Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, March 29, 2008

Progressive Adventism and the Christian Church

From last year the blog Seventh-day Adventist to Roman Catholic wrote the following on the subject of Progressive Adventism:
The rejection of these distinctive intrigues me in three ways…
1. The reason the SDA Church has existed for as long as it has is because it is distinctive and unique. This builds a sense of community and separation from those who are not within the “walls” of the mainstream. Progressive Adventism seeks to disrupt those very doctrines that create the walls of separation and hence maintain the community. Unfortunately, if those who are “progressive” want to see the end result of this strategy, all they need to do is look at the Catholic Church since the 1960’s. After the Vatican II council removed several of the practices that made Catholics very unique from their protestant brethren, the Catholic Church began to lose her identity among the youth and eventually a large majority of the Church, especially in America. The loss of distinctiveness turns a community from themselves, to the world, creating little CIA agents: the members look, and dress, talk, act, and think like everyone else.
Aside from the comments about the Roman Catholic Churches modernization (which I would say are some of the most positive aspects that the Roman Catholic Church has done short of ending the persecution of so called heretics) I would like to focus on the first part of his statement.

I would say that the reason for the continuation of a denomination is not simply because they are distinctive. Every denomination has something distinctive and unique. Whether it was a particular founder who is highly respected or who claims prophetic ability or something doctrinally different from the other churches such as the Baptists who sought to get back to submersion in water over sprinkling. From that unique idea other Baptist distinctives emerged and now there are several Baptist denominations.

There is a community found in people building walls of separation, but that is often not what is best for the community or the surrounding society. What we often think today of racism is the product of building those walls of separation, keeping in those who are similar and excluding those who differ. The Jewish nation at the time of Christ were very good at building those walls. Not simply based upon race but based upon beliefs. You were part of the chosen nation because you were a Jew even though your nationality could have been anything. You were only a good Jew if you believed what you were supposed to believe and followed the rules you were supposed to follow.

Jesus Christ came and tore down those walls. Today many Christians are seeking to rebuild them, because then we have a "community". But I can't accept the idea that the Christian community is to be built behind the walls we build around ourselves.

Perhaps that is why Progressive Adventism is no longer simply about reinterpretation of SDA distinctives but about changing the way the Christian church interacts with society (you can't do one without the other). It is a movement like the "emergent" church which seeks to change Christianity from the bottom up, from the local church to the denomination. No doubt a difficult task when the Pastors are paid from the denomination down which is perhaps why the tension is so great. Why so few Adventist churches try anything innovative.

In the Western world the Christian Church is in an identity crisis and I don't think doctrinal distinctives will help our problems. Understanding God as best we can, a rational and relational Christianity that spends time thinking about our beliefs and how those beliefs effect us and those around us, that is the only cure for Christianity in decline. Our understanding will not come from a community behind walls. In my view Christianity has been in decline because Christians have misunderstood God and made Him out to be an angry God who saves us only because Jesus died for us. I don't see any real need to preserve a church or denomination that makes God out the fool or worse a God who declares cruelty love and injustice justice. So we are left with rebuilding the name of Christianity and God from the abuses of those who have gone before us. Progressive Adventists are simply working within their faith tradition. I sincerely hope that other denominations have begun their reforms also I tend to think that some have.

In many ways we are in a battle between the fundamentalism found in traditions versus the rational and inquisitive pursuit of God. One side has many walls and the other is slowly tearing down the walls and on the outside there are billions of hurting fact inside those walls are numerous hurting people also. My denomination is a tool to build the Christian Church someday I won't need it anymore.

Saturday, March 22, 2008

Andrews Study Bible - Adventism's Next Big Mistake

A few days ago the following announcement was made by Andrews University:
University Press to Publish Study Bible Some of the highpoints of the press statement are:

An international editorial team of Adventist Bible scholars has begun work on a new study Bible to be published by Andrews University Press, according to Niels-Erik Andreasen, president of Andrews University...

Those tools will include an extensive study note and reference system, general articles on important theological and interpretive principles, maps, charts and indexes, all prepared for the general reader. Andreasen said that the heart of the Andrews Study Bible will be one of the standard English translations of the Bible commonly used by conservative evangelicals...

Development of the publication, the first of its kind in Adventist publishing, has been delegated by the Andrews University Press Board to an oversight group called the Andrews Study Bible Project Committee, chaired by Andreasen. Members include Karst, Finley, Rodriguez and Denis Fortin, dean of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University; Juan Prestol, undertreasurer of the General Conference; two members of the Press staff; and Jon Dybdahl, named in January as general editor of the Andrews Study Bible.

One of the first things I noticed is that they don't give the translation they intent to use just "standard English translations of the Bible commonly used by conservative evangelicals..." The question is why won't they disclose the translation comes to mind. Perhaps they have not finalized the contract with the translators but if I was going to guess the phrase by conservative evangelicals would lead me to think of the New King James version.

"Many churches and Evangelical groups have embraced the NKJV as an acceptable compromise between the original KJV and a Bible with more contemporary wording."

There are still a lot of SDA's who are very nearly King James Only advocates and even though the documents which the King James Bible were translated from is largely based upon Stephanus 1550 edition of the Textus Receptus rather then the more recently discovered and older material that is used in most other modern language translations the King James tradition makes it their preferred Bible. The New King James updates the old King James language and removes the thee's and thou's but it felt to retain the Elizabethan English.

As Queens University states in their article English Versions of the Bible
Also called the Authorized version, this text dates from 1611. It is a revision of the Bishop's Bible (which was somewhat based on the original languages) by a commission appointed by King James I. It was favourably received by the authorities and authorized to be read in the churches. It has had an important influence on English literature. However, it is based on III CE (or later) Byzantine Greek texts, which have subsequently proven to be fairly unreliable from a text critical perspective. The New King James Version (NKJV) updates the language of the KJV while preserving its basic literary structure. There is also The 21st Century King James Version (KJ21). None of these versions are recommended for study purposes.

More particularly the reason I think that it will be the NKJV is because it is one of the very few modern language Bibles which translates Acts 3:19 in such a way that it can be used in the Adventist Investigative Judgment doctrine. The idea that sins are blotted out, as in the heavenly investigative Judgment. I fear that the Study note will reference the KJV interpretation since it is what Ellen white used in her statements to indicate that the sins are blotted out in the Investigative Judgment. Compare the NKJV with the NIV:

Acts 3:19 (New International Version)
New International Version (NIV) 19Repent, then, and turn to God, so that your sins may be wiped out, that times of refreshing may come from the Lord,

Acts 3:19 (New King James Version) New King James Version (NKJV) 19 Repent therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, so that times of refreshing may come from the presence of the Lord,

Acts 3:19 (King James Version) King James Version (KJV) 19Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord. Interestingly the

21st Century King James Version (KJ21)goes back to the same wording as the KJV
19Repent ye therefore and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord.

The NKJV also retains the use of the word Lucifer when most all other modern translations do not use the old Latin word as if it was the name of an individual. But the Lucifer myth is important to many Adventist Great Controversy themes.

Isaiah 14:12 “ How you are fallen from heaven, O Lucifer, son of the morning! How you are cut down to the ground, You who weakened the nations!

Whereas most all other modern translations are similar to the NIV:

Isaiah 14:12 How you have fallen from heaven, O morning star, son of the dawn! You have been cast down to the earth, you who once laid low the nations!

Aside from the expected translation problems by choosing a translation most in line with Adventist traditions the problem with an Adventist Study Bible is that it will serve as an indoctrination tool. Other possible views and interpretations will be given short shrift or ignored. The assumption will be that this is the Adventist view and no other view is acceptable. It is the same thing that is wrong will any study Bible whose notes are prepared by people who share one particular view. Such as Schofield' s or Rye's Study Bibles. As the website notes:

*****Many study bibles include interpretive notes. While these may sometimes be helpful, they often do more harm than good. They reflect the biases of the editors and sometimes make the reader think that they are authoritative. Also, any notes like this may prejudice your thinking, not allowing you to come up with your own ideas. The Ryrie Study Bible and the Schofield Study Bible are two notable examples. It is the opinion of the webmaster that these two Bibles contain doctrinal biases which are blatantly contrary to scripture and therefore should be avoided.

This blog has previously posted on the horrible Jimmy Swaggart Study Bible, see Jimmy Swaggart’s Distorted Bible Commentary

It is true that other denominations such as the Baptists and Catholic, Dake’s Annotated Reference Bible, “The Pentecostal Study Bible, even Reformed Theology have their own study Bibles, it however is probably not sufficient reason for Adventists to do the same unless they are capable of providing seriously comprehensive information brought forth by some of the other views that Adventist Christians hold. Which is interesting in that some Study Bible's do attempt to do just that. For example The New Geneva Study Bible was published by Thomas Nelson Publishers in 1995

Offers four interpetations on the days of creation:

The NGSB presents four interpretations of the days in Genesis 1 without really declaring any one of them to be the correct interpretation: "Some view these as literal, sequential 24-hour days. This interpretation usually entails the view that the earth is relatively ‘young.’ Other scholars, nothing that the Hebrew word for day (‘yom’) can refer to periods of time (e.g. 2:4) have proposed the ‘day-age theory.’ Still others suggest that literal, 24-hour days are intended, but that these days were separated by extended periods of time. Finally some scholars argue that the ‘days’ of creation constitute a literary framework designed to teach that God alone is the Creator of an orderly universe, and to call upon human beings made in the image of the Creator God to reflect God’s creative activity in their own pattern of labor. This ‘framework hypothesis’ views the days of creation as God’s gracious accommodation to the limitations of human knowledge-an expression of the infinite Creator’s work in terms understandable to finite and frail human beings. This last group of scholars observes that the universe gives the appearance of great antiquity, that the phrase ‘morning and evening’ seems inconsistent with the ‘day-age’ theory and that the notion of intervening ages between isolated 24-hour days is not apparent from the text" (see note under Genesis 1:5, p.7). It appears, from the argumentation above, that the editors favor the "framework hypothesis" while at the same time allowing for the other views.

If The Andrews study Bible incorporates the different views in the Christian interpretations it could be an important book. However I have found in the market place of ideas Adventism has for many years thought of themselves as the only shop on the street. And that is one of the worst things that can happen in the search for truth.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

History and Last Generation Perfection Theology

Previously the question was asked, why are some Adventists opposed to a Grace oriented Seventh-day Adventist church? The answer to that question is found in the Law oriented Last Generation Perfection theology which is presented by those Adventists. To understand we need a bit of a history lesson.

The Adventist tradition since its inception considered itself the last generation. The Millerites thought that they were the last generation and were preparing to be translated when the Great Disappointment found them still on earth. Some sold their possessions and some let their crops rot in the field because this was the end and they were the last generation. Those who went through this experience and maintained their Adventist expectations still maintained that they were the last generation. So certain of their last generation status they developed the Shut Door doctrine:

5. December, 1844--In Ellen Harmon's First Vision, She Was Shown that the Door of Mercy Was Shut for (a) Those Millerites Who Denied That God Had Led Them in the 1844 "Midnight Cry" Movement, and (b) "All the Wicked World" Which God Had Rejected. She Was Also Shown "The Living Saints, 144,000 in Number," Waiting for Christ's Return.

If you look at the timeline (see the Shut Door article at the EGW Estate) we see that for several years the leaders of the SDA church believed in the shut door. During the years 1848-49 with the idea of publishing to the world, the idea that the door of mercy had in fact, not been shut, began to be expressed. But that did not stop the idea that Adventists were living in the last generation. We can see many examples of this idea that they were living in the last generation in the writings of Ellen White as well as other Adventist pioneers.

Some of us have had time to get the truth and to advance step by step, and every step we have taken has given us strength to take the next. But now time is almost finished, and what we have been years learning, they will have to learn in a few months. They will also have much to unlearn and much to learn again. Those who would not receive the mark of the beast and his image when the decree goes forth, must have now to say, Nay, we will not regard the institution of the beast (Early Writings, p.67).

That was written in 1850 but even much later when writing about the signs in the son, moon and stars Ellen White sees her time as the last generation.

Christ has given signs of His coming. He declares that we may know when He is near, even at the doors. He says of those who see these signs, "This generation shall not pass, till all these things be fulfilled." These signs have appeared. Now we know of a surety that the Lord's coming is at hand. "Heaven and earth shall pass away," He says, "but My words shall not pass away." (Desire of Ages Page 632 published 1898)

Connected to this last generation presumption certain Adventist added the idea of perfection. The most famous of this last generation perfection comes from the 1890’s Holy flesh movement. Out of the ferment caused by the 1888 Adventist Conference in Minneapolis with E. J. Waggoner and A. T. Jones, teachings about the impartation of the Spirit to promote a victorious life along with Ellen White’s various statements a new view took shape. In it perfection of flesh was to be found here and now. Here are a few quotes from Bert Haloviak’s paper From Righteousness to Holy Flesh

A focus upon the actual teachings of R S Donnell, president of the Indiana Conference during the holy flesh period, quickly reveals an emphasis upon a last-generation theology. In articles circulated throughout the Indiana Conference during 1900, Donnell clearly emphasized his central focus: "To those who are preparing for translation the question with which we introduce this article [i.e., 'Did Christ Come to This World in Sinful Flesh"] becomes indeed an important one. In speaking of their condition, and what they are to be when the Lord returns to the earth to gather up His people, 1 John 3:2 says: 'But we know that when He shall appear, we shall be like Him.'" Donnell's teaching was based upon his conception of what those awaiting translation had to become. Points central to his theology are taken from his republication of his 1900 articles in his publication "What I Taught in Indiana"…

One of the statements Donnell makes:

pp 24-5: Question: "Do you teach that conversion embraces both the mind and the body, so that the body in this life is fully cleansed and is brought back to the condition of man before the fall, or is this a work that begins now, and is completed at the resurrection of the just? [R S Donnell response]: Yes. The mind surely, and also the body, so far as its life or actions are concerned. . . . With the resurrected every imperfection will be left in the grave. Thus they will be ready for the finishing touch of immortality when Jesus comes. The 144,000 must also be ready for that finishing touch, and the perfection necessary for its reception must be attained in this life." Page 30

On page 33 of Haloviak’s paper we see this from H H Haskell to Ellen White, September 22, 1900:

[On Sabbath] I took up the history of this work, and related how we had met things of this nature before, and what the outcome of them all had been. One of their great burdens is moral purity (which you know all about), and 'holy flesh,' and 'translating faith,' and all such terms, which carry the idea that THERE ARE TWO KINDS OF 'SONS OF GOD'—THE 'ADOPTED' SONS OF GOD, AND THE 'BORN' SONS OF GOD. THE ADOPTED ARE THOSE WHO DIE, BECAUSE THEY WILL NOT HAVE THE 'TRANSLATING FAITH.' THOSE WHO ARE BORN, GET 'HOLY FLESH,' AND THERE IS NO SIN INSIDE OF THEM, AND THEY ARE THE ONES THAT WILL LIVE AND BE TRANSLATED; AND, AS THEY SAY, THESE WHO ARE 'BORN' SONS OF GOD ARE NOT 'GOING TO HEAVEN ON THE UNDERGROUND RAILWAY,• MEANING THEY ARE NOT GOING TO DIE. . . . [Emphasis supplied. Focus again is not on Christology, but upon presuppositions relating to a last generation awaiting translation.]

The history then is Adventist continual belief in their being the last generation with a new twist in the 1890’s that the last generation will attain to a previously unknown level of perfection, a perfection that is likened to Christ’s earthly perfection. Through much of the early part of the 20th century this last generation perfection theology had been dormant until reinvigorated by M.L. Andreason who it has taken on almost legendary significance due to his attacks upon the publication of the book Questions on Doctrines in the late 1950’s. Earlier he present his last generation perfection theology. Andreason writes in chapter 21 of his 1947 book The Sanctuary Service

May the church of God appreciate the exalted privilege given here “You are My witnesses, said the Lord.” Isaiah 43: 10. There must be “no strange god among you: therefore you are My witnesses, said the Lord, that I am God.” Verse 12. May we be witnesses indeed, testifying what God has done for us!

All this is closely connected with the work of the Day of Atonement. On that day the people of Israel, having confessed their sins, were completely cleansed. They had already been forgiven; now sin was separated from them. They were holy and without blame. The camp of Israel was clean.

We are now living in the great antitypical day of the cleansing of the sanctuary. Every sin must be confessed and by faith be sent beforehand to judgment. As the high priest enters into the most holy, so God's people now are to stand face to face with God. They must know that every sin is confessed, that no stain of evil remains. The cleansing of the sanctuary in heaven is dependent upon the cleansing of God's people on earth. How important, then, that God's people be holy and without blame! In them every sin must

be burned out, so that they will be able to stand in the sight of a holy God and live with the devouring fire. [He then quotes Isaiah 33:13-16.] page 115

As George Knight presented recently (QOD: SYMBOL OF TENSION) Andreason’s objections to Questions on Doctrines were centered on Last Generation Perfection theology:

There was a good reason why Andreasen was especially concerned with the teaching of a

completed atonement on the cross. He had set forth that reason in several of his earlier writings. Central to Andreasen’s theology was a three-phase understanding of the atonement. The first phase related to Christ’s living a perfectly sinless life. The second phase was His death on the cross.

Those two phases in the work of atonement were important, but for Andreasen the third

phase was absolutely central. “In the third phase,” he wrote, “Christ demonstrates that man can do what He did, with the same help He had. This phase includes His session at the right hand of God, His high priestly ministry, and the final exhibition of His saints in their last struggle with

Satan, and their glorious victory. . . .“The third phase is now in progress in the sanctuary above and in the church below. Christ broke the power of sin in His lifework on earth. He destroyed sin and Satan by His death. He is now eliminating and destroying sin in His saints on earth. This is part of the cleansing of the true sanctuary.37

It is what Andreasen calls the third phase of the atonement that became the focal point of

his theology. Utilizing the widely held concept that Christ had sinful human nature just like Adam possessed after the fall (that is, a sinful nature with tendencies to sin), Andreasen formulated his understanding of “last generation” theology with Christ being an example of what could be accomplished in the lives of His followers. That theology is most clearly set forth in the chapter entitled “The Last Generation” in The Sanctuary Service (1937, 1947). That book specifically states that Satan was not defeated at the cross, but would be defeated by the last generation in their demonstration that an entire generation of people could live a sinlessly perfect life. Christ, having taken their human nature with all its problems, had proven that it could be done. They could live the same sinlessly perfect life that He did with the same help as He had had. Through the last generation God “defeats Satan and wins His case,” “in the remnant Satan will meet his defeat,” “through them God will stand vindicated.” At that point Christ can come.38 Pages 14 and 15

Today we find people like Pastor Larry Kirkpatrick continuing Andreason’s teachings with the addition that today the Last Generation Perfection Theology (often abbreviated as LGT or LGP) is a traditional Adventist belief. As is often the case when one says something is traditional it depends upon whose tradition one means. In this case traditional is Andreason’s version of Last Generation Perfection as even among LGT proponents the Holy Flesh movement is held in distain due to it focus on Pentecostal manifestations. A website which is itself entitled LastGenerationTheology contains many of their articles. presented an interview with Larry Kirkpatrick who is one of the leaders in the LGT. Here is Kirkpatrick’s definition of LGT:

Could you describe LGT in a nutshell? Is this essentially the same concept advanced by M. L. Andreasen in mid-20th century?

Last Generation Theology teaches that Jesus Christ is not only fully our Substitute but fully our Example, affirms that Christ overcame sin in flesh like ours, insists that the gospel plan is for Christians to cease from sin before the Second Coming (indeed, before the Close of Probation), and confesses that the close of the age has been delayed by unconsecration in God’s people but can be accelerated by their living holy lives.

LGT has tremendous pulling power, because many of those who are theologically and historically astute recognize that it represents core Adventism, particularly that which obtained for the generation that coincided with and followed Andreasen. Andreasen did much to develop the implications of Adventism, and LGT was the result.

Interestingly, Herbert E. Douglass developed essentially the very same concepts but independently of Andreasen. Douglass told me that when he was writing his editorials in the Review in favor of the same ideas, people kept suggesting that he was echoing Andreasen, but he had never read Andreasen. Finally, after these repeated questions, he did sit down and read Andreasen. He did find much commonality. But Douglass had developed his concepts–just as Andreasen had—via his careful study of Scripture and reading of the Ellen G. White writings.

Likewise, I developed most of my understanding in the same way. It was mostly by following up key ideas in the Bible that I developed my view. Of course, the Ellen White elements came strongly to the fore. I recall in one of Woodrow Whidden’s books he follows the development of Mrs. White’s theology up to about the turn of the century, and claims that he goes no further because there were no serious points of development after that time. But Christ’s Object Lessons (COL) came out in 1905 and certainly represents a further ripening of her concepts in these areas. We might even say that COL represents White’s working-out of the implications of Adventist theology—and landing with LGT.

So Andreasen, Douglass, myself, and even Ellen White, seeking to draw the strands together into a developed whole, all land at LGT. This is Adventism. We might say much more, but I would only add that we have especially developed the gospel concepts. Look again; its not the grinch under the bridge it has been portrayed as!

So where does this leave Grace? Grace is left in the dust because the goal is for Adventists to become sinless and vindicate God by perfectly keeping the law. Grace oriented religion is termed New Theology (a termed coined by Andreason) by the LGT folks. Not that the LGT people reject Grace, they simply redefine it as something God will do in the future that will give people the ability to keep all of God’s laws perfectly.

There is little doubt in my mind as well as many in the leadership in the Seventh-day Adventist church that LGT is a false gospel. What is probably equally troubling is that it is not a gospel at all, it is not good news because when people look at themselves they see that they are indeed sinners and that they are far from perfect in either their actions or the actions they do not do. But that is not history that is reality and this was just a history lesson to answer a simple question.

Friday, March 14, 2008

Valuegenesis and the Enemies of Research

When I went to the previously mentioned Adventist Forum meeting by Bailey Gillespie on the topic; Valuegenesis: What We Know For Sure... I did a little research and found that they were going to do a European Valuegenesis. What I did not realize is that there is an undercurrent in Adventism who is very critical of Valuegenesis. I mentioned something about this on an Adventist forum and one of the Traditional SDA’s responded by saying: Valuegenesis was conducted/led by outsider(s, catholics) who does not understand/share what Adventism actually teaches and whose conclusion may not reflect reality.

This view is based upon the assumption that the leader of the Valuegenesis studies both 1 and 2 is Michael J. Donahue. Since he is listed as a co-author of the book Valuegenesis 2 -Ten Years Later: A Study of Two Generations the authors of which are: V Bailey Gillespie; Michael J Donahue; Ed Boyatt; Barry Gane.

Here is a little information on Michael J. Donahue: He has posted the Valuegenesis Codebook which lists the questions used and some other data. His website also lists some of his other publications Michael J. Donahue: Publications et al. Take a look at his resume it is pretty impressive but you will notice that he was employed as lead statistician by John Hancock Center for Youth Ministry, La Sierra University, Riverside, CA. V. Bailey Gillespie, Director. Development of survey service. 1999-present

Now if it was just some conspiracy minded person who sees a Jesuit behind every corner that would be one thing but there is apparently a big name Adventist agitator who also denigrates the Valuegenesis projects though not as Catholic infiltrators but as Lutheran inflitration).

Pastor Larry Kirkpatrick of writes:

1989: Seventh-day Adventism Infected

In 1989 the Search Institute, originated by Merton Strommen, contracted with the General Conference of SDAs to participate as key consultants for the major study of SDA youth called "Valuegenesis." A "Timeline History of Search Institute," giving a detailed history of its activities and its long-term Lutheran connections, is available on the internet. Scrolling down to 1989, you'll find the Seventh-day Adventist Church mentioned as indicated.15

In a Seventh-day Adventist newsletter called "Action," dated as "Spring 1989," we first spot the phrase "grace orientation" in our own church.16 From here on out we begin to see the phrase sprinkled through SDA literature with ever-increasing frequency.

Grace orientation scary stuff there apparently the problem with Grace is that it is not works and that might be a problem if you theology is works orientated e.g. obedience generates the works needed for salvation. Kirkpatrick later relays his fear that Valuegenesis is meant to cause the SDA church to change:

Valuegenesis: Subtle Questions Used to Drive Change

The reference Bailey refers to is found in the responses of Adventist young people to certain questions they were asked in the Valuegenesis study.23 Consider these yourself as to whether they are truth-statements:

  • "The main emphasis of the gospel is on God's rules for right living."
  • "I must live by God's rules in order to be saved."
  • "The way to be accepted by God is to try sincerely to live a good life."
  • "I have a sense of being saved by Christ."
  • "There is nothing I can do to earn salvation."

You or I might not say that the emphasis in God's gospel is on right rules for living. But what if we had to fill out a form giving us opportunity to agree in gradations with that statement, say on a scale of 1-5 or 1-7? Because that is how most of the Valuegenesis study questions were asked. Still, you or I might not answer that with anything but the most definite "no." But isn't it possible that some of the youth filling out a question like this are not quite as theologically astute as some adults might be? This is a very subtle situation to place a young person in.

If the change is to be grace oriented how would that be a bad thing? To Kirkpatrick it is bad because grace oriented means antinomian (the doctrine that faith in Christ frees the Christian from obligation to observe the moral law as set forth in the Old Testament. ) and obedience to the law is necessary for salvation in his view. In any case the Valuegenesis 2 codebook recognized the difficulty with this section and says the following:

Grace and Works
For each of the following statements, tell how much you agree of disagree.Choose one answer for each.
Items 39-55 have the following response options: (1) I definitely disagree; (2) I tend to disagree; (3) I'm not sure; (4) I tend to agree; (5) I definitely agree

39. I know that to be saved I have to live by God's rules
40. I know that God love me no matter what I do
41. There is nothing I can do to earn salvation
42. Following Adventist standards and practices will cause me to be saved
43. The way to be accepted by God is to try sincerely to live a good life
44. The main emphasis of the gospel is on God's rules for right living
45. I am loved by God even when I sin
46. I am worried about not being ready for Christ return
47. Salvation is the way God rewards us for obeying Him
48. Salvation is God's way of saying thank you for our good behavior
The following statements have to do with salvation (being saved, getting to
heaven, having eternal life). Which statement best describes your understanding of how we obtain salvation?
49. We show we are worthy of being saved by doing good to others.
50. The gift of salvation is free, yet I must keep the law to be worthy to receive it.
51. My salvation depends on whether I keep the law perfectly
52. We must be baptized church members before we really are saved
53. Salvation is God's free gift to us that we don't deserve and cannot earn.
54. We can do nothing to deserve God's gift of salvation
55. My good works are a response to God's gift of grace

The second set of these items was added after concerns that the students may not have understood the initial set properly. (Inasmuch as they address issues which have been at the center of some of the greatest controversies in Christian theology, the inability of grammar and high school students to understand them is perhaps not unexpected.)

In the original Valuegenesis reports, a "Works" scale was constructed using items 31, 42-44, and a "reversal" of item 41 (agree scored high, disagree scored low). This scale was used in the initialValuegenesis 2 reports to allow comparability with earlier data.However, with the expanded item pool, and based on item analysis,
a revised grace scale can be constructed, and it is this revised scale which would be recommended for research on these data. this revised grace scale includes items 39, 42-44, 47-49, and 51.

So here are the changes Kirkpatrick envisions:

Were points such as this understood by those who formatted the Valuegenesis questions? That is an important question. The results of the Valuegenesis study have been used to introduce far-reaching changes in the curriculum of the entire SDA educational system. They are being used now to justify the introduction of a demonstrably non-Adventist salvation understanding into the Sabbath school departments of thousands of our churches worldwide. Those who developed the underlying philosophies of both Valuegenesis and GraceLink were PhDs. These are not simpletons. Generally, we may expect that they have processed all their ideas and, whether right or wrong, they knew what they were trying to do. Gillespie said, "We must launch a comprehensive educational effort that addresses the issue of grace and works orientation." And the church did.

Concluding his Valuegenesis section Kirpatrick writes:

Consider just two more references of interest -- these were authorized to be published in the Valuegenesis book. "In college he [a former student of Dudley's] became enamored with the teachings of a professor who presented righteousness by faith as composed of justification alone. The work of salvation was completely objective -- removed from our experience. It had only to do with the cross; nothing with daily living. . . . [after later being thrown in jail for intoxication] He was particularly sustained by his religion. Remembering what his professor had told him about righteousness by faith, he recalled, 'Not for a moment, even while drunk in that dismal jail cell, did I forget that I was in right standing with God.'" Then follows the author's analysis, and an amazing analysis it is: "Few of us understand righteousness by grace through faith in such a complete sense."36

The amazing conclusion above requires little comment. It is soul-destroying error. But here are some of the author's conclusions for us too: "I think we will have to bend over backwards, in our homes, our congregations, and our schools, to get across a grace orientation to salvation. . . . We have erred so long in the direction of law, we need to begin to focus on grace completely." Continuing, Dudley adds, "Through precept and example, we must do everything possible to clarify grace and to break the hold of legalism."37

Actually, we need to clear the decks of the contemporary antinomian push within our ranks that is at odds with the message of Seventh-day Adventism. For much too long we have permitted an untoward retreat from Adventism by those who do not even agree with its foundations.

So why do these objections to Valuegenesis and Grace upset people like Kirkpatrick. Stay tuned for the Last Generation Perfection Theology Review, because as we all know none of us are truly obedient to all the Old Testament Laws or the instructions that Jesus gave such as those on the Sermon on the Mount. So there must be something else that inspires such traditional SDA’s to reject Grace orientation.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Interesting material from Bailey Gillespie's Forum presentation

I recently Pacific Northwest Adventist Association Forum presentation on what we know from the Valuegenesis studies by Bailey Gillespie, Ph.D. Professor of Theology and Personality Director of the John Hancock Center for Youth and Family Ministry School of Religion La Sierra University. I am going to be using some of his quotes from the talk in upcoming articles but I thought I would put the first part of the quotes I found most interesting here. So here are some of the extracts as well as one quote and link from the Valugenesis Update Newsletter.

“However three of the least believed doctrines show up in every study we do in every single group we do they are the same three in the same order. The sanctuary doctrine definitely believed by only 20 percent of your young people in Washington 20 % of your kids so all the other doctrines except these three are right up there 20% definitely believe this one. The Remnant 42% the next one 42% definitely believe and you know what the next one is Ellen White 36%...”

He goes on to say that we need to reconstruct those doctrines so that they make sense to young people. He goes on to say “when you ask the remnant question to university and college students you can’t get a score, it’s less then 1% of Adventist kids in college believe anything about the remnant. The exclusivity about that doctrine does not turn this generation on at all. It doesn’t make any sense…”

The most important issue if you want people to have find faith and God in their life is to have a warm and thinking climate in your church. Now warm is a common sense answer in research it’s one of those things people just know if its warm or not…

For the question “I go to things at my church because I want to”, true and very true:

He then lists 52% for 6th grade going down a few points as the students get older to 12 grade. The research based upon a census from Adventist schools. About half of your kids go to church because they want to.

For church warmth 65% see the church as warm going down to 44% by grade 12

As the kids get older they see the church as colder and colder… As kids get older and older relationships get more important. As they begin to want more relationships the church is giving them less relationships as they get older.

The Thinking Church Climate Scale is strongly correlated with the Warm Church Climate Scale and is an even more important predictor of values and commitment. While the percentage of young people who felt their congregations were warm and friendly and feel that they learn a lot in church has improved over the period of these two studies, we cannot be content with only 40 per cent of our youth feeling their church is a place where they can think and grow and is open to new ideas and encourages questions. Perhaps this area should be addressed by congregations who wish to have a more positive impact on the young of their congregations.

The church Challenges my thinking:

From grades 6 on down to grade twelve 65 to 25 (%)

In the North Pacific Union Conference 43 % 6th graders, 46% 7th and 8th graders, 34% of 10th graders, and 33% of 12th graders.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

Another Kind of Discipleship

As this quarter’s lesson is on Discipleship I thought I should write at least one article on the subject. Unlike the Lesson Study Guide I don’t have to stretch the subject out Ad nauseam. There is something basic to Christianity that I think is often overlooked and is crucial to effective discipleship. I will illustrate this by referring to a website which seeks to bring people to Christ using hip hop music and a bit of written material to read as you listen to several songs. The site is titled: Read This Before You Die

Here is a paragraph from the final page of the presentation:

God is perfect in His love and forgiveness. But, He is also perfect in His fairness and justice. If you can stand in His court and admit that you are guilty and deserve punishment for your crimes, then He will show His perfect love and forgiveness towards you. This is because He has already taken His perfect justice out on another person instead of you.

Perfect fairness and justice is never identified by punishing someone else for a crime. In fact punishment is not identified with love and forgiveness ("this court sentences you to x years in prison for theft, we do this because we love and forgive you"). As anyone who listens to Jesus on the Cross would know, to punish someone is not to forgive them, to punish the innocent is a violation of God's law as recorded in the Old Testament.

The Website includes the frequently heard Christian expression that “God requires perfection”. But of course they don’t really mean that because God does not require perfection of the human beings it is only required of Jesus and Jesus substitutes His perfection for everyone else’s failures.

What is the message that these things give people. God is a bit confused, His justice is nothing like any human being would consider justice or fair and is contrary to the instructions given in the Bible. It also places God as demanding something that no human can ever achieve, even using the Genesis story of the first human beings they very clearly could not produce perfection as the first thing about them is their failure. Is that really what “be ye perfect as your Father in heaven is perfect” trying to convey?

One of the most important things we learn from the life of Jesus Christ is that God is not selfish. Yet in many of our descriptions about God we make Him out as selfish and demanding. Sin, and God must punish someone, we are just fortunate that instead of punishing the guilty He is willing to punish His loving Son. So Modern Christianity has tried to adjust their view to keep God as loving as possible because God was willing to let His Son come and pay our penalty. In essence we present a mixed view of God, a wrathful Father and a compassionate Son.

What if by discipleship we talked about the God who is ultimately selfless, who is completely oriented toward others? A God who created a world for others and reveals Himself for others because He knows that life can only be found in a connection with Him the source of life. How much different would our discipleship be if our focus was on the gifts of God rather than assumed demands of God.

What would our discipleship be if we were reaching out to people to comfort them and support them and stimulate them in our churches and our communities? Would an “others” centered church make a homosexual or an agnostic feel comfortable to attend? Would an “others” centered church demand that only their theological view could be expressed or would it invite people to present their opinions and encourage everyone’s growth?

It seems to me we have taken the discipleship idea and turned it on its head. We are not focused on others we are focused upon making people conform to our self centered view of what a Christian should be. I prefer to think that God will make His disciples, we introduce them to our God, we stimulate their thinking and we support their growth until ultimately they feel called and comfortable to be His disciples. The Great commission is to introduce God to people via a self replicating system of people to people “other” centered relationships. But we still have to be real, we are by nature selfish so we will often fail to be “other” centered we are not perfect but we can be better, we can do better.

Let us stop preaching to people and start relating to people, they need it and we need it and Christianity needs it. Maybe the quote about being perfect from the Sermon on the Mount is about being complete (another word in Greek for perfection) that is have a relationship with the God who is reaching out to us and invites us to “let this mind of Christ be in you”. Complete, connected to God.