Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Wednesday, December 26, 2007

Christ in the Crucible From Spectrum Online Sabbath School

Spectrum Magazine Online Sabbath School column offers a brilliant commentary on this weeks Sabbath School lesson. Of course the beauty of a blog is that you are not limited by length so here is the unabridged version of the commentary.

Christ in the Crucible
A Commentary on the Sabbath School Lesson for December 22–28, 2007

The Lesson Study Guide presents this statement for Wednesday December 26:

Clearly, something much more was happening here than just the death, however unfairly, of an innocent man. According to Scripture, God's wrath against sin, our sin, was poured out upon Jesus. Jesus on the cross suffered not sinful humanity's unjust wrath but a righteous God's righteous indignation against sin, the sins of the whole world. As such, Jesus suffered something deeper, darker, and more painful than any human being could ever know or experience.

The statement is based not upon the texts they had just asked their readers to look up. Matt. 27:45, Matt. 27:51, 52, Mark 15:38 For none of those say anything about God’s wrath poured out upon Jesus. In fact you will not find even one New Testament verse which says that God poured out His wrath upon Jesus, none that even say that Jesus paid a penalty for sin in fact. Which when you think about it makes perfect since because as John Chapter 1 indicates Jesus is God. It would make little sense to pour your wrath out upon yourself. Even if you did inflict injury upon yourself what would be the point. The medieval monks practiced flagellation as a means of penance. The practice apparently grew out of the administration of floggings to erring monks. But is that really the kind of penance that God wants? Certainly that is not what any New Testament authors recommend.

So what does God gain if we assume he is not cutting off His nose to spite His face as the phrase goes, indicating that one disadvantages themselves in order to do harm to an adversary. Who is the adversary here? Certainly not Christ yet that appears to be who receives the wrath if the above quote is to be believed. What if sin is the adversary? Can you hurt sin? Does sin feel pain or remorse or anything? No, sin is not an individual that can feel, think or act; sin is the attitude of the sinner. In fact sin is not something that can be moved from here to there or from then to now, let alone from all people from all time to one person at one time in the past. The only way that this could work is if sin actually had some physical or mystical reality (though that would not work for sin yet uncommitted). It is rather like in a quantum theory one could say that when one sinned it spun off and formed its own universe. But it is a doubtful proposition and just as a multiverse was unknown in the New Testament times it is also doubtful that anyone thought of sin as an actual substance that existed apart from the thinking individual whose sin produced a thought or action.

Christ in the crucible is not about Jesus suffering under the wrath of God. It was not the wrath of God that placed Jesus on the cross it was the actions…sinful actions of human beings who rejected their creator. As Acts 3:15 says: “You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this.” (NIV) Eight texts in the New Testament assert it was humans who killed Jesus, and not one indicates that God killed Christ (Matt. 16:21; Luke 24:20; Acts 2:23, 3:13, 5:30, 7:52, 10:39; 1 Thess. 2:14-15). In fact as a sacrifice, God is presenting Christ as the sacrifice (Romans 3:25), something God offers us not something to satisfy God’s indignation against sin. The sacrifice of atonement, at-one-ment and that means reconciliation. God reaching out to man because justice in God’s view is not something based upon punishment but upon returning man back to harmony, a positive relationship with God.

We are in the crucible of our own making and our God came down to that crucible polluted and cruel though it is to show us that He loves us and wants us to have a loving, trusting, friendship with God. Not as an angry God or a God who punishes the innocent to free the guilty, but as a God who loves supremely, who is eager to forgive and who will do what He promises even to raising us to life just as Christ was raised from death inflicted by people who rejected their own creator.

This is the message of Christmas.

Saturday, December 22, 2007

The Clear Word Easy English More Travesties

The Clear Word - Yikes!!!

The following is taken from a series of posts on the Atomorrow,com Discussion Board by Don Sands and Adventist Educator. I have compiled it here with his permission because I think it is a critical issue in modern Adventism. (I have refrained from making any comments so that his thoughts can be seen as originally posted with a few minor deletions for clarity.

I visited the local ABC today and bought the wonderful Parallel Commentary on the New Testament featuring Spurgeon, Wesley and Henry. But, I noticed the latest addition to the Clear Word and am appalled. The Easy English edition leaves out "the more sordid details of wars and immoral practices". Maybe they want to make sure it can sell when communist Hong Kong puts the regular Bible on the restricted list.
Note this quote from the ABC site:

(I have highlighted in red the sections I find offensive):


At Last God Speaks Your Language

What better way to get acquainted with the English language than to study the world’s greatest book—the Book upon which the culture was founded. This fresh, slightly condensed paraphrase of the Bible conveys the ideas of each Bible verse in the most basic terms. There are no strange idioms, archaic jargon, or big words for scholars. Just pure, simple English to make God's message plain to those who are not native speakers of the language.

At last you can understand the Word of God!
At least you can hear His voice more clearly than ever and
know what He wants for you. Are you listening?

This is not a translation of the Bible but a condensed paraphrase for easier reading that focuses on the central thought of each passage. Verses have been grouped to make it easier to understand what the Bible is telling us. Long lists of ancestors have been shortened to include only the more familiar names. Some of the more sordid details of wars and immoral practices have been eliminated. But the basic message shines through loud and clear.

The Easy English Clear Word is a rewrite of Dr. Jack Blanco’s phenomenally successful paraphrase, The Clear Word, which has renewed the devotional life of thousands. Those who are just learning English and those with visual limitations will find the simplicity and larger type size of this paraphrase especially helpful. With reduced repetition, violence, and genealogies, The Easy English Clear Word is so easy to read that you’ll have to force yourself to stop. At last you can understand the Word of God! At last you can hear His voice more clearly than ever and know what He wants for you.


Who decides what is necessary and what isn't? Is it Dr. Blanco, or a publishing committee? Does anyone else see the dangers in this kind of publication?

Remember when Earnest Angley had his Reader's Digest Bible burning?

Where is the leadership of the
SDA Church on these matters?

We need to treasure careful Bible scholarship and avoid the slippery slope caused by such travesties as the Clear Word.

This is not the first time I have addressed this issue. Note this post and following discussion.

What are we doing to the Word of God? We need to rise to the heights of Biblical Scholarship. We can. But this is not the way, IMO.

The Clear Word Examined Genesis 1

Interesting paraphrase of the 'It was good' phrases.

  • Day One - God was pleased
  • Day Two - None
  • Day Three - It looked good,
  • Day Four - Blanco None, Hebrew Yes.
  • Day Five - 'What He saw made Him happy."
  • Day Six - 'What He say made Him happy." "It looked good. It made Him very happy."

This caught my attention because it talks about God being happy when He creates something. Biblical Theology acknowledges emotions in God. Classical Theology usually places God beyond the experience of emotions. After all, how can you know everything, the end from the beginning, and have emotions too?

The Clear Word - Genesis 2

vs 4


New International Version

This is the account of the heavens and the earth when they were created.
When the LORD God made the earth and the heavens-

The Easy English Clear Word

This is the story of how God made the earth and the sky in six days.

vs 18


The New International Version

The LORD God said, "It is not good for the man to be alone. I will make a helper suitable for him."

The Easy English Clear Word

When God and His Son created man, They said to Each Other, "It's not good for man to be by himself. Let's make a suitable companion for him."

vs 25


New International Version

The man and his wife were both naked, and they felt no shame.

The Easy English Clear Word

Adam and Eve didn't have to wear clothes then because God covered them with His light.


vs 4, A purpose of this paraphrase seems to be to remove ambiguity. Many contend that Genesis 2 presents a second version of the Creation story. Dr. Blanco opposes that by inserting 'in six days' into the chapter two text.

vs 18, The New Testament teaches that the Father made all things through the Son. Theologically, Dr. Blanco is correct. Again, the mystery of the text suffers in order to be clear in one's teaching. This verse does not have a plural base, it seems, yet Dr. Blanco inserts it.

vs 25, In his introduction to The Clear Word Youth Devotional, Jose Rojas states:


This is an expanded paraphrase of the Bible with many added insights from Ellen White and other Bible commentators. It is not intended as a study Bible to establish doctrinal truths. It's not intended to be read aloud in public. It's just for that moment each day in which you look into the eyes of God through the experiences of people from another time and place who trusted Him with their lives...

The idea that Adam and Eve wore garments of light is an ancient one, apparently. It is not supported by the text, however.

I bought The Easy English Clear Word not because I approve of it, but because I want to see if my initial shock is justified. As I read the book, I sense what Dr. Blanco is trying to accomplish and I even have sympathetic moments in favor of what he has done. But, its still wrong, IMO. I remain shocked.

As Adventists, we could lead the way in sound Biblical scholarship and we opt for this. I went to school at Southern and took Biblical Studies from one of the most careful scholars I have ever met, Dr. Gladson. He led the way to a dignified study of Scripture. The Clear Word, also a product of a Southern professor, confuses sound Biblical scholarship.

The Clear Word - Genesis 3

vs 6


The New International Version

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.

The Easy English Clear Word

Instead of running back to her husband, Eve lingered at the tree. The fruit looked delicious! Then she touched it and nothing happened. So she took a bite. Excited, she ran to tell her husband. From this, Adam knew that Eve would die, so he took the fruit and ate it to die with her.


The idea that Adam and Eve were separated in the Garden can be traced back to Ellen White's writings:


The angels had cautioned Eve to beware of separating herself from her husband while occupied in their daily labor in the garden; with him she would be in less danger from temptation than if she were alone. But absorbed in her pleasing task, she unconsciously wandered from his side. On perceiving that she was alone, she felt an apprehension of danger, but dismissed her fears, deciding that she had sufficient wisdom and strength to discern evil and to withstand it. Unmindful of the angels' caution, she soon found herself gazing with mingled curiosity and admiration upon the forbidden tree. The fruit was very beautiful, and she questioned with herself why God had withheld it from them. Now was the tempter's opportunity. As if he were able to discern the workings of her mind, he addressed her: "Yea, hath God said, Ye shall not eat of every tree of the garden?" Eve was surprised and startled as she thus seemed to hear the echo of her thoughts. But the serpent continued, in a musical voice, with subtle praise of her surpassing loveliness; and his words were not displeasing. Instead of fleeing from the spot she lingered wonderingly to hear a serpent speak. Had she been addressed by a being like the angels, her fears would have been excited; but she had no thought that the fascinating serpent could become the medium of the fallen foe.
Patriarchs and Prophets, page 53

And to John Milton two hundred years before that:


Eve says to Adam:

214 Let us divide our labours; thou, where choice
Adam replies to Eve:

249 For solitude sometimes is best society,
250 And short retirement urges sweet return.

Adam worries about the foe

251 But other doubt possesses me, lest harm
252 Befall thee severed from me; for thou knowest
253 What hath been warned us, what malicious foe
265 Or this, or worse, leave not the faithful side
266 That gave thee being, still shades thee, and protects.
267 The wife, where danger or dishonour lurks,
268 Safest and seemliest by her husband stays,
269 Who guards her, or with her the worst endures.

Paradise Lost, Book 9

If the format of Dr. Blanco's text did not simulate the Biblical text then his work could provide useful insights into Adventism. As it is, his work confounds the readers understanding of the Biblical text.

The Clear Word - Genesis 3 cont.

vs 7-9


The New International Version

7 Then the eyes of both of them were opened, and they realized they were naked; so they sewed fig leaves together and made coverings for themselves.

8 Then the man and his wife heard the sound of the LORD God as he was walking in the garden in the cool of the day, and they hid from the LORD God among the trees of the garden. 9 But the LORD God called to the man, "Where are you?"

The Easy English Clear Word

Immediately God's light that had covered them disappeared. They were naked and felt ashamed. So they got some large leaves and tried to cover themselves. Then they heard God walking in the garden. They were afraid, so they went and hid. But God knew where they were."


Dr. Blanco includes the 'light of God' idea further here.

'God knew where they were.' Of course, God is omniscient. Dr. Blanco does not intend this work to be a translation. Nor is he trying to be 'true' to the text. However, the publishers advertise 'Now God speaks your language'.

The Clear Word - Genesis 3 cont. (further)

vs 22


The New International Version

And the LORD God said, "The man has now become like one of us, knowing good and evil.

The Easy English Clear Word

Then God said to His Son, "Because Adam and Eve ate of the tree of good and evil, they are not like Us anymore..."


This example presents a far more serious matter.

Dr. Blanco has reversed the meaning of the text.

Yikes!!! I respond this way not because I like the original reading, but once we begin fooling with the meaning all we have left is our own ideas. I prefer a difficult ancient reading to my own 'correcting' of the text. I may even go so far as to suggest that the meaning got reversed somehow, but I will not tamper with the original thought, as it reads in the accepted text.

The Clear Word - Genesis 4

vs 1


21st Century King James Version

And Adam knew Eve his wife; and she conceived and bore Cain, and said, "I have gotten a man from the LORD."

Easy English Clear Word

Sometime later Eve had a baby boy and called him Cain. She said, "Maybe this is the boy that God promised would save us."


1) Cain means 'possession'. Eve acquired a man from the LORD.
2) Some literalists say that Eve gave birth to a full grown man. The Hebrew word 'man' has a variety of meanings.
3) The idea that Eve thought that Cain was the promised Redeemer is not unique to Dr. Blanco. Note this passage. I have not been able to find out if Ellen White said that Eve thought this way? Has anyone studied this?

Here is a more thorough examination of the idea:


Another Look at Eve

...In time, a son was born to them. God had promised a birth that would bring victory over Satan. Eve rejoiced over her firstborn, exclaiming, “I have gotten a man with the help of the Lord” (4:1), which Bushnell translates as “I have gotten a man [the word baby had not yet been coined] – even The Coming One!” Eve’s reasoning is understandable, although she was mistaken in identifying Cain, her firstborn, as the promised one.

Bushnell states: “The earliest Hebrew often employs ‘v’ (or ‘w,’ which is the same letter), where later Hebrew employs ‘j.’ The future form of the verb ‘to be’ is ‘jhjh,’ which is the name for Jehovah, Jahve, or Jahwe [Yahweh], as the name is variously spelled in English.”8

H. L. Ellison writes on 4:1 in the IVF International Bible Commentary:

Mediaeval commentators, as well as some later ones, understood Eve’s joyful words as meaning “I have gotten a man, even Yahweh,” as though she thought that Cain was the fulfillment of 3:15. This is highly improbable, though it is a possible rendering of the Hebrew. On the other hand, her recognition that her son was Yahweh’s gift suggests a growing trust in God (cf. 4:25). 9

Ellison does not explain why he thinks that Bushnell’s understanding is highly improbable. She quotes Dean of Canterbury Payne-Smith (1818–1895), also a member of the then Old Testament Revision Company. He wrote in Ellicott’s Commentary:

Jehovah means literally “He will come,” that is, “The Coming One.” The name is really man’s answer to and acceptance of the promises made in Genesis 3:15, and why should not Eve, to whom the promise was given, be the first to profess faith in it?… She did not know the meaning of the words she uttered, but she had believed the promise, and for her faith’s sake the spirit of prophecy rested upon her.… 10

Alexander Whyte also wrote: “Cain’s mother mistook Cain for Christ.… What a joyful woman Eve was that day!”...

Sexuality and the Clear Word

I have noticed that the reading of the Bible can be an effective launching point for sex education. Our own children understood the basic principles of sexuality long before puberty. When others were tittering about new found information, they calmly noted that they had heard it all before.

The Easy English Clear Word has "shortened some of the details of wars and immoral practices." How? Here are some examples:

Genesis 2:24,25 - Adam and Eve and Nakedness


New American Standard Bible

24(Z)For this reason a man shall leave his father and his mother, and be joined to his wife; and they shall become one flesh. 25(AA)And the man and his wife were both naked and were not ashamed.

The Easy English Clear Word

24 That's why men and women get married, because they belong to each other.
25 Adam and Eve didn't have to wear clothes then because God covered them with His own light.

Were Adam and Eve able to see each other, to admire the other's body? When they sinned they became aware of the shame of nakedness. Was it simply the modest effect of the light of God that changed?

Genesis 19:4-8 -
Sodom and Sexual Assault


New American Standard Bible

4But before they lay down, the men of the city, even the men of Sodom, compassed the house round, both old and young, all the people from every quarter: 5 And they called unto Lot, and said unto him, Where are the men which came in to thee this night? bring them out unto us, that we may know them. 6 And Lot went out at the door unto them, and shut the door after him, 7 And said, I pray you, brethren, do not so wickedly. 8 Behold now, I have two daughters which have not known man; let me, I pray you, bring them out unto you, and do ye to them as is good in your eyes: only unto these men do nothing; for therefore came they under the shadow of my roof.

The Easy English Clear Word

5-8 They said to Lot, "Bring your guests and come with us, and we'll all have a good time." Lot stepped outside, closed the door behind him, and said, "These men are my guests. They've come a long way and are tired. Don't insist that they go."
The men said, "Get out of our way. We're comig in and taking your guests with us whether they want to go or not."

The sin in the Easy English Clear Word is insisting that tired guests stay up and party.

This passage is one of the most sordid of all scripture. It is understandable why Dr. Blanco has toned it down. But the Biblical canon should not be toned down even if the final effect is more palatable. It is impossible to get a real sense of the wickedness involved from Dr. Blanco. A discourteous party spirit replaces an intended heinous sexual assault.

Genesis 19:30-38 -
Lot and Incest


New American Standard Bible

30 And Lot went up out of Zoar, and dwelt in the mountain, and his two daughters with him; for he feared to dwell in Zoar: and he dwelt in a cave, he and his two daughters. 31 And the firstborn said unto the younger, Our father is old, and there is not a man in the earth to come in unto us after the manner of all the earth: 32 Come, let us make our father drink wine, and we will lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 33 And they made their father drink wine that night: and the firstborn went in, and lay with her father; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 34 And it came to pass on the morrow, that the firstborn said unto the younger, Behold, I lay yesternight with my father: let us make him drink wine this night also; and go thou in, and lie with him, that we may preserve seed of our father. 35 And they made their father drink wine that night also: and the younger arose, and lay with him; and he perceived not when she lay down, nor when she arose. 36 Thus were both the daughters of Lot with child by their father.
37 And the first born bare a son, and called his name Moab: the same is the father of the Moabites unto this day. 38 And the younger, she also bare a son, and called his name Benammi: the same is the father of the children of Ammon unto this day.

The Easy English Clear Word

30 After Sodom and Gomorrah were destroyed, Lot was afraid to stay in the little town because it, too, was very wicked. So he took his two daughters and went up into the hills and found a cave to live in. 31-38. While they were there, each of the girls had a baby. The older daughter called her baby Moab. And the younger daughter called hers Ammon. These two boys became the fathers of the Moabite and the Ammonite people.

Again, it is quite understandable that Dr. Blanco has left out some of the Scriptural account. The horrendous behavior of Lot's two daughters can not be sensed at all. For all we know, they went into that cave already pregnant.

Apparently, Dr. Blanco did not intend for the Clear Word to be treated as a Bible. But, when it first came out, it was called 'The Clear Word Bible'. The advertisers have said to our youth, 'At last God speaks your language!' Shall we write this off as advertiser enthusiasm? The Review and Herald has brought God into their marketing of this Book. The Biblical Canon is God's Word. To take away some of His Word, or to add new thoughts to it, is to mess with the Biblical Canon. The Bible is not for cutting and pasting. We as Adventists have said that the Roman Catholic Papacy has thought to change times and laws. If we consider the Torah as a 'Law', the Adventist Church has also thought to change the 'Law'.

I am pushing the point, of course. The Bible contains the Law and the Prophets. Adventists, through the Review and Herald's publishing of the Clear Word, has changed the 'Law'.

Is this what they claim for it?

No. At least not after all the criticism. I believe that the name was changed to accommodate the critics within the church.

But. Some of my friends use it as their 'go to church' Bible. I have presented the ads where they say 'Now God speaks your language'.

Simply a person's commentary

It is not simply a person's commentary. It looks like a Bible. It feels like a Bible. It reads like a Bible. It is advertised as a Bible. It is bound in special 'Bible' covers, etc. From what I can tell, the Review and Herald and Dr. Blanco cannot see, nor sense, the confusion this thing creates. They have been confronted by people with significant standing in Adventism, yet they plunge headlong with it. Ellen White decried poor judgment in her day. I certainly don't have any of the influence she had. But, this publication is an offense to me. I, too, speak for Adventism in one small corner of the kingdom.

If, instead, Dr. Blanco had designed some Biblical footnotes or parallel study guides, I would not be devoting this time to oppose his work. It is interesting to compare Ellen White's commentary to the Biblical text. Just don't fuse them together.

Saturday, December 15, 2007

Moral Influence Theory and the Adventist World Magazine

In the most recent edition of The Adventist World Magazine there is an article by Angel Manuel Rodriquez under the section Bible Questions (page 40). Before I get to the subject of the article there is something peculiar about the article. That is, the article is entitled “The Revelation of Salvation” and is meant to answer this question which appears at the top of the page:

Question: How are we saved? What is the moral influence view of the cross?

If you click on the link for the December 2007 articles under the section Bible Study you don’t find the current article instead you find Christianity's Great Mystery. However if you happen to check on a different language edition such as Spanish there you find under the Bible Study section: La revelación de la salvación. As we are already halfway through December I don’t think the correct version is intended to be linked to for whatever reason.

To save myself time I am going to use the Google translation from the above link rather then retyping the article. I am actually impressed with the Google translation though I will change many of things to better reflect the English version, as I am sure that most Adventists do have access to this magazine since it is sent out free to Adventists in North America there should not be much confusion caused by using a translated version. This article seems quite long since it includes the full text of Rodriguez’s article (blue font), but please take the time to read it even if it takes several sessions to get through it.

It begins well enough however no atonement theory is complete until you factor in the resurrection which is the proof that God can do what He promises even to raise the dead. Interestingly enough Rodriquez does not talk once about forgiveness in his summary of moral influence theory which is something that Jesus offered on the cross even to those who tortured and were killing Him, probably he means those things to be covered under the heading of love but the specifics add to the meaning of what love is. When one is willing to forgive then one is not saddled with the problem of punishing and that is where Rodriguez begins to really go off track, under the heading 2.

The Revelation of Salvation

By Angel Manuel Rodriguez

QUESTION: How are we saved? What is the theory of the moral influence of the cross?

For centuries, Christians have sought to explain how the death of Christ on the cross saves us. We call these explanations "theories of atonement." One is known as the "theory of the moral influence" of the atonement. I will summarize its contents, strengths and finally make an assessment of this position.

1. Summary of teaching: There are slight variations of the theory of moral influence, but basically is based on the following ideas. First, it is understood that the cross is the supreme revelation of God's love. There, God was identified with us to the point of going through all that we all experience, namely death. Secondly, the manifestation of divine love was so full that as a result transforms us. That is called "the moral influence of the cross." The voluntary death of Christ on the cross awakens in us the love of God, it changes our attitude toward him and prompts us to exemplify his love in our lives.

It is obvious that this understanding of the effectiveness of saving the cross is nothing bad. The Scriptures testify that the cross is the most glorious manifestation of the love of sacrificial love of Christ toward sinners (for example, John
3:16), and his death should prompt us to express the same quality of love in our lives. But this theory has significant weaknesses that limit its usefulness.

2. It denies a central aspect of the atonement: One of the fundamental problems of the theory of moral influence is rejecting the Substitutionary nature of the death of Christ. The idea that God had to kill the innocent rather than guilty, to save us, is considered a violation of justice. Yet the witness of Scripture is that Christ died in our place (Isa. 53; Mark 10:45; 2 Cor. 5:21). In atonement, God Himself so voluntarily assumed responsibility for our sin. This is a glorious manifestation of divine grace, not an injustice. Atonement is God’s work for us, it is a matter between him and us. Nobody else is involved.

This argument amounts to nothing more then an appeal to tradition. The Substitutionary view of the atonement came out of the Middle Ages Satisfaction view of the atonement. Unfortunately people have merely assumed that the Substitutionary view is what is meant by certain Bible verses. In fact the Substitutionary view is being read into those verses. Not that there is not substitution involved in the New Testament view. For there is a Substitutionary view in such verses where Jesus is referred to as the second Adam however those have nothing to do with what has become known as the penal/Substitutionary Atonement. (see Church History of the Atonement)

Isaiah 53 is often the prime piece of evidence the Substitutionary believers uses, however it is but a foreshadowing of Christ and most of things we use to say it is Substitutionary are not used by anyone in the New Testament. A foreshadow is rarely accurate in details and you can see that from reading Isaiah 53, however we often ignore the inaccuracies and focus only on what seems to fit our presupposition. That in fact is what the other texts also do. For instance 2 Cor 5:21 is a paradoxical statement and if you take it out of the context of rest of the chapter it seems to mean that Jesus became sin and we became the righteousness of God. The chapter tried to explain how Jesus became sin by being put to death. The sting of sin is death (1 Cor 15:56 ) and “the death he died, he died to sin once for all; but the life he lives, he lives to God. (Rom 6:10 NIV) We cannot understand the paradoxical statement unless we allow the previous verses to interpret how it is used.

2 Cor 5: 14 For Christ's love compels us, because we are convinced that one died for all, and therefore all died. 15 And he died for all, that those who live should no longer live for themselves but for him who died for them and was raised again. 16 So from now on we regard no one from a worldly point of view. Though we once regarded Christ in this way, we do so no longer. 17 Therefore, if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creation; the old has gone, the new has come! 18 All this is from God, who reconciled us to himself through Christ and gave us the ministry of reconciliation: 19 that God was reconciling the world to himself in Christ, not counting men's sins against them. And he has committed to us the message of reconciliation. 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. 21 God made him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God. (NIV)

Jesus died for all that all may become new creations raised as new people to live for God; Compelled by the love of God who does not count men’s sin against them. How did Jesus then become sin? By being put to death the ultimate end of rebellion against God because You killed the author of life, but God raised him from the dead. We are witnesses of this. (Acts 3:15 NIV) We become the righteousness of God as we being a new creation point others to be reconciled with God.

Those who often quote 2 Cor 5:21 practically never address what it can mean they simply assume that it refers to a Substitutionary transfer where Jesus becomes sin and we become Jesus. Of course not really, only it appears that way to God because for some reason He no longer knows what is real we become hidden behind Christ who apparently is no longer sin but is righteous and God only sees Jesus. It is a confused view and unworthy to be assumed as a starting point to understand atonement. Clearly the moral influence view does not need to point to such a contrivance as the “central aspect of atonement.”

3. Narrow View of the Human Predicament: The theory of the moral influence presupposes that the human tragedy of sin lies in the fact that we have misinformation regarding God. We do not need to be free from the power of sin, but our ignorance of its His loving character. Humans, it is argued, see God as a tyrant who imposed arbitrary demands and disciplines them. The cross saves by changing their understanding of God. Such opinion is not consistent with the biblical perspective of sin and its impact on human beings. The sin is a deliberate rebellion against God that has separated us from him. It is not simply solved with a change in us (an subjective atonement), but through divine intervention that removes barriers and produces reconciliation (objective atonement).

You will notice that in Rodriguez’s summary of the moral influence theory he did not mention it’s view of sin. Sin is the attitude of people toward others and God. The Bible goes so far as to say: …everything that does not come from faith is sin. (Rom 14:23 )

But the Scripture declares that the whole world is a prisoner of sin, so that what was promised, being given through faith in Jesus Christ, might be given to those who believe.

Before this faith came, we were held prisoners by the law, locked up until faith should be revealed. (Gal 3:22-23 NIV)

The answer to the sin problem then must be faith which is another way of saying trusting God. From that all of our actions change and as 2 Cor 5:16 above says we no longer look at things from the worldly point of view. Indeed we were separated by sin from God but the love of Christ compels us to be reconciled with God. We have learned from childhood John 3:16 but for some reason when we get to talking about atonement we suddenly forget the love of God that whoever believes may be saved. Instead the Substitutionary view seeks to muddy the waters with clever and deceptive bookkeeping practices in heaven.

Rodriguez only hints as this cosmic bookkeeping scam by cryptically saying: It is not simply solved with a change in us (an subjective atonement), but through divine intervention that removes barriers and produces reconciliation (objective atonement).

Yet it was God who is the active agent in tearing down our barriers to God. Did God have to do something to knock down His own barriers between Himself and us? If so then the sacrifice of Christ was not for us but to change God. But that would make no sense for God to do the sacrifice to Himself only to change Himself a God who does not change. It is why I think that the Penal/Substitutionary atonement theorists resort to innuendo and vague statements. When pressed to specifics the theory looks silly which is why it is so clouded with trite but wonderfully religious sounding sayings.

4. Separation of Judgment From Love: When the atonement is limited to the work of God in us, his judgment against the sin is incompatible with his love. As we have said on other occasions, this makes love synonymous with the divine indifference. Judgment against sin means that God takes seriously our actions because he cares about us. But also, it means He was willing and able to assume that judgment against us on the cross. The wrath of God is an expression of divine love; reveals a God who is interested to the point of showing us how painful sin is for Him.

As we saw above what is God’s judgment against sin (at least those who are reconciled)? Not counting men's sins against them. What kind of judgment is there against sin? Sin does not exist outside of the person, there are results of sinful actions but the sin was a consequence which is lost in time. What kind of judgment can be executed upon David for his infidelity with Bathsheba 200 or 4,000 years after he made his choices and actions? In number 3 Rodriguez says that sin is deliberate rebellion against God. That is an attitude problem of a person it is not something that can exist apart from the thinking individual.

Here in the space between his point 3 and 4 he disagrees with himself. Judgment against sin can only occur within a person so the work of atonement has to be limited to God working in us. Since God is not the problem and sin is only a problem in thinking people. You will not find any verse in the New Testament which says that God poured out His wrath on Christ, nor will you find anywhere that says Christ paid our penalty for sin. Yet these are common Christian expressions based upon the Substitutionary atonement theory rather then upon what the Bible says. Since the New Testament does not say these things the Substitutionary atonement proponent has to go to the more vague foreshadowing statements of Isaiah. But if those statements were meant to be used that way surely some New Testament writer would have used them because they did quote several verses from Isaiah that were applied to Christ; yet never about suffering our penalty or the wrath of God.

5. Love and the Cross: Perhaps the key question is to know how the cross reveals love. The theory of the moral influence asserts that it is a demonstration of love because Christ, the Innocent, died identifying Himself with us, but not to die in our place. But many others died on crosses. Why is the cross of Christ a revelation of the love of God, but not the other? Yes, the Holy died there, but there is more. He died for sinners, to save through His atoning sacrifice (
Rom. 5:8, 1 John 4:10).

I think Rodriguez was just trying to fill space with this point. The moral influence is based upon the idea of what is God like, not what a human being or someone else is like. Does God forgive and accept us, will God raise the dead to life, is God worthy of our trust and worship? So His death answered our questions about God, a sacrifice that brings us together with God, that is atonement, that is reconciliation. Certainly he died for sinners, for the whole world because all involved were sinners and sinners are the ones in need of reconciliation with God. Only God can reveal the character of God, God could have sent an angel to pretend he was God and the effect would have been the same as if God had done it Himself but that would be inconsistent with His character. For what good is salvation if we find that once given eternal life we find that God has lied to us?

The death of Christ is indeed the greatest revelation of God's love, because it "God was in Christ reconciling the world, not taking into account the sins of men against them," but rather making, "Him who knew no sin to be sin for us" (2 Cor.

Finally a point we can agree upon at least once you remove dross that seems to always get inserted into those verses. We may never fully understand all that God did for us to reconcile us but we need to at least be honest with the reason we do present. Because what we say, we are saying about God, and making Him appear confused and less just then humans will not help us lead others to be reconciled and after all that is our mission.

Friday, December 14, 2007

Golden Compass part 2

I got so tired of reading the Christian websites and blogs saying that Lyra killed God that I thought I would put in the quote from the final book where they meet the ancient of days who was earlier identified as an angel but may be assumed to be a type of the god that exists in the books. Imprisoned in a crystal cell the children come across the decrepit being.

Between them they helped the ancient of days out of his crystal cell; it wasn't hard, for he was as light as paper, and he would have followed them anywhere, having no will of his own, and responding to simple kindness like a flower to the sun. But in the open air there was nothing to stop the wind from damaging him, and to their dismay his form began to loosen and dissolve. Only a few moments later he had vanished completely, and their last impression was of those eyes, blinking in wonder, and a sigh of the most profound and exhausted relief.

Then he was gone: a mystery dissolving in mystery.

---Page 181 The Amber Spyglass , Phillip Pullman

I do not think the above incident spoils anything in the story but it does destroy the claim that they killed God in the books. At least when Christians decried the Da Vinci Code they did not have to make stuff up, just counter the stuff that was made up. Here we have Christians making stuff up to counter stuff that was not even present in the stuff that the author made up.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

What do you think? Devotional Challange

"What do you think? There was a man who had two sons. He went to the first and said, 'Son, go and work today in the vineyard.' "'I will not,' he answered, but later he changed his mind and went. "Then the father went to the other son and said the same thing. He answered, 'I will, sir,' but he did not go. "Which of the two did what his father wanted?" "The first," they answered. Jesus said to them, "I tell you the truth, the tax collectors and the prostitutes are entering the kingdom of God ahead of you.

For John came to you to show you the way of righteousness, and you did not believe him, but the tax collectors and the prostitutes did. And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him. (Mat 21:28-32 NIV)

What do you think? What do we hear when we stop to listen. In the above story Jesus asked the ever present authorities so desperate to catch Jesus saying something wrong. Jesus did not avoid these troublemakers he engaged them, he challenged them. In this story he asks for their opinion about the two sons the one who refuses but changes and does what he is asked and the other who says he will do what is asked but never does it. Which one did what the father wanted? It is a simple question of logic a simple application of information and a simple answer.

What is your opinion of the outcasts of society? Can it be true that they too are entering the Kingdom of God ahead of you? What do we do when we hear the message of John who came saying, “Repent, for the kingdom of heaven is near." (Matt 3:2) Do we turn our backs and walk away or do we gather at the river? Many hear yet are they listening “Like an earring of gold or an ornament of fine gold is a wise man's rebuke to a listening ear.” (Prov 25:12 NIV) Jesus the wise man provided the rebuke “And even after you saw this, you did not repent and believe him.” What we do with the information we receive is what sets us apart from others. It may be a simple question of logic or a simple application of information but our answers point to where our heart is. For from the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks. (Matt 12:34)

What do you think?

The reason I wrote the above is because someone in my church challenged me to write a positive post for this blog. Apparently he felt that my posts are too negative. So I decided I would attempt to write in the commonly used devotional manner. Many probably think of those short articles as positive and deeply moving. Are they positive? It depends upon your perspective, was the incident in Matt 21-28 positive? No it was a rebuke it pointed out their rejection of John and need of repentance. Religion is not all positive or all negative just like most everything else it is a mixture of elements.

For the challenge above I had my son open the Bible to a page at random with the only provision being to try not to open it in the very center because that is a person’s natural tendency. I then asked my daughter to pick a section on the one of the two pages that was opened. My thinking was that I would write a devotional about whatever appeared because I had told the person at church it would be no challenge to simply write something that was a positive (devotional). I still hold to that opinion though I think it was fortuitous that the verses above were selected. The challenge is not to write something that other Christians agree with. We have tons of books like that. We have churches with so called prophets who string together multiple quotes from the Bible and simply preface it with “the Lord is saying to you”. They are held in high regard in their churches, but those of us who try and present a reasoned argument are often viewed as agents of evil, negative and certainly not devotional. A devotional whose point is that we need to have more faith, actions or compassion will not be considered negative because we all know we need more faith, actions and compassion. But if you deal with the day to day issues of our doctrines or practices… that is negative. So positive is repeating what we already know, negative is examining what we do not know.

“The recipe for perpetual ignorance is: Be satisfied with your opinions and content with your knowledge.” --- Elbert Hubbard

The first step towards knowledge is to know that we are ignorant.
--- Richard Cecil:

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Special Adventist Sanctification

In a Recent editorial in the Pacific Union Recorder Tom Mostert presents the type of fundamentalism that infects so many leaders in the SDA church. His article entitled:
0 + 0 + 0 + 0 = 0 demonstrates the all or nothing attitude of many of the Traditional SDA’s, which is, unfortunately either agree with us or you have nothing. My comments are interlined with the following copy of his editorial.

Dear Pacific Union Member:

As some of you who regularly read my letters know, I tend to focus on issues impacting the personal or collective faith and mission of our members and the Church in general. Matters we recognize are there, yet for various reasons are not discussed. Here is my latest hot button issue!

The Zero Sum Equation

More and more Adventist members and some pastors are modifying their faith according to what is or is not convenient to believe and practice. Most do not admit this is the reason, but I have noticed most of the modifications are in the area of sanctification; the process of progressive development of a God-like mind and lifestyle. Few tamper with the basic free gift of salvation. Let me illustrate how it works...

He begins as do most fundamentalists with a gratuitous assertion. An assertion he admits most who modify their faith would not admit and I would say more likely not accept. But because it is his belief and he feels he needs no evidence to support, he states his erroneous belief as if it were a fact. He then moves on to a rather narrow definition of sanctification. Is sanctification the process of progressive development of a God-like mind and lifestyle? Well not if we use any theological definition of sanctification, the subject of Sanctification is found in an article which summarizes well by saying:

To summarize, sanctification is the same Greek word as holiness, “hagios,” meaning a separation. First, a once-for-all positional separation unto Christ at our salvation. Second, a practical progressive holiness in a believer’s life while awaiting the return of Christ. Third, we will be changed into His perfect likeness—holy, sanctified, and completely separated from the presence of evil.

Many Christians have incorporated these various aspects of the Christian life in the term “Now and Not Yet”. We are saved now with our acceptance of God’s gift but we have still not fully realized the gift because it cannot be realized till it is manifested at the second coming.


A person is raised with the guilt trip of legalism hanging around their neck in the name of sanctification. It robbed them of peace of mind and made religion an intolerable burden to bear. But they are more enlightened now, and have simply accepted the free gift of salvation provided through the death and resurrection of Jesus. In general, they hope to become more like Him in thought and lifestyle, but any worry about specifics simply destroys their peace of mind. So if it is important, God will bring it to mind — otherwise, they practice sanctification only in general terms.

Total acceptance of the traditional Adventist understanding of sanctification is ZERO.

Amazingly Mostert does not even refute the idea that the Adventist view of sanctification has incorporated legalism which robs most everyone of their peace of mind. In fact to believe in the legalism concept destroys the threefold definition of sanctification. The legalism makes it impossible to accept that we have been set apart for God at our point of belief in God’s offer of salvation. I am encouraged that there are people in the SDA church who are becoming more enlightened and find their rest in Christ rather then worry about how they are failures who do not measure up to the standards presented by Christ on the Sermon on the Mount. Read Romans chapter 7 to realize how important it is to acknowledge the salvation over our own wretched condition.


Someone decides they will believe in general healthful living, but not worry about the details. Since various studies show the benefits of red wine, and they like the taste and relaxation qualities of it anyway, it is incorporated into their diet — in moderation, of course! Likewise with coffee. After all, what is a modern lifestyle without a caffeine kick?

When the list is finished, the incorporation of the traditional Adventist health message in their lifestyle is ZERO.

Sanctification is now interpreted to be a quality developed from the incorporation of traditional Adventist health message. So now Mostert has moved passed the narrow view of traditional Adventist sanctification to expand upon what one must do to be sanctified by accepting particular 19th century health reform movement conceptions. Even though the Bible does not condemn the use of Wine or other drinks like Coffee, since traditional Adventist health messages do then they become a part of Adventist sanctification.


Church leaders have attempted to get people involved in various witnessing activities. But they don't like the pressure to participate, and strangers always scare them. So they say to themselves, "Why go through the pain and discomfort of activities which bring limited results? I'll settle for saying something positive for God when someone asks me a direct religious question. That leaves it to God to bring me the person, and spares me the time and energy necessary for an unpleasant activity. Anyway, I am so busy with job and family it is impossible to find the time."

Intentional sharing of the Adventist faith with others? ZERO.

I have no idea what this is referring to other then a sheep like willingness to do whatever church leaders want. Surely we could develop methods of witnessing for different types of people. What I have found is most traditional Adventist witnessing activities are ineffective and based upon ideas which lead to such a restricted understanding of the Gospel that I as well as others hate to be involved. What is more important Christians faith sharing or Adventist faith sharing? As it appears in order for the above issues of sanctification to be added and they are developed from traditional Adventist messages, the gospel is not enough for sanctification. As such we are at a point where traditional Adventism conflicts with general Biblical Christianity.


Where once it seemed important to have a modern day prophet to warn and instruct us as we prepare for the second coming of Jesus, it is now inconvenient to accept Ellen White's pointed counsel about personal changes. My, the list is endless! So we look for reasons not to read her: some say she might have simply copied large portions of the material in her books; the church was so legalistic in the past, she probably just flowed with the times. Now our emphasis is on salvation through Jesus, full and complete.

Total serious consideration of the prophetic messages from Ellen White = ZERO.

Mostert could have simply said that in order to be sanctified people must accept Ellen G. White as a modern day prophet. Being that this issue and the health message are both from Ellen White. I do find it curious that a supposed prophet who died in 1915 is considered a modern day prophet. I have a college aged daughter who has no remembrance of a rotary dial telephone, so just how relevant is the instructions given to a people before there was mass media communication radio, television, movies or most anything we think of as modern today. Not really anymore relevant then Reformation era information or Early Christianity. A person can draw relevance from all types of historical information whether story or sermon or commentary but to claim it is modern day is like saying that World War I describes modern warfare.

It is not that some say she borrowed large portions of material in her books that is widely know as Fred Veltman’s study reveals and can be read on the archives at specifically the Life of Christ Research Project

But that in itself should not necessarily persuade or dissuade one from reading her work. However Mostert does not try to persuade anyone to read Ellen White but takes it as a given that one must read her and hold to her as a modern day prophet. Indicating further that unless one agrees with her as a prophet as opposed to any other Christian author they are not seriously considering her prophetic messages. Which returns us back to the fundamentalist viewpoint which began Mostert’s editorial. Because the fundamentalist begins with their presupposition and looks no further. This might not be so bad if they did not then accuse nearly everyone else of being unsanctified if they came to different conclusions. But then again the traditional Adventist as the name implies is only seeking to confirm their traditions. Thus they are antithetical to Progressive Adventism and the attitude that created the Seventh-day Adventist church in the first place.

What Do You Have Left?

These are but a few examples of a long list of thought patterns developing in members' lives. You could add belief in absolutes, the unique mission of the Adventist Church, and faithfulness in tithing. In the end each area equals ZERO.

A church whose distinctive truths have been zeroed out is left with nothing different from the community church down the street. The unique Seventh-day Adventist message and mission is reduced to ZERO.

Sincerely your friend ,Tom Mostert, President Pacific Union Conference

It is strange how the Gospel commission has been reshaped into the SDA distinctive mission. But this appears to be an ongoing attempt by our Conference papers as we earlier pointed out in a response to Jere Patzer Gleaner article Conference recommended ways to really kill your church