Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, May 19, 2007

Good News Tour Presentations, fiction over fact

As I have been listening to the Good News Tour 2006 presentations I have noticed that their Biblical understanding is frequently questionable. Most of this is developed from their unquestioning acceptance of what they call the Great Controversy view. Which is based largely upon assumptions they draw from taking meaning away from the context given in the Bible. For example here is some material from Marco Belmont in the latest issue of the Good News Letter.

The Sin of Defining Sin
(And how it affects our youth)

Having served as a youth pastor, I’m tuned into kids, and how they reject vague, formless, and fuzzy theological answers. One of the more popular questions my youth would sometimes ask is this: "What is sin?" Is this not a question we must answer if we are to comprehend why God came down and lived in a womb for nine months, let His own created beings raise Him into adulthood and ultimately–(here’s the kicker) murder Him? …

Where did sin originate? Heaven. More specifically, in the very presence of God. I can hear one of my 16-year-olds protesting. ―Pastor Marco, I was told that sin can’t live in the presence of God. Valid question, right? What would you say to this teenager? Does it make sense to say that sin can’t live in the presence of God but it did originate there? So, whatever sin is, it obviously does something to change our perceptions about God - NOT God's perception of us. If sin can’t live in the presence of God, then how are the youth of 2007 supposed to go to God to get the solution for sin? We say, ―Go to God and in the same breath we suggest ―but don’t get too close. I recently read this statement in a popular theological periodical: ―Sin, therefore, is as much who we are as it is what we do, be-cause, in the end, we do what we do because we are what we are.

You only come up with the answer that sin originated in heaven by assuming that the verses in Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 are not writing about the king of Babylon and Tyre respectively but holding to the Lucifer myth that those verses are actually talking about Satan. However we know from history were the Lucifer myth came from and we know that it is not found in either the Jewish history or the New Testament period. For more information and an extensive list of quotes from modern Bible Commentaries see the article Who is Lucifer or Satan Misidentified.

If you can’t hold to the Lucifer myth then much of the presentations at the Good News 2005 will be pretty hard to take. The Bible actually never tells us about the origin of Satan, when where or how he became the adversary of God. It is extra Biblical sources and a whole lot of reading into texts that give us the theory of Satan’s fall. The book of Genesis begins with man’s fall because we are part of mankind and we are the ones in need of reconciliation to God. When we try to insert extra material into the story we merely create a fiction that we call fact. It may be that we want to know more then we do but in the end we are only left with what we are given.

Marco continues:

This seems more than a little confusing. However, I think the writer is summarizing an idea we've heard all our lives in one form or another – that as soon as we come out of our mamma’s womb, we’re already horrible sinners. We seem to be telling little Johnny that not ONLY is he born into a sinful world with sinful tendencies and disabilities (which is true), but that he is already BAD to the bone, and hopeless! We may even follow it up with ―Now Johnny, don’t even attempt to try and understand why you are a sinner and why you were just born that way, but it’s very important that you understand that God can forgive your sin if you beg Him to. But unfortunately, sin can’t live in His presence. So, well – um – well — uh… look, don't ask questions. Just get ready for church. We’re already late.

I’d like to suggest that when we tell a child that he is born a horrendous and hopeless sinner before he even gulps his first breath, we just might be instilling hopelessness. Satan used a lie at the tree with our first parents, saying that God didn’t make them good enough, and if they would just eat some yummy cantaloupes, they’d finally achieve perfection. Now, he whispers loudly to us—"You're already so MESSED up that you might as well GIVE up!" And many of us do.

Now that people have successfully created the Lucifer myth it is easy to extend the myth building farther. Through the book of Revelation we see Satan identified with the serpent of old so that is perfectly acceptable but does the story indicate that the serpent charges were addressed at saying the people weren’t good enough. No in fact the attack was upon God through the selfish desires of the people.

(Gen 3:1-5 NIV) Now the serpent was more crafty than any of the wild animals the LORD God had made. He said to the woman, "Did God really say, 'You must not eat from any tree in the garden'?"The woman said to the serpent, "We may eat fruit from the trees in the garden, but God did say, 'You must not eat fruit from the tree that is in the middle of the garden, and you must not touch it, or you will die.'" "You will not surely die," the serpent said to the woman ."For God knows that when you eat of it your eyes will be opened, and you will be like God, knowing good and evil." When the woman saw that the fruit of the tree was good for food and pleasing to the eye, and also desirable for gaining wisdom, she took some and ate it. She also gave some to her husband, who was with her, and he ate it.

So it was not about being good enough it was a play to pride that they wanted to be like God. Trust is the key element here, can man trust God or not. The rest of the Bible is about creating that trust. The story continues with the banishment from the Garden and then on to the first murder. It is clearly not about Satan whispering “your all messed up”. Well unless you assume that the inspiration of the Bible is from Satan, otherwise you have to admit God has pretty much identified us as messed up people. In general even the atheist would agree with the idea that people are messed up it seems to be an historical fact rather then the whispering of the deceiver.

Where does the Bible say that sin can’t live in His presence? Well that appears to be another of those insertions that people put into the Bible along with a whole host of things that they draw from metaphors like God is a consuming fire. But suffice it to say God met with the sinner Moses, talked with a whole bunch of patriarchs and prophets and came down and lived among us as Jesus Christ. God can do as He desires and people have no business foisting nonsense upon youth. Which brings me back to my problems with the numerous presentations at the Good News tour with the exception of those presentations by Alden Thompson, though I still have one more to listen to of his.

Marco concludes:

In conclusion, permit me to make one final statement. If sin is lies about the Character of God that originated in the mind of a created being in the very presence of God, then the solution to sin is the truth that dispels those lies in the minds of God’s created beings, as we behold and utilize that truth, in the very presence of God. And that, my dear global family (who I love with all my heart), is why Jesus Christ is the solution to the sin problem – because on earth, He WAS God, and now we know the truth about what God is really like and realize that Satan was a liar from the beginning. With that truth available, we can allow the healing that comes with trusting the healer. I believe this to be the concept that God has been trying to communicate to His people from the beginning: that at the Cross of Calvary, we discover we have no reason to fear a God who loves His creatures so much that He allowed them to murder Him. Marco Belmonte

Aside from his conclusion of what sin is, which is based upon some of his assumptions rather then accurate Biblical interpretations, because frankly sin is far broader then lies about the character of God, he presents a reasonable conclusion. The question is why involve all the supposition and fantasy to come to the idea of trust in God which was pretty clearly in the Adam and Eve story to begin with if it had not been reinterpreted by Marco. He could have quoted Jesus saying that Satan was a liar and murderer from the beginning, no need to plead to tradition about Lucifer, no need to pretend that sin can’t exist in the presence of God.

I am glad that this article was published because it makes it so much easier for me to say what I wanted to say about those Good News Tour presentations. They have some very good parts to their message but it is filled with so much rubbish that it becomes hard to stomach. They have restricted the gospel to and Adventist traditional view and don’t seem to realize that there is a whole world out there to be reached. Their message will not even be heard by other Christians because it is so infected with an extra-biblical view that they have named the great controversy. I remember asking them at what their definition of the Great Controversy was. Their best answer seemed to be the first three chapters of the Ellen White book Patriarchs and Prophets. Not exactly a great Biblical definition.


Anonymous said...

Sour grapes Ron?


al said...

The Holy Spirit is not restircted to speaking through the Bible.

We read out of scripture that which we read into it.

Tell me, where do thoughts come from?

Anonymous said...


Will print your Satan essay to read while on vacation... Is Satans "real"?? Scott Peck has said that if Satan died it wouldn't matter; his legacy would live within us. ie WE are capable of all the evil laid at the feet of Satan...

But Ron;
Cliff Goldstein (recently reiteriterated on spectrums blog) says he had a personal interaction with Satan (recounts it in his book on his conversion as I recall) and is certain such a "one" exists. For myself, I too, early in my new Christian experience had THREE separate confirmations that the "Satanic" is real. It was an explicit question I asked God (asked a God whom I wasn't even sure existed when I asked it) and I got not one, but THREE answers. I can neither ignore this, nor will I.

I simply detest it when Satan gets more "press" than does the Christ. It seems when we "cling" to Christ (whatever that means... but it is not meaningless) we implicitly ignore and do not cling to Satan...

I do realize many do not believe that Satan/Lucifer needs to be "part" of the story....

Ron Corson said...

The Lucifer myth refers to the use of Isaiah 14 and Ezekiel 28 as references to Satan. Taking those ideas from Tertullian and Origen and Jerome the church fathers asserted that Satan was Lucifer and that he was a leader of angels who desired to be God.

When people read into the Bible this idea of Lucifer as Satan then of course they read out of the Bible the story they have created and read it into the Bible. The question would be is that how the Holy Spirit works by taking stories out of their context and reading other meanings into the stories. And If God did do things that way, well we would be in real trouble because God would work with man outside of logic, but we would also have to ask why such important information was withheld from all the nation of Israel from ancient times through the New Testament times and then a couple of hundred years later reveal all this information about Satan and about his pride and ambition.

So it is not about whether Satan exists or not. Though I don't have a problem with the idea that Satan is a metaphor or personification of man's own evil. I also don't place a lot of validity upon personal experiences where people say they have encounted satan or aliens or ghosts etc. Because there can be a number of ways in which people can manifest such beliefs.

Anonymous said...

Ron, what do you believe? I have read your blog and talked to you extensively and I find you to be highly intelligent? But you have managed to paint yourself one by one into some kind of spiritual corner. As you continue to throw accepted Christian theology over your shoulder as misguided or not wholly supported (as you perceive it) by scripture, what are you left with? No Satan, no Adam or Eve, no "real" Garden of Eden, no Ellen White etc. etc.

WHAT do you believe in? What gives you a basis to have a relationship with Jesus because if you start deciding what you will believe and not believe, doesn't this lead to a schism from faith? " I, Ron, choose to believe this and not believe that, so my faith truly is personal and I can logically believe anything."

Doesn't everyone believe their faith is logical. Waco and Jonestown proves that we can do anything and believe it is logical at the time.

Bruce J.

Ron Corson said...

Here is a post I posted on this morning.

Don wrote:
"Most Adventists view themselves as defenders of a literal worldview found in Genesis 1-11. Most Adventists also love science. They admire the scientist who can extract from nature its truths. Adventists seek to reconcile science with revelation. Thus they can understand semantic and cultural explanations for natural phenomena, such as the falling stars. Yet, most Adventists view the Genesis 1-11 account as essentially literal history."

Why? that should be the question you are asking your students. Why take Genesis 1-11 as literal history. We don't know who recorded that history, we do know that they were not around to see it happen and we have no idea even assuming that it was given by God given inspiration that it was meant to be taken as literal history. So why is that the default position?

I am sure you have read the stories and Genesis and see as do most scholars how the book is setting the stage for the nation of Israel, even incorporating the practices of Israel into the stories. Would not that be a clue as to the purpose of the book without even needing to cover everything under the umbrella of literal history.

Do you ask your students why if God was sorry he created man He simply did not destroy men except for Noah's family in a more selective way, more like the way recorded of death of the first born to the Egyptians in the tenth plague. Why would this God kill all animals also, why the need of a terrifying death for man and beast.

The fundamentalists takes these stories as literal historical fact even though they make God look stupid. The atheists sees the fundamentalist view and says why believe in a stupid God and rejects it. Why should we ignore the numerous clues that can be seen which make the story something other then literal history? You can ask your students those questions now or hope they never stumble upon them and produce good little TSDA's who deny what the world around them shows.

As I see it is the fundamentalist views which have backed themselves into a corner. I have not ruled out the possibility of Satan, my article on Lucifer is about the history of how verses in the Old Testament which had nothing at all to do with Satan became to be associated with Satan.

There is the idea that Christian tradition is enough. But it was Christian tradition that sparked the revolt we call the Reformation. Tradition if it is not based upon sound arguments is a hazard to growth. Christianity needs to constantly reform itself to prevent the worship of tradition.

We are at a point where Christianity has to define itself in the light of the reality of the modern world. We can't simply ignore scientific discovery any more then we can ignore context in poetry or narrative. No matter how much it may seem like tradition is the answer.