Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, December 05, 2008

Thinking Adventists

Clifford Goldstein writes in his blog entitled Will the Real Thinking Adventist Please Stand up? Part Two (subscription only) about his agreement with Dale Ratzlaff’s statement in Proclamation Magazine. Here is the paragraph from the letters section response that impressed Cliff:

We understand the disappointment and even sadness that you carry as a result of some of your experiences within Adventism. Second, we reiterate the fact that we did not leave Adventism because of hurts or disappointments. We all studied independently. Further, we did not only leave historic Adventism; we also left liberal Adventism that demeans the law, the atonement of Christ, the complete reliability of Scripture, and the sovereign authority of God including His wrath.

Goldstein believes along with Ratzlaff that the Progressive Adventists are those who demean the law, the atonement the reliability of Scripture and the authority of God including His wrath. He writes:

Let’s look, for example, at what the so called “thinking” Adventist does with the “complete reliability of Scripture.” I recently had an article on Daniel 2 in the Review (Oct 16, 2008). Just good old, Daniel 2, kind of a cornerstone of Adventist prophecy. Well, on another blog, one filled with “thinking” Adventists, a blogger went ballistic, attacking the article because I actually was so closed minded to believe what the texts themselves say about when the book was written.

I mean, how could I be so stupid, so narrow, that when the Daniel says--“And in the second year of the reign of Nebuchadnezzar, Nebuchadnezzar dreamed dreams, wherewith his spirit was troubled, and his sleep brake from him” (Daniel 2:1) or that “In the first year of Belshazzar king of Babylon Daniel had a dream and visions of his head upon his bed: then he wrote the dream, and told the sum of the matters” (Danel 7:1)--I actually believe it? What a non-thinking Adventist I must be!

The blogger noted that there is a good deal of scholarship that places the writing of the book of Daniel between 167 and 164 B.C. Apparently the Bible tells us the date of the writing of books therein. You can’t find those texts however because in fact the Bible generally does not tell us when something was written. We of course don’t even know if the stories necessarily happened or not. Is the story of Jonah or Job based on literal historical occurrences or not. In fact what Goldstein assumes is the real problem. He assumes the book of Daniel was written at the time of the stories in the book. Who knows what reason Daniel then wrote it in a third person perspective.

If the reliability of scriptures is based upon the assumption and traditions then it is not really a case of reliability anymore. It is a case of presuppositions that others may disagree with, as in this case because of numerous reasons a later date for Daniel is indicated. Does this mean that it is somehow trying to denigrate miracles? Well about the only miracle that would be affected would be that the book contains a prophecy of the rise of three kingdoms. Not much of a miracle when you consider that 3 of those kingdoms arose during the period of time that the book covers, the nations being mentioned in the book. Now the other aspect is that people think the book very accurately describes Antiochus Epiphanies. But as an Adventist Goldstein would not care about that because Adventism denies Antiochus as being a fulfillment anyway. And the abomination of desolation as spoken of by Christ would not be affected whether it was written 500 years earlier or not. So even using a later date for the book would not change any of its important prophecies.

Goldstein concludes with this:

The so called “thinking” Adventist is, really, nothing more than a product of the times: the times says this, the “thinking” Adventist thinks this; the times says that, the “thinking” Adventist thinks that. In contrast, the real thinking Adventist steps back, looks at the big picture, has seen in the past how following the times has led folks (and church) astray, and is determined through God’s grace not to fall into the same trap.

Goldstein is trying to put down “thinking” Adventists because they are a product of their education rather then being the product of a church tradition. Unless you hold tightly to a tradition you are bound to be a product of your times. In our case we are products of our time, the information age. Knowledge is more freely accessible now then any time in history. The question then is how one uses the knowledge. The use of knowledge is often termed wisdom, so even though Goldstein likes to belittle Progressive Adventists as dupes who are not thinkers at all while those who hold to tradition are the real thinkers he does a poor job of making the case. After all someone who calls light darkness and evil good has a real selling job to do.

What about Ratzlaff’s other statements; is Progressive Adventism really out to demean the law, the atonement, the reliability of Scripture and the authority of God including His wrath. We would have to ask for some specifics here to really understand what he means. By law does he mean we don’t believe that the Sabbath has to be Saturday or that we must not light a fire or use electricity on the Sabbath. Do we demean the law if we don’t follow it the ways the orthodox Jews do? Who knows what he means, as far as I know he no longer does church on Saturday and instead worships on Sunday and I am sure he does not want us to be stoning people to death as some of the laws prescribed.

The atonement comment is more easily puzzled out. Most of Christianity has come to accept the Penal/Substitutionary Atonement theory which grew out of the Satisfaction theory 300- to 400 years ago. No other atonement theory is acceptable to these people so if you don’t follow their atonement theory you must not believe in atonement. Thus if you don’t believe that God poured out His wrath upon Jesus at the cross you demean atonement.

I have already went over some of the reliability of Scripture on Daniel, no doubt when people hold to tradition they can’t see any possibility of anything other then earth created 6000 years ago as so famously demonstrated by Usher’s Genesis chronology. Reliability of Scripture is really based upon their presupposition that Scripture was only meant to express literal historical events no matter the problems that come along with such expectations. And finally the authority and wrath of God. Again based upon their tradition that God says obey me or I will kill you. Or the ever popular but thankfully becoming less popular, obey me or I will torture you forever and ever amen. As the bumper sticker says, “God is coming again and boy is He mad”.

So I am guilty of being a thinking Christian, not the kind of thinking that Clifford Goldstein espouses thankfully. I am still a Progressive Adventist though who knows how long that I can remain Adventist with people like Goldstein trying to run things. Maybe when those Traditional Adventists actually start discussions with a modicum of intelligence we can get some where, right now they work under the rubric:

“If you don’t agree with us as Traditional Adventists you don’t believe in Scripture, you don’t believe in atonement you don’t believe in God. “

My recent experience at my local church verifies it all too well.


Anonymous said...

Personally, I wouldn't give Ratzlaff or Goldstein the time of day.

Dick Larsen

Todd G said...

I think we should be neither a product of our education or a product of our church tradition, instead we should be a product of God, being a new creation in Him. Our education, traditions, and new ideas should bow down before Him...for as high as the heavens are above the earth, so are His thoughts above our thoughts.

God bless.