Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Sunday, October 28, 2007

Believe Ye Penal Theory or Be Ye Devils

In a recent comment posted on the For The Gospel Blog I saw the following from Stan

In particular this part:

I just read through it, and I agree that Graham Maxwell's theology is very similar in many ways to the New Age course in miracles. I personally believe you are correct, that Maxwellian theology is a doctrine of demons.

He makes of no effect the wrath of God. The crucifixion loses it's meaning and the true gospel is denied.

What he read through is an article whose supposition is that Graham Maxwell’s theology is spiritualism and is similar to the New Age philosophy of a “Course in Miracles”. Which is about as accurate as saying Hitler and Gandhi were vegetarians so their religious philosophies are the same. I am not posting the link to Eugene Shubert’s site or article because I think it is a repulsive site to any Christian. I have had contact with Eugene on various forums and he has even managed to be banned from the most open Adventist forum on the internet a site which ranges from ultra traditional SDA’s to Atheists yet all have an Adventist connection. So you have to be really obnoxious to get banned from that forum.

I have many times referenced or linked to For The Gospel Blog and as such I was really disappointed in Stan to see him support Eugene’s position which as he recently posted on an Adventist forum is that Graham “Maxwell’s Demonic theology”. Eugene uses Stan’s comment on the For the Gospel blog to support his presentation that Maxwell is a demon among us and if anyone thinks Maxwell is a “fine Christian gentleman” they are not fit to interpret the Bible.

The trouble is seen so often among the more fundamentalist of Christians that if one differs in an interpretation such as the atonement that difference is enough to declare another Christian as not merely wrong but as an agent of Satan. In this case the latter Middle Ages interpretation known as the Penal/Substitutionary theory of the Atonement. It is assumed to be the only possible view of atonement theories even though the history of the Christian church has gone through many different theories. Today the more fundamentalist minded have determined there is only one view and it is that God poured out His wrath on Jesus Christ (who is God) on the cross. Even though there is not one New Testament verse to indicate that the wrath of God was poured out on Christ and there is also not one New Testament verse to indicate that Jesus paid the penalty for our sin. Tradition has taken the place of Biblical doctrine and when tradition rules it seems to become easier to declare those of different interpretations to be demons. The Roman Catholic Church gave us very dramatic testimony to this type of belief as it killed and tortured those who sought to bring the Bible into the language of the common man or those who disagreed with the leadership of the Roman Catholic Church whether in science or philosophy.

I had a good deal of respect for Stan over at For The Gospel but his comment has no place in the thinking Christians mind. We should not be defining fellow Christians as demoniac. Especially when his basis for the statements are so terrible misinformed. Christians should be free to disagree without the need to call someone so terribly hurtful. Not just personally hurtful but hurtful to the other Christians in the world; Hurtful also to those who know the person, and those who agree with the ideas or even just some of the ideas. As much as I disagree with people such as Neil T. Anderson, or Benny Hinn I do not doubt that they are Christians and they love God. They may hurt the cause of Christ but then I am sure that every one of us has hurt the cause of Christ by what we have done or said at times. That does not make us the servants of Satan. We all still see through the glass darkly we have no business judging other’s Christianity by our dark and distorted view through the glass.

The Penal/Substitutionary theory has internal problems and pleading to tradition does nothing to help solve the problems or grow in our Christian understanding. While I don’t agree with Maxwell’s views on the subject I do agree with his overall conclusion God is not the kind of person who says obey me or I will kill you. As such we can’t simply ignore the Penal view’s problems especially in the postmodern world. It is why I prepared the article entitled “What is Wrong with the Substitutionary Theory of the Atonement.”

If Stan would like to explore his view and my view of the Atonement I would be happy to offer my blog for the discussion. The view one has of the Atonement says a lot about the kind of God they worship. The kind of God one worships says a lot to the people of the world who we are trying to reach.

Thursday, October 25, 2007

Sinless Perfectionism Introduction to a False Doctrine

I had never really noticed just how destructive certain Christians doctrines are. I recently have been involved with discussions with people who are proponents of “sinless perfection”. In the Adventist church this reveals itself in what is called last generation sinless perfection. It is very likely that with this quarters lesson study on The Refiners fire that the sinless perfection concept will be introduced into many Sabbath School Classes. The belief that someday there will be people on earth who no longer are tempted to or desire anything that would be termed sinful. Unfortunately in trying to defend this supposition of last generation perfection these people are destroying the Gospel. It is not simply the legalism which George Knight dealt with in his book I Used to Be Perfect: A Study of Sin and Salvation. In many ways these people take the focus off of the gift of God and place the emphasis upon man’s ability to give his or her will over to God.
Here are a few quotes from some of the sinless perfection proponents, all of whom are SDA:

“2) Perfection is when Man (sinful humans) has with the power of the divine, overcome sin to the state of Adam before the fall.

3) Adam before the fall had freewill and could sin, but when Man (sinful humans) overcomes sin, he no longer has any desire to sin.

4)Man (sinful humans) cannot go to heaven before God with any sin, as God requires holiness and perfection.”


(If we truly love God with all our strength and all our might, all else will fade and the Spirit will transform and put the law in our hearts and minds, and we are no longer under the dominion of sin or desire to sin.)


But he understands that "Christ lives in me" has transformed him as sin cannot hold sway over a person in which "Christ lives in". Then you cannot disregard the work of the Holy Spirit so that the hearts and minds are cleansed of sin. My feeling is that "sinless perfection" is kind of like the belief in the Trinity, we know its there but cannot define the divine in its completeness.


Christ is our creator and gave us an intelligence and free will to choose life or death. We can focus on Him to the point that we allow Him to run our lives and sanctify our characters ( which eventually will lead to sinless perfection ). However, that will never go to the extent that allows us to sin with impunity without confession or repentence.


I think we have to go with what the Bible says about the sanctified life in that when we abide in Christ we get to take part in the divine nature of Christ which should be the essence of what Christianity is all about anyway. So to me what sinless perfection offers to any Christian this side of the second coming is a sanctified life that gets to take part in the divine nature. Not that we can accomplish this on our own but it is the ultimate goal of Christian living and the miraculous change that can occur if we allow it too.


The thief on the cross will be able to enter into heaven because God knows man's heart. Had he (the thief) been given a chance, he would have cooperated with God and completed his walk to persevere and to overcome all sins.


If you are 'walking with God now' like Enoch, how can you still sin and be with Him. That cannot be, nowhere in the scripture does it say you can hold onto to sin and be together with God.


As I said in another thread, the bible tells us that we can be 'partakers of the DIVINE nature"! It's a PROMISE from the Father. So is God not good to His word? Are His promises not reliable for us here and now? Are we so blinded by self that we cannot see how sin wounds the Father and Jesus. He saves us FROM our sins, not IN our sins.


You cannot follow evil and hold onto and be under the dominion of sin and hold on and have a intimate relationship with Christ with his righteousness at the same time. No man can have two masters, he has to let go of one and grab the other, so when you decide to grab on to Christ and accept his righteousness, and be sanctified in/by Christ, you have to choose.


I have italicized the last statement because it is the crux of the problem. It is a true statement but it has nothing to do with sinless perfection. But if sinless perfection is introduced into this then people are forced to say that they do sin therefore they must not be serving God in their lives and they must be serving Satan. As one of the quotes above says how can you still sin and be with God.

The sinless perfection people have assumed that because Christians look at the reality of their lives that even though we love God and seek to follow Him we still sin, our attitude is in the main that we desire the things that God wants for us but the reality is that we are weak and fail constantly. It is very much like Paul said:

(Rom 7:22-24 NIV) For in my inner being I delight in God's law; but I see another law at work in the members of my body, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within my members. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body of death?

Christians do not become sinlessly perfect because they accept and follow God. We have ample evidence of powerful Christians who none the less still sinned, still lacked love for others at times. Martin Luther is a prime example but think of all the Christians you know there is very likely not a single one that you would say is sinless. Yet we have those in our midst telling us that if one does not accept the idea of sinless perfection then they are denying the power of God and that they are merely seeking to continue sinning. How can one be denying the power of God when God very clearly does not produce sinless perfection in His followers. We look around and don’t see it and when we look at ourselves we don’t see it. Do we deny sinless perfection because we want to keep sinning? Possibly because if we are honest with ourselves we realize that we still sin both in thought and action. If sinless perfection was the reality and yet we could not see it ever then we would have to say Christianity is false

What is funny is that according to many theologians the closer one gets to God the more of a sinner they appear to be themselves. So no one will ever come to the point that they see themselves as sinlessly perfect. Compared to God their best works are filthy rags and like Paul we have to admit that we are the worst of sinners. So the whole concept of sinless perfection this side of heaven serves nobody. If it was true none of us would ever recognize it as occurring and if it is not true then it acts as a wedge which makes the Christian feel inadequate in his or her relationship with God. It serves only the purpose of defeating the victorious life of those who accept the love and promises of God. As my favorite Bible verse says:

(1 John 3:2-3 NIV) Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure.

Sunday, October 21, 2007

Amalgamation and Ellen White

For The Gospel Blog as presented an interesting discussion on a recent AAF by Joe T. Wiley.

His Forum subject was Amalgamation of Man and Beast: An Adventist Blemish
The above link is a PDF file for the slides of the presentation and they contain a good deal of interesting information. Most Adventists merely ignore this issue but it does have some serious consequences upon the inspiration of Ellen White. His presentation also goes over some of the aspects of what Ellen White believed about the people before the flood. Even, he seems to have covered the view that some defenders of Ellen White proposed that those people were so scientifically advanced that they were genetically manipulating as in gene splicing technology of today. Which when you think about it without the sophistication of electrical devices and chemical and material processing would have to be so advanced as to resemble more psychic surgery then any science we know of today.

Sunday, October 14, 2007

Andreasen and the Questions on Doctrines Controversy has an interesting article on the background of M.L. Andreasen and his fight against the book Questions on Doctrines.

“Questions on Doctrine” and M. L. Andreasen: The Behind-the-Scenes Interactions

I presented the following paper at the Association of Seventh-day Adventist Historians meeting at Oakwood College on April 20, 2007. It comes from the section in chapter 4 of my doctoral dissertation where I discuss the reactions by Adventists to the book, “Questions on Doctrine.” My dissertation is entitled “Reactions to Seventh-day Adventist Evangelical Conferences and Questions on Doctrine, 1955-1971″ (Andrews University, 2005).

Perhaps no other book has aroused so much controversy in the history of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as the 1957 publication of Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine. The book was published as both a direct result of and a representative response to the Seventh-day Adventist Evangelical Conferences of 1955-1956, involving Walter Martin and Donald Grey Barnhouse on the evangelical side and a number of General Conference leaders on the Adventist side. Questions on Doctrine was to be the apology par excellence of Adventism.

It is interesting for a couple of reasons. One is that Andreasen whose theology is strikingly bad on this issue became the forerunner of a growing movement in the SDA church. Adventists who hold to last generation sinless perfection and those who hold to Christ having a sinful human nature; (AKA Postlapsarian nature yet never sinning though having the same propensities to sin as all mankind after the fall). A largely untenable position if one takes seriously that Jesus Christ was and is God.

Even though I can’t help but strongly disagree with Andreasen’s theology I find myself sympathizing with his struggle with the Adventist church leadership. As the leadership used threats and coercion and failed to really hold a dialog with him. As I look at the history from our perspective today I can’t help but think that relating to him in a more straight forward manner could have greatly helped the church from diverging into problematic theology as well as even greater problems when it comes to the use of Ellen White’s writings. If you care about Adventist history this is important reading.

Julius is also offering for sale copies of his dissertation, as he writes:

If you’re interested in purchasing a copy of my dissertation, email me at: In response to inquires about my dissertation, I’m getting 150 copies printed for the upcoming QOD 50th Anniversary Conference.

Although, I like many cheapskates, often go by the expression if you have to ask then you can’t afford it. Hopefully that is not the case however.

Update: I received the following information from Julius :

It's $24, including postage.  It's 440 pp. from cover
to cover. I'm basically trying recoup the cost of
the printing. Because it's a short run, the per-copy
cost is higher than I'd like it to be.

The book is the dissertation
entitled “Reactions to
Seventh-day Adventist
Evangelical Conferences and
Questions on Doctrine, 1955-1971″
University, 2005).

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Kevin Paulson Reponds

I recently received an e-mail from Kevin Paulson in
regards to an earlier blog article I wrote during
the 1844 Investigative Judgment Lesson Study guide
presentation and the excellent coverage offered by
Adventist Today. In reference to his article on
the Adventist Today website
1844; Embattled Yet Enduring Unfortunately the old
link on my blog does not point to the correct location
and the article on the AToday website (link above)
has a good many scripterrors but it is still readable.
I will place Paulson’s e-mail in purple
and intersperse my comments between his statements.

Dear Ron:
     Today I was referred to your blogspot by one
who cited your reference to the recent address by
Dave Thomas at the Adventist Forum. I noted, on
your site, that you also commented--albeit a year
ago--on my article, "1844; Embatttled Yet Enduring."
 Allow me, if I may, to offer some thoughts in reply:
     1.  I was curious that your comments focused
almost entirely on the issue of Ellen White's
authority, whereas my article focused but briefly
on that issue. Most of the article demonstrated
how the arguments leveled by critics against
the Biblical foundation of the 1844 doctrine
are not sound, and that the classic Adventist
position is in fact based on the Biblical consensus.
I did focus upon the issue of Ellen White
and doctrinal authority because I think it
underlies most of the problems current in
the SDA church. I thought Desmond Ford did
a very good job of dealing with Paulson’s
Investigative Judgment issues so I chose
to deal with what I thought was most important
and not dealt with in other articles. At
first glance many people don’t really realize
just how influential EGW is on doctrinal issues.
But this was starkly brought into focus during
the Lesson Study quarter on 1844 the
Investigative Judgment and Gospel. By my
estimation the only reason the 1844 and IJ
doctrine remain is because of the support
supplied to them by Ellen White. How can
an Adventist who claims EGW has authority
disregard a whole chapter in the Great Controversy.
In the 1888 edition the chapter was titled
“Investigative Judgment” in subsequent editions
the chapter is called Facing Life’s Record”.
Ellen White’s writings have institutionalized
the Investigative Judgment in the SDA church.
     2.  You seem to say that because other
Christians do not accept Ellen White's
prophetic authority, that in fact she cannot
possess such authority. I fail to follow your
reasoning here. Should Seventh-day Adventiss,
or indeed any faithful Christians, choose their
beliefs based on majority opinion?
What would Adventists do with the Sabbath, with
our understanding of death and the afterlife,
or with any number of our beliefs, if they
followed your logic?
     Are you in fact an advocate of sola scriptura,
or do you temper your convictions based on what the
majority of professed Christians are ready to accept?
This is no doubt in reference to my comment here:
Paulsen, 1844, Ellen White and Authority

If we let Paulsen’s language pass for the moment and assume that what he means is that “if” Ellen White held the position of a prophet then she should have doctrinal authority. That is a huge “if”, one does not have to be too familiar with the SDA church before they become aware that there are many in and outside of the SDA church who indeed question Ellen White’s role as a prophet. In reference to prophets Paulsen writes:

…yet we find that outside the SDA church there are few who hold to Ellen White as authoritative, which naturally means that she is definitely not viewed as canonical. One thing that is certainly true is that the broader Christian spectrum who have no hesitation in accepting the canonical authority of the prophets recorded in the Bible, do not accept Ellen White as authoritative.

My statement is not that she cannot possess that authority;
it is that for most Christians and even a good number of
Adventists she does not possess that authority. Authority
is an interesting thing. Latter Day Saints have
their authorities and so do Christian Scientists and
Scientologists but because those people accept certain
people as prophetic authorities does not make them
authorities to anyone else. Authority is only given
to those who the follower accepts as an authority.
Christian beliefs are not based upon majority opinion
or else there would not be multiple thousands of
denominations. Yet of those thousands of denominations
there is wide acceptance of the authority of the Bible
and even there we see certain groups who have more
then the 66 books and even denominations who have
the same 66 books as other Christians but only accept
the King James Version of those 66 books
that make up the Bible.
While majority opinion does not decide what we
should believe neither does a church tradition
define what we should believe. The church should
not believe things that don’t make sense or do
not line up with the overall message of the
Bible’s message about God. With this wide
acceptance of the Biblical message there is
little reason to resort to a particular
denomination’s presumed prophet.
     3.  You seem to believe that if in fact
our beliefs are entirely based on Scripture,
then Ellen White's authoritative clarification
is not needed. I have a hard time following
this reasoning as well, especially when one
looks at the sacred record and how, over and
over again, God has been compelled to repeat
the same message in the ears of His hard-hearted
people. The reason for repetitive and authoritative
divine revelation through the ages is the
unwillingness of God's professed people ot
accept earlier declarations of truth. Whether
with the Old Testament, the New Testament,
or any other successive revelation, this principle
seems clear.
As I recall it was EGW herself who said she was
not needed if people had paid attention to the Bible.
It is interesting to see the idea that God repeated
the same message to people. It is true of
Israel in
her nation state, it is not true of the New Testament
writings nor of the period of nearly 2000 years
from the first century till today. So here Paulson
makes the claim about God’s repeated revelations
with only one person in the last 1800 years.
Of course there are hundreds and maybe even
thousands of people in that period of time who
have claimed prophetic abilities. I have a book of a
hundred or so prophets just in the Roman Catholic
Church alone. The mere assertion that God is
repetitive is not persuasive for a claim of the need
for an authoritative prophet, at least when the
earlier declarations of truth are still available.
In fact the Biblical message is more available
today then any time in history.
     4.  Your disregard of Ellen White's interpretation
of Acts 3:19, claiming this as an example of undue
reliance on the King James Version, fails to establish
the point you seek to make. The bottom line is that
all modern translation speak of the "times of refreshing"
which were YET to come, during which the sins of the
penitent would be blotted out. This is a most incredible
statement in view of the fact that the times
of Pentecostal refreshing had already come.
Obviously this is, therefore,talking about a future time.
     If you read the third installment of the
three-part reply to Dale Ratzlaff on the investigative
judgment, to which I refer the reader of my 1844 article,
I address this point in depth.
This is a completely wrong headed view. It calls
for the future fulfillment when the context clearly
explains what it is future to. It is future to the
act of repentance.
(Acts 3:19-20 NIV)  Repent, then, and turn to God,
so that your sins may be wiped out, that times
of refreshing may come from the Lord,and that he may
send the Christ, who has been appointed for you
--even Jesus.
Both historically and contextually this is not
a verse about sins being blotted out at some future
investigative judgment. That is the important
part. It is true that in Christianity many people
take statements which are somewhat vague and make
the pretexts for a particular view (baptism
for the dead, spirits in prison etc.) but when
viewed in the context of the words it is hard to
make the Investigative judgment claim upon
Peter’s sermon which was focused upon the messiah
who was and is and who forgives and lives inside
the believer. I am sure you do address the point
at length, it is usually necessary to address
something at length when the simple logical
position has to be refuted to maintain a tradition.
You can find examples of this technique in many
religious groups from Roman Catholic to Latter day Saints.
         In sum, you try to depict the entire 1844 issue
as a discussion of Ellen White's authority, when in fact
that is only part of the issue. Your comments about my
article offer a near-exclusive focus on the Ellen White
issue, ignoring all the other Biblical and historical
evidence I present against the critics in favor of our
classic teaching. Moreover, you seem to take for granted
the popular criticism of Ellen White from both within and
outside Adventism, assuming therefore that her prophetic
voice cannot be trusted.

In reply, I would urge you to go to and read my eight-part response to
he new books by Graeme Bradford which seek to undermine
Ellen White's prophetic authority. I would be curious as
to how you answer the evidence I have assembled in my
reviews of his books.

God bless!

Pastor Kevin Paulson

P.S. My last name is spelled with an o, not an e as is
the General Conference president's.
I can’t agree with your summation as there were also numerous blog posts upon many areas involved in the IJ doctrine. Your response is to only one of the many posts and that post happens to deal with Ellen White. It is true that I do not trust Ellen White’s prophetic voice for a number of good reasons. But then why is it so important to hold to Ellen Whites views anyway if as is often claimed their purpose is to point to the Bible. Aside from Adventists no other Christian groups have found the Investigative Judgment in the Bible and it is based upon a chain of assumptions which has multiple breaks in the chain.

I have not read more then sections of Bradford’s book it seems to me from what I have read to be a far healthier way of looking at her work. I have no problem with those who use her in a pastoral way. The problem comes when people use her unquestioningly as an inspired commentator on the Bible. I can accept her numerous mistakes and misinterpretations the way I can accept them in my local pastor: realizing that my pastor, Martin Luther, Max Lucado and Ellen White can be wrong. Yet still be open to looking for ways to bring meaning from our different perspectives. Indeed I realize that those who have given Ellen White prophetic authority will see anything short of their view of her authority as undermining her work. But for those who have not given her such authority it seems contrary to logic to expect them to grant her such authority merely because there are others who claim such authority. Unfortunately we violated the pioneers ideas and created a creed known as our 28 fundamental beliefs and one of them which is not actually held by many Adventists is that Ellen White is a continuing source of truth. But we do know that she was not speaking truth about volcanoes, vital force, or God destroying San Francisco to close down the saloons and numerous speculative elements which she read into Bible stories. We have a fundamental belief that asserts something that probably most Adventist don’t really believe though they are able to take her in a pastoral way, yet through a method of cognitive dissonance most will still claim to give her prophetic authority. I think Bradford’s book is useful in understanding that process.