Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, August 14, 2009

From Enemies to Friends Gallagher sermons

Jonathan Gallagher has posted a series of sermons he gave at Quesnel, British Columbia, August 8, 2009. There are a couple of noteworthy things about these sermons. First it shows how nice is it to have a copy of a sermon which was the subject of last months post entitle Why not publish sermons and second it covers much of the ground on the problem of substitutionary atonement theory and the better view of the moral influence view of the atonement also a recent blog posted here. Gallagher does not use the term moral influence but it is substantially what he is talking about. You can read the sermons, and I recommend you do, in the following 3 parts:
From Enemies to Friends 1
From Enemies to Friends 2
From Enemies to Friends 3

The largest difference I have with Gallagher and Graham Maxwell is developed by their use of Ellen White. We can sum it up by a couple of quotes from Gallagher's sermon 2.

Universe-wide reconciliation

Here we see the bigger picture. For up to now we have been primarily concerned about ourselves, and our salvation—God changing us from enemies to friends. But there is much more than just our salvation at stake. The conflict between God and Satan has a cosmic aspect to it—for the war began in heaven (Rev. 12:7). Even those angels that remained loyal to God surely had many questions, and in God’s wisdom he chooses to work not from claims but through demonstration. So the Cross answers far more than just issues about our situation—it impacts the whole universe-wide controversy over God and his actions raised by Satan the Accuser. So God chooses to make his nature clear, and explain himself and his character through the gift of himself. In this way he reconciles the whole universe:

Through the Son, then, God decided to bring the whole universe back to himself. God made peace through his Son’s blood on the cross and so brought back to himself all things, both on earth and in heaven. Colossians 1:20 TEV.

In fact this might read better “both those on earth and those in heaven.” At which point some may object that those in heaven do not need the atonement—understood as paying some penalty or making amends. But that is not the original meaning—for the word was first used to describe true at-one-ment, and you cannot be truly at one until the controversy is settled and the questions answered. (The NIV uses the term “reconcile”—and in fact the word is actually “completely reconcile,” showing the total extent of the reconciliation needed).

This is why they often call their view the "Larger View" or the "Great Controversy view". It is based upon the assumption that loyal angels have questions about God. He phrases it as surely they had questions but of course we have no indication that they had or have questions, they may well have answers. The Bible of course is not written from the perspective of angels of which we know hardly anything. It is written about man and God, angels are the messengers of God. So when the verse talks about reconciling the things of earth with the things of heaven that is what it means the things of man's domain with the things of God's domain. That is the common interpretation, assuming that it is meant to answer angels questions about God is to use eisegesis placing that idea into the text rather than reading what the text is really trying to say. Clearly the holy angels...the messengers of God are not in need of reconciliation with God. From what the Bible says they live with God, they serve God and they are not in rebellion against God, those who did rebel got kicked out. You don't need to be reconciled if you are never separated.

I do have a theory as to why they feel the need to include these extra biblical ideas into their atonement theory. My theory is that they feel they have to include Ellen White into the mix to make it appear that they are good little Adventists. Good Adventists quote Ellen White so they seek areas that they can quote her because they know that they are also going against what Ellen White says in favor of the Penal Atonement and substitutionary atonement. So they reference the angels questions or as Graham Maxwell does he references the blood thirsty characteristics of the angels in his article addressed here; Response to Graham Maxwell's Great Controversy View The quote from Maxwell's interview article is:

Soon you come to the Flood, where God drowned all but eight. That would seem to be a pretty clear demonstration, and to loyal angels that was the thing to do. Amens (though surely, solemn ones) rang through heaven when he drowned that bunch. "That's the way to do it!" Except afterwards they found it hadn't won a soul. Instead, necessary as it was, it turned the human race against God more than ever, and they built a tower to escape him. "Not by might, nor by power" the angels learned as one thing from the Flood. Though they were at the moment rather satisfied, it appears, and waited for God to do it again.

At least I assume he arrives at this from Ellen White, I will not take the time to find her quote on the subject. But it demonstrates the difference between the moral influence view and the extra biblical view that is attached to the moral influence view to create the "larger view". It may be that many or most Adventists are not capable of advancing past their dependence upon Ellen White. Graham Maxwell and Gallagher are attempting to wean Adventists away from the more harmful elements of their traditional religious views. So I don't want to be too strenuous in my complaints. Because really what does it matter what they think that angels are saying in heaven through history or if they think that the atonement is directed at angels also. It does not really change anything in regard to the atonement for human beings. Maybe it will have the benefit of helping people to see that you can't take everything Ellen White says as true also. My personal preference is to simply leave her out of the whole atonement theory argument. Because frankly it makes no sense that God wanted us to wait 1800 years for someone to really explain the atonement to us.


Bulworth said...

The Maxwell quote is interesting. Aside from the business about the bloodthirsty angels--of which I think your concerns are quite valid--he dares to speculate, to reason a bit, concerning the ultimate value of the Flood. And he suggests that it wasn't of much value at all, and that perhaps it even had disasterous if unintended consequences for mankind's rebellion.

I would add that it is interesting to me that in the matter of the tower of Babel, God responds, not with fire or with a flood or total destruction of any kind, but with a simple mechanism intended, it would seem, to simply scatter the people so they wouldn't be hanging all together to make mischief.

Maybe the Bible shows God learning a little bit about how do deal with humans and their wills. I don't know, and I wouldn't try to assert such a thing for certain, but it is at least one perspective of the biblical accounts.


Ron Corson said...

The idea that God was learning from such things as the flood is certainly one possibility. I think that fits into the "Open Theology" view of God. I think a more reasonable interpretation is that such things as the flood and the tower of Babel and even the creation story are human representations of what they thought God was like and what they thought God did.

We would look at nature we don't really see anything to suggest a world wide flood, it appears to be a really silly idea for an all powerful God to destroy everything with a flood except for what could fit on the ark and then start all over again with 8 people. It would not take any kind of excessively brilliant God think that if I can speak and create things I can speak and remove things like wicked people without destroying all that wildlife.

The open view of God may say He is learning but how stupid would he have to be to destroy with a flood rather than destroy with a word with pinpoint accuracy.

The flood story makes sense for a bunch of people coming out of slavery and worshiping a new God who wants to have some order and needs a bit of cooperation so they produce a story about God destroying the wicked people to keep them in line. Totally reasonable humanly speaking but not all that reasonable a way for a God to really act, saying I am sorry I made them I am going to kill them and start over and they will be wicked again in no time.

The crime at the tower of Babel was not that they were trying to escape a second flood as tradition and EGW suppose, nothing like that in the story. No they were simply all in one place and making a name for themselves. Though if they were making a name for themselves there must have been people else where to hear about the tower and know those folks were being successful. So again we have another story like creation to try to explain what they saw around them. Namely there were people who spoke different languages. This is very much in line with much of the Old Testament like God shuts a woman's womb, or if you get sick or get well it is God's actions, if you win or lose a battle it is because God wanted it one way or the other. So people speak different languages...God did it.

I think those indications are important to our understanding of the Bible, which is one of the reasons I reject the Open view, because it takes things literally about God and does not take into account the writers position but assumes a kind of immature God.

Doug said...

On "moral influence theory" vs. "larger view": I believe there is a great deal of misunderstanding of what the "moral influence theory" is. I found a good source of information on it in John R.W. Stott; "The Cross of Christ". If Stott's description of the theory is correct, there is a major dichotomy between it and the "larger view" of Graham Maxwell/Jonathan Gallagher.

On evidence of the flood/creation: I believe special creation is a much better explanation for the existence of life as we observe it--similarities/dissimilarities between species, variations within species, etc.--than any other theory. Empirical evidence is non existent, so it remains a theory to be accepted or rejected as a matter of faith.
So too with the flood. How better to explain the geological column in which life "appears" suddenly and in complex forms. The time estimates proposed for evolutionary explanations are contradictory, at best, so again the Biblical account makes more sense. The Bible cannot possibly contain all the details we require for "proof", so we are left again with a choice of where to place our faith--faith that is open to new evidence as it is discovered.

Julius Gisore said...

I listened to the tapes and heard the sermons. the issue about the atonement being for the angels also, unless the bibles a read are mis-translated, then the first comment may not be objective and open minded. i feel as we try to improve our understanding of God, we should try to present views based on what the bible says. here are two extracts of colossians 1:20 from the versions I use.
1. 'And, having made peace through the blood of his cross, by him to reconcile all things unto himself; by him, I say, whether they be things in earth, or things in heaven'NKJV.
2.'through the son,then, God decided to bring the whole universe back to himself. God made peace through his Son's blood on the cross and so brought back to himself all things, both on earth and in heaven' Good news bible.

Am lay person, not bible scholar and I get confused with some interpretations that are not what I read. does the above mean that God reconciled earth with heaven or He reconciled both earth and Heaven to himself.

if the heaven had no questions, why did He need to bring the things in heaven to himself?

Did the Adventists translate any bible version?

was the Adventist church in existence before this versions were translated?
please offer me objective, unbiased responses to the above issues from your scholarly knowledge and spiritual inspiration.