Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Lessons from Tim Jennings blog

I just read Tim Jennings blog and I wanted to point out the selective nature of people like Dr. Jennings. Their tendency to pull Ellen White quotes to make it appear she thought differently then the reality of what she wrote. He begin well by pointing out the idea that the Lesson study guide promotes as truth some rather nasty ideas about God. Here are some excerpts of his article.

Jesus - Angry Executioner or Baby of Bethlehem?

Friday, December 25 2009 11:25

Last weekend our class started the Lesson Guide for the New Year, The Fruit of the Spirit. I was so shocked by one paragraph from Thursday, December 31 that I had to blog about it. Here is the paragraph:

Between 1730 and 1745 the American colonies from Maine to Georgia experienced a religious revival known as the Great Awakening. Jonathan Edwards was a leader in this movement of spiritual renewal. In July of 1741 he preached a sermon entitled, “Sinners in the Hands of an Angry God,” which for some has become a symbol of the bleak, cruel, and hell-bent outlook of many Christians. However polemical, this sermon did express the truth about the awful weight of sin, the attitude of an infinitely holy God toward sin, and the surety of the day of judgment. [emphasis mine].

In case you are not familiar with the specific sermon cited above, here is an excerpt from Jonathan Edwards Sermon preached July 8, 1741:

[cut some of the Edward's quote]

It is everlasting wrath. It would be dreadful to suffer this fierceness and wrath of Almighty God one moment; but you must suffer it to all eternity. There will be no end to this exquisite horrible misery. When you look forward, you shall see a long for ever, a boundless duration before you, which will swallow up your thoughts, and amaze your soul; and you will absolutely despair of ever having any deliverance, any end, any mitigation, any rest at all. You will know certainly that you must wear out long ages, millions of millions of ages, in wrestling and conflicting with this almighty merciless vengeance; and then when you have so done, when so many ages have actually been spent by you in this manner, you will know that all is but a point to what remains. So that your punishment will indeed be infinite.

Do you find this sermon presents the “truth about the awful weight of sin, the attitude of an infinitely holy God toward sin, and the surety of a day of judgment”?

Let’s consider another Christian writer and speaker who came about 100 years after Jonathan Edwards. Below is Ellen White’s perspective on sin and God and judgment:

We are not to regard God as waiting to punish the sinner for his sin. The sinner brings the punishment upon himself. His own actions start a train of circumstances that bring the sure result. Every act of transgression reacts upon the sinner, works in him a change of character, and makes it more easy for him to transgress again. By choosing to sin, men separate themselves from God, cut themselves off from the channel of blessing, and the sure result is ruin and death. {1SM 235.2} [emphasis mine]

Does this sound like the same God that Jonathan Edwards was describing?

Jonathan Edwards describes a universe in which God is angry, wrathful, without mercy or pity and inflicts pain and immeasurable suffering upon His creatures. It is absolutely mind boggling that our Study Guide would quote such a grossly distorted representation of God as a “source of truth” about Him.

The Bible teaches that the wages of sin is death and sin, if unremedied results in death (Romans 6:23, James 1:15). But Jonathan Edwards describes an existence in which God is the source of death, the cause of suffering, the inflictor of torment. Nothing could be further from the truth. Satan is the father of lies and his primary lies are about God. If we believe Satan’s lies about God then we distrust God, fear Him and remain separated from Him.

While Jennings is correct in taking to task the lesson study guide he is in error with his use of Ellen White. Ellen White’s quote is not about end time judgment it is in fact talking about the consequences of sin in this life not in the Judgment after life which is what Edwards is talking about. Ellen White is writing about the 10 commandments. In context the Selected Messages quote says:

The law of ten commandments is not to be looked upon as much from the prohibitory side, as from the mercy side. Its prohibitions are the sure guarantee of happiness in obedience. As received in Christ, it works in us the purity of character that will bring joy to us through eternal ages. To the obedient it is a wall of protection. We behold in it the goodness of God, who by revealing to men the immutable principles of righteousness, seeks to shield them from the evils that result from transgression. {1SM 235.1}

We are not to regard God as waiting to punish the sinner for his sin. The sinner brings the punishment upon himself. His own actions start a train of circumstances that bring the sure result. Every act of transgression reacts upon the sinner, works in him a change of character, and makes it more easy for him to transgress again. By choosing to sin, men separate themselves from God, cut themselves off from the channel of blessing, and the sure result is ruin and death. {1SM 235.2}

The law is an expression of God's idea. When we receive it in Christ, it becomes our idea. It lifts us above the power of natural desires and tendencies, above temptations that lead to sin. "Great peace have they which love thy law: and nothing shall offend them" (Ps. 119: 165)-- cause them to stumble. {1SM 235.3}

There is no peace in unrighteousness; the wicked are at war with God. But he who receives the righteousness of the law in Christ is in harmony with heaven. "Mercy and truth are met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other" (Ps. 85: 10).--Letter 96, 1896. {1SM 235.4}

To properly compare Ellen White to Edwards on the subject of torment after judgment Jennings should have used statements which address that subject.

Then I saw thrones, and Jesus and the redeemed saints sat upon them; and the saints reigned as kings [ 291 ] and priests unto God. Christ, in union with His people, judged the wicked dead, comparing their acts with the statute book, the Word of God, and deciding every case according to the deeds done in the body. Then they meted out to the wicked the portion which they must suffer, according to their works; and it was written against their names in the book of death. Satan also and his angels were judged by Jesus and the saints. Satan's punishment was to be far greater than that of those whom he had deceived. His suffering would so far exceed theirs as to bear no comparison with it. After all those whom he had deceived had perished, Satan was still to live and suffer on much longer. {Early Writings 290.3}

Satan rushes into the midst of his followers and tries to stir up the multitude to action. But fire from God out of heaven is rained upon them, and the great men, and mighty men, the noble, the poor and miserable, are all consumed together. I saw that some were quickly destroyed, while others suffered longer. They were punished according to the deeds done in the body. Some were many days consuming, and just as long as there was a portion of them unconsumed, all the sense of suffering remained. Said the angel, "The worm of life shall not die; their fire shall not be quenched as long as there is the least particle for it to prey upon." {Early Writings 294.1}

There is certainly still a considerable difference between Edwards and White here. A difference in duration of the torture but does either one of them present an intelligent view of God? Edwards make little sense with God tormenting people for all eternity, a truly miraculous event but to what purpose? Then Ellen White presents a view of a shortened torture but again for what purpose? I am going to hurt you and then kill you, will that teach you a lesson or will that act as simple revenge? It won’t teach a lesson because you are going to be dead and if God is in the business of revenge then saying He is love would be false.

Friday, December 18, 2009

A Modern Worship Christmas

I was thinking how we Adventists generally don't do anything for Christmas Eve or Christmas day. So I thought I would propose something. It is probably not too late to try it this Christmas if someone's church feels they would like to try something different or they can take the idea and prepare for next year. Of course most people don't want to have some big program on Christmas Eve so they can spend most of their time with their families. So my idea is to have pretty much an automated program that could be simply run hourly (think how shocked the neighbors would be to see the Adventist church open on Christmas Eve).

So what I did was set modern Worship Music into the Luke nativity account. You can download it here. Use Winrar to uncompress the file you can download it here(though hopefully you all have the program by now.) As it turns out I think the music has a far more important message then the Biblical text but that is because the music can take all kinds of Bible information and but it in the song but the text just has to read in a linear fashion. Ideally I would want to combine the sound with visuals but that would take a lot of time and pictures. A simple decorated church could act nicely with lights and candles.

Now this is not meant to replace the traditional Christmas programs that many churches present. There will likely be some Christian church in the community that does have a special Christmas eve presentation and many others that have a presentation weeks before Christmas. This idea is more for the neighbors of the church. Possibly those who are going out to look at the lights. Perhaps the church could offer hot chocolate to people outside or inside if they have a fellowship hall before and after each hourly presentation.

Obviously not everyone likes the same kind of music. I chose Modern Worship music because it is similar to what most popular music is like, that is it is comfortable to the majority of people. Other choices could be made, from Country to jazz, the difficult part is finding music that connects somehow to the text in the narration.

Simply stated the idea is to enable your church to be open to your neighborhood on the most Christian of holiday's without the need for a large portion of the church membership to have to sacrifice their family time and without having to tax the most musically talented of the church. No indoctrination, just some simple Christmas joy to share with your community.

Friday, December 04, 2009

Adventism and Social Justice

Today in an article on the Spectrum Website entitled: Theological Harmony in New Orleans By Bonnie Dwyer, she reports on the joint meeting Adventist Theological Society and the Adventist Society for Religious Studies, the article states in the opening paragraph:

Adventism’s two theological society presidents agreed on the biblical call for social justice and the significance of Scripture on people’s lives during a historic session in which the two societies met to not only share a meal but to present ideas for discussion.

She does not define what “social justice” means and that is a problem. Today it is often a code word for redistribution of wealth through the government. As this article The Scandal of Social Work Education NAS Study says:

Use of the term "social justice" today generally equates with the advocacy of more egalitarian access to income through state-sponsored redistribution. The phrase is also frequently used to justify new entitlement rights for individuals and whole categories of people, i.e., legally enforceable claims of individuals or groups against the state itself. ("Economic justice" is even a stronger term, largely confined to populist and radical rhetoric.)

Here is a University of Wisconsin student newspaper’s definition of social justice in response to an article by Dr. Hansen mentioned who asserted social justice is misleading rhetoric.

Dr. Hansen’s article proposes, “until ‘social justice’ can be precisely and understandably defined, programs to promote this goal cannot hope to succeed.” Well, is it really that difficult to define it? Social justice is a system, a process, and an end result where all members of society have equal access to resources and benefit from them equally without regard to their identity, specifically race, gender, sexual orientation, ability, religion, class and age.

You notice that the student newspaper author describes the goal not the system. Socialism and communism are the two most commonly used systems or processes which claim to end with this utopian goal. We know from experience that neither system ends in the utopian goal however. Notice the newspaper author included “ability” in the list, let us assume that the government had a medical school. By the social justice definition above anyone could go and demand equal access to the resources and the benefit of the medical school education whether they had any ability or not. We could hope that the person with no ability would not graduate from the school…but if you can’t differentiate due to ability everyone needs to graduate. Achievement and ability mean nothing under this type of social justice.

As one comment I read says:

From Sharpton to Wright, social justice has come to mean redressing the wrongs of the past in the form of government benefits or reparations. The expression has a hint of retribution as in “you owe us.” In actuality, the words haven’t any real meaning. There are always those who grieve, and as long as the government attempts to satisfy those with a gripe, the plaintive cry for social justice will have irresistible appeal.

There is one other definition which we need to look at, from Business

Fair and proper administration of laws conforming to the natural law that all persons, irrespective of ethnic origin, gender, possessions, race, religion, etc., are to be treated equally and without prejudice. See also civil rights.

I guess if that is the definition that the two theological societies are agreeing upon that is good. They are agreeing upon the most basic idea or civil rights found in the latter half of the 20th century. Hardly a newsworthy proclamation unless one of those groups had been opposing civil rights. I think common sense tells us that that is not really the meaning of social justice that is intended, but we have to hold out that possibility sense those involved seem unable to define what they mean…thought when you can’t define your meaning the chances become much higher that the use is a code word otherwise why not define your terms.

In conclusion there is this comment from a blog article which is Christian related under the title “what do you mean by Social justice” Which pretty much says all I could want to say on the subject.

"Social justice" is a phrase currently often employed by "emergent church" types who, in their reaction to the Church's nonparticipation (actual or perceived) in the world, suddenly believe they're the only ones interested in helping the poor and feeding the hungry.

Apparently among many, these problems -- and the world entirely? -- are viewed to have begun yesterday. There's no perspective of history, the fact that people in both the Church and governments have been aware and trying to alleviate poverty before -- especially when it comes to the failed attempts of federal governments to overextend their constitutional (and worse, Biblical) bounds and take the place of the citizenry and religious institutions in terms of charity.

Among such "social justice" advocates, there's also very little perspective of the actual Scripture in these quasi-utopian visions, which indirectly contradict the Bible's portrayal of the rest of human history.

Christ-followers certainly disagree on what end-times events occur when, but there is (or was) an overall consensus against the notion that people would eradicate poverty, hunger, all that sort of thing, without Christ or at least before He comes back to take a look at our planetary renovations.

But now we're back to the same stuff -- and while it's very, very true that Christ-followers are to be a means of "common grace" toward the poor and abused among nonbelievers, this is not the be-all-and-end-all of the Gospel. "Social justice" is only an outgrowth: at the center should be the actual truths of God as Creator, humans as rebels against Him, and Christ as redeemed. Are these professing evangelicals using "social justice" as a means toward proclaiming the Gospel? Or do they operate completely the opposite?

As it is, many of them are advocating a clone religion of Christianity And, as His Utter Subliminity Screwtape (from C.S. Lewis's The Screwtape Letters) said is such an effective strategy. In this case, the "new" idea is Christianity And Social Justice -- and it's not so new, either; it's a mere strain of "liberation theology" liberalism that's somehow been accepted as legitimately evangelical. (10 Dr. Ransom at 10:52 AM on Jul 22:)

Wednesday, December 02, 2009

Alarmist Adventist Blogs

Sometimes I stumble upon really foolish Adventist blogs. Today I found a real case for remedial reading. The Blog entitled Theirmanygods which seems to have articles praising David Asscherick and Walter Veith has an article on Southern Adventist University. Here is what they say:

Southern Accent’s” issue for February 12 contained an article titled “Jesus is dead” which claimed to show that the teaching of the physical and tangible resurrection of Jesus was a rather late addition to Christian belief, one which was not shared by the earliest witnesses of Christianity, whose (possibly hallucinatory) belief was only of a spiritual and insubstantial resurrection." (Donn Leatherman School of Religion, Letters To Editor, Southern Accent,

Wow! The Adventist university's student paper put out a "proclamation" that "Jesus is dead".

When I first read this I thought they were saying that Donn Leatherman of the School of Theology was the one who wrote the article. In fact he wrote the article in response which pointed out several flaws in the Jesus is dead article. When we look at the Jesus is dead article in the online archives we see the following disclaimer.

Jesus is dead

Filed Under Religion

DISCLAIMER: This is not the official view of Southern Adventist University or The Southern Accent.
Look for the School of Religion’s response in next week’s Accent.

Shane Akerman | Contributor

The following submission is simply an expression of my personal views.

The intention is not to offend but to provoke thought and discussion. My hope is that this campus can be a safe place for tough questions and the sharing of ideas.

The link that was included in the Theirmanygods blog is the link to the School of religion’s response to the Shane Akerman article. Yet that somehow to the apparently unbalanced or at least severely prejudiced mind became a proclamation that Jesus is dead by the Adventist University’s student paper.

There is a serious question here besides the obvious one about alarmists blogs and that is how could anyone take Shane Akerman seriously when he spends that much money to go to a private Christian school when he believes Christianity is a based upon a lie (e.g. all the New Testament books hold to the idea of the resurrection and continued life of Christ). It does appear that the article did stimulate some thought which is important because some of these issues don’t get enough attention even at Christian schools and students should know what the arguments and presuppositions of atheist and agnostics are. Having an article written by someone who actually believes what he is saying is often more memorable than just reciting the standard atheist and agnostic objections. I don’t think we have to believe everything the Bible says, but if the religion’s core is false, if there is no resurrection, if there is no Jesus Christ who is God than Christianity has nothing.

Monday, November 30, 2009

Brooks wants his church back

There are some in the Adventist Church who have noted that they wish every Adventist could hear the sermon by C. D. Brooks entitled “I want my church back”. So I will examine some of the statements from that sermon and see where they take us, taken from the text published on Adventist Affirm.

1. We are now facing an unusual time in which those on the inside of our church are questioning our distinctive teachings and doctrines more than those who despise us. Many of us are walking away from the mandate that God gave to us.

You will note that at the beginning of the printed edition of the sermon a theme that will run through the sermon. God has given the Adventist church a mandate…a message, a set of distinctive teachings and doctrines.

That is a powerful argument if it is true. Can we demonstrate that God actually gave the Adventist church a mandate of doctrines? The answer of course is no, we cannot demonstrate that, we can only believe that. Is that belief correct however? If it is correct then there is no point in questioning our distinctive teachings. That is the presupposition that the sermon author and most traditional Adventists begin with. Presuppositions can be dangerous however, what is the basis for the presupposition, that is an important questions and frankly it has to be dealt with as it is never safe to simply have faith in ones presuppositions. The Bible asks us to have faith in God, not our presuppositions or even our interpretations of the Bible. Faith in God is very different than faith in our message, our doctrines or our belief that we have the “truth”.

2. My dear fellow workers, I want to tell you today, that one of the powerful keys to success and power in our churches and our pulpits and in our evangelism is resolute faithfulness to the word of God, and to the message God has given to us to preach!

As is frequently the case with Preachers they act as if the “word of God” carries no elements of interpretation, either culturally, historically or symbolically. They exhort the need to be faithful to the word of God by which they usually mean the Bible (though some Adventists would include Ellen G. White in the word of God category). Yet we know very well that they have no intention of remaining faithful to the instructions of the Bible. The Bible says that Sabbath breakers, and rebellious children and adulterers should be executed. It tells us to not mix seeds in our fields, to not wear garments out of different kinds of cloth, to wear fringes etc. Are those things part of the message God has given us to preach? If not why not, if not how do this proponents of the “word of God” determine what is the message God has given us to preach? It appears he is back to his presupposition again.

3. We must preach our message. All of it! There are forces that seem to be dismantling what was so laboriously put together under the indispensable aid of the Holy Ghost. There is a picture of erudition which we carelessly call scholarship, but which is more scholasticism. Ellen White says its as certain that we have the truth as that God lives. She spoke of a platform of truth. She knew that we’d always be gathering sources and resources, but she said, "Don’t get off the platform." The Holy Spirit is not one to foster confusion, and He does not divide the saints. He may bring separation from the mixed multitude, but not from the saints.

I think within the first few paragraphs we can see where he is going. Ellen White is our message, we have no need for scholarship we have Ellen White. Whatever Ellen White said is the truth that we have, Ellen White acts as the Holy Spirit to us, we as the church should be drawn together by teaching the things that Ellen White revealed. Whether they agree with the Bible or whether they make sense or whether they were based upon the beliefs of her day is unimportant because Ellen White was the agent of the Holy Spirit, clearly he is part of the Ellen White is the word of God crowd. At this point let us define scholasticism. Since I am not a Preacher I can actually help people learn rather than pretend I am simply telling them what God wants. The Wikipedia defines:

Scholasticism is derived from the Latin word scholasticus (Greek: σχολαστικός)[1], which means "that [which] belongs to the school," and was a method of learning taught by the academics (scholastics, school people, or schoolmen) of medieval universities circa 1100–1500. Scholasticism originally began as an attempt to reconcile ancient classical philosophy with medieval Christian theology. Scholasticism was not a philosophy or theology in itself, but rather a tool or method for learning that places emphasis on dialectical reasoning. The primary purpose of scholasticism was to find the answer to questions and resolve contradictions. Scholasticism is most well-known for its application in medieval theology, but was eventually applied to many other fields of study.”

In effect Brooks is telling us don’t question, don’t try to solve contradictions, don’t be involved in the dialog of different ideas. We have the correct ideas from Ellen White, who, because he believes she was simply giving us what the Holy Spirit said all we have to do, is do what she said, believe what she says to believe.

That is what this is really all about. Traditional Adventism has like Brooks reveals in this sermon a cultic view of Ellen White as the voice of the Holy Spirit giving us as he says: “In the writings of Ellen G. White, that inside information which God sent just to us,..” So not only is it insider information it was sent to only Adventists, not to the whole of Christianity just to Adventists. This is a type of Adventist Gnosticism, where Adventists alone have the secret knowledge (gnosis). Again he maintains a presupposition that is based upon Adventist tradition not upon real evidence.

4. Guide. Some of what they’re doing is because they don’t know any better. We’ve got to guide them concerning where they ought to go, what they ought to do, what they ought to wear, what they ought to think. And we ought to do it with the Word of God and the Spirit of Prophecy.

5. A young woman who had always been friendly came to church loaded down with jewelry. When I approached her, ready to speak, she wouldn’t even look at me. She avoided me. She couldn’t be friendly as usual. No wonder our churches are turning cold! It’s because our members remain guilt-ridden and insecure and not sure of what they really stand for. They hear about easy divorce, about moral falls even in the ministry, Sabbaths on the golf course, or on the bicycle trail, or at the beach, theater-going, attacks on Ellen G. White. What’s happening amongst us?

Notice the greater portion of his problem revolves around Ellen White, her Sabbatarian ideas, her recreation ideas her ideas about jewelry and naturally those who question Ellen White.

We need to finally come to the understanding that there is a segment of Adventism who holds a very cultic view of Ellen White, who fails to acknowledge her errors, refuse to acknowledge what the Adventist church does acknowledge about her literary borrowing and acknowledge that much of her work was in fact the teachings of her own Methodist traditions. Those traditions took on new importance because of the assumption that Ellen White was speaking for God. As such ideas which were never Biblically based, such as not wearing jewelry or what one can and cannot do on the Sabbath (Puritan ideas) became incorporated into the Adventist church as if they were really from the Bible, because there were people who applied to Ellen White the idea that her words were the words of God.

Brooks may say that he wants his church back. I say I want the Christian church back. The church based upon a reasoned view of God, a church that is willing to dialog with other ideas within the Christian community. A church that seeks to learn rather than thinks they know it all. A church not build upon the traditions of some 19th century special Adventist prophet. A church that learns how to take the good and leave the bad from other prominent Christian as well as our own prominent Adventists.

My fear is that Brooks will get his church back and it will sink into the type of cultic sectarianism that Dr. Walter Martin saved the SDA church from in the latter part of the 1950’s. After all there is no dialog with the traditional Adventists like Brooks. Those who disagree are agents of the Devil or working in concert with the devil. This by the way is a major part of the sermon, dealing with music, naturally based upon obscure presuppositions where according to Brooks the devil says: “Then let’s talk about Christian jazz and religious gospel rock. They are contradictions of terms, you see.”

I really want to say to him take his church back, but for the damage that he does to the cause of Christ with his view of God and his view of the church. It may be there is a place in the religious world for those who think that they have all the answers and that such a fictional assurance is needed by them and their followers. There are so many different types of people in the world and some probably can’t tolerate rational thought or scholarship etc. So maybe we need to save a section of Adventism for those people. But I would hate to see the whole church organization move in that direction; though today the agitation to do exactly that seems to have once again renewed itself.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Rise and Fall of Intellectual Christianity

The Rise and Fall of Intellectual Christianity

The word intellectual when not prefaced by the term “pointed headed,” reflects by definition the use of one’s intellect over emotion or experience. It is by and large in Western society the legacy of early Christianity. The Christian faith is built upon the books written by people after the time of Christ. Jesus wrote no words for us to quote or they would surely have become the Scripture to all Christians. There was no shortage of books about Jesus or about Christians in those first three centuries of the Common Era. There were many literary works with many differing views of God and Jesus Christ.

In the second century Marcion edited and presented his own view of what the Christian canon should be well before the proto orthodox (those who were the first to hold to what would become orthodox Christianity and then compiled a more standardized Christian belief) decided that a canon was a good idea. Marcion’s canon included several books by Paul and an edited version of something very similar to Luke’s Gospel minus the first few chapters. Marcion was a member of the Gnostic form of Christianity. As such the God of Jesus Christ and the God of the Old Testament were two different Gods and as with many Gnostic’s Jesus was not man or God/man He was a spirit, a phantom who only appeared to be a man. We know about Marcion because of what the Early Church Fathers wrote about him, we have none of his writings but we have a good number of other Gnostic writings many found in Nag Hammadi in 1945. Examples of Gnostic writing include the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Truth. Those being the most readable but by no means cover all the Gnostic or other works from the early centuries of Christianity. Recently the news has told us about the new find called The Gospel of Judas. The debates in the first 400 years of the early church dealt with what today some call the “Lost Gospels”. It was from the Early Church Father’s writings until the find at Nag Hammadi that the Gnostic views were known. It was up to the Early Church Fathers to deal with those works and we can still read of their intellectual arguments.

The Early Church Fathers and even the Gnostic Christians were intellectuals. They used literary works to argue their position against the Gnostics and we have even seen Gnostic literary work that argues against the proto orthodox form of Christianity. The very literature we have today can often be traced back to these intellectual debates in early Christianity. Even the very simply logical idea of context of written material was decided by Christian argumentation. What is common sense to us today was part of the battle ground of the intellectual processes of our early Christian fathers. Today we would likely laugh at many of the arguments that some of the Early Church Fathers used. Yet the encapsulation of the Christian Canon was based upon years of Christian debate; arguments, rebuttals and appeals to reason. However these Christians show us intellectual debate does not remove God from the process. God must act upon the human mind; it is the point of contact between the transcendent God and the physical man; the nexus between the spirit of man and the Spirit of God.

Intellectual Christianity takes work and as time passed it became easier to merely follow religious institutions. Man by his nature is often lazy and seeks the path of least resistance. Not all men of course, for the Christian church could never have been founded by lazy men and women. As orthodox Christianity grew and spread so did the power of the church. With time intellectual Christianity diminished. The Protestant Reformation gave renewed hope to Christianity as the intellectual Christians began to question what tradition had done to the orthodox Christian religion. The Bible as the accepted standard, again took center stage and intellectual Christians championed new ways of understanding the messages that God had inspired. The mind, perhaps God’s greatest handiwork was used by God through the agency of intellectual Christians to rehabilitate the Christian church from the damage done by tradition. When emotion and experience based upon tradition were opposed by the God enabled intellectuals, the church changed.

Protestants today are in need of intellectual Christianity as much as any other time in history. The intellectual activity of our predecessors does not automatically flow to us. Their wisdom and their folly are there to be seen and learned from by those willing to process the information. Protestant heritage includes great minds; men and women of great accomplishments. But to use our intellectual faculties we have to make decisions that likely will lead us away from traditions which were not well founded. Not all emotion, experience or tradition is contrary to intellectual process. But it is the intellectual process that evaluates emotion, experience and tradition deciding what to keep and what to discard. History is less a guide and more a milepost; a sign to the ever vigilant and a message to those who desire understanding.

As the Adventist church stands at a point where it must decide to cling to tradition or accept intellectual Christian challenges, so also must other Protestant churches. The term Evangelical at one time meant the idea of a church spreading the good news of God found in the four gospels. Today the term has come to mean the same as fundamentalist. Evangelical now means people who hold to the Bible as inerrant, infallible and holding to a strictly vicarious atonement, scientifically and socially out of step with reasonable people. While a Christian may not worry too much about what the world says of them (realizing that as Jesus said the world would reject His followers as it rejected Him). Still there may be some truth to those who now use the word Evangelical as derogatory.

The intellectual Christians that built up the church are becoming less and less visible. Today many of the large Protestant churches have abandoned the long held Protestant church practice of Sunday school. Many churches offer little opportunities for adults to interact with one another in the discussion of religious topics. Cell groups, the popular innovation of the last 20 years are sometimes so authoritarian that questioning a leader is not even allowed. Singing and Sermons have become the main form of religious instruction in today’s Protestant churches with the exception of Televangelists. Divergent views and questions have no place in today’s modern Christian churches. While Adventist churches have not abandoned the Sabbath school program it may be so poorly attended or conducted that it often becomes hard to find a Sabbath school that one feels comfortable presenting a differing view or posing serious questions.

The reason for this situation is very likely that today’s Protestants, as well as Adventists, have accepted the idea that his or her church has “The Truth”. The truth is being preached and there is nothing anyone needs to question or challenge. To challenge and question is what the atheists and the worldly folk do, it is not what we Christians do. It is the decline and fall of the Christian intellectual as the traditional once again gains ascendancy. It is possibly a new Dark Ages at a critical time for Christianity, with the concurrent lack of viability of Christianity in Europe and Canada and the attacks of progressive secularism in America. For Christianity to survive outside of the uneducated third world intellectual Christianity must be maintained. It is something that the Adventist church must fight for; it is something our Sabbath schools must fight for. Sabbath or Sunday schools are a good indication of how well members are assimilated in a church, equally importantly however they are vital to intellectual Christians. Stimulating the thinking process and spurring continued study and application of knowledge.

The Christian church has a long history of argument. The arguments are recorded in the New Testament book of Acts and the writings of Paul. Several New Testament authors warn of the false teachers of the day. Truth and error have always existed inside the Christian Church; even the very godly can produce error and error repeated can become tradition. Christian Intellectuals may not be in agreement, they may even argue in Sabbath school and be critical of their own churches, but it is all a part of the process of thinking and applying knowledge. Christian Intellectuals believe that God will lead them into all truth, as the Bible says. However, since throughout history we have not arrived at all truth it is not likely that we will arrive at all truth today or tomorrow. We are all works in progress, and it is our faith in God manifested in Jesus Christ that maintains our unity even during the disagreements.

* This is an article from my website which I was reminded of this past week or two so I thought I would post it here.

Saturday, November 21, 2009

What did Paul mean by Die Daily

One of my frustrations is the way some people make declarative statements with great confidence that are both historically untrue as well as being Biblically untrue. For example here is how it was used today in the Sabbath School Class I attended this morning. This is taken from Larry Kirkpatrick’s article on his Great Controversy Website:

After all, in 1 Corinthians 15:31 Paul says: I die daily. Is this your experience too? Every Christian needs to die daily. Did you die to self this morning? Are you converted anew as of this morning?

Another blog says:

The desires we have are not excuses to endulge, they are simply a result of our fallen state. To follow God means to choose to deny self. Paul said "I die daily."
Victory can be won, through Christ, over all out sinful desires, whatever they may be.

This type of non contextual method of interpretation has lead many Adventists to assert that Paul when he uses the expression “I die daily”, quite apart from the context of danger as he preaches the gospel to some type of metaphysical death to self daily.

Here is the text in question first from the King James Version and then from the NIV to show that there is really no significant difference between translations.

KJV 1 Cor 15:29-32

29 Else what shall they do which are baptized for the dead, if the dead rise not at all? why are they then baptized for the dead?

30 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?

31 I protest by your rejoicing which I have in Christ Jesus our Lord, I die daily.

32 If after the manner of men I have fought with beasts at Ephesus, what advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? let us eat and drink; for to morrow we die.(KJV)

NIV 1 Cor 15:29-32

29 Now if there is no resurrection, what will those do who are baptized for the dead? If the dead are not raised at all, why are people baptized for them?

30 And as for us, why do we endanger ourselves every hour?

31 I die every day-- I mean that, brothers-- just as surely as I glory over you in Christ Jesus our Lord.

32 If I fought wild beasts in Ephesus for merely human reasons, what have I gained? If the dead are not raised, "Let us eat and drink, for tomorrow we die."(NIV)

Clearly Paul is referring to his life being endangered. But where do SDA’s get the idea that Paul is dying daily to self. It is from Ellen White’s misinterpretation of 1 Cor. 15:31.

Addressed to Two Young Men

Last December I was shown the dangers and temptations of youth. The two younger sons of Father O need to be converted. They need to die daily to self. Paul, the faithful apostle, had a fresh experience daily. He says: "I die daily." This is exactly the experience that these young men need. They are in danger of overlooking present duty and of neglecting the education that is essential for practical life. They regard education in books as the all-important matter to be attended to in order to make life a success. 3T.221.003 (Testimonies Vol. 3 p. 221)

The Lord requires us to be submissive to His will, subdued by His Spirit, and sanctified to His service. Selfishness must be put away, and we must overcome every defect in our characters as Christ overcame. In order to accomplish this work, we must die daily to self. Said Paul: "I die daily." He had a new conversion every day, took an advance step toward heaven. To gain daily victories in the divine life is the only course that God approves. The Lord is gracious, of tender pity, and plenteous in mercy. He knows our needs and weaknesses, and He will help our infirmities if we only trust in Him and believe that He will bless us and do great things for us. (Testimonies Vol. 4 page 66)

The life of the apostle Paul was a constant conflict with self. He said, "I die daily." 1 Corinthians 15:31. His will and his desires every day conflicted with duty and the will of God. Instead of following inclination, he did God's will, however crucifying to his nature. (The Ministry of Healing page 452)

The Lord would have us submissive to his will, and sanctified to his service. Selfishness must be put away, with every other defect in our characters. There must be a daily death to self. Paul had this experience. He said, "I die daily." Every day he had a new conversion; every day he took an advance step toward Heaven. We, too, must gain daily victories in the divine life, if we would enjoy the favor of God. (Signs of the Times Mar. 1887 page 3)

You will notice that this view is not at all the message in Paul, as the Expositor’s Bible Commentary says:

30-32 Another argument for the resurrection is that if it is not true, then suffering and hardship for the sake of Christ are useless. By "endangering ourselves every hour," Paul seems to be alluding to peril looming up in his ministry in Ephesus (cf. Acts 19), where he was when he wrote 1 Corinthians. He is in danger of death every day (v. 31). He seals this assertion with the oath (Greek, ne, "I mean that, brothers") that this is as true as the fact that he glories over them and over their union with Christ. Paul's reference to fighting with wild beasts in Ephesus (v. 32) may be taken literally or figuratively. But since from Acts 19 we see no evidence of such punishment and since it was questionable whether a Roman citizen would be subjected to such treatment, it is best to take the words metaphorically--the human enemies he fought with at Ephesus were like wild beasts. But, Paul says, why go through all this suffering if there is no hope of resurrection? To prove his point, he first quotes Isaiah 22:13, (possibly for the benefit of the Jewish believers at Corinth) from a context of reckless living that the Lord condemns. So without eternal hope through the resurrection, men have nothing to turn to but gratification of their appetites.

From some readily available internet commentaries:

The New John Gill Exposition of the Entire Bible

1 Corinthians 15:30

And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?
Not only they that have suffered martyrdom for the faith of Christ, and for this article of it, have acted very injudiciously and indiscreetly; but we, also, who are on the spot, whether ministers or private Christians, must be highly blameworthy, who continually expose ourselves to dangers, and are for Christ's sake killed all the day long, are every moment liable to innumerable injuries, tortures and death; who in his senses would act such a part, if there is no resurrection of the dead? such, as they must be of all men the most miserable, so of all men the most stupid.

The 1599 Geneva Study Bible

15:30 16 And why stand we in jeopardy every hour?

(16) The sixth argument: unless there is a resurrection of the dead, why should the apostles so daily cast themselves into danger of so many deaths?

Matthew Henry Complete Commentary
on the Whole Bible

And his next is as plain to us. IV. He argues from the absurdity of his own conduct and that of other Christians upon this supposition, 1. It would be a foolish thing for them to run so many hazards (v. 30): "Why stand we in jeopardy every hour? Why do we expose ourselves to continual peril-we Christians, especially we apostles?’’ Every one knows that it was dangerous being a Christian, and much more a preacher and an apostle, at that time. "Now,’’ says the apostle, "what fools are we to run these hazards, if we have no better hopes beyond death, if when we die we die wholly, and revive no more!’’ Note, Christianity were a foolish profession if it proposed no hopes beyond this life, at least in such hazardous times as attended the first profession of it; it required men to risk all the blessings and comforts of this life, and to face and endure all the evils of it, without any future prospects. And is this a character of his religion fit for a Christian to endure? And must he not fix this character on it if he give up his future hopes, and deny the resurrection of the dead? This argument the apostle brings home to himself: "I protest,’’ says he, "by your rejoicing in Jesus Christ, by all the comforts of Christianity, and all the peculiar succours and supports of our holy faith, that I die daily,’’ v. 31. He was in continual danger of death, and carried his life, as we say, in his hand. And why should he thus expose himself, if he had no hopes after life? To live in daily view and expectation of death, and yet have no prospect beyond it, must be very heartless and uncomfortable, and his case, upon this account, a very melancholy one. He had need be very well assured of the resurrection of the dead, or he was guilty of extreme weakness, in hazarding all that was dear to him in this world, and his life into the bargain. He had encountered very great difficulties and fierce enemies; he had fought with beasts at Ephesus (v. 32), and was in danger of being pulled to pieces by an enraged multitude, stirred up by Demetrius and the other craftsmen (Acts 19:24, etc.), though some understand this literally of Paul’s being exposed to fight with wild beasts in the amphitheatre, at a Roman show in that city. And Nicephorus tells a formal story to this purport, and of the miraculous complaisance of the lions to him when they came near him. But so remarkable a trial and circumstance of his life, methinks, would not have been passed over by Luke, and much less by himself, when he gives us so large and particular a detail of his sufferings, 2 Co. 11:24, ad fin. When he mentioned that he was five times scourged of the Jews, thrice beaten with rods, once stoned, thrice shipwrecked, it is strange that he should not have said that he was once exposed to fight with the beasts. I take it, therefore, that this fighting with beasts is a figurative expression, that the beasts intended were men of a fierce and ferine disposition, and that this refers to the passage above cited. "Now,’’ says he, "what advantage have I from such contests, if the dead rise not? Why should I die daily, expose myself daily to the danger of dying by violent hands, if the dead rise not? And if post mortem nihilif I am to perish by death, and expect nothing after it, could any thing be more weak?’’ Was Paul so senseless? Had he given the Corinthians any ground to entertain such a thought of him? If he had not been well assured that death would have been to his advantage, would he, in this stupid manner, have thrown away his life? Could any thing but the sure hopes of a better life after death have extinguished the love of life in him to this degree? "What advantageth it me, if the dead rise not? What can I propose to myself?’’

John Wesley's Explanatory Notes on the Whole Bible

Verse 30. Why are we - The apostles. Also in danger every hour - It is plain we can expect no amends in this life. Verse 31. I protest by your rejoicing, which I have - Which love makes my own. I die daily - I am daily in the very jaws of death. Beside that I live, as it were, in a daily martyrdom.

If this subject is ever brought up to a Traditional Adventist they generally will have no answer or their answer will be something to the effect that if he was willing to die then he must have been unselfish and being unselfish means that he was daily dieing to self. Which is the classic way of reading information into the text (eisegesis) rather then letting the text speak for itself (exegesis). The funny thing is that as many times as this is explained to Adventists they often will revert to the Ellen White usage rather than the Biblical usage. The idea of dying to self is pretty hard to accept no matter how someone tries to explain it. The best thing is that Biblically there is no need to be telling people they have to die to self. If you want to tell people it is hard to follow Christ that is fine use the text about taking up your cross and following Christ.

Then Jesus said to his disciples, "If anyone would come after me, he must deny himself and take up his cross and follow me. (Mat 16:24 NIV)

In that case you are not dying to self you are discipling yourself, choosing to follow Christ rather than going your own way. Or if you want to talk about killing your “old man” there is a text for that.

Knowing this, that our old man is crucified with him, that the body of sin might be destroyed, that henceforth we should not serve sin. For he that is dead is freed from sin. (Rom 6:6 -7 KJV)

In any case if the point one wants to make is that following God is not simply doing as you please there are abundant legitimate texts that can be used which are contextually speaking of the subject. There is no need to rip a text out of its context to make the point. Because in fact a text taken out of context is a pretext and ultimately you are not even making a point. Unless of course you are trying to make the point to people who already believe as you do and who take things out of context as much as you do. But in all honesty what is the point of that? Sometime you are going to have to face the people who don’t believe as you do, the people who won’t accept pretexts, why not learn to speak to them properly now and speak to others in our congregations properly within the context of the scriptures now.