Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, February 27, 2010

George Knight save us from the law

George Knight had a series of presentations at the Pleasant Valley SDA church in Oregon recently. Here are the links to the presentations. Clink on the link to stream or right click to save the mp3 file. I am giving the links here as after a time they will likely be moved on the PVC website. Currently they are on the home page but no doubt they will be moved as time goes by.

Root of A Prophetic Movement

Adventism And the Apocalyptic Vision

Adventism Gets Baptized

Question and Answers with George Knight.

Earlier I wrote a review of George Knight’s last book The Neutering of Adventism…

It was not a favorable review as the book is basically a continuation of the propaganda that Adventists have the truth, we are the Remnant and if we lose our unique Apocalyptic view we destroy Adventism because Adventism is not content to be Christian but has to be something superior to Christian.

I figured the first two presentations would go over the themes of his recent book. So I started with the Q and A which aside from his answer to the question posed by a “last generation theology” person which was good, in the main the Q and A was unremarkable.

The presentation on “Adventism Gets Baptized” is about Jones and Waggoner and 1888, or more precisely Ellen White and 1888, she being the force that allowed Jones and Waggoner to present their views to a church that thought it had the truth yet did not even understand the basic Protestant concept of Justification by Faith (never really picked up steam until the late 1970’s). It never ceases to amaze me how Adventists can think of their history as that of the remnant, the people with the truth and yet for so long they had no clue about Justification by Faith (Righteousness by Faith to Adventists because apparently we were too pure to use the terms of Protestant Christianity).

What most bothered me is the section in the presentation is where George Knight says that we have to be saved from the law:

“… Seventh-day Adventists needed help, I’ll just read one other statement this comes from her (Ellen White’s) diary, looking back at Minneapolis she talks about a fear that there was danger of carrying the subject into justification by faith altogether too far. And not dealing enough with the law. By the way we have still got some Adventists in that camp today. Talk too much about justification makes them all nervous. OK. But the two go hand in hand I’ll tell you that right now. These people that say you don’t need the law if you got grace, I have never been able to figure that out because you don’t need grace if you don’t have the law. You have got to be rescued from something the law says you’re a sinner grace says shhrrrick we can take care of that. If you don’t have the law you don’t need grace period. No, where all this foolishness comes from in dispensational theology I have not been able to figure it out. We’ve got some Adventist hung up in that camp too.” [he then continues with the Ellen White diary]. Quote begins at 16:02 to 17:05

The question should arise in most people’s minds are we saved from sin (our own rebellious self centered attitude) or are we saved from a law. That is a big difference. It comes down to the idea that God is condemning me for not meeting His law rather then my own selfishness leading to my own demise. It amounts to grace is given to save me from myself vs. Knight’s version of grace is given to save me from God (God’s law). After all it is God that gave the law and the law is of no authority without someone or some system behind the law giving the law authority and power. It is this misunderstanding of God which was pointed out in an earlier blog article which concluded by saying:

“If our fundamental assumption about God is based upon the idea that God’s law condemns us we have set up the presupposition that God is against us. A direct contradiction of the New Testaments declaration: “What, then, shall we say in response to this? If God is for us, who can be against us? “(Rom 8:31 NIV) This presupposition becomes the root of so much misunderstanding about God which culminates in the idea that God had to pour out His wrath on Christ so that God could forgive us. An idea which flies in the face of the characteristics of God : “love, joy, peace, patience, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness and self-control.”

Certainly the law points out that we are sinners, but was that the reason for its existence or is that the simple result of giving a law to people who are selfish. If the state tells you not to drive through a red light is it because it means to condemn you or because it is seeking to create an orderly environment. You need grace not because you have a law but because you have a defect of sin which will lead to your death unless someone outside of yourself intervenes. Grace exists before a law because grace says I want to help these people, the law is a tool to help people. First as a way to formulate and orderly society such as the law given in the Old Testament and second as a tool to show us that we left to our own devises are no where near the type of person that God is. So the “law was put in charge to lead us to Christ”, the person who offered grace in the first place.

This reminds me of the following quote from Charles Spurgeon:

Yet, pardon me my friends, if I just observe that this is a very natural question, too. If you read the doctrine of the apostle Paul you find him declaring that the law condemns all mankind.

Spurgeon gives no reference to where Paul says that…because Paul never said it (see footnote). Paul did say that all sin and fall short of the glory of God before telling us that it is grace that saves us. But what much of Christianity has decided is that what Paul actually said is less important than what they want Paul to have said. Possibly so that they can make grace and law work hand in hand when they never were intended to work hand in hand the way most people think, grace gave the law and grace saves without regard for if someone keeps the law.

All of this and I have not once told you what the law is. It can be many things to many people, is it the 613 Jewish commandments, the 10 commandments, the Exodus 10 commandments or the Deuteronomy 10 commandments? Is it the 2 commandments that Jesus referred to as upon which hang all the law and the prophets or is it all the instructions that Jesus gave or that the apostles gave in the New Testament? Why there are probably some Christians who think the law is that God says obey me or I will have to kill you because my justice demands it. That fits in with Knight and Spurgeon though we have to do some creative restructuring of the New Testament Bible to make it say that but just some simple interpretations of a few stories of the Old Testament however can give you that kind of God.

To sum up the law does not make you a sinner, it does not stop you from being a sinner, though just like the red light it may save you from causing more problems and hurting yourself or others if it is followed in certain instances. It does not change you, it is not an outside force that can change you even if you decide to follow it to the best of your ability, it does not cover all your selfishness whether acted out, thought about or omitted. The change comes from the grace of God who cares about you and seeks to reconcile you to Himself. If the focus is on the laws; whatever laws there may be do not focus you on grace of God that we see in Jesus Christ they are not serving their purpose for God. That is the way that law and grace go hand in hand and it is practically never the way Christians use the term.


There is one other place one can get the idea that the law condemns it reads as follows:

Now if the ministry that brought death, which was engraved in letters on stone, came with glory, so that the Israelites could not look steadily at the face of Moses because of its glory, fading though it was, will not the ministry of the Spirit be even more glorious? If the ministry that condemns men is glorious, how much more glorious is the ministry that brings righteousness! For what was glorious has no glory now in comparison with the surpassing glory. (2 Corinthians 3:7-10)

First we have to realize that apart from what we may want the text to say it might be saying something different so we have to analyze it. Did the 10 commandments written on stone usher in death? No clearly from the other Bible stories death was common. Is the verse speaking of some kind of death in the afterlife, as in no eternal life after this life? Again the answer is no the concept of an after life is not present this early in the Biblical stories. So what is Paul talking about? What ministry of death was inaugurated with Moses the lawgiver? Paul is referring to the Jewish nation who followed the traditions of Moses and ended up ultimately rejected Jesus Christ. No matter how glorious the history of the lawgiver was it did not establish a way out of death. Worse then not providing a way out of death it put Israel in a covenant relationship where if they failed, God would be against them. As Leviticus chapter 26 states:

I am the LORD your God, who brought you out of Egypt so that you would no longer be slaves to the Egyptians; I broke the bars of your yoke and enabled you to walk with heads held high. "'But if you will not listen to me and carry out all these commands, and if you reject my decrees and abhor my laws and fail to carry out all my commands and so violate my covenant, then I will do this to you: I will bring upon you sudden terror, wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and drain away your life. You will plant seed in vain, because your enemies will eat it. I will set my face against you so that you will be defeated by your enemies; those who hate you will rule over you, and you will flee even when no one is pursuing you. (Lev 26:13-17 NIV)

The verses go on for a good long list of horrors. Therefore it was to Paul a ministry of death as opposed to the ministry of life through faith in Jesus Christ and His promises. It is not however a covenant to which the Gentiles are a party, but an apt demonstration of the difference between the letter of a law where the nation entered into an agreement that they were unable to keep versus the Spirit’s ministry by the grace of God as revealed in Jesus Christ offer of healing and reconciliation.

As the Dictionary of Paul and His Letters (InterVarsity Press) states on page 537:

"The most natural background for Paul's statements that the Law is aligned with sin, death and condemnation is the widespread conviction among first-century Jews that the Law had justly condemned Israel to Gentile domination for transgressing its commands."


Steve Parker said...

Thanks for the links... the first two links seem to be the same...

Ron Corson said...

Thanks Steve. It is fixed now