Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, January 26, 2008

Theology Student Book to Confuse Your Teen

In a new book published by Pacific Press a theology student and author Seth J. Pierce writes about the 28 Fundamental SDA beliefs for teens. It is entitled What We Believe. My daughter’s Youth class is going over sections of it in their class. Next week they are covering chapter 24 Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary. I take it since this is a denominationally produced book that not only does it represent what the author thinks but what the denomination is teaching their Theology students. As such this article is not only to help my daughter communicate her concerns in the Youth class but it will aid the rest of us in examining the theology that appears to be making up our new generation of Ministers.

The chapter starts out explaining how terrible it is to kill an animal. Something that we in modern times, where we just go to the store and buy our food is quite different from the past several thousand years when people butchered and prepared their own food. To the modern Theo student’s mind killing an animal is about the same level as cleaning out the barn of manure. That is something icky because he never has to do it. So he runs over an animal in his car and is traumatized and suggests that such a trauma is involved with people offering sacrifices in the Old Testament. As those sacrifices were eaten by the people and the priests and it was probably a very special time and meal it is unlikely that they were overly concerned with the death of the animals involved. Thank of the names of those offerings, Fellowship, thanksgiving, peace, yet what strikes the popular mind is the sin offering though they all were made of the same thing that is usually an animal died and it fed the Priest and the people who offered the offering.

The author then after quoting Lev. 1:3-4 says: “So why would you need to kill something, and what’s with the laying-on-of-hands business? It’s all about transferring.” Page 147

He then writes on page 148:

“We are stuck with the worst customer of all—sin. According to the Bible, it will kill us unless we find a way to transfer it out of our lives and give it to something or someone else. This was the big idea behind the sacrificial/sanctuary system. When you laid your hands on your sheep, bull, or bird sacrifice, it symbolized your sins being transferred to them. Then things got ugly.”

So apparently our next generation of Ministers are really big on gratuitous assertions. Why would not the laying on of hands upon the sacrifice indicate that it was your sacrifice, that you were personally making the offering? Apparently because it is all about transferring because well the Bible says so…even if he can’t find any verses in the Bible that says it is all about transferring sin just take his word for it. Pay no attention to Jewish history and their own understanding of what the sacrifices meant. But we are not Andrew’s University Theology students so we can examine what the Jewish beliefs were. As the Jewish Encyclopedia states:

As originally the sacrifice was a meal offered to the Deity at which He was to meet His own family (see Sacrifice, Critical View), only such as were in the proper state of holiness might take part in this "communion service" (see Passover). On the other hand, the Deity Himself would not accept the gift if the taboo was not respected. Contact with persons or things in an "unclean" state violated the taboo. Sin originally connoted a condition which rendered approach to the Deity impossible, and conversely made it impossible for the Deity to approach, to attend the family communion meal. To correct this the sacrifice was offered, i.e., brought near to ("ḳorban," "hiḳrib") the Deity, more especially the blood, which preeminently belonged to God, and that by the priest only. In this connection it must be remembered that slaughtering was primitively a sacrificial rite. Meat was not to be eaten unless the Deity had received His share, viz., the blood. This insistence is the motive of the otherwise strange prohibition to slaughter anywhere save at the door of the tent of meeting (Lev. xvii. 3). The presumption was that all belonged to the Deity. Later literature expresses this idea as a spiritual verity (Ps. 1. 10-12; I Chron. xxix. 14).

Judaism 101 offers this statement:

Were sacrifices a symbol of the savior to come?

Not according to Judaism. Jews don't believe that people need supernatural salvation from sin (sincere repentance and good deeds are sufficient to obtain forgiveness; see above), and don't believe that sacrifice has anything to do with a savior or messiah.

Quite the contrary, some would say that the original institution of sacrifice had more to do with the Judaism's past than with its future. Rambam suggested that the entire sacrificial cult in Judaism was ordained as an accommodation of man's primitive desires.

Sacrifice is an ancient and universal human expression of religion. Sacrifice existed among the Hebrews long before the giving of the Torah. Cain and Abel offered sacrifices; Noah and his sons offered sacrifices, and so forth. When the laws of sacrifice were given to the Children of Israel in the Torah, the pre-existence of a system of sacrificial offering was understood, and sacrificial terminology was used without any explanation. The Torah, rather than creating the institution of sacrifice, carefully circumscribes and limits the practice, permitting it only in certain places, at certain times, in certain manners, by certain people, and for certain purposes. Rambam suggests that these limitations are designed to wean a primitive people away from the debased rites of their idolatrous neighbors.

The Jewish view consists of three main things involved with sacrifices (qorbanot) They are (also from the Judaism 101 site):

There are three basic concepts underlying qorbanot: giving, substitution and coming closer.

The first the aspect of giving. A qorban requires the renunciation of something that belongs to the person making the offering. Thus, sacrifices are made from domestic animals, not wild animals (because wild animals do not belong to anyone). Likewise, offerings of food are ordinarily in the form of flour or meal, which requires substantial work to prepare.

Another important concept is the element of substitution. The idea is that the thing being offered is a substitute for the person making the offering, and the things that are done to the offering are things that should have been done to the person offering. The offering is in some sense "punished" in place of the offerer. It is interesting to note that whenever the subject of qorbanot is addressed in the Torah, the name of G-d used is the four-letter name indicating G-d's mercy.

The third important concept is the idea coming closer. The essence of sacrifice is to bring a person closer to G-d.

No doubt the writer of the book What We Believe would like the one on substitution because that is the basis of the popular Penal/Substitutionary atonement theory. Though there would be no reason to transfer sins in such a view and in fact it is based upon a rather primitive view of God who demands punishment upon sinners rather than being able to forgive the sinner. But those three are the most likely reasons for sacrifices by all of the ancient religions. The substitution idea particularly, was seen as a way to appease the anger of the god by offering the god the life of some animal so that the god would not punish the person or the god would bless the person.

This Fun Fact is offered on page 149 in a special little box:

“As a precaution, the high priest had bells around the bottom of his tunic and a rope was tied to his ankle. If the priest was not clean and he had a less-than-happy encounter with the most holy God, his bells would stop jingling alerting those outside that something was wrong. Then they could drag the body out by the rope tied around the ankle.”

Makes you feel warm all over doesn’t it. It is however a myth. A nice little site called Christian Answers offers us this information:

Dr. W.E. Nunnally, a professor of Hebrew and early Judaism, has reported:

“The rope on the high priest legend is just that: a legend. It has obscure beginnings in the Middle Ages and keeps getting repeated. It cannot be found anywhere in the Bible, the Apocrypha, the Dead Sea Scrolls, Josephus, the Pseudepigrapha, the Talmud, Mishna, or any other Jewish source. It just is not there.” [2]

The Biblical Studies Foundation (loosely associated with Dallas Theological Seminary), similarly reports that their research has put the “the rope around the ankle-or-waist-or-maybe-the-leg” legend “to rest.”

It is a short article but worth your time to visit, here it is just an aside, I point it out so that the reader of his book will not accept what the author claims to be fact.

Now let us continue with the chapter with a little more understanding then our future minister wanted to impart. Continuing on page 149 is an account of the scapegoat ceremony. See the article Could the Scapegoat be Christ for a more in depth look at the meaning of this ceremony. Concluding this section Pierce writes:

“Finally, the high priest would lay his hands on the head of the still-living Azazel goat, symbolizing the transference of all the sins of the people of Israel.”

Here finally Pierce is correct. This is also the only place in the sacrificial system where the idea of sin as transference occurs. It is clearly used to indicate the removal of sin from the community; it is symbolic for forgiveness where sins are remembered no more. I wanted to point this out before we go back to a statement Pierce makes on the preceding page because it is important to remember where this one occurrence of transference occurs. On page 148 Pierce writes:

The Priests had two very important jobs. First they would “bring the blood and throw the blood against the sides of the altar that is the entrance of the tent of meeting [sanctuary]” (Leviticus 1:5). Once again the concept of transferring comes up. First your sin would be transferred to the animal, and then the sin of the animal would be transferred to the sanctuary. Now this begs the question, where did the sin that was transferred to the sanctuary run off to? This brings up the second job which was mainly for the high priest.

To Pierce and the person who gave the sermon today at my church sin is transferred by blood. However sin is not ever referred to as being something that carries sin in the Bible. Blood is a symbol of life not sin. It is the life that is brought into the presence of God in the temple not transferred sin. It is a big difference and an even bigger difference when we move to the idea of Christ. On page 150 the author moves to Christ:

“In Jesus Christ, God offered a better system and a better sacrifice. Jesus was to shed His divine blood—once—and it would be so power­ful that it could cover any human being, in any time, in any condition, if they would only accept it. Jesus was willing to have us transfer our sins to Him and be sacrificed so we could be free. And if that wasn't enough, He—not another sinful human being—was to become our High Priest…

Now we have a serious problem what is sin that it can be transferred from place to place, all persons to one person or from one time to another time? How is the sin which we have not even committed or thought about today placed upon Christ nearly 2000 years ago? No doubt that would be the ultimate in mysticism but an answer from someone would be nice. Since those who believe in this transfer have so far refused to answer that question let us deal with it in a real world way. Sin is the attitude of selfishness and rebellion against God. It does not exist except in thinking individual’s minds and as the result of their actions. It is not something that mystically has to be taken away from us it is an attitude adjustment that we the instigators of sin must realize. It is the adjustment that comes when we become reconciled with God and place our trust in the promise of life and forgiveness that God offers us. As Hebrews 9:14 says “How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!” (NIV)

The blood of Christ is symbolic of His life and death and life again the life that demonstrated love that even forgave those who killed and tortured Him, the life that He demonstrated by raising Himself from the dead. When we see what our God is like it cleanses our consciences from the rebellion and selfishness that predominated our life before, those acts which only lead to death. This should be elementary knowledge to Christians but unfortunately it is not because we have embraced traditions and convoluted explanations that make the simple complex and the plain confused.

Pierce continues on page 150:

“After Jesus rose from the dead, He ascended to heaven, where He was made our heavenly High Priest. There He applies His sacrifice/ blood that was shed on our behalf to the heavenly sanctuary to atone for our sins. This makes us ask one more question: If the high priest in the Old Testament had a two-phase ministry, where is Christ's second phase? Thankfully, we have some insight via the book of Daniel.”

What does he mean He applies His blood to atone for our sins? Who knows it certainly sounds holy though. The blood clearly has to be a reference to his death here on earth but what does it have to do with a heavenly sanctuary, He rose from the dead and ascended to heaven He is alive and certainly not still bleeding. As occurred above the traditional Penal theorist has convoluted even the Intercession of Christ. On the next page Pierce seems to try to explain himself:

“Look around you—are you still on planet Earth? It's a shame, isn't it? And Will Miller was even more disappointed when Jesus didn't come. After restudying a bit and looking at some passages in Hebrews, some of Miller's followers, with the help of some scholars, determined that Christ entered His second phase of ministry in the heavenly sanctuary in 1844. This is His final phase, His judgment phase, before He returns to take His people home. It's a phase we call the investigative judgment.”

"Investigative judgment" simply means this: Jesus is in His last phase of ministry in the heavenly sanctuary, and He is looking over the heavenly record books to see who is and who isn't on His side. It makes sense. When Jesus comes back, the Bible says, "the dead in Christ will rise first. Then we who are alive ... will be caught up together with them in the clouds to meet the Lord in the air, and so we will always be with the Lord" (I Thessalonians 4:16, 17). And then "since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, . . when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels in flam­ing fire, [he will inflict] vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus" (2 Thessalo­nians 1:6-8).”

Well you knew it had to be coming, the Investigative Judgment is what this whole chapter was trying to get to. Somehow it is connected to Jesus as high priest applying His blood only now it appears to be through judging who are His and who are not. Best not to mention that God has known who are His and not from before the foundation of the world. (1 Peter 1:20, Rev 13:8, 17:8)

The Omnipotent, all knowing God has been doing this Investigative judgment since 1844 which according to Pierce’s book was determined: “After restudying a bit and looking at some passages in Hebrews, some of Miller’s followers, with the help of some scholars, determined that Christ entered His second phase of the ministry in the heavenly sanctuary in 1844.” Apparently one of those scholars must have been Hiram Edson who had a vision walking through a cornfield but for the life of me I can’t think of any Bible scholars from that period of time. Interestingly the Lesson quarterly for Hebrews did say that when they asked SDA scholars they could not say that the book of Hebrews teaches a two apartment ministry in the heavenly sanctuary. The Friday August 29,2004 Lesson study guide Sanctuary Themes The book of Hebrews says:

2. After much study by some of our best scholars, a report was given on Hebrews. Two questions were asked. Does Hebrews teach Christ's two-phased priestly ministry? Does Hebrews deny Christ's two-phased priestly ministry? The committee answered No to both questions.

This seems long enough already so I won’t get into where Pierce writes:

Judged—graded—according to what we’ve done. Page 153

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