Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Jan Paulsen lives in the miracle world

The Adventist church has begun a new You Tube channel called Adventists About Life.

In the Science vs. Faith presentation “Pastor Jan Paulsen, world president of the Seventh-day Adventist Church talks about miracles and challenges posed by the world of science and the world of faith..”

The following is my transcription of the almost 2 minute video:

The world of science and the world of faith, two seemingly separate worlds are they on a collision course or do they run parallel to each other or maybe occasionally both.

The world of science generally will accept only that which is empirically verifiable for which there really is, they can look back and say this is it how it happened and this is an actual pattern for how it will happen. I tell you what my problem with that is. That when you lock things into that kind of a model they cannot accept something in which the world of faith call miracles. To me the world of faith is a world in which God’s creative powers are constantly on display.

From the beginning, go to the book of Genesis the first chapter of Genesis through the mighty acts of God in history. You see it in the resurrection of Jesus, you see it in the second coming of Jesus, in the resurrection of our own bodies. The way scriptures present it. In the creation of earth made new. These are all displays of God creative power and it’s full of miracles.

The mind of science generally will not accept as reality that which is miraculous. To me this exists this is real. Miracles that is not a problem I have it for breakfast every day. If you cannot accept the miraculous God’s creative powers revealed in miracles ah…your done, finished you have no future.

This is the reality of my life and I observe God’s creative power on display all the time. To me as an Adventist this is important. To accept God’s creative powers and that is being manifested in many many ways.

The series seems professionally done. I did notice several times when he said miraculous that the camera was focused upon his open hand, which I though was kind of a nice subliminal symbolic message. But most of the message was really utter nonsense. That is the reason I transcribed it because somewhere I had read about this and the person thought it was a really good little talk. After I watched it I wondered if we had seen the same thing.

Let’s look at it in more depth:

The world of science generally will accept only that which is empirically verifiable for which there really is, they can look back and say this is it how it happened and this is an actual pattern for how it will happen. I tell you what my problem with that is. That when you lock things into that kind of a model they cannot accept something in which the world of faith call miracles. To me the world of faith is a world in which God’s creative powers are constantly on display.

Our SDA world president has a problem with Science dealing with empirical evidence for what really is and being able to predict what will happen based upon the empirical evidence. Science has given us so many wonderful things we no longer have to think that because it rains or the wind blows it is a miracle of God. Sure that is the way most all ancient religion including the Israelites thought, but we actually have evidence of things like water cycles. It is really not a problem that science has locked into a model of observation and evidence for cause and effect. There would have never been any real progress had they locked into the faith model. Of course recorded human history had a few thousand years of that, times in which man did not really improve himself or his situation and knowledge was limited to a few and even those few limited in their knowledge.

Paulsen continues with the account of God’s creative power’s constant display:

From the beginning, go to the book of Genesis the first chapter of Genesis through the mighty acts of God in history. You see it in the resurrection of Jesus, you see it in the second coming of Jesus, in the resurrection of our own bodies. The way scriptures present it. In the creation of earth made new. These are all displays of God creative power and it’s full of miracles.

Actually we read about the creative power of God in Genesis we don’t see it; neither did the writers of the book of Genesis. They are stories about the creation, the faith is about the belief in God as creator, it is not about how God created, and we don’t have to assume that the stories were meant as the literal method of creation. Even the resurrection of Jesus is not something we have seen. We do count it as credible because we have accounts of people who witnessed or were informed by witnesses and held to their witness even under persecution, more than faith it is a faith based upon some evidence. The other areas mentioned; the resurrection of our bodies and the creation of an earth made new are entirely based upon faith. We have not seen those things; in fact neither have those who wrote those statements in the Bible. We accept them because it is part of our understanding of the kind of person God is. It is our faith and our hope in the gift that God will give us. But it is not seen as a display of God’s creative power, it is an expectation as yet unfulfilled. It may be that we are living in the midst of multiple miracles or it may be that we are not; just as the ancient world thought everything was caused by God only through time and examination and compiled evidence do we see that perhaps the creator creates natural processes which make constant miracles unnecessary. It may even be that the creator’s miracles are so slight, acting upon DNA that we could never witness them until we have greatly advanced in science.

The mind of science generally will not accept as reality that which is miraculous.

And we should be ever thankful that science does not purport the reality of the miraculous. I can’t imagine a more fruitless source of knowledge than to try and study a miracle. Let us assume someone died and after a couple of days came back to life. Documented, the scientists were there and saw the whole thing. They could study the person for the rest of their lives but if the miracle was caused by an outside source say God they are studying the wrong thing. Empirical data may not tell us the origin of something but the processes involved with the thing can be studied. And no one is really studying them if their first or primary reaction is this is a miracle, I eat them for breakfast. If you don’t, then you have nothing, your done, finished; rather an obnoxious put down of science and the scientific method.

All and all Paulsen has presented us with total nonsense but we have to ask why? What is the purpose for such nonsense where he finds the problem of science in that it does not embrace miracles? Even if it did, even if you thought the world was filled with miracles it would not mean that they were produced by your particular God or your particular religious view. There are all kinds of faiths out there in the world, there is simply no reason to pit science against faith in the way that Paulsen has done. This makes me think there is a larger agenda to this. That it is a way to deny scientific reality in favor of the current fundamentalist young earth creationism. At a time when many Adventist theologians and science professors are attempting to reconcile scientific ages and processes with other ways God could create besides by the literalistic 6 days of creation. Paulsen is offering the traditional faith in the literal Genesis account. In other words the same old thing delivered by the science that he decries.

Friday, October 30, 2009

Foot washing ritual; Why Really?

So the Adventist Review has a new editorial on the Foot Washing ritual that the Adventists continue as if it has some relevance. I covered this earlier when the Review covered the topic before. Click the following link to read the article from 2007 Foot Washing - Symbolism over Substance

This time Roy Adams begins his Review editorial by saying:
IN CONNECTION WITH THE LAST SUPPER, JESUS INSTITUTED THE FOOT-washing ceremony, a ritual that has experienced widespread neglect in Christendom. The Adventist Church stands among only a handful of denominations still observing the practice. But the reality on the ground is that a high percentage of its members find reasons to skirt attendance at their local churches when “Communion Sabbath” comes around. Why?
Actually Jesus did not institute a foot washing ceremony. He washed the feet of the disciples as a servant and as a lesson. To make this a ceremony or a ritual is to deny the lesson that Jesus taught.
When he had finished washing their feet, he put on his clothes and returned to his place. "Do you understand what I have done for you?" he asked them.
"You call me 'Teacher' and 'Lord,' and rightly so, for that is what I am.
Now that I, your Lord and Teacher, have washed your feet, you also should wash one another's feet. I have set you an example that you should do as I have done for you. I tell you the truth, no servant is greater than his master, nor is a messenger greater than the one who sent him. (John 13:12-16 NIV)

It should be of far greater concern greater concern that Christianity has forgotten the lesson the teacher taught here of real service to each other then some created idea of a ritual instituted here.

The article goes on about how uncomfortable this Adventist instituted ritual is for visitors and particularly single people. I would go much farther in that it is uncomfortable to any thinking American. Most of whom have washed their feet mere hours before the ritual and who wear shoes and often socks or stockings and who walk on paved paths for the actual limited distance they do walk. To clean actually dirty feet from the dust of the road before sitting down (very possibly on the floor) to eat is a real service. It had a purpose, today in America at least it has no purpose and it actually gets in the way of the real lesson that Christ taught.

Symbols work well when remembering the body and the life and death and resurrection of Jesus Christ. But do we really need symbols or rituals about being a servant to other people? Jesus' body is not here anymore, the symbols remember the incarnation. The other body of Christ is still here and it is all of us, you don't need a symbol to see it, it is on the street, on the pew and even looking back at you in the mirror.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Ideological differences in the SDA church

David Hamstra is one of the new bloggers for Adventist Today. In his first article he takes on the topic of Liberals and conservatives in the church entitled Freedom and Security.

Unfortunately he begins by using the terms liberals and conservatives even though those are rarely used in the Adventist church. He states:

Few Adventists who categorize other church members with these terms are willing to apply those labels to themselves. And it is clear to many that those categories obfuscate nuance and abet controversy, yet we continue to use them. Why? What function do they serve?

The reason for that is that people in the Adventist church use more descriptive terms than ill defined liberal and conservative. Instead of conservative they use "traditional or historic Adventist" while on the other end of Adventism they use Progressive Adventist. First problem solved... because Adventists do use those terms about themselves and most know what they mean.

David Hamstra than creates novel meanings for the terms Liberal and conservative.

Liberals are those in our church who feel the need for freedom more strongly than the need for security. Liberals seek liberty (which is freedom) and to liberate those who are captive, whom they believe suffer from too much security. They value creativity and see the world as a canvas waiting to the painted.

Conservatives feel the need for security more strongly than the need for freedom and thus try to conserve structures that provide stability. They see the world as a place of danger and the church as a place of refuge. So they warn those they see freely wandering into danger and defend the church against perceived threats from within and without.

These definitions make no sense to the real world, either in the church or in the political world. Liberals in the political world embrace big government with more government involvement in peoples lives, that is not freedom. Conservatives in the political world favor small government and less nanny state involvement which is equivalent to more freedom. Hamstra's definition does not work in the church any better. Traditional/historic Adventists have no more security, it could be argued they have less security because they have more rules and feel that their acts such as commandment keeping will affect their salvation. But even if we accepted the idea that it was security their security is found in their traditional Adventist beliefs. Which explains the name Traditional, thus we don't have to go and use ill defined words with novel meanings that no one in the church actually uses.

One of the common definitions of conservative is:
"Favoring traditional views and values; tending to oppose change."

There is a quote which is helpful in getting a handle on where the starting point for traditional ideas begin. That quote goes like this: "The most radical revolutionary will become a conservative the day after the revolution" [Hannah Arendt] Thus conservative is related to the society or subset of people in a society and liberal is a reaction to the conservative elements. A conservative in the old USSR would hold to traditional communist party ideas, the liberal would hold to free market ideas.

His conclusion based upon the faulty definitions then becomes:

"With Jesus meeting our needs for freedom and security, we no longer need to emphasize one need over the other."

A nice tidy answer, not that it answers anything at all but it seems to satisfy his sense of order. Perhaps that is all some are looking for, why can't we all get along. The reality is that different ideas don't always get along. Which reminds me of an article I recently read by Richard Mouw about the split between Evangelical and Liberal Presbyterians, where he writes:

I worry much about what would happen to Presbyterian evangelicals ourselves if we were to leave the PC(USA). When we evangelical types don’t have more liberal people to argue with, we tend to start arguing with each other. I would much rather see us continue to focus on the major issues of Reformed thought in an admittedly pluralistic denomination than to deal with the tensions that often arise among ourselves when evangelicals get into the debates that seem inevitably to arise when we have established our own "pure" denominations.

What we need to do is recognize that we have differences and be able to talk about them reasonably, sharpen our thinking. We need to actually be able to publicize that we have Progressive Sabbath School classes, Progressive Adventist churches, after all if the traditionals Adventists can have those things why not the Progressive Adventists.

What would happen however if your local Adventist school teacher attended a Progressive Adventist Sabbath School class? What would the traditional Adventists say or do? Would they say that such a person does not believe the 28 fundamentals and therefore should not be employed by the SDA school?

That is the reality we live in, where one side (many or most Traditional/Historic Adventist) is seeking a pure denomination. I keep reading articles like David Hamstra's and Alden Thompson who has a new book out on the idea that Progressive and Traditional Adventists need each other. Yet I don't see any such ideas coming from the Traditional side of the spectrum. I wonder why.

Friday, October 23, 2009

Waldenses and the Seventh day Sabbath and Adventists

Through a recent comment discussion over on my interest was peaked about one of the long lasting myths of Adventism. Here is what some of our Pioneers presented as history:

Ellen White, The Great Controversy 1888

The Waldenses were among the first of the peoples of Europe to obtain a translation of the Holy Scriptures. (See Appendix.) Hundreds of years before the Reformation they possessed the Bible in manuscript in their native tongue. They had the truth unadulterated, and this rendered them the special objects of hatred and persecution. They declared the Church of Rome to be the apostate Babylon of the Apocalypse, and at the peril of their lives they stood up to resist her corruptions. While, under the pressure of long-continued persecution, some compromised their faith, little by little yielding its distinctive principles, others held fast the truth. Through ages of darkness and apostasy there were Waldenses who denied the supremacy of Rome, who rejected image worship as idolatry, and who kept the true Sabbath. Under the fiercest tempests of opposition they maintained their faith. Though gashed by the Savoyard spear, and scorched by the Romish fagot, they stood unflinchingly for God’s word and His honor.

J.N.Andrews History of the Sabbath and first day of the week

Uses the quote below from the Eccl. Hist, of the Ancient Churches of Piedmont, pp. 168, 169 With this preface:

That the Cathari did retain and observe the ancient Sabbath, is certified by their Romish adversaries. Dr. Allix quotes a Roman Catholic author of the twelfth century concerning three sorts of heretics,—the Cathari, the Passagii, and the Arnoldistae. Allix says of this Romish writer that,—

Some remarks upon the ecclesiastical history of the ancient churches of Piedmont

By Pierre Allix Google books pages 168-172 plain text:

He lays it down also as one of their opinions, "That the Law of Moses is to be kept according to” the letter, and that the keeping of the Sabbath, " Circumcision, and other legal observances, ought “to take place. They hold also, that Christ the "Son of God is not equal with the Father, and that” the Father, Son, and Holy Ghost, these three” Persons, are not one God and one substance; and, " as a surplus to these their errors, they judge and “condemn all the doctors of the Church, and uni" versally the whole Roman Church. Now, since “they endeavour to defend this their error by testimonies drawn from the New Testament and Prophets, I shall, with assistance of the grace of” Christ, stop their mouths, as David did Goliah's, “with their own sword."

This is the quote we frequently read by those who put forth that the Waldenses kept alive the seventh day Sabbath. But we should consider what the author states about the person he is quoting. Notice the last couple of sentences are about the person who he quotes above, the person Andrews is referencing as an authority:

We ought to make this observation with respect to those authors, who in the twelfth century have made mention of the Cathari with this kind of confusion. itai. sacr. Ughellus tells us, in the Life of Galdinus, Arch' p' ' bishop of Milan, that after he had persecuted them, during the eight or nine years of his episcopacy, he died in the year 1173, by his over-vehement preaching against them. Ripamontius, in his History of Milan, gives us the sermon of Galdinus against the Cathari, whom he calls Manichees and Arians. But an indifferent judgment will be able to discover, that that piece is of Ripamontius's own forging, and consequently deserves no credit at all.

D'Achery has published the writing of an author, who pretends to discover the doctrine of the Cathari, of which he had been surely informed by the conversion of one Bonacursus to the Roman faith, who had been one of their Bishops, and had abjured their doctrine. This author makes three sorts of heretics, the Cathari, the Passagii, and the Arnoldistse, whose doctrines he refutes: but a wise reader will easily discern a great deal either of ignorance or malice in this author. (found in the first full paragraph of the above link for pages 168-172 text)

Not high praise for the person who we find often quoted as if it was the scholarly author of Eccl. Hist, of the Ancient Churches of Piedmont. Of course if we read more of Andrews we will see his does use other sources maybe some are better, but overall our knowledge of history has gotten better not worse since the 1800’s and we don’t find this idea about the Waldenses as seventh day Sabbath keepers in our scholarly modern histories. In fact the Waldensian church denies the seventh day Sabbath keeper idea. You can read about it Official response of the Waldesian Church in Italy about SDA claim which concludes by saying:

Therefore, the Waldensians did not keep the Sabbath (in the sense of Saturday instead of Sunday) and were not guardians of the "Sabbath Truth” as somebody calls it. The Waldensians never followed the Seventh-day Adventist’s Sabbath but they followed more Paul in Romans 14,5-8.

We can therefore say very clearly that the Waldensians were not Seventh-day Sabbath keepers and they were not persecuted for keeping Saturday as the Sabbath! Thy were persecuted, [from 1532 (when they joined the Reformation - Angrogna Synod) to 1848 (when they received religious freedom)], because of their Reformed-Calvinistic faith in Christ.

A good loyal Adventist would no doubt counter that they are not talking about during and after the Reformation but earlier in the 1100-1300’s when they were not really what we now term Waldensians. In which case that may be that there were some groups who did continued to observe the Jewish Sabbath, but they are not the Waldensians. That is the point.

For those, most of you know doubt, who won’t be going to check out the links to Google books let me give you the paragraph above the quote so often used by those who quote from of Eccl. Hist, of the Ancient Churches of Piedmont, though I will cut out the part Latin:

He accuseth some of these Cathari of maintaining doctrines that are plain Manicheism ; but then he jumbles others with them that are pure Arianism, and others again which seem to have been defended by the Paterines. I shall pass by those doctrines that are wholly Manichean, as, that the Devil created the elements; that he made Adam; that the old Law was given by the Devil, &c. as also those that are Arian, as, that Jesus Christ is not equal with the Father. It is evident, that amongst these he has mingled some which were maintained by the Paterines, who were enemies to the Romish idolatry: …That the " cross is the mark of the beast, whereof we read in " the Revelation, and the abomination standing in " the holy place. They say that blessed Pope " Sylvester was the Antichrist, of whom mention is " made in the Epistles of St. Paul, as being the " son of perdition, who extols himself, above every " thing that is called God; for, from that time, they " say, the Church perished." We see clearly from this passage, that he confounds the Paterines, or Waldenses, with the Manichees, that having been an opinion of the Waldenses, and not of the Manichees, as the Papists themselves own.

You have got to love Google books, how else would one expect to find such an old reference as Some remarks upon the ecclesiastical history of the ancient churches of Piedmont By Pierre Allix 1821

Saturday, October 17, 2009

In favor of absolute truth when we discover it

After some comments made at the last Sabbath School Class I attended I thought I would delve into the subject of “absolute truth”. First here is a statement from the most recent Adventist Today Fall 2009 Seven Questions for…Doug Batchelor by Marcel Schwantes, page 28:

“Theology students will lose their fervor only if they sit under professors who have lost theirs. If professors teach with a perspective that there is no absolute truth or that everything is relative, they cannot produce a crop of pastors who preach with authority and conviction. A mist in the seminary will produce a fog in the church. Jesus taught with conviction and authority (Matt. 7:28-29). Thankfully, there are still some good higher education options with this caliber of professors.”

I use the quote from Doug Batchelor not because it is a well thought out remark because it is not, but because it is very common for Christians to assert that there is absolute truth. I also assert there is absolute truth, however knowing what is absolute truth is the problem. In Batchelor’s comment he asserts that there are professors who teach that there is no absolute truth. That may of course be true of some professors but if they did teach that than they would be teaching a logical fallacy on several levels. The most common explanation goes like thissince saying that there are no absolute truths - that it is absolutely true that no absolute truth exists - is itself an absolute truth.” It is hard to imagine a professor being soundly rebuked continuing to say there is no absolute truth. It would be just as much of a problem if they were to go about saying that everything was relative. Again if everything was relative their statement would be in the form of an absolute truth (everything is relative). The reality of life is that we should seldom use absolutes such as everything or nothing because so often there really are exceptions. In mathematics since it is already based upon logic and definitions it is much easier to use absolutes. For instance saying that no square is a circle is pretty safe because the definitions prevent one thing from being another thing. When you have solid agreed upon definitions you are again pretty safe to use absolutes, no cat is a dog.

So we see that humanly speaking there are actually absolute truths, those are usually based upon widespread agreement between most all people accepting a definition or a formula as representing reality. What if someone rejects the statement? For example we say that it is absolutely true that man has landed upon the moon. Whether they choose to believe the evidence does not change the absolute truth, because man really has landed upon the moon. Still “According to the July 1999 Gallup poll, only about 6% of the American public buys into that conspiracy theory,” that the moon landing was a fake.

So we can say that absolute truth is not dependent upon anyone actually accepting that something is absolutely true. For a variety of reasons like ignorance or prejudice or some other theory to explain something an absolute truth may be disbelieved. This is where we get into difficulties. Do our particular prejudices or beliefs interfere with ascertaining what is or is not absolute truth? One site on the subject puts it this way:

Many religions contain absolute truths. For example, a Christian might say, “ I know Jesus Christ is my Lord and Savior. By following his teachings, I will live in heaven when I die.” To the Christian this may be an absolute truth. Imposing this statement on others is where this absolute truth, to the Christian, becomes debated. While many may agree that the Christian believes absolutely that Jesus is his Lord, they are unlikely to agree that Jesus is everyone's Lord is an absolute truth. When a person’s absolute truth is extended to all others, it can be viewed as a philosophical statement of exclusion. Those who do not endorse the absolute truth of another are either pitied or attacked.

As with the case of someone not believing an absolute truth it is equally if not more probable for some to believe because of their tradition or upbringing or prejudice that what they believe is an absolute truth. As we have seen however believing or disbelieving does not create an absolute truth or destroy an absolute truth.

In the realm of religion this leaves us in the position of not really being able to declare much as absolute truths. We don’t have the reality of mathematics or of comparison of concrete defined items; we are dealing with beliefs and philosophical ideas and interpretations of others thoughts and ideas. That creates a much larger gray area of information, how we apply what information we have and how we even determine the information in the first place will have an effect upon what is thought or not thought to be an absolute truth.

So indeed there is such a thing as absolute truth, but the truth about absolute truth is we likely do not know what much of the absolute truth really is. Even stories in the Bible often tend to point out the relative nature of truth against those who have falsely determined that they have absolute truth. For example David eating the Shewbread or Jesus performing miracles on the Sabbath. It is possible that more damage is done by those who think they have absolute truth than by those who say that truth is relative to a situation. Jesus was charged with blasphemy and sentenced to death all without the Pharisees becoming unclean by being at the Pilate s house and then they hurried home to keep the Sabbath.

Friday, October 16, 2009

Does Christianity fall without the fall

At the Meeting I attended presented by Jonathan Gallagher there was a point that was mentioned that very much reflected the following statement by Keafan (an atheist I assume) on the Spectrum blog. The idea is basically that without the literal Adam and Eve story Christianity falls apart.

[...]Anyway, I agree that christians who dismiss the recent creation event of Genesis cannot honestly claim that Jesus is still relevant without the literal Adam, Eve, Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil, the introduction of sin by them, and our "fallen" state of that origins story. If they believe evolution over long periods of time what, EXACTLY, have we "fallen" from that would need a Savior?

Jesus compares the end of time as like the "days of Noah". John claims that Jesus IS the creator. Paul appeals to the actions of Adam to prove his Jesus. The whole Great Controversy theme Bevin seems to approve of is contingent on the Garden, Adam, and Eve actually existing as historical, literal things.

As Ross is quoted as saying: "If Adam and Eve aren't real people and the fall isn't a real event in history, then there's not a good reason to believe that Christ rose from the dead and every thing else."

Without the Fall the whole theory of salvation from the consequences of that Fall are ridiculous.

Posted by: keafan (not verified) | 30 September 2009 at 1:38

As I stated in the conversation at the meeting which Jonathan Gallagher held in Olympia Wa., (at some point they said they would post the talks, you can read the written presentations at: ) We are in trouble if our concept of God is dependent upon getting people to believe the Genesis story which is very scientifically untenable. Even before the advent of Darwin the Christian thinkers did not hold to the simplistic creation story of Genesis. Once people in the 1700’s began to look at the rocks and later the fossils in the rocks they realized that there are many layers of rocks, and different kinds of rocks. So they developed the theory known as Neptuneism, the idea being that there were a succession of many worldwide floods (related idea known as catastrophism) of which Noah’s flood is simply the most recent. Each succession as the water evaporated left a different type of rock strata. Ultimately with the different strata there were different fossils. Each time there was a worldwide flood God created life again and repopulated the world (successive creation). Thus was produced the special creation view that Darwin was taught and which with his observations of volcanism he determined not to be necessary. Further it took away the Natural theology aspects since without the need for special creation it took away the need for God’s interaction with the world. Nature was not so perfectly balanced, why did not God create rabbits in Australia since when they were brought there they did wonderfully? Natural selection saw a ruthless struggle for survival, so instead of the natural theology showing how wonderful the character of God is because of the beauty and harmony of creation we see a nature that uses chance and cruelty. Challenging God’s justice and love.

The idea of the fall to a world of chance and cruelty does not let God off the hook for making the world filled with chance and cruelty, because man sinned does not logically equate the creation of ripping and tearing teeth. Natural theology (as nature revealing the character of God) was never a reality, at best it was once a reality in a brief perfect world (if one accepted the story as literaly), but those who came up with the idea of natural theology were not looking at any kind of perfect world. So we really don’t do ourselves a lot of favors by positing everything upon some perfect unknown world. It leads to the simplistic sin changed the world perspective but then you have to ask what is sin that it can produce all this chance and cruelty? When we look at the natural world around us and then at what we think sin means: that is selfishness or rebellion or even the classics, missing the mark or sin is lawlessness none of those things would really effect the natural world. The thinking world yes because an attitude of sin may make thinking creatures behave in ways that could be described as chance and cruelty but they would not be genetic, they would not leave their records in the fossils and the rocks of the world. You would have to go to something a lot more powerful. Which in religion pretty much leaves you with a God or a devil? Biblically speaking there is no indication that the natural world is the result of some creation of the devil. The natural world is seen as the creation of God.

Those pointing to the literal young earth creation story of Genesis still have no real answers for the problems mentioned above. Faith is their answer, not faith in God but faith in their perceived interpretation of the Genesis stories. That God told people the stories and that God intended the people to forever and always hold the stories as literally historically true.

So as we deal with thinking people we can’t simply say this is what the Bible says, "yes it makes no sense but you need to believe it because the whole Christian world view depends on it". No it does not. The Christian view depends upon the reality that mankind is selfish, that we hurt each other and that we make stupid choices and if we could find ourselves some short cut to knowledge of good or of evil or power we would take it. The Adam and Eve story presents a reality of thought that requires no need for it to be actual history: no need to be a complete refutation of the reality that science demonstrates.

We all know stories can teach important lessons or ideas, they don’t have to be true, they don’t have to involve actual people and events to stimulate, inspire or teach something to the listener. We don’t have to have a literal Garden of Eden or a literal worldwide flood to point out the human condition, the tendency for humans to become destruction or wicked. The stories indicate that there is more to life than our wants and desires. That human beings have the capability to extend themselves to think higher, to live with better morals, to pursue better goals. That is where God comes into our thinking. The stories of Jesus present these ideas in the form of incarnate God living with us. However this is more than just stories because the witnesses to Jesus life actually shared what they had heard and seen and even under persecution never recanted their testimony. Jesus does not depend upon the story of Adam and Eve. It stands in the history of mankind, more than as some story handed down from some bygone age when the world was somehow perfect. It stands in historical time and in an historical place with actual historical people recording the points that the authors thought important or they best remembered. though clearly they were not written as simply historical accounts, history is often built upon whatever historical writings we can obtain.

Certainly the New Testament and Jesus referenced the Genesis stories. God as creator, with little attention to how God creates after all who can really explain how God can create. The stories are used just as every culture uses their stories…to teach or remind people of lessons or values. Adam and Eve become the symbol of marriage of a man and a woman. The Genesis story never says they were married but they become the perfect symbol man and woman meant to live together to create the family. Noah and the flood are mentioned again to make whatever point the author in the New Testament or Jesus was trying to make. A shared culture gives people shared stories and that commonality allows them to communicate quickly and efficiently. Noah and the flood tell of a world filled with people of violence and wickedness. The old stories don’t have to change either. For example in America at one time you could say Miami was the murder capital of the country, then later it is Detroit, or Washington D.C. Ancient shared culture stories don’t change, Noah and the wicked people who necessitated the flood are always linked together, deliverance from the wicked by God is always linked, the rainbow and the promise of are God linked. That is the power of a story.

Without the fall story are we in any different reality? No the reality is simply what is, the fall does not make our reality, it does not make our religion. It is a teaching tool of our religion. It is a powerful shared story that has cultural relevance in many ways. It was never meant to dictate our understanding of the natural world, the understanding of God (who was kind of mean in the story, break on rule and your banished) the understanding of creation and the universe. After all the God in the Genesis story is not too much like the God of the New Testament, neither is the God of much of the Old Testament too much like the God of the New Testament. God is progressively understood as we progressively assimilate knowledge. We simply can’t go back to the most primitive understanding and let it rule over our knowledge of years later with so many areas of increased knowledge. What we do is reinterpret the stories, because the stories still have that cultural familiarity; they still are capable of being used as teaching tools. But they don’t dictate our understanding they were never meant to do that and it is highly unlikely that they ever did that in either the Jewish or Christian religions (at least until fundamentalism).

We are at that uncomfortable place where we have to once again reinterpret our beliefs. Strangely enough it has happened so many times in human history and Christian history that we should be a little more used to it by now. No doubt if not for our love of tradition we would be better able to handle the changes but there always seems to be some who get comfortable with an idea or five and cling to them tenaciously.

Saturday, October 03, 2009

Settled into the truth; the views

This Saturday Oct. 03, I attended a meeting put on by Jonathan Gallagher here in Olympia. It was a stimulating dialog which covered a wide range of ideas centered upon the character of God. What was striking to me was the use of the term “settled into the truth so that we cannot be moved.” I did mention that I thought the statement was rather nebulous and Gallagher agreed that it all depends on what we mean by truth.

As I can’t adequately express the context the phrase was used in the meeting I will give a couple of examples from followers of the Larger View so you can get an idea of the usage as it is not unique and seemed to be readily accepted by the others at the meeting. Something they have heard and agree with before it appeared. I have, when thinking about it been a lot more skeptical about its usage since it seems to describe the same attitude that a fundamentalist would have. The truth being those 5 fundamentals and they won’t be shaken out of those fundamentals and those fundamentals define their Christian religion. As we will see of the two sides I will quote, neither side is using it as some fundamental belief rather it is a perception of what is to happen in the future.

First some examples:

Brad Cole A Phone Call From God :

God wants us to mature, to grow up, and to become settled into the truth predominantly about one thing: what he is like in character. And for this high ideal he sends the Holy Spirit who is with us and within us and with no less intensity that Jesus’ presence with his disciples! (Also found on

Tim Jenning’s comment on

The HS brings only what Chirst directs Him to bring according to Christ. Thus Christ's intercessions are in the believer and He stops His intercessions once all are either so settled into the truth they cannot be moved or so settled into the lie they cannot be moved. The reason intercession ceases is because we are fully healed and don't need it any more.

Gene Autonomous People article:

God wants us to be so settled into the truth that we cannot be moved. (Romans 14:5; Eph. 1:13) This means we must be able to think through all situations as if we had the mind of Christ in us. (1 Cor. 2:16)

Facebook discussion of the lesson quarterly:

God’s friends settle into the truth that God really is just like Jesus The mind is healed of rebellion and distrust The character is re-shaped in the image of Jesus Union and selfless love among those settled into the truth about God’s character and principles The lies about God’s character are fully and forever exposed and defeated Peace, love, freedom, and an eternity of face-to-face companionship with God

I suppose there is a theme there, but really it does look to me a bit nebulous as people are attempting to interpret Ellen White from the Larger View perspective which is that we will see God as worthy to be trusted and we can’t be moved from trusting God. Why that attitude of trust is expected and not the Christian reality since the time of the New Testament I don’t really know other than to make it fit in with a prediction of a future sealing by God. A sealing act which is the Holy Spirit who has been sealing Christians for generations now.

These quotes (both Larger view and Traditional) are all found from a simple Google search of the term "settled into the truth". They are all related to Adventists it seems this is a somewhat unique Adventist view. I chose that phrase because it is most similar to the actual Ellen White quote. A quote you will not find in any Ellen White book published in her lifetime, we find a section of the quote in the Adventist Bible Commentary vol. 4 but I will give you the most complete quote I can find:

From Manuscript Release No. 56 - Compilation on Objectives of Our Medical Work and the College of Medical Evangelists

The leaders in the sanitarium have mingled with unbelievers, admitting them to their councils, more or less; but it is like going to work with their eyes shut. They lack the discernment to see what is going to break upon us at any time. There is a spirit of desperation, of war and bloodshed, and that spirit will increase until the very close of time. Just as soon as the people of God are sealed in their foreheads,--it is not any seal or mark that can be seen, but a settling into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually, [250] so they cannot be moved,--just as soon as God's people are sealed and prepared for the shaking, it will come. Indeed, it has begun already; the judgments of God are now upon the land, to give us warning, that we may know what is coming. Ms 173, 1902, pp. 3-6. ("Medical Missionary Work in Southern California," November 20, 1911.) {1MR 249.2}

As used in the Bible Commentary:

(Rev. 7:2.) Seal Is a Settling Into Truth.--Just as soon as the people of God are sealed in their foreheads--it is not any seal or mark that can be seen, but a settling into the truth, both intellectually and spiritually, so they cannot be moved--just as soon as God's people are sealed and prepared for the shaking, it will come. Indeed, it has begun already; the judgments of God are now upon the land, to give us warning, that we may know what is coming (MS 173, 1902). {4BC 1161.6}

The traditional Adventist has a different view of the quote. You can see from some by context where they use the term “settled into the truth” they generally have the view that this is talking about last generation perfection though I can’t show that for all the quotes I am giving. A few quotes:

From Herbert Douglas The Jesus Difference

This is why Jesus remains in the Most Holy Place in the heavenly sanctuary today! He is still working with the willing, He want them so settled into the truth that they will never be moved to say “No’ to God ever again. They will be so settled into the truth that their habits of mind and body will be as predictable, as natural, as habitual as blinking their eyes3. Habitants of unfallen worlds can trust them! Angels can trust them! The whole universe will endorse God’s judgments—that these willing loyalists from Earth are safe to be given eternal life.

Russell Williams Enmity part 2 etc

The latter rain seals the grain..intellectually and spiritually settled into the truth so that you cannot be moved...every position of truth that we now hold we will be tested. knowledge = your patience possess ye your soul (Luke 21:19).

Last Generation Theology

Cleansing in Heaven Connected to Cleansing on earth Neither Luther nor the Millerite Adventists living in 1844 finished the Reformation or understood the angel messages of Revelation 14 and 18. The cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary is connected to the cleansing and purifying of lives on earth. The sanctuary is cleansed when God has a people who have become so settled into the truth that they will never again be moved to doubt Him or to disobey known duty. The torrent of sin that has needed forgiveness is dried up. Christ’s presence remains with those who have chosen Him. The Holy Spirit empowers obedience even after the ministry of forgiveness is closed. (also found on

Robert W. Olson and Ellen White, The Crisis ahead:

Before the sealing of God’s people is finished, what glorious event will take place?

“Before the work is closed up and the sealing of God’s people is finished, we shall receive the outpouring of the Spirit of God” (1SM 111)

“Not one of us will ever receive the seal of God while our characters have one spot or stain upon them. It is left with us to remedy the defects in our characters, to cleanse the soul temple of every defilement. Then the latter rain will fall upon us as the early rain fell upon the disciples on the day of Pentecost.” (5T 214)

[I will note here that the above book actually lists Ellen White first but I suspect she really had no say in where her quotes were placed, thus I give her second billing]

Abreast of Truth Advent Perspective

PRESENT TRUTH TODAY REVEALS for us a new and higher experience than has ever before been comprehended. It has often been called the "sealing truth," because those who enter into the experience of the taking away of sin are "settled into the truth so that they can never be moved." 30 "When Christ comes He takes those who have purified their souls by obeying the truth...." "But before that time shall come, everything that is imperfect in us will have been seen and put away." 31

Moreover, the eternal security of all those who have gone before, the faithful of all ages, is dependent upon the victory of this last generation; for "...these all, having obtained a good report through faith, received not the promise: God having provided some better thing for us, that they without us should not be made perfect." Hebrews 11:39,40. This is the truth that unites the whole church of God from the beginning of time ~ "the church of the firstborn whose names are written in heaven." 32

There are still a few more on the Last generation perfection side but you get the idea and the last one is pretty clear. I have to reject the last generation perfectionists, they teach a doctrine that the Bible no where teaches and I have to reject the Larger View’s idea as well because there is no need for some future settling into the truth when it has been going on for generations. I also have to reject the idea of some future sealing by the Holy Spirit distinct from God’s actions of sealing us from the New Testament times.

Now it is God who makes both us and you stand firm in Christ. He anointed us, set his seal of ownership on us, and put his Spirit in our hearts as a deposit, guaranteeing what is to come. (2 Cor 1:21-22 NIV)

Am I so settled into the truth that I can’t be moved? No, because I am not certain of the truth, there are very few things I know about any theology that I can verify as “true.” There are things I believe but I expect I am open to believing something else should facts or reason or evidence takes me there. I do believe that God has to be trusted if He is really God, if He is really love; because any other kind of God is too capricious too arbitrary to be worshiped freely. If that is the truth I am settled into then I can accept the idea of being settled into truth. If God is not good than to me He is not God. But I still battle with doubt, with faith, with what I should or should not do and what I do and do not do and behind all of that is the why. What do I believe and why do I believe it, how do I explain the things that make us sometimes declare God a tyrant because of ancient stories told by well meaning God loving people.

Ultimately there are a lot of Christians who feel settled into their particular truth about God which I will never be able to accept. They won’t be moved by reason or facts, I don’t doubt their salvation but I do doubt their commitment to truth and their ability to present a real God of love to the world. It does make an interesting question however, what are you settled into? Maybe my favorite Bible verse will express what I am settled into better than my own words:

Dear friends, now we are children of God, and what we will be has not yet been made known. But we know that when he appears, we shall be like him, for we shall see him as he is. Everyone who has this hope in him purifies himself, just as he is pure. (1 John 3:2-3 NIV)

Click to read more on the latter rain