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WWN 1998 Jul - Sep


1998 Jul -- XXXI -- 7(98) --SOME ASSESSMENTS --
Part 3 -- Editor's Preface --
This issue of WWN is basically on one subject, divided into three articles. The break-a-way churches in both the Potomac and Rocky Mountain Conferences have broken away over two factors:   1)    Differences in belief, and   2)    Differences in organizational structure of church governance. We were able to obtain a copy of the Statement of Faith of Grace Place in Colorado, and have reproduced it in part wherein the key differences are apparent. The departures in some areas are major, while other areas reflect the same declension from basic Adventism as in the main body itself.

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 decisions." (ibid.)

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 - representative?

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. ..."
2)    God - "There is but one God, ... eternally existing in three Persons, the Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit."
3)    The Father - "God the Father is an infinite, personal Spirit who concerns Himself mercifully in the affairs of humanity. ..."
4)    Jesus Christ - "Though fully God, He became fully man. We believe in His virgin birth, sinless life. ... In His first coming Jesus inaugurated the fulfilment of the Kingdom of God by achieving the salvation of His people and establishing the New Covenant community."
5)    The Holy Spirit - "The Holy Spirit has come into the world to reveal and glorify Christ. ..."
6)    Humanity - "God created humans In His own image. ... When they chose to sin by disobeying God, they became alienated from God. ... We are totally incapable of pleasing God in and of ourselves. ... Originally created to live forever, because of sin we grow old and die. The first death is spoken of more than 60 times in the Bible as a 'sleep.' Death is an unconscious state. ... Heaven and hell await the saved and lost after the second coming of Jesus, depending on our response to His saving love."
7)    Salvation - "Salvation has been purchased for us by the finished and perfect work of Christ at the cross. ... Men and women are freed from the penalty of their sins not as a result, in whole or in part, of their own works, goodness or religious ceremony, but by the undeserved favor of God alone - through His grace alone. ... When we turn from our self-ruled life, and accept Jesus as our Saviour and Lord we are saved - the gift of eternal life is ours at that moment. God declares righteous all who put their faith in Christ alone for their salvation. ..."
8)    The Church - "All true believers make up the church world-wide and should assemble together in local churches for worship, teaching, prayer, and fellowship..."
9)    The Sabbath - "Because God rested on the seventh day from His work of creation, and Jesus rested on the Sabbath after His completed work of salvation on the cross, the Sabbath has become a symbol in time of God's finished work in Christ (Heb. 4:9-10). Since the principle of a seventh day of rest is clearly taught in the OT and not untaught in the NT, we choose to conduct our religious worship services on Saturday. Rather than creating nonbiblical religious Sabbath-keeping traditions like the Pharisees at the time of Christ, we celebrate the Sabbath as a symbol of Christ's finished work. God may and should be worshipped on every day of of the week, therefore we do not intend for the day of worship to be a point of contention of division with other Christians." [In full]
10)    Last Things - "We believe in the literal, personal, visible appearing of Christ, the resurrection of the dead, and the final judgment. ... The lost will receive the penalty of sin which is death. They will not burn throughout eternity, but will be consumed and come to an utter end. Since nobody knows when Christ will come; believers should avoid speculations. ..."

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"?

Church Governance 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 Church.

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" church government.

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 movement.

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 the church."

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 preaching

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

1998 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 Christian experience.

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.

Statement 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 moment?

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 dikaioV), let 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 readers.

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
denomination." While the similarity between this association, and the Willow Creek Association organized to support congregational ministry, has been noted by "many,"according to the report in Spectrum, Don Ashlock, a Portand, Oregon, businessman who has long "dreamed of association dedicated to a Congregationalist community," stated - "This is a pre-Willow Creek phenomenon. Willow Creek has just provided oxygen to a flame already burning in Adventism,"

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 itself.

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 Adventists.

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 can't."

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.

"Christ became 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)

p 6 --
Why the Easter Emphasis? -- For a number of years, Adventist ministers in different places have united in Easter sunrise services in the communities in which they lived. This was especially true if the minister had joined the local ministerial alliance. This year the Adventist involvement in Easter has been more pronounced than previously.

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" (Col. 1:27).

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, p. 56-57)

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 Adventism."

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

1998 Sep -- 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 messenger:      And 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 sin.

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. In

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 basic doctrines.

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, p.78)

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,
September 1956. (lbid, p.59)

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. Zurcher, p.132)

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.

A Convicting Witness --
[The following story, written by David L. Cooper D.D., was recently discovered among a pile of papers in the ALF Library. For its clearness and conciseness, we include it here.]

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 declared.

Immediately I gave him a practical demonstration by reading a passage. With a shrug of the shoulders he asked, "Where did you learn that?"
"In the seminary and University."
"Well you do not know what it means." Again I read it and translated a verse for him.
"Hum - and you are not a Yid," he commented.

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?" I asked.
At once he read fluently the passage I indicated.
"Now will you tell me what it means?"
He translated with difficulty although he seemed to understand the substance of what he had read.

"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?"
"It means God."
"But," I said, "my teachers have told me that this word means 'Gods."'
"They do not know what they are talking about," he retorted emphatically.
"But Elohim is a plural number".
"You are wrong," my friend declared, "I went to Yeshibah (Rabbinical School) and I know Elohim means God - singular."
"What is the meaning of the word Baal, Mr. Baron?" I in quired.
"Master," was his ready reply.
"What is the meaning of the word Baalim?"
"Masters," was his ready reply, "more than one."
"What is the meaning of seraph?"
"One of the angels," he said.
"Seraphim?" I asked.
"Many of them," he answered, "more than one."
"Then if Baal-im and Seraph-im, mean more than one would not Eloh-im also mean more than one?" He looked puzzled.

"Let us turn to the Ten Commandments, and notice the 2nd

p 5 -- Commandment - 'Thou shalt have no other Gods before me.'
Now what does the word 'Gods' mean?"

"It is plural and means many - more than one," he replied and added, "It means all those heathen gods".

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.
I continued - "Then what about the same word here at the beginning of the book of Genesis." For an answer my companion put his hand to his head in a quick gesture of complete surprise.
"The rabbi did not tell us that".
"Never mind about the rabbi," I rejoined. "If the word is plural and means 'gods' in one instance, then it must be plural in the other instance for it is spelt exactly the same way."
"That sounds right," he admitted, "But I wonder why they did not tell me that at the Rabbinical School?"

"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.
"Well they are wrong. It means one God."
"What is the meaning of the word Abhothenu?"
"Our fathers."
"Of Eholayenu?" I asked.
"Our sicknesses."
"Pesha 'enu?"
"Our transgressions."
"And Avonothenu?"
"Our sins."

"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?"
"One," he promptly replied.
"My teachers have told me that it is a word which means Unity!" I replied.
"Well you were taught wrong," he retorted quite hotly.
"My friend, here in the first part Genesis we are told that there was evening and morning making one day. There was darkness and light, two different and opposite things. Put them together and they make one. A little farther on we are told that a man was to leave father and mother and cleave unto his wife and the two were to become one flesh. When the two are married they become one. That is Echad. God speaks similarly about Himself. The Shema really says, "THE LORD, OUR GODS IS ONE LORD" - Echad - a unity."

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 all."
His face was a study. He said, "I am old now, if I had only met you many years ago, how different my life would have been." He then said, "I certainly would have changed my religion."

I urged him to change then and there. This was bringing home the truth to a Jew in a language that he understood clearly.

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, August 19,1902)

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----