Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, April 14, 2007

The Sanctuary Truth Manipulation for the sake of Tradition

After taking a beating from the alternative media of the Seventh-day Adventist publications over the Sabbath School Lesson Study Guide on 1844, the Investigative Judgment and the Gospel the Adventist Review is trying to prop up the sanctuary doctrine once again. In an article entitled the Sanctuary Truth Jennifer Jill Schwirzer presents her view of the importance of this so called truth.

She tells of taking a friend to church and interpreting for her friend the Adventist code words:

Now she sat in the pew next to me, gaining her first exposure to Adventist Church life. “Today, Christ is engaged in the great work of the investigative judgment during this antitypical day of atonement,”6 the speaker proclaimed, “and soon the marriage supper of the Lamb will take place.”7

Knowing that her appetite for depth was not matched by a grasp of church-speak, I leaned toward Emily and whispered a translation: “Em, what the pastor is saying is that Christ is the husband and His church is the bride. A bride and groom can’t be truly intimate when there’s something between them. The sanctuary in heaven is where Jesus cleanses away the sin that separates Him from His bride.”8 Emily relaxed her brow and nodded in agreement.

If I were Emily that would not relax me, “You mean for these last 1600 years no one on earth could be intimate with their God until sins somehow in heaven are cleansed?” “That’s right Em, our sins are not forgiven and forgotten when we ask God to take them away, God must store a record of our sins in heaven and then starting in 1844 He began to cleanse the record of our sins at least of the people who are dead He has not gotten to us yet.” I would guess that this would upset Emily even more, “So we can’t even now have that intimate relationship with Jesus until He has cleansed our sins in heaven. “That’s right Em isn’t the sanctuary doctrine the most wonderful truth you have ever heard?” Emily might respond: “No, I believe that forgiveness is immediate and that God really does forget about my sins, no longer counting them against me, I thought that was standard Christian faith?”

The article then goes on to tell just how much the sanctuary truth trashes evil and treasures good. It ends hypocrisy because it tells us that God will judge us. She writes:

This truth says that professed believers will be judged by an all-seeing God, and ultimately either validated as sincere or exposed as phonies.11 This “scrutinizing of the saints” has been the most offending element of the sanctuary truth, but for those looking in from the outside, it provides a welcome reprieve from prevailing cheap grace.

Wow did you know that Christians do not believe in a judgment by God? That is only found in the Adventist sanctuary truth, the rest of Christianity scoffs at such an idea. You begin to get the picture, the author does not seem to have a good grasp of basic Christianity and likely not of the Investigative Judgment as taught by Adventism in the last 150 years. In fact Christianity does scoff at the Investigative Judgment because it has no Biblical backing but they certainly acknowledge a judgment by God. It is also not really a cheap grace judgment either, it is rather recognition of a judgment not based upon works but based upon faith in God (some believe in rewards based on works but that is separate from salvation). Relationship based judgment, do we have a relationship with God or not. Now according to the author we can’t have that relationship until after our names come up and our sins are forgiven in the Investigative Judgment (she wrote: The sanctuary in heaven is where Jesus cleanses away the sin that separates Him from His bride). Which it would seem to me is really an unnecessary obstacle to faith in God, not a beautiful truth at all really.

She continues:

Yet the sanctuary told her otherwise, because there the most whitewashed sins are recorded with searing clarity. What is done in the darkness is seen and chronicled in the books of heaven to stand as objective testimony in heaven’s court. This tells those whose sense of justice is offended by man’s inhumanity to man that the Judge of the world can’t be bought off by pretended piety.

A little later:

The sanctuary doctrine reveals that we are significant to God, who notices the details of our lives sufficiently to record them all. The enemy has twisted this truth into a weapon of psychological torment—particularly for Adventists who fear judgment. But I propose that we see it as a mark of God’s care rather than His condemnation.

The sanctuary truth tells her that her sins and everyone else’s are kept track of right there in heaven. God keeps a record of wrongs, Love , in 1 Corinthians 13:5 tells us keeps no record of wrongs but God does and he uses them. The Bible actually only records such things as who’s name is in the book of Life and in the Old Testament the book of remembrance (Malachi. 3:16) which again is not about a record of sins. God knows we all have enough sins to choke a heard of horses it surprises me that a record of sins in heaven is such a good thing. I suppose if one considers that some people have so many sins that we with fewer might feel a little better but I can’t see when dealing with a perfect God that it makes too much difference. I would rather know that He has written my name in the book of life (Revelation 3:5) or that He knows who are His (John 10:27-30) then to hold to a theory of recorded sins.

After listing all this about how important it is that God stores a record of sin the author then in true sanctuary truth fashion contradicts herself:

This may pinpoint another sanctuary doctrine stumbling block—it seems to be all about sin!... Simple reasoning follows that if God’s law is love, then sin is failing at love. That means that the putting away of sin involves coming into love—a love relationship with God, but even more relevant to today’s cry, a loving community with other human beings…

The doctrine of the sanctuary posits that alienation is an outcropping of sin, and with the removal of sin, at-one-ment is made possible. By demolishing the sin-barriers, the sanctuary facilitates relationships and brings about true intimacy and brotherly love.

Is this the same Sanctuary mentioned earlier? The one that is at some future time going to cleanse our record of sins? What a sad idea that postpones reconciliation with God until some heavenly sanctuary activity. Nearly 2000 years ago Paul pleaded with us to be reconciled with God (2 Corinthians 5:20) We are therefore Christ's ambassadors, as though God were making his appeal through us. We implore you on Christ's behalf: Be reconciled to God. No, this is not a sanctuary pseudo truth this is the reality of a God that loves and wants a relationship with us and through that relationship improve our lives and other peoples lives.

If you have the stomach for reading material designed to prop up the least Biblical of all of Adventist doctrines take some time and read Ms Schwirzer’s article. It is a very telling piece of evidence which exposes the faulty logic that is the Investigative Judgment AKA Sanctuary Doctrine. Calling something truth when it is not truth is an attempt to manipulate people but to print this in our official church paper indicates that it is very likely the accepted view of the leadership of the SDA church. That should be our real cause for concern. Honesty and integrity to the Bible is discarded for the sake of manipulation in the cause of promoting what many Adventist today have chosen to reject because it is not Biblical. The leadership it seems has at least realized it cannot support the doctrine from the Bible so this new means is used. The idea is now that everything good and important is found in the sanctuary doctrine. Forgiveness, love, justice, harmony, reconciliation, even the very formation of the SDA church it is all to be found in the “Sanctuary Truth”.

I feel so used!.


Greg said...

Hi Ron,

Great analysis. If the "good news" is that sin was not atoned for until Jesus entered the Most Holy Place in 1844, the apostles were obviously misled in preaching forgiveness prior to that time. But I guess this squares with a theological system content to describe other denominations as "apostate" or "Babylon".

I've written a few more thoughts about this article on For the Gospel, found here.


Anonymous said...

I wonder what Em's side of the story is? This stuff is so tedious.

Dick Larsen

Anonymous said...

Ron, I share some of your concerns with Jennifer Jill's sanctuary article and over the doctrine in particular.

But do I understand you to believe that professed believers are not subject to some sort of pre-advent or "investigative" judgment? God certainly doesn't require books (or maybe He'd use CD's now) to "know who are His". But what do you make of verses such as Matthew 12:36-37, which speak of "every idle word" being subject to judgment? Or of Paul's statement that we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ?


Ron Corson said...

Hello Glenn

In response to Matt 12:36-7 even a casual reading would not indicate a preadvent judgment since it specifically refers to day of judgment which was never understood as a judgment period of an extended period of time prior to the return of Christ. I tend to agree with the view expressed in the Expositor's Bible commentary where they say:

"The change to the second person (v. 37) implies that the saying may be proverbial. Here it heightens the warning that what one says about Jesus and his miracles reveals what one is and that he will be judged accordingly. Jesus' authority in saying this is staggering. It is not he who is being assessed when men ask, "Could this be the Son of David?" (v. 23), or utter blasphemies (v. 24); it is they who are being assessed, and by their words they will be judged."

I think that idea is also behind Paul's use when he says:

2CO 5:10 For we must all appear before the judgment seat of Christ, that each one may receive what is due him for the things done while in the body, whether good or bad.

The judgment seat of God is where the judgment of God is executed that is where the consequences for those who follow God receive their rewards and those who don't have no reward.

Paul also used the term in Romans:

RO 14:10 You, then, why do you judge your brother? Or why do you look down on your brother? For we will all stand before God's judgment seat.

Here he uses the idea that we must use righteous judgment because that is the kind of judgment God gives. This actually rather goes against any type of view other then the one the Expositor's Bible mentioned. Because we shouldn't be judging people on every idle word they may say so why would God judge us for every idle word we say.

It seems the only legitimate way to judge people in regard to salvation is upon their faith in God and the trust we have in His gift of healing (salvation). Because nothing else works, and our works certainly don't work.

Anonymous said...

Having thought about these issues some more and having reread your critique here, I realize what I missed the first time I read the Jennifer Jill article and your analysis.

What I missed was the not quite stated assumption in the Review article that for there to be an investigative judgment in the sense in which historic SDAism has typically defined it, it would mean that CONFESSED SINS would have to remain "on the books".

This would in fact be a marked departion from the normal understanding of salvation. It would in fact be a marked departion from what I understood to be the process of forgiveness growing up SDA. But perhaps even as far back as my child-hood years (I'm 40 now) there was a disparency between what the official dogma was and what I understood to be the "truth" of the matter.

And if this "investigative judgment" is in fact an excuse to say that God is keeping a record of sins we commit (or of the good we fail to commit) for a later record-keeping maneuver, than, yes, I would have a big problem this teaching.

And that the article didn't clarify this is a significant weakness. And that we as a denomination don't clarify this in our fundamentals, it is no wonder we would be viewed strangely if not with hostility by the secular or Christian world.