Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

Adventist Today Articles Introduce Lesson on IJ

Adventist Today began their series of articles on this quarters lesson study guide on the Investigative Judgment, Gospel and 1844. As my previous introduction dealt with the many presuppositions that one must have to accept the concept of an Investigative Judgment the majority of the Adventist Today articles also presented presuppositions which would not be accepted by many, possibly the majority of Christians. The two I will briefly deal with are those by Jack Sequeira and Brad Cole.

Jack Sequeira states:

Before Christ could be our Savior, God had to legally qualify Him to represent us as mankind’s substitute. This is because God’s law will not allow the guilt and punishment of a sinner to be transferred to an innocent person (see Deuteronomy 24:16; Ezekiel 18:20). Since the human race is the multiplication of Adam’s life (see Acts 17:26), God accomplished this legal requirement by uniting the divine life of Christ to the corporate life of the human race that needed redeeming (Hebrews 2:17). This union of Christ’s divinity with mankind’s corporate humanity at the incarnation is what legally qualified Christ to be the second or last Adam in His work of redemption (the word “Adam” in Hebrew means mankind, see 1 Corinthians 15:45). Then, by His perfect life in our corporate humanity, from birth to manhood (30 years in the Bible), Christ fully met the positive demands of God’s law, “obey and live.” But this perfect obedience could not cancel mankind’s sins. Hence, by His sacrificial death on the cross, “disobey and die,” also in our corporate humanity (see 2 Corinthians 5:14), Christ fully satisfied the demands of the law on man’s behalf and became our righteousness. This righteousness is made effective by faith (Romans 10:4).This is how the famous Greek scholar, Brook Foss Wescott, expressed it in his book, The Gospel of the Resurrection:

If Christ took our nature upon Him, as we believe, by and act of love, it was not that of one but of all. He was not one man only among many men, but in Him all humanity was gathered up. And thus now, as at all time, mankind are, so to speak organically united with Him. His acts are in a true sense our acts, so far as we realize the union (obey the gospel). His death is our death, Hs resurrection our resurrection” p. 39.

This is a unique way to begin the subject of the Investigative Judgment as it assumes the Recapitulation theory of the Atonement. This is a theory begun by Irenaus and is distinctly different from Paul’s use of the term second Adam. I understand that this is one of Sequeira’s distinctive teachings but it is not very widely accepted. While I disagree with this theory I also disagree with the Penal Substitutionary theory of the atonement. However those are not really the topics of the Lessons. For now I am just pointing out that peculiar theories are the starting point for many peoples introduction to the subject of this quarter's lesson.

His article concludes:

Therefore, to correctly understand what the Bible teaches on the doctrines of 1844 and the judgment we must consider them in the context of the objective facts of the gospel. This is how we will consider these two unique doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventists Church in the next two articles.

This is what I also think is the important issue and it is why I have been pointing out the presuppositions that are being used to introduce the topic of the Investigative Judgment. If the IJ has any real significance we should be able to arrive at it with objective Gospel information. We can all manufacture many different theories which produce even more theories but that is not being objective it is being speculative.

Brad Cole begins with another set of presuppositions:

I appreciate that this quarterly, which hopes to address the issues that relate to 1844 and the investigative judgment, opens with a description of the war that began in heaven. The Heavenly Sanctuary initially became defiled before the creation of this earth and in God’s very presence. For this reason, the concept of a cleansing of the sanctuary can only be understood when we know what defiled it in the first place.

There are 2 closely related issues which lie at the foundation of this war and which resulted in the defiling of the sanctuary:

1. Distortion and misrepresentation of God’s supremely gracious, kind, and forgiving character.

2. Distortion and misrepresentation of God’s principle upon which the entire universe is designed to operate: selfless, other-centered love.

Though it is common in SDA circles to think that the verse in Revelation which describes war in heaven is about something prior to the creation of this earth such is not indicated in Revelation. Revelation gives no time frame for this war, nor is it even clear that this is a literal application. As Revelation is filled with symbolism many commentators view this war as symbolic also rather then a literal war between Michael and Satan. As an example here is what the Expositor’s Bible Commentary says:

As elsewhere in the book, the narrative material can be interpreted only in the light of the hymns. This principle is especially important in vv. 7-9, where the victory takes place in heaven as the result of Michael's defeat of the dragon. Were this the only thing told us about the "war in heaven," it might be concluded that the dragon's defeat was unrelated to Jesus Christ. But the interpretative hymn (vv. 10-12) says that it was in fact the blood of Christ that dealt the actual death blow to the dragon and enabled the saints to triumph (v. 8; cf. 5:9). Does this not suggest that the redeeming work of Christ is here depicted by the cosmic battle of Michael and the dragon as it is elsewhere seen as a loosing from sin (1:5), as a washing of our garments (7:14), and as a purchasing to God (5:9)'? The time of the dragon's defeat and ejection from heaven must therefore be connected with the incarnation, ministry, death, and resurrection of Jesus (v. 13: Luke 10:18; John 12:31). Christ has appeared in order that he may destroy the works of the devil (Matt 12:28-29; Acts 10:38; 2Tim 1:10; 1John 3:8).

I could probably spend the next 10 pages giving various views about this war in heaven. The point here again is that the introduction by Cole is based upon a particular theory about the war in heaven, again a theory which does not have real acceptance throughout Christianity.

From this presupposition Cole moves to the assumption that heaven was defiled by Satan's charges against God, and heaven is the sanctuary. Again this is a theory which is not accepted by much of Christianity it is again assumed as true because of the influence of Ellen White by many SDA’s. In fact the Bible offers very little in the way of Satan’s comments or charges about God. If we assume the words of the serpent in the Genesis story are really the charges of Satan then we can see charges that God is selfish and not trustworthy, however that is based upon things happening here on earth and directed specifically toward human beings.

Brad Cole presents the following speculative illustration:

In the midst of this war over the character of God, the decision was made to create planet earth, a place that is a “spectacle for the whole world of angels…” (1 Corinthians 4:9 – GN). Amidst Satan’s charges that God is a restrictive tyrant, God majestically created the earth and the human race – a people with absolute freedom, the ability to create, and who were to represent and reflect the very character of God. “Let us make human beings in our image, make them reflecting our nature’…God created human beings; he created them godlike, reflecting God’s nature.” (Genesis 1:26,27 – The Message). And then God turned to the on-looking universe and said, so to speak, “I rest my case! Do you still believe Satan’s lies about me?” And we are encouraged to spend every 7th day in review of the evidence of God’s character and to enter into intimacy with our Creator.

While this is an illustration it does not mean that it is accurate, it does not mean that it is Biblically objective, it is however very speculative. Perhaps a fitting way to examine a speculative doctrine but not a good way to persuade anyone that such a doctrine is a true teaching of the Bible.

It would be most beneficial if those about to discuss this quarters lessons began their presentations by removing their SDA traditions and consider how their teaching looks to others. As Desmond Ford’s article begins:

Suppose me to be an evangelical Episcopalian, and I have just been lent the new quarterly by a SDA whose lifestyle and earnestness I deeply respect. He wishes me to be convinced of the truthfulness of what he esteems to be Adventism's distinctive contribution to theological truth.

To be a Bible believing Christian means that your doctrine is to come from the Bible. Theories have a use as does speculation but not when it comes to doctrine unless we want to practice the Roman Catholic method of religious interpretation where tradition is equal with the Bible. As Protestants however we need to hold on to the Bible as our authority and source of doctrine.

2 comments:

Seven Star Hand said...
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Ryan Bell said...

At my church this quarterly is causing some stir and so I have decided to co-teach this class with the current teacher (I usually have a class introducing Christian faith to seekers). So tonight I sat down and read through all the AT material you reference and I had exactly the same reaction. Most all the commentators, but especially Cole and Sequeira are coming from some strange staring point. When I just read your post I almost shouted out loud, "YES, that's exactly what I thought!"

What is helpful about Cottrell's and Ford's writting is that it starts with history, by saying, "This is how Adventist pioneers arrived at these viewpoints. Even Rick Rice's piece on Spectrum's website seems strained. It's still smacks of trying very hard to explain something that isn't clearly in the text in the first place. As Adventists, this is a given in our history and so we feel obliged to deal with it. I personally have found the historical approach helpful because then I don't have to bet the farm on the validity of our forefathers' conclusions.