Nixon began his "Wrath of the Lamb" sermon by stating,
"There is a conflict of doctrinal teaching going on in our church, and it has become contentious. Some among us, under the guise of 'unique truth,' are promoting error concerning the character of God and the teaching is very subtle."
Nixon went on to say that he would rather discuss a less controversial topic, but said that "the stakes are too high. One misconception about who God really is leads us down a path fraught with danger, and I cannot stand silently by."
Nixon staked out what he called "the biblical teaching on this topic."
The controversial subject at hand is whether God's wrath includes "active" punishment of sin (i.e. God destroys the wicked) or "passive" punishment of sin (i.e. God withdraws protection, allowing the unrepentant to reap the natural consequences of sin). For Nixon, divine justice demands that God destroy the wicked for the sake of the weak and vulnerable.
Dr. Timothy Jennings, a psychiatrist and creator of ComeAndReason.com, sees things differently. His website advances the idea that if it is unremedied, sin, not God ultimately destroys human beings.
teaches a popular Jennings class that was recently moved from the Sabbath School to Ackerman Auditorium on Southern's campus across the street. Collegedale Church also authored two books: The Healing of the Mind, and Could it Be This Simple? Jennings
Debating God's Character
, Nixon in his sermon categorically and emphatically rejected any teaching that does not make room for God's active punishment of evil. Scripture reveals God as the God of mercy and justice, the God of life and death, the God of giving and of taking away, Nixon said. Jennings
What seems to be unfolding is that the two sides are attempting to define the character of God not by what He has done or even is doing now but by what each side expects God to do in the future. That would seem to be a fools errand being either way it is tied upon how one interprets a rather symbolic portion of the Bible. It calls for predictions based upon our interpretation and then those predictions dictate to us what the character of God is. Which to put it mildly is a pretty backwards method of doing anything. In this case the ultimate argument is does God kill the wicked actively by what God does or does God kill the wicked passively because they can’t live in the presence of God. If your like me you say big deal the result is the same and neither one says anything about the Character of God.
The real story to me is the controversy between the two. Where a Pastor gives a sermon to deal with what he thinks is a wrong view being taught in their church. I almost said his church but Pastors are not and should not be in charge of churches they are the member’s churches and Pastors should not be the ones to tell everyone what to believe or not believe. The Pastor should give his sermon on the topic and present his best case and then he should open up the same pulpit to his opponent and he should be able to give his best case. In fact I would then like to see at least a third presentation moderated by a neutral party who could open up the subject to questions from the church membership.
Controversies are not bad they are opportunities to dig deeper then people normally would. We have to get away from this idea that there is someone in the church who is there to decide for us what is orthodox and heterodox and act as the gate keeper who stops anything he does not accept from being heard in his church. (I use the pronoun he because it is still predominately a male pastor thing in the SDA church).
I like this example because it is really such a trivial issue but it has overtones which are important to consider. Which is pretty much true of any theological controversy yet in this case it is not something that would split a church…at least not this portion of the topic. But this controversy would be a perfect reason to try a new method of relaying information in the church. Most Christians are too afraid to try anything new or different and thus we end up with irrelevant sermons which try to be as bland and boring and generally worthless as possible as the Pastor seeks to work by dealing with the lowest common denominator.
We as the Adventist church need to get past the idea that there are not other possibilities besides what we have traditionally believed. But our Pastors work as gate keepers to keep new ideas away from the members of the church. They work to keep the church static and wonder why their churches and their denomination do not grow.
So let the Pastor have his say and