be of interest
to our readers. We have designated it as a "postscript."
In January, we had observed
a full page advertisement in Christianity Today. of a special satellite
program to be sponsored by the Ministerial Department of the General Conference,
and aired from the Pioneer Memorial Church on the campus of Andrews University.
We were grateful when some friends called and asked if we would like to
see a video they had made of the four hour presentation. After seeing
this presentation, we had to ask ourselves, why this emphasis on Easter?
While various things were done and said during these four hours which
were questionable, we have not commented upon them in the third article
but rather focused on the significance of the broadcast in the light of
what the speakers said, and its relationship to the special message which
had been committed in sacred trust to the Church. We also set forth the
meaning of the resurrection in our daily
p 2 -- THE
NEW BIRTH -- In 1872, "A
Declaration of the Fundamental Principles Taught and Practised by The
Seventh-day Adventists" was printed on the Steam Press
in Battle Creek, Michigan. It was prefaced with these words: In
presenting to the public this synopsis of our faith, we wish it distinctly
understood that we have no articles of faith, creed, or discipline, aside
from the Bible. We do not put forth this as having any authority with
our people, nor is it designed to secure uniformity among them, as a system
of faith, but is a brief statement of what is, and has been, with great
unanimity, held by them.
V reads: That
the new birth comprises the entire change necessary to fit us for the
kingdom of God, and consists of two parts first, a moral change, wrought
by conversion and a Christian life; second, a physical change at the second
coming of Christ, whereby, if dead, we are raised incorruptible, and if
living, are changed to immortality in a moment, in the twinkling of an
eye. John 3:3, 6; Luke 20:36.
This position remained constant in successive
Statements of Belief with only the text upon which the last part of the
statement is based - I Cor. 15:51-52 - being added. The exception to this
unanimity was the aberrant Battle Creek Church's Statement released in
1894. Not until the 1931 Statement of Fundamental Beliefs, was the original
altered to read: That
every person, in order to obtain salvation, must experience the new birth.
This comprises an entire transformation of life and character by the re-creative
power of God through faith in the Lord Jesus Christ. (John 3:16; Matt.
18:3: Acts 2:37-39)
In contemplating this change, certain
questions come to mind. The two Statements, though related, are not saying
the same thing. One is saying much more than the other. Is the change
inconsequential? The 1931 Statement does speak of the Resurrection, reading
- "Immortality Is bestowed upon the righteous at the second coming
of Christ, when the righteous dead are raised from the grave and the living
righteous translated to meet the Lord. Then it is that those accounted
faithful, 'put on Immortality."' (#9) The original Statement followed
the distinction of the Biblical text between those who died, and those
who are translated without seeing death. The 1931 Statement igores the
distinction. Again, is the distinction made in I Corinthians 15 of vital
The Scripture focuses the end, the objective,
of the "new birth" experience as "the kingdom of God"
(John 3:3). He who came to provide for man an entrance into that kingdom,
clearly stated - "My kingdom is not of this world" (John 18:36).
It is obvious that no one is experiencing in this life, either in his
spiritual experience, or in his environment, what the Biblical descriptions
envision the new world to be. What the "kingdom of God" will
be like, escapes us both in the spiritual and in what we know the present
reality of life to be. We see it only by faith. Constantly we sense a
need, unless we are immersed in Laodiceanism - being in need of nothing.
Unless we perceive the full implication
of what this dual aspect of the new birth means, we cannot understand
what Paul is saying in Romans 8, let alone who the "man" of
Romans 7 is. Plainly Paul writes - "For the creation was subjected
to vanity, not of its own will, but by reason of Him who subjected it
in hope" (8:20, ARV). "The whole creation groaneth and travaileth
in pain together until now" (8:22). None escape, even those "who
have the first fruits of the Spirit, even we ourselves groan within ourselves,
waiting for the adoption, to wit the redemption of our body" (8:23).
There are limitations placed on this life,
but with these limitations, there is provision whereby we can hope through
faith and press on. By the Spirit, we are "rebirthed" from sons
of Adam, to be "the sons of God." Does this mean that from the
moment of our "rebirthing", we cease to sin? No. But does not
that objective remain our goal? Yes. "My little children, ... I write
unto you, that ye sin not." But if we do? "If any man sin, we
have an advocate with the Father, Jesus Christ the righteous" (I
John 2:1). The unrealized goal that we sin not, and the fact that there
is One who ever liveth to make intercession for us, does not grant to
us a life of indulgence in sin. Life is a battle and a march to our objective,
a reflection of the life of Jesus.
Before us the Holy Spirit holds the vision
of the objective. "We through the Spirit wait for the hope of righteousness
by faith (Gal. 5:5). Do we experience it now? The answer is both, "Yes"
and "No." To everyone who enters into the new birth experience
is given the "earnest" of the Spirit. This pledge, or performance
bond, is God's guarantee (seal - II Cor. 1:22) that "mortality"
will "be swallowed up of life" (II Cor. 5:4-5). The Spirit now
comes to convict us of sin, that we might "be renewed in the spirit
of (our) mind," and "put on the new man, which after God is
created in righteousness and true holiness" (Eph. 4:23-24) This is
often referred to as sanctification, but sanctification is not the end
of the matter, but only the process to tha goal.
Paul describes his experience of how a
"renewed mind will view life. He would be found in Christ having
the "righteousness which is of God by faith" that he "might
attain unto the resurrection of the dead." Did he claim perfection?
No. "I have not attained, or am already perfect," but "this
one thing I do... I press toward the mark for the prize of the high calling
of God in Christ Jesus."
p 3 -- Then he exhorts, "Let
us therefore, as many as be perfect, be thus minded" (Phil. 3:9-15).
To one thus minded, at any point in his life, should he be called to sleep
the sleep of death, he would be justified before God. When the final decree
goes forth - "He that is justified ('o
him be justified still" - he would then in the resurrection put on
an incorruptible body with a perfect mind that had been by the Spirit
"sealed unto the day of redemption" (Eph. 4:30). The reality
of the fullness of the new birth would then be realized.
There is another category to be found
both in Paul's differentiation of those who are saved at the first resurrection
and in the decree that finalizes all human destiny. The mortal puts on
immortality, and he that is holy ('o agioV)
remains holy still. These are the living ones who are translated without
the experience of death. They are de-clared to be holy, and the decree
merely confirms this stqte for eternity. The question arises, how is it
attained? Everyone earnestly desiring to see the Lord come, and to be
translated, wants this question answered.
Three possible answers are current In
Adventism today. 1) We perfect ourselves
through works of righteousness. There is a great struggle to affain perfection
(and much preaching about it among "independent" ministries).
2) A second concept is that we will keep on sinning
until Jesus comes in the clouds of heaven. This position flies directly
against the decree of Revelation 22:11 - "He that is holy, let him
be holy still." in context, this experience is prior to the coming
of Jesus. Verse 12 reads - "Behold, I come quickly."
3) The allusive answer has been the search in Adventism
for many decades. In all honesty it must be admifted that the basic objective
of both the Holy Flesh Movement at the turn of the last century, and the
Brinsmead Movement of the 60s, were attempts to find the answer.
God sent two "messengers" in
1888 with a message that, in the judgment of this writer, was to lay the
basis for this final experience. Further, it is his judgment that the
present agitation concerning 1888 by the 1888 Study Committee is likewise
missing the mark. The question must be answered as to why there needed
to be a revival of the basic Pauline concept, justification by faith alone,
to be toliowed by the call to go on unto perfection. The present agitation
has become bogged down over what does justification by faith alone really
mean. Independent "voices" are proclaiming a Tridentine gospel
in substitution for the Pauline concept. These place themselves at variance
with Wieland and Short's emphasis on 1888, and the result is that the
real need of the hour is lost in a cloud of controversy.
Paul declares as the climatic conclusion
of his treatise on the resurrection - "Thanks be to God, which giveth
us the victory through our Lord Jesus Christ" (I Cor. 15:57). in
context, the victory is over sin. At the coming of the Lord, "death
is swallowed up in victory" (v.54). But the sting of death is sin
(v.56), and Christ must reign (priest-king?) till all enemies are put
under His feet (v.25), the last enemy being death itself because of sin
(v.26). In this picture, the victory is given to us, even as justification
is extended to us (Rom. 3:24). If then, I cannot understand and accept
justification by faith alone in the merits of Jesus Christ, how can I
accept the results of the final atonement procured for me by His intercession
as High Priest in the Heavenly sanctuary? Both are declared to be gifts
of God, "through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus."
At the time in 1888 and following, the
message brought by Jones and Waggoner was perceived to be the answer to
the allusive how. Of this conviction A. G. Daniells in his summary book,
Christ Our Righteousness, wrote: Nearly
forty years ago (written in 1926) there came to the Seventh-day Adventist
Church a very definite awakening message. It was designated at the time
as "the message of Righteousness by Faith." Both the message
itself and the manner of its coming made a deep and lasting impression
upon the minds of ministers and people, and the lapse of time has not
erased that impression from memory. To this day, many of those who heard
the message when it came are deeply interested in it and concerned regarding
it. All these long years they have held a firm conviction, and cherished
a fond hope, that someday this message would be given great prominence
among us, and that it would do the cleansing, regenerating work in the
church which they believed it was sent to accomplish. (p.35)
During the period following 1888, heavy
emphasis was placed on the Third Angel's Message. In 1893, A. T. Jones
gave 25 studies on the Message at the General Conference session, and
in 1895, 26 studies. This was as it should have been, for the message
of 1888 - Justification by Faith - "is the third angel's message
in verity" (Review & Herald, April 1, 1890). Both the
Three Angels' Messages and the Resurrection treatise by Paul, end in the
same two groups. While Paul speaks of the saved of all time - the dead
in Christ, and the living (I Cor. 15:51-52) - the prophecy of the Three
Angels' Messages focuses on the blessed dead "from henceforth (1844),"
and "the steadfastness of the saints" (Rev. 14:12-13). These
two categories answer to the last two groups of the final decree. The
"blessed" dead were declared justified in life, and they will
arise still justified. The "holy ones" will remain holy. (The
same word used in the Greek text of Rev. 22:11, and translated, "he
that is holy," is used in 14:12 and translated, "saints")
These holy ones are keeping not only "the commandments of God,"
but also "the faith of Jesus."
While the "vile body" is not changed till the coming of Christ, when all are changed, there must be something that happens to them that has happened to no other generation of people, so that in this life, it can be said of them - "they are keeping (not trying to keep) the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus." The "how" we
p 4 -- have not discovered as
yet, but it must be associated with
"the faith of Jesus," for only He of all the children of Adam,
in the vile body of our humiliation, did not sin.
There are some "impossibles"
In the Biblical record that speak to the issue. Paul uses Abraham and
Sarah as examples of "justification by faith" (Rom. 4). Is it
not possible to take this experience one step further? Paul's evaluation
of Abraham's faith speaks loud and clear to the question for which we
seek an answer: "And being fully persuaded that what He has promised,
He was able also to perform" (ver. 21). Does the possibility overwhelm
us when we look at ourselves closely? Should we as Abraham stagger "not
at the promise of God through unbelief," but being "strong in
faith," give "glory to God"? (ver. 20) Do not the messages
of Revelation 14 begin with "Fear God, and give glory to Him"?
Did not God ask Abraham - "Is there anything too hard for the Lord?"
Will not He "which hath begun a good work in you" also "perform it until the day of Jesus Christ"? (Phil. 1:6) The "new birth" begun by conversion will continue till we see the kingdom of God. Keep the faith of Jesus, of which He is the Author, and the faith which He had in you, a faith for which He died.
Postscript -- In
the January 1998, issue of Spectrum, the lead article, "The
Year of SDA Congregationalism," reported on the five new independent
Adventist congregations that have emerged since 1996. All have been led
by senior pastors of churches under conference control. Prior to the release
of the January issue of Spectrum in April, we had prepared for
publication the report on two of these congregational church adventures,
and discussed the source of this independent "vision." [See
WWN, XXXI - 5 & 7(98)] The article now appearing in Spectrum
has additional information that we did not have available when our assessments
were written. In this "postscript" we will share this with our
The first pastor to lead a break-away congregation was Eric Bahme, senior pastor of the Woodinville, Washington, Seventh-day Adventist Church. In May 1996, he and 98% of the congregation formed the New Life Fellowship of Congregational Seventh-day Adventists. This is the only one of the five that retains the name, Seventh-day Adventist, in its designation. The next two were in the Oregon Conference, involving the 1,450-member Sunnyside Adventist Church at Portland, and the Medford, Oregon congregation. These were followed by the Church in Damascus, Maryland, and Grace Place in Colorado.
This past year at the Willow Creek Leadership conference,
these five congregations united in forming the Evangelical Sabbath Association,
defined as "a loosely organized group of churches providing support,
guidance, and resources for pastors and congregations who have left the
The price which the SDA-Evangelical Conferences exacted
on the unity of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is still being paid.
The doctrinal deviations, resultant from those conferences, undermined
the basics upon which Adventism rested. The first three decades following
saw a conservative reaction to the compromises of these basics. Now a
liberal declension is expressing itself in a revolt against the structure
Three issues that find common expression in the dissent
of the five churches which have severed their conference # ties are: 1)
Control; 2) Theology; and
3) Worship. The control issue involves tithe allocation,
and employment of church personnel. Can a local church hire its own staff
instead of the conference? Theology is "de-emphasized," but
a review of one of the doctrinal statements, as was given in WWN
last month, does reveal some major differences of belief. Spectrum
notes the worship difference as innovative techniques" that vary
from "traditional Advent ist worship." One of the five church's
innovations includes a "downstairs espresso bar, and Messianic Jewish
dancing." Another of the five is planning for a church plant which
would include "athletic fields, Christian arts center, non-alcoholic
bar and lounge, and Christian cemetary."
Spectrum uses different terms, to define how these
men either separated or were separated from the conferences by whom they
had been employed. One resigned, two were "fired," and two had
their credentials "revoked." One of the five told Spectrum
that "he knows of 15 to 18 (additional) senior pastors who will most
likely be terminated or quit to start new churches. In the beginning they
were mostly fired. Now they see a better option and leaving." The
writer of the article in Spectrum may be using the terms, "fired"
and credentials "revoked" as synonyms. There is a difference,
however. Usually, the revocation of credentials involves a serious breach
of one's ordination vows, or as in the case of Dr. Desmond Ford, a denial
of major theological tenets held by the Church.
The first to break with the Church, as noted above, was
Eric Bahme senior pastor of the Woodinville Adventist Church in Washington,
who now pastors the New Life Fellowship of Congregational Seventh-day
p 5 -- Bahme stated that, "theology was never
mentioned for his termination." The new church, while "definitely
evangelical in theology, still fits "within the Adventist parameters."
This is not difficult to understand if we recognice that 1955-56 is a
BC and AC date in Adventism - "Before Compromise" and "after
Compromise." This FeIlowship sponsors events such as concerts, and
operates a Christian resource and book center. The members are committed
to a program which "will fully subsidize the education of the member's
children." Bahme declares - "We're in it for the long haul.
We are creating a lasting ministry." He admits that "the movement
of independent Adventist congregations is still relatively small, but
claims that it is primarily composed of middle to upper-class Anglo-Saxons
- the segment of the population with the most money and resources."
The second break-away Church involved a two-way split.
First, the congregation of the 1,450 member Sunnyside Portland, Oregon,
church, divided within itself due to innovations, which its senior pastor,
Robert Bretsch, introduced. A "group of 60," according to Bretsch,
used "the political resources available to them to undermine what
the will of the church was." Sometimes such activity is carried out
by laity in the Church against the pastor, with the encouragement and
direction of the conference president. The immediate outcome was the formation
of a Bridge City Community Church, with that congregation inviting Bretsch
and two of his associates at Sunnyside, to become their pastors. The remaining
associate pastor at Sunnyside, George Gainer, said, "The battle is
still raging. It's not over. This is the saddest thing I've seen in ministry."
Another Church in the Oregon Conference has been formed
from an existing Church. It is unique among the five. The pastor of the
600-member Medford, Oregon, Church, Chad McComas, was told that he could
no longer pastor because his wife had a prescription drug addiction. He
still retained his credentials, but resigned as pastor in the conference
because he sensed his days in the Oregon Conference were over, as he had
been "labeled." He has pastored 20 years in the conference,
during which time he served six years on the conference executive committee.
Again local laity threat played a part. One member allegedly withheld
$ 180,000 in tithe from the conference until such time as McComas was
removed. His comment to the writer of the article for Spectrum
bears thought - "I don't trust the church anymore. ... There's a
witch hunt going on in the Adventist Church. So many of my friends have
been fired across the country. If you don't fit the mold, (the de-nomination)
doesn't have a place for you."
Not seeking to compete with the Medford Church, McComas
organized a Set Free Christian Fellowship concerned with addiction. McComas
indicated that, "the Adventist Church doesn't know how to deal with
addictive people." His final judgment on the move from the Conference
organization is that "it's more fun working for God than the denomination.
We are reaching all kinds of people the [Adventist] could never reach.
... We are not trying to compete, only trying to reach the people they
There is a close fellowship between the two break-away
churches in Maryland and Colorado. Fredericks, of the Maryland Church,
describes it as "symbiotic twins." Peck, pastor of the Colorado
Fellowship had served as an associate pastor under Fredericks. We have
discussed in detail the Colorado Grace Fellowship in previous issues of
WWN, as well as the Editor's comments in the Adventist Review
on the Damascus, Maryland, break-away. Only two items in Spectrum,
in regard to Fredericks, need further comment. With Elder Herbert Broeckel,
president of the Potomac Conference, the issue is simple - adherence to
conference policy. He is quoted as stating, "If Fredericks [should]
dissolve his corporation, and adhere to the rules and regulations of the
Seventh-day Adventist Church, I would be happy to hire him tomorrow."
As one of the five pastors stated, the most important issues (are) control,
money, and power. These are not the items upon which which Christ built
His church, neither was the Seventh-day Adventist Church originally established
on these factors. Well did the divine Instructor state the case - "'How
is the faithful city become an harlot?' My Father's house is made a house
of merchandise, a place whence the divine presence and glory have departed!"
(Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 8, p.250)
The second item is a comment of Fredericks - "The gospel, not our law-keeping, defines all who constitute God's remnant' people." Again, here is a subtle mingling of truth and error. To God's people was committed "the ever lasting gospel." It was to mark them as the remnant people of God. Into this picture come the aspects of the keeping of the commandments of God, for Heaven will finally say of those who receive the fullness of the Everlasting Gospel - "Here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Rev. 14:12). All must confess their sinfulness, because not one can bring a clean thing out of an unclean (Job 14:4). This is the work of the great High Priest in the final atonement. Yet this work of Christ is the very thing that was denied in the compromises of the SDA-Evangelical Conferences (Questions on Doctrine, p.381). This same denial has been written into the Statements of Faith of the congregational break-away church in Colorado. It dare not be forgotten, that when Christ returns the second time - and that day is at hand. He will come to take "vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ" (II Thess. 1:8). Obedience to the gospel will mark the remnant people of God.
one flesh with us, in order that we might become one Spirit with Him.
It is by virtue of this union that we are to come forth from the grave,
- not merely as a manifestation of the power of Christ, but because, through
faith His life has become ours." (The Desire of Ages, p.388)
In the January 12,1998, issue of Christianity Today
(CT), was a full page (p.17) advertisement announcing a special Easter
presentation, March 31, 1998, via satellite on "Resurrecting the
Resurrection," as a "professional growth seminar sponsored by
the Ministry magazine. Four ministers were scheduled to present
their perceptions of the resurrection, two Adventists and two non-Adventists,
a Presbyterian and a Baptist. The March 2 issue of CT carried a
half page (p.12) announcement of the same program. The Andrews University
Church was the "staging area" for the four hour presentation.
Representing the Adventists were Charles E. Bradford,
and Dwight K. Nelson, senior pastor of the Pioneer Memorial Church on
the campus of Andrews University. The non-Adventist speakers were W. Frank
Harrington, minister of the Peachtree Presbyterian Church in Atlanta,
Georgia and Gardner C. Taylor, retired pastor of the Concord Baptist Church
of Christ in Brooklyn, New York.
Both non-Adventist speakers introduced the concept of
life immediately after death into their messages. After each presentation,
questions received by E-mail, or over the telephone from listeners were
presented to each speaker to answer. Questions on the state of man in
death were called in, following the presentations of both Nelson and Harrington.
Each speaker "danced" around the intent of the question. It
should be said, however, that the presentations of the two non-Adventists,
apart from the heresy, were the most substantive of the four messages.
The last speaker's presentation, though a Baptist, indicated that he was
well read in the Desire of Ages.
The question still remains, why are Adventists sponsoring
Easter? It should be well known that the celebration of Easter on Sunday
was a prelude to worship on each Sunday. One Church historian, Latourette,
states that the "first certain notice of Easter is from the middle
of the second century," suggesting that, "the festival, commemorating
the resurrection of Christ, was
presumably observed by at least some Christians from much earlier
times." (A History of Christianity, Vol. I, p.137; emphasis
supplied) The earliest celebration of Easter, especially in the East,
timed to the Jewish celebration of the Passover, rotated through the week.
In the West, the Roman Church set the day as Sunday, since Christ arose
on that day, and determined which Sunday by astronomical data.
The first commemoration services of Christ's resurrection
were not called, Easter, but rather Pasch. Actually, the one place in
the KJV where the word Easter is found (Acts 12:4), the Greek word is
paVca, a transliteraton out of the
Hebrew for the Passover. The name, Easter, along with other things connected
with it today, such as Lent, is pagan in origin. It stands for Astarte,
the queen of heaven. On Assyrian monuments the name is Ishtar.
The correct day on which to celebrate the resurrection
of Christ became a basis for ecclesiastical strife, known as the Quartodeciman
controversy. The Jewish Passover came on the 14th day of the Jewish month
Nisan. Those who commemorated the resurrection timed to that date were
called "Quartodecimans," the 14th day observers. The matter
was finally settled by the Council of Nicea in 325 A.D., in favor of the
practice advocated by Rome. Laturette, cited above, suggests that because
the final decision for the time of the celebration of Easter on Sunday
prevailed, "the prestige of Rome was thereby enhanced. (ibid.)
Further, we need to ask, is the Second Angel's Message
no longer relevant in the decisions made by the leadership of the Church?
Has "Babylon" changed its "skin" or lost its "spots"?
Do we no longer believe that "in a special sense Seventh-day Adventists"
were given "a work of the most solemn import, -- the proclamation
of the first, second, and third angels' messages"? (9T:19) The second
angel proclaimed - "Babylon is fallen, is fallen" (Rev. 14:8).
Here is double emphatic emphasis. Now the Church proclaims to the world
via satellite that it questions this message, and joins in with "Babylonians"
to proclaim the resurrection of Jesus Christ. What is this saying to God?
"God, you made a mistake when you gave this Revelation to Jesus;
these of Babylon are our brothers in Christ." One thing is certain,
the ministerial leadership of the Church, with the blessing of the administration,
have gone into captivity to Babylon. Following the type and antitype principle
of interpretation, the message of Revelation 18 takes on new significance.
The people to whom God gave "a work of the most solemn import"
have gone of their own free choice into captivity to Babylon. The call
is to "my people" to come out of that captivity, and return
and rebuild the temple [of truth] for the Lord. For and to that temple,
"the Desire of all nations" will come (Haggai 2:7).
The message of the resurrection needs to be resurrected
every day, not just a yearly remembrance of the event. Paul counted the
loss of all things as "but dung, that [he] might win Christ ... that
he might know Him and the power of His resurrection" (Phil 3:8,10).
Daily, he would die (I Cor. 15:31); daily he would need to be resurrected.
Paul realized that to be planted together in the likeness of His death
meant also to experience His resurrection. He could confess - "For
me to live is Christ" (Phil. 1:21). The daily personal experience
of the resurrection brings "Christ in you the hope of glory"
p 7 -- LET'S TALK
IT OVER -- In a recent issue of WWN, we documented
the Romeward drift in Adventism XXXI - 4 (98). We have noted the continuing
trend toward identification with Evangelicalism, which began with the
SDA-Evangelical Conferences of 1955-56. Either this altering of course
is the working of the Lord as He is preparing to enlighten the earth with
His glory, or it is the apostasy which the Lord's Messenger wrote about
in 1905, when she stated - "One thing it is certain is soon to be
realized, - the great apostasy, which is developing and increasing and
waxing stronger, and will continue to do so until the Lord shall come
from heaven with a shout." (Special Testimonies, Series B, No.7,
If what is taking place within the community of Adventism
is of the Lord, then every voice" needs to join unitedly proclaiming
that new emphasis, and every tithe dollar plus offerings needs to be placed
behind the programs initiated by the Church. If not, and this is the predicted
apostasy, then a different course needs to be followed. That which is
the Lord's needs to be placed behind that for which the Lord stands -
the Truth as it is in Jesus. This then raises the same question that Pilate
asked Jesus - "What is truth?" This is no idle question.
The Church has set its course. That is plain for anybody
to see who has eyes to see; but what about the myriad voices on the periphery
of Adventism, each with its siren call? With truth there are no choices,
it is either pure and unadulterated, or it is tinctured with error which
is deadly. We forget that one drop of strychnine can make a glass of pure
water lethal. Yet hundreds are willing to listen to, and support with
their tithe and offerings, any and every wind of doctrine blowing through
the corridors of Adventism today, so long as it is called, "historic
The problem today among the "independent splinters"
is no different than the problem the church faced in 1888. The Lord's
Messenger wrote - "They are not willing to be deprived of the garments
of their own righteousness, which is unrighteousness, for the righteousness
of Christ, which is pure unadulterated truth." (TM, p.65)
Until this occurs, all of the show of "eucharistic unity" evidenced
among some "independents" earlier this year, still leaves their
multicolored publications laced with the strychnine of error.
In connection with the prophecy of the continued apostasy in the Church, there was some pertinent counsel given - "We are to hold fast the first principles of our denominated faith, and go forward from strength to increased faith." (Special Testimonies, op.cit., p.57) First, we must know what those "first principles" were. Secondly, we must recognize that "the truth is an advancing truth, and we must walk in the increasing light." (Review & Herald, March 25,1890) Thirdly, we must realize that "it is necessary that our unity today be of a character that will bear the test of trial," and therefore it is mandatory that we face the painful reality that, "we have many lessons to learn and many, many to unlearn." (TM, p. 30) Those who think that if we merely return to the statements of belief held by the Church prior to 1955-56, that we are proclaiming "historic Adventism." Instead we are but transferring the concerned Adventist from the Laodiceanism which permitted the compromises of 1955-56, to be a Laodicean follower of the "independent" voices. Christ, the way, the truth, the life, is still standing at the door just as unwelcome by the "Independent Voices" as He ever was by the Church. To foster mission programs so that those who wish to feel the same kind of a "security blanket" they felt in the mission programs of the Church, is no substitute to truth, pure and unadulterated. Truth means study, not surface reading. It means prayer and the guidance of the Spirit of truth into all truth. Guidelines have been given; when will they be adopted and followed? Note carefully the following: Those who sincerely desire truth will not be reluctant to lay open their positions for investigation and criticism, and will not be annoyed f their opinions and ideas are crossed. This was the spirit cherished among us forty year ago fcirca 18501 (Hear ye, professed "historic Adventists"!) We would come together burdened in soul, praying that we might be one in faith and doctrine; for we knew that Christ is not divided. One point at a time was made the subject of investigation. Solem-nity characterized these councils of investigation. The Scriptures were opened with a sense of awe. (R&H, July 26, 1892) --- (1998 Aug) ---End---- TOP
-- XXXI -- 9(98) "PATTERN
OF DISSIDENCE" -- Editor's
Preface -- Last year, Pastor Eric Winter, Ministerial
Secretary of the South Pacific Division, edited an insert for the Australian
Record (Sept. 20, 1997), captioned, "The Church Under Attack."
He selected three thought leaders in Australia besides himself to discuss
various aspects of the "Attack." One of these was the pastor
of the Memorial Church, Cooranbong, NSW, S. R. Goldstone. Goldstone wrote
on the "Pattern of Dissidence." The staff here at the time prepared
a response in a special Australian issue of WWN in which each of
the articles of the insert was discussed. In organizing and writing this
issue, Terrie Lambert, our librarian, thought that all who read WWN
could benefit by the response to Goldstone's article in the Record,
and has reproduced it as the first article.
The selection of the second article should make profitable
reading for those interested in some of the linguistics behind the words
used in the Old Testament which define the Godhead. It should challenge
our thinking to comprehend as far as mortals can the deep things of God.
Some theories advanced, and such they are, came perilously close to blaspheming
the Holy Spirit. Of course, the article selected does not give an answer,
but it does provide a basis for some thinking beyond its scope.
The final article, "Let's Think It Over," coming
as near as possible to the usual editorial title, "Let's Talk It
Over," as one could without using it, discusses a very real problem
involving doctrine and Christian experience. The key is truth which is
to be expressed in both concept and life even as He who is the Truth did
when He lived on earth as the Son of man.
By the time you are reading this issue, the Lamberts will
be back in Australia, where they will jointly assume responsibility of
the Foundation there. Each month the unused page 8 (they mail WWN
in an envelope) will carry an Australian oriented article. It may even
ask the Australian reader to "think over" what is written in
"Let's Talk It Over."
p 2 -- "Pattern
of Dissidence" -- Pastor Goldstone begins his article
by highlighting the Great Controversy theme, which has been, as he states,
"a unique part of Adventist preaching." He comments that within
this central theme of the conflict between Christ and Satan, of good and
evil, lies a history of dissidence, which even a theological awareness
has not been a deterring barrier to its reoccurrence. Goldstone notes
what he calls a "pattern of dissidence" in the Scriptures, by
which we could test all dissidence, as "it is imperative as individuals
that ... we should prepare ourselves to discern and reject dissidence."
A dissident is one who disagrees or opposes the authorities.
The two examples cited by Goldstone, that of Lucifer and Korah, Dathan
and Abiram, emphasize God's attitude towards revolts against His kingdom
and authority. God is the supreme ruler of the universe, a principle that
Lucifer rejected because of an over-inflated opinion of himself. Likewise,
Korah, Dathan and Abiram rejected the authority that God had given to
Moses as the delegated leader of His people. The results were and are
indeed tragic as rarely does a dissident against God's government suffer
the consequences alone. (see Numbers 16:32,33)
Pastor Goldstone lists eight progressive steps of Satan's
fall and by comparing them to the Korah, Dathan and Abiram incident, suggests
that a pattern is apparent whereby we may test all dissidence. These steps
are: 1) Leadership does not
give automatic exemption from dissidence; 2) Secrecy
is an early evidence of dissidence; 3) Outward
claims of loyalty are no proof of fact; 4)
Resistance to counsel demonstrates personal pride; 5)
Dissidence is not easily discernible in its early stages;
6) Distortion of the motives of others is a clear
indication of dissidence; 7)
Fomenting discontent by publicly sharing expressions of disquiet; and
8) Dissidents go public when
it is thought that the weight of public support will carry the day.
The underlying principle, which Pastor Goldstone fails
to distinguish, is that God is the supreme authority to a Christian. And
in that sense only, dissidence is a sin, as it is rebellion against God
and His government, whether in Heaven or on earth. Therefore, the question
must be asked, is all dissidence sin? The answer depends upon whose authority
the dissenter is questioning. If the authority to which a dissenter is
in disagreement is itself in opposition to the government of God, then
he is merely exercising his right of religious freedom and, quite possibly,
the Gospel commission. The Scriptures are replete with such examples of
this type of dissidence.
The history of God's chosen people reveals that many of
the Prophets of the Old Testament were dissidents in the true sense of
the word. They disagreed and spoke out against the leadership. However,
it was the apostasy of the leadership that necessitated these messages
from God. Therefore, the leadership also were dissidents, in that they
disagreed with the authority of the true God by bowing down to idols.
Notice the exchange between Ahab, king of Israel, and Elijah, the Lord's
it came to pass, when Ahab saw Elijah, that Ahab said unto him, Art thou
he that troubleth Israel? And he answered, I have not troubled Israel;
but thou and thy father's house, in that ye have forsaken the commandments
of the Lord, and thou hast followed Baalim. (1 Kings 18:17,18)
While both Ahab and Elijah accused each other of being
dissident, it was Ahab's dissidence that did more to provoke "the
Lord God of Israel to anger than all the kings of Israel that were before
him" (I Kings 16:33). Why? Because it was a direct revolt against
God and His laws. And, interestingly, it is Ahab's position which can
be listed under Goldstone's "progressive steps" to discern dissidence.
Ahab's leadership did not give him automatic exemption; he worked in secrecy
until he gained the weight of public support; he made outward claims of
loyalty but resisted counsel given by God's messengers; and he distorted
the motives of Elijah before suffering the terrible consequences of his
Moving into New Testament times, we see the same illustration
occurring in the life of the Son of God. Jesus Christ was accused many
times by the leadership of the day, of being both dissident against their
authority (John 18:22), the authority of Jehovah (John 10:33), and of
being dissident against the authority of Rome (John 19:12). This last
accusation was prefabricated in order to deliver Him up to death. The
leaders told the people that the work of Christ was satanic (Matt. 12:24),
and the rank and file of Israel completely trusted their religious judgment.
Their leaders were wrong and the result was that an entire nation was
blindly led to its destruction. In 70 AD there was starvation, cannibalism,
and a massacre in Jerusalem - the bitter fruit of unquestioning trust.
The facts are that it was the Jewish leadership who were
the true dissidents in denying and then opposing the authority of the
Son of God. Again, Pastor Goldstone's list applies as; 1)
Their position of leadership did not give them automatic
exemption (Matt. 23:2,3); 2)
They worked in secrecy to trap Jesus (Luke 20:20), while Jesus did nothing
in secret (John 18:20); 3 & 4)
They made outward claims of loyalty but resisted council because of their
pride (John 9:33,34); 6) They
distorted the motives of Jesus (Mark 3:22); 7)
They fomented discontent by publicly sharing expressions of disquiet (John
7:40-52); 8) They finally went
public when they thought they had the weight of public support (Luke 22:5).
Interestingly, the word "dissidence" does not
occur in the Bible, but a related word "dissension," meaning
"to stand up against," occurs three times in the New Testament.
p 3 -- the first instance, Paul and Barnabas "had
no small dissension" with certain men who came from Judea, who taught
that in order to be saved one had to be circumcised (Acts 15:1,2). The
Bible is clear that it was Paul and Barnabas who created the dissension
and disputed with those who came, in all probability, with authority from
Jerusalem. However, they were not in the wrong for doing so, but merely
openly and frankly arguing the truth of righteousness by faith against
the heresy of righteousness by works.
The next two instances of "dissension" occur
in the 23rd chapter of Acts, where Paul is brought in before the Sanhedrin.
After calling the high priest a "white-washed wall" and then
"apologising," Paul undertakes another strategy: But
when Paul perceived that the one part was Sadducees, and the other Pharisees,
he cried out in the coiincil, "Men and brethren, I am a Pharisee,
the son of a Pharisee: of the hope and resurrection of the dead I am called
in question." And when he had so said, there arose a dissension between
the Pharisees and Sadducees: and the multitude was divided. (Acts 23:6,7)
Here Paul, the dissident, opposing the authority of the
Sanhedrin, turns the tables on his opposers by revealing their internal
dissidence. The Pharisees and Sadducees, while united against the work
of the Messiah and the fulfillment of prophecy were in disagreement on
How ironic it is that history has repeated itself today.
We find that the Church (the modern-day Sadducees), having rejected the
fulfillment of Luke 21:24, have to spend a great deal of time defending
themselves against the Independents (many being modern-day Pharisees),
while both are rejecting the truth. While the Standishes and Pfandl are
quibbling over the nature of Christ [see WWN Australia, Special
Issue, Nov, 1997, "Standish - Pfandl, No Alternative?" p.10,
by Darren Lambert], neither have the Truth. Both are dissident against
the authority of the Scriptures, and the Incarnate Word.
Returning to the essence of Pastor Goldstone's article,
It is evident that he sees the independent movement as dissident against
the authority of the Seventh-day Adventist corporate structure. While
this may be true, we need to ask ourselves, is the corporate structure
itself, in any way dissident against the authority of God, as has occurred
with the professed people of God in the past? Pastor Goldstone's own list
should give us the answer:
1) Has the leadership of the
SDA Church been given an automatic exemption from dissidence?
Men who are
entrusted with weighty responsibilities, but who have no living connection
with God, have been and are doing despite to His Holy Spirit. They are
Indulging the very same spirit as did Korah, Dathan and Abiram, as did
the Jews in the days of Christ... (Testimonies to Ministers,
2) Has the SDA leadership ever
acted in secrecy, with "clandestine meetings, and meetings behind
closed doors, or suggestions that 'these matters are best not discussed
with the [laity] and pastors"'? M.L. Andreason answers: As
the negotiations [between Martin and SDA's] were considered top secrets
it was some time before any definite news leaked out. When it did it was
disturbing. Washington furnished little news, and all others informed
me they had nothing to say. ... Our first authentic news did not come
from our leaders or through our journals, but from an Evangelical publication
dated September 1956, which issued a special edition with an account of
what took place. This account was so unbelievable that we hesitated to
give it credence. (Letters to the Churches, p. 34)
3) Has the SDA leadership made
outward claims of loyalty while acting in a dissident way? Again Andreasen: I
do not know how our leaders conducted themselves while with the evangelicals,
but they left the impression upon these men that "the majority group
of sane leadership (which) is determined to put the brakes on any members
who seek to hold views divergent from that of the responsible leadership
of the denomination." Eternity Extra,
4) Has the SDA leadership resisted
counsel, demonstrating personal pride? Andreason quotes a letter to him: Now
for you to go forward and broadcast a matter like this certainly puts
you In an unenviable light. If you do this, we shall have to do some broadcasting
too. This will again place you In plain opposition to your church, and
will undoubtedly bring up the matter of your relationship to the church.
In view of all this, the Officers as I have previously written, earnestly
ask you to cease your activities. (Letter dated Dec. 19,1957, from
SDA church to M.L. Andreason; Ibid, p.65)
5) Was dissidence not easily
discernible in its early stages? Andreason speaks yet again: Our
members are largely unaware of the conditions existing, and every effort
is being made to keep them in ignorance. Orders have been issued to keep
everything secret, and it will be noted that even at the late General
Conference session, no report was given of our leaders' trafficking with
the evangelicals and making alliances with them. (Ibid, p.15)
6) Has the SDA leadership ever
distorted the motives of others? Some
claimed that Andreason was offended for not having
p 4 -- been
invited to participate in the discussions which had taken place with Walter
Martin and Donald G. Barnhouse. Andreason was then in retirement. This
was perhaps one of the reasons he was not invited. But the true motive
was indubitably his well-known position with regard to the person and
work of Jesus Christ. (Christ Manifested in the Flesh, J.R.
7) Has the SDA leadership fomented
discontent by publicly sharing expressions of disquiet? Read what the
Adventist leadership told Barnhouse and Martin: ...
regarding the nature of Christ while in the flesh, which the majority
of the denomination has always held to be sinless, holy and perfect, despite
the fact that certain of their writers have occasionally gotten into print
with contrary views completely repugnant to the Church at large. They
[leadership] further explained to Mr. Martin that they had among their
number certain members of their "lunatic fringe" even as there
are similar wild-eye irresponsibles in every field of fundamental Christianity.
(Dr. Donald G. Barnhouse, "Are Seventh-day Adventists Christians?"
Eternity, September, 1956, p.6)
8) Did the SDA leadership go public when it thought that the weight of public support would carry the day?
In 1957, the church published the book, Questions on
Doctrine, as the result of the evangelical conferences, assuming that
they had "softened up" the ministry enough to get their compromises
generally accepted. They were wrong, and it took until 1980 before they
could make another definitive statement that was well received.
As Pastor Goldstone has stated; "dissidence is a
disease ... Indiscernible at first, it spreads silently." We agree
with him entirely that it is imperative that we discern and reject it.
However, we leave it to the reader to determine who the true dissidents
against God and His Truth really are.
One day as I was journeying from
Los Angeles to Denver, I had a most delightful interview with an elderly
Jewish man. I was sitting in the carriage reading my Hebrew Testament
when this man appeared at my side. "You cannot read that," he
Immediately I gave him a practical
demonstration by reading a passage. With a shrug of the shoulders he asked,
"Where did you learn that?"
Moving over I invited him to a seat
beside me and intrcduced myself. My new acquaintance told me his name
was Baron. Then we settled ourselves for a chat.
"Can you read this Mr. Baron?"
"Mr. Baron are you acquainted
with this book?" I enquired. He turned to the title page. He read
the words, "New Testament." He had never seen it before.
Reaching for my grip I pulled out
my Hebrew Bible (Old Testament) and said; "Mr. Baron I want to ask
you a question. What is the meaning of the word Elohim?"
"Let us turn to the Ten Commandments,
and notice the 2nd
5 -- Commandment - 'Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.'
"It is plural and means many
- more than one," he replied and added, "It means all those
Turning back to the first verse of
the book of Genesis I said, "You admit that Elohim in the passage
we have just seen means 'Gods."' He nodded.
"Mr. Baron what is the meaning
of Shema (The rabbinical name of the great confession of Deuteronomy 6:4)?
I want to ask you particularly about the meaning of the Hebrew word Elohenu?
My instructors have taught me that it meant 'Gods,"' I continued.
"Then Mr. Baron," I concluded,
"If all these words ending in enu means 'fathers,' 'sicknesses,'
'transgressions' and 'sins,' surely Elohenu means 'Gods' - plural."
For an answer my Jewish friend threw out both hands in a gesture of helpless
perplexity. "But the Rabbi's," he breathed -
"We are not interested in the
Rabbi's just now," I told him. "You admit that it is right that
we should translate it plural do you not?" He slowly nodded. I continued,
"One more question - What is the meaning of Echad?"
I then took him to various passages
of the Old Testament and concluded with the words, "The Scriptures
teach that there is a Godhead of more than one, and that the second person
of the Godhead came to earth to dwell among us and gave his life for us
I urged him to change then and there.
This was bringing home the truth to a Jew in a language that he understood
LET'S THINK IT OVER
-- There are two statements made in the above story that
need to be carefully considered. Mr. Baron, after hearing and seeing the
truth from the written word, exclaims, "If I had only met you many
years ago, how different my life would have been." And then he remarks,
"I certainly would have changed my religion."
The acceptance of truth for many of us has necessitated
a change of religion. However, is it possible to change religion and yet
not for our life to be changed? Our "lifestyle" might alter,
but do we allow the truths we hold to transform us into better people?
Is there a difference between truth and doctrine, and just how important
are they in the development of a Christian character?
In the fifth chapter of the Gospel of John, we find recorded
an interesting statement made by Jesus. After healing the impotent man
at the pool of Bethesda (5:1-15), and then declaring God to be His Father
(5:17), the Jews "sought
p 6 -- the more to kill Him, because He not only
had broken the sabbath, but said also that God was His Father, making
Himself equal with God" (5:18). Taking advantage of the crowded temple
situation, Jesus is able to expound, and explain the witness of the Father.
Then He states, "Search the scriptures; for in them ye think ye have
eternal life: and they are they which testify of me. And ye will not come
to me, that ye might have life" (5:39, 40).
It is impossible to determine from the Greek text if this
passage is to be read as a command, "Search the scriptures!"
or as a simple statement, "Ye search the scriptures." Commentators
disagree as to its use, whether in the imperative or indicative mood,
however either case makes good sense. It is clear that men ought to search
the scriptures, but that also the books of the Old Testament were never
more diligently searched than at that very time. The Jews were !n expectation
of the immediate appearing of the Messiah, but also they believed the
Scriptures to contain the promise of an eternal life.
Jesus said to them, "In them ye think ye have eternal
life." It was ancient Jewish thought that a knowledge of the law
would itself assure a man of eternal life. "Thus, Hillel, a rabbi
of the 1st century BC, is reported to have declared:
'One who has acquired for himself words of Torah,
has acquired for himself the life of the world to come."' (SDA
Bible Commentary, No.5, p.955) It was in this way, by placing emphasis
on the written word, to the exclusion of the Incarnate Word, that the
Jews were able to turn a knowledge of that word into the means of salvation,
and thus rejected Him who is the truth. Although their doctrines were
based in the Torah, they allowed the wickedness of their hearts to corrupt
their perceptions of the coming Messiah. Jesus said, "Ye will not
come to me, that ye might have life." Even though the Old Testament
bore evidence that Jesus was the Messiah, and although they professedly
searched it to learn the way to life, yet they would not come to Him to
obtain that life.
They [the Jews] clung
and appealed to Moses; ... Their elaborate searching and sifting of the
Law in hope that, by a subtle analysis of its every particle and letter,
by inferences from, and a careful drawing of a prohibitive hedge around,
its letter, they would possess themselves of eternal life (John 5:39),
what did it all come to? Utterly self-deceived, and far from the truth
in their elaborate attempts to outdo each other in local ingenuity, they
would, while rejecting the Messiah sent from God, at last become the victims
of a coarse Messianic impostor (John 5:40-43). And even in the present,
what was it all? Only the letter - the outward! ... It was all utterly
mistaken; utter, and alas, guilty perversion, their elaborate trifling
with the most sacred things, while around them were suffering, perishing
men, ' lame hands' into emptiness, and waiilng out their mistaken hopes
Into the eternal silence. (Alfred Edersheim, The Life and Times
of Jesus the Messiah, p.322, 323)
The sad history of the Jewish nation is there for us to
read, so that we will learn and not repeat the mistakes of the past. Their
love and respect for their doctrines was commendable, but they had no
such love for the source of all truth, nor for the people for whom the
truth was sent to save. They had the religion, but not the life. They
had the doctrine, but not the Truth.
The word "doctrine" is a common New Testament
word that may denote the act of teaching (didaskalia),
or the thing that is taught (didache).
The word for "truth" (aletheia),
is much broader in application, and has the fundamental meaning of reality,
as opposed to mere appearance or false pretence. There are distinctive
differences in the use of this word by Paul and John. In the writings
of Paul there is a constant use of "the truth" to describe God's
will as revealed to man (Rom. 1:18, 25), but especially in the gospel
of Chnst (2 Cor. 4:2; Gal. 3:1 etc.) Thus "the truth" becomes
synonymous with the gospel (Eph. 1:13, Gal. 2:5, 14). In his Pastoral
Epistles the gospel as "the truth" or "the word of truth"
appears to pass into the sense of a settled body of Christian doctrine.
In the books of John, "the truth" stands for
the absolute Divine reality as distinguished from all existence that is
false or merely seeming. Jesus came from the bosom of the Father (John
1:18), and truth came by Him (vs.17), because, as the Word of God, He
was full of it (vs.14). The truth is incarnated and personalized in Jesus,
and so He is Himself the Truth (14:6). The truth that is in Him He imparts
to His disciples (8:31); and after His ascension He bestowed the Spirit
of Truth to abide with them and be in them forever (14:17). Hence the
truth is in the Christian as the essence of his spiritual being (1 John
1:8, 2:4; 2 John 1:2). It is there both as a moral and intellectual quality,
something not only to be known and believed (8:32, 45f) but also requiring
to be done (3:21; 1 John 1:6). Primarily it is a moral power, as distinguished
from doctrine which is purely intellectual. Truth sets us free (John 8:32);
in its sanctifying power (17:17-19); it ensures the keeping of the commandments
(1 John 2:4); and a life of Christian love (3:18).
Jesus said, "If any man will do His will, He shall
know of the doctrine" (John 7:17). He who sincerely desires to do
the will of God, will be enlightened by God; he is promised an understanding
of doctrine. But there is a prerequisite to receiving that light, in that
the seeker for truth must be willing to follow in the light that may be
revealed. This is a life-changing experience. This verse does not read
that he who knows doctrine will seek to do His will. A theoretical knowledge
of doctrine, in and of itself, has no power to transform the life.
Paul exhorted Timothy; "Take heed unto thyself, and
unto the doctrine; continue in them: for in doing this thou shalt both
save thyself, and them that hear thee" (1 Timothy 4:16). The Phillips'
Translation reads; "Keep a critical eye both upon your own life and
on the teaching you give."
p 7 -- Clearly the importance of sound doctrine
cannot be denied, however, if our life does not correspond to it, it is
worse than useless. The following quote, taken from the SDA Bible Commentary
on this verse, states this very succinctly. The
apostle asserts the primary importance of dependable Christian character
as a qualification for service to the church. Acquaintance with teachings
of the church is important, but this knowledge can never compensate for
a questionable reputation. The most winsome argument for Christianity
is not unanswerable logic but the fragrance of a Christ-like life. Sincere
seekers for truth are not interested in theory, but in a working philosophy
of life that can solve their problems and help them to overcome their
weaknesses. When non-Christians who are honest in heart see that the gospel
changes selfish, vain, timeserving men into pure, unselfish Christians,
they will be drawn to the Christ of the Gospel.
It is a tragic inconsistency
for a minister to attempt to reform the lives of others if his own has
not been re-created by the power of God. He who would preach kindness
and love must first exemplify these qualities in his own life. The preaching
of the gospel is hindered or hastened by the lives lived by professing
Christians. (SDA Bible Commentary, No.7, p.307)
The following comment is found in the Writings: '
Take heed unto thyself, and unto the doctrine.' Thyself needs the first
attention. First give yourself to the Lord for sanctification to His service.
A godly example will tell more for the truth than the greatest eloquence
unaccompanied by a well-ordered life. (Review & Herald,
Yes, Jesus is the Truth, but He gave a broader threefold
description of of His existence in John 14:6. He said, "I am the
way, the truth, and the life." He is the way from earth to heaven;
through His life and His death, His humanity and divinity, the necessary
ladder was provided. He is the truth; a living revelation of the Almighty.
He is the life; all that composes life here, physically, intellectually
and spiritually, as well as the life to come. All these aspects of life
we may have in abundance (John 10:10). How silly would it be to seek only
intellectual knowledge and miss out on all the other blessings Jesus has
to offer us.
In Adventism today there can be found two extremes. On the one hand we have the thinking of the liberal majority that an understanding of doctrine is unnecessary, and that all we need is to "know Jesus." On the other hand, there is a minority view, equally dangerous, that pure doctrine is all we need; if we just get the doctrines right then everything else will fall into place. Clearly we need to learn from the mistakes of the past and find that middle ground where doctrine, pure and unadulterated, has its right and proper place and our lives are a reflection of its teaching.
The words of Paul are given for our admonition and should
shock us out of any self-complacency. He writes; "For the wrath of
God is revealed from heaven against all ungodliness and unrighteousness
of men, who hold the truth in unrighteousness." The
reason that the Lord can do so little for those that are handling weighty
truths is that so many hold these truths apart from their life. They hold
them in unrighteousness. Their hands are not clean, their hearts are defiled
with sin, and should the Lord work for them in the power of His Spirit
corresponding with the magnitude of the truth which He has opened to the
understanding, it would be as though the Lord sanctioned sin. (Councils
to Writers and Editors, p.81)
As Adventists we are privileged with some of the most challenging doctrines ever given to man; the Sanctuary, the fulfillment of Prophecy, the Incarnation, the Godhead, to name but a few. However, truth encompasses more than even these great and necessary doctrines. While we may classify some of them as "present truth," they are no more vital than, say, the Beatitudes of Matthew 5, or the Fruits of the Spirit in Galatians 5:22, 23. All are necessary, challenging and, if we allow them to be, life-changing. They are not the means of salvation, but avenues by which we find eternal life, providing we come to Jesus to receive that life. --- (1998 Sep) ---End----