Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Saturday, August 28, 2010

Eisgetical sermons

One thing that I have consistently noticed is that when I listen to sermons there is inevitably something theological horrendous being expressed. Not that they are purposely trying to teach human garbage as if it is facts about God but almost invariably it is there in their sermons. There is, as in almost any sermon, some good material something, uplifting and intelligent. It is just often overwhelmed with the foolishness that pretends to pass as enlightened expositional preaching. I often think that most of this is simply accepted by the congregations…for what reason, I guess it is simply because they don’t want to think about what was just said. The Pastor is a good man he must be giving a good message leading them to accept the message. Perhaps it is why Barack Obama could attend 20 years of Jeremiah Wright’s church and think he never heard any of the terrible things Jeremiah Wright was saying. (If one were to assume that Barack Obama really did not know what Wright was saying.) We acknowledge that the people in the pews listen and are influenced yet don’t connect enough to analyze the material they are hearing. Yet there is little doubt that it does affect people. That it will color their accepted theology.

Following this article is a transcription of a recent sermon segment offered a few weeks ago by the former pastor of the church I attend. Granted I attend less and less frequently and sermons even less frequently because not only are they long (this sermon was  probably an hour and a half) poorly reasoned and boring but because they are a poor method of communication and usually destructive to a reasoned faith.

In the segment of the sermon I transcribed I would say as a description of sermons styles an eisgetical sermon where he starts with an assumption and attempts to find Bible texts to support his assumptions (I looked it up eisgetical is really a word). Thus the Bible texts are used as pretexts to support a questionable beginning assumption. If we were to fit the sermon into a category of sermons we would have to say that it is a Textual sermon. Here the text he begins with is:

Then Jesus came to them and said, "All authority in heaven and on earth has been given to me. (Mat 28:18 NIV)

Pastor Decker then stated: “Why does He have all authority? And I would say that a lot of it is well I would say that it is because He resurrected.” Thus Decker is asserting that Christ’s authority comes from the fact of the resurrection rather than the fact that Jesus Christ is God who has authority because He is God. Something that the book of Matthew set out to demonstrate fairly early on with such verses as:

(Mat 7:29 NIV)  because he taught as one who had authority, and not as their teachers of the law.
(Mat 9:6 NIV)  But so that you may know that the Son of Man has authority on earth to forgive sins. . . ." Then he said to the paralytic, "Get up, take your mat and go home."
(Mat 10:1 NIV)  He called his twelve disciples to him and gave them authority to drive out evil spirits and to heal every disease and sickness.

To indicate further Decker’s misunderstanding he ignores further that Jesus Christ was/is God by indicating that Jesus was raised from the dead by God the Father.  “… So there and a dozen other places it is saying that God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead.” In fact there is not even one text that says “God the Father” raised Jesus, only that God raised Jesus from the dead. The closest verse to that idea also includes Jesus Christ saying:

(Gal 1:1 NIV)  Paul, an apostle--sent not from men nor by man, but by Jesus Christ and God the Father, who raised him from the dead--

 But Jesus is also God and Jesus had in the Gospel of John said that He would raise Himself from the dead.

(John 10:17-18 NIV)  The reason my Father loves me is that I lay down my life--only to take it up again.  No one takes it from me, but I lay it down of my own accord. I have authority to lay it down and authority to take it up again. This command I received from my Father."

(John 2:19-21 NIV)  Jesus answered them, "Destroy this temple, and I will raise it again in three days." The Jews replied, "It has taken forty-six years to build this temple, and you are going to raise it in three days?" But the temple he had spoken of was his body.

Interestingly enough in some email conversation with Pastor Decker through a friend Pastor Decker supplied his texts to prove that Jesus was raised by God the Father his list being:

Acts 2:24, Mark 16:19, Rom 4:24, Rom 10:9, Heb 13:20, Acts 13:34, Gal. 1:1, 1 Cor. 15:15

That list of texts uses nothing from the Gospels or the quotes of Jesus in the book of John. Though it includes the questionable text in Mark chapter 16 but that texts says nothing about the resurrection. Mark 16:19:

 After the Lord Jesus had spoken to them, he was taken up into heaven and he sat at the right hand of God. (NIV)

How one thinks they can talk about the resurrection and not even use the quotes that John gives of Christ about the resurrection is strange unless one remembers that the purpose here in the sermon is not attempting to see what the Bible says but to make it say what the assumption of the Pastor wants the Bible to say.

When we look at what the New Testament actually says we see that all three aspects of God are credited with raising Jesus from the dead. We have seen that Jesus said He would raise Himself. The Pastor has supplied us with some texts where it says God raised Jesus from the dead and there is another verse in Roman’s 8 where the Spirit is cited as raising Jesus from the dead:

(Rom 8:11 NIV)  And if the Spirit of him who raised Jesus from the dead is living in you, he who raised Christ from the dead will also give life to your mortal bodies through his Spirit, who lives in you.

The sermon makes us wonder after all who does Pastor Decker think Jesus Christ is? Is He God or not, did He only have authority after His resurrection as Tom claimed that then all power and authority was given Him. That would come as a surprise to the writer of the gospel of John.  Jesus said He would lay down His life and He would take it up again. God and the Holy Spirit are also declared as being the power behind the resurrection. Rather like the creation of the world references where in various places in the Bible all three are given credit for creation. Because these three are the aspects of God that are we may refer to as the modes of operation of the one God. Pastor Decker’s sermon has confused the issue of who God is, fitting more closely with Arian or Semi-Arian view points. This confusion is carried further as the sermon continues but I won’t deal with the part about Jesus either dying for His sins or humanities sins and not understanding Himself what He was dying for, as he does not even try to justify his fanciful speculations, suffice it to say the New Testament account makes no such indications. Though we all know how the Psalms 22 quote Christ used is assumed to mean all kinds of things to some people.

As Pastor Decker continues we see he does not understand the sacrifice of Christ either. This is perhaps the root of most of his confusion because when one accepts the penal Substitutionary view of atonement they often forget that God presented the sacrifice so it was not a sacrifice to God it was a sacrifice of God. Pastor Decker says:

So everything stalled in terms of salvation for those three days while Christ sat in the tomb. Is He going to resurrect, is He going to come back to life? If He resurrects if He comes back to life what does that say? It says that God the Father accepted the sacrifice. If He stays in the grave It says that God the Father said no it was not a pure unblemished lamb that was sacrificed He was marred He had sinned. He has to die for His own sins. And Remember God the Father is defending this to the universe to the angels to all who would come and ask. So God the Father resurrects Jesus, when He resurrects Jesus what is He doing? He’s saying I accept the sacrifice…”

(Rom 3:25 NIV)  God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished—

(John 3:17 NIV)  For God did not send his Son into the world to condemn the world, but to save the world through him.

The sacrifice is not to God, the sacrifice is offered by God.

(John 1:1-4 NIV)  In the beginning was the Word, and the Word was with God, and the Word was God. He was with God in the beginning. Through him all things were made; without him nothing was made that has been made. In him was life, and that life was the light of men.

Unfortunately Christianity has made an idol out of the penal atonement theory. That theory being that God had to punish somebody for sin so that when they read a verse like Hebrews 9:14:

(Heb 9:14 NIV)  How much more, then, will the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered himself unblemished to God, cleanse our consciences from acts that lead to death, so that we may serve the living God!

They will interpret as if God demanded the blood rather then through the voluntary acceptance of the plan of salvation of God and the successful completion of that plan as Jesus Christ offered Himself to the submission of death, not to satisfy God’s demands that someone has to die but to cleanse our consciences so that we may be persuaded to serve God. After all He is God, and even in this verse we see the three aspects of God working together of one purpose and that purpose is to help us not to satisfy God’s demand that someone pay a penalty. After all this is God the God who freely forgives how can we then say that such a God demands punishment? It is illogical it is counter productive, yet it is the traditional Adventist view, the traditional Christian view. It is the codification of tradition treated as the gospel. It is not the gospel it is a distortion of the gospel. And if fills our sermons and destroys the gospel and prevents us from truly progressing in our knowledge of God.

I like Pastor Tom, I simply wish he could open himself to the real gospel. Though I realize the Christian world no longer accepts Christian philosophy not of its particular tradition. Teaching a Christian religion like the following sermon segment, reading into the Bible their presuppositions which make God foolish and arbitrary and vengeful all the while saying He is a God of love. It is no wonder Christianity is dying in the Western World. Christians have been killing it for hundreds of years.

Tom Decker’s Sermon “Go” segment transcription:

After noting that Jesus has all authority and that Jesus is with you always Pastor Decker in his sermon stated the following (I will cut out Umms and such time fillers.)
The other question I have to ask in here is why does He have all authority? Where does that come from? He has all authority in Heaven and on earth we sometimes don’t feel like He has all authority do we? But He has all authority He claims to. Why does He have all authority? And I would say that a lot of it is well I would say that it is because He resurrected. Who resurrected Jesus? I remember getting in a fight with Linda about this, do you remember us talking about this? And she had one assertion and we argued about it for a while and made me study it a lot deeper and I went and started looking at passages and you can look and see a half dozen or 10-12 passages that reaffirm that God the Father resurrected Jesus. Let’s look at Romans 4 OK. Just flip over to Romans 4 not very far. OK after the Gospels Mathew Mark Luke John Acts and than Romans. Romans 4 verse 24; But also for us to whom God will credit righteousness for us who believe in Him who raised our Lord from the dead. He was delivered over to death for our sins he was raised to life for our justification. But also for us to whom God will credit righteousness for us who believe in Him who raised Jesus our Lord from the dead. So there and a dozen other places it is saying that God the Father raised Jesus Christ from the dead.

Why is that important? What does that do to give Jesus Christ authority? How does that affect me? How does that impact my life? You see the crucifixion of Jesus was Jesus dying for sin. If He didn’t have to die for sin He would have lived His three score and ten or He would have never come here Okay, but Jesus had to die for sin. When Jesus died He died for one of two things. He either died for His own sin if He had sinned or He died for the sin of humanity. Which is what scripture claims. It seems by some of what Jesus said that He wasn’t even so sure Himself which of those two reasons He had died for when He went to the cross. He felt very far from God and He did not understand it, had a very hard time coping with that. If Jesus had died for His own sin it was because He was sinned He would have died and in that state He would have stayed in the ground. God had no right to resurrect Him. If He had died sinless had died not for his own sin but for the sin of us then He would have died a legitimate sacrificial death. And in dying that death God would have been empowered to resurrect Him afterwards.

So everything stalled in terms of salvation for those three days while Christ sat in the tomb. Is He going to resurrect, is He going to come back to life? If He resurrects if He comes back to life what does that say? It says that God the Father accepted the sacrifice. If He stays in the grave it says that God the Father said no it was not a pure unblemished lamb that was sacrificed He was marred He had sinned. He has to die for His own sins. And Remember God the Father is defending this to the universe to the angels to all who would come and ask. So God the Father resurrects Jesus, when He resurrects Jesus what is He doing? He’s saying I accept the sacrifice. Jesus Christ has all authority in heaven all authority in earth and He is the King of Kings the Lord of Lords. That is the foundation the resurrection is the solid foundation of our assurance of justification our assurance of salvation and our entry point into sanctification and eventually the glorification where we are able to join God in heaven. The resurrection validates the sacrifice until the resurrection we don’t know if the sacrifice is valid. When God the Father resurrected Jesus He told the universe the sacrifice is valid salvation is a reality. You can count on it you can bank on it. Therefore because I have resurrected, because I have all authority in heaven and earth Jesus turns to His disciples and says all authority in heaven and earth has been given me therefore go.


Saturday, August 21, 2010

Roy Adam’s When All Else Fails Attack

In the most recent edition of the Adventist World Roy Adams has a “special feature” in which he recounts his experiences after writing his first article on William Paul Young’s book “The Shack” First he tells us how his fellow church leaders loved his article. “It was a classic” one tells him and how others wrote in to support Roy Adam’s article. He then leads on to three letters that were against his article.

The first thing we should remember is that letters to the editor are not laid out as articles themselves they are generally simply emotional statements of people for or against something or perhaps small corrections. They are not position papers and thus they are not formulated to be as persuasive and encompassing as an actual article which is intended for publication.

So Roy Adams in effect goes after the by standers in the controversy rather than dealing with the numerous articles which actually were written as counterpoint to his own article. It is perhaps the way of the weak argument to behave by going after the less well armed but in a world of propaganda which is what most of the Adventist Review has become it is one sure way to win the propaganda war. Responding to a few letters rather than to more complex arguments such as my own: See Review of William Young’s The Shack

What is striking early on after seeing how Mr. Adams has to shore up his support from the Ministry Magazine editor who termed Adams piece a classic (which if you think about it says a lot about that editor if he thinks that article is a classic, unless he was being sarcastic) how Adams does not even realize the implication of what he wrote in his first article. For example in letter 2 he quotes the following letter and writes:

2. Reader B: “Mr. Adams begins his article by criticizing the beautiful music of Ave Maria…. [I did no such thing!]

 In fact he calls the work improper and unbiblical. He writes in his first article:

But notwithstanding the song’s valid scriptural elements (based on Luke 1), what we have here is essentially a prayer to Mary, disguised to most of us because of its Latin rendition. Would I be as moved by the piece if its words were simultaneously translated as its beautiful melody sounds in my ears? The lyrics end, as follows:

“Holy Mary, Mother of God, 
pray for us sinners now 
and at the hour of our death. Amen.”

If I allow my love for the music to blind me to the inappropriateness of its lyrics, then that would be sheer emotionalism on my part. Praying to the dead is improper and unbiblical.

At least he did note that the song has valid scriptural elements. But it certainly appears to be a criticism and to pretend he has not criticized something when clearly he has shows something wrong in his own mental processes. Beauty does not prevent the need for valid criticism of the content. But don’t pretend that no criticism was intended when it was and people can tell what you intended. Or worse yet parse your ideas to say well hey I criticized the lyrics not the music, but simply making a declaration “I did no such thing!” is disingenuous.

He then goes on to say that what he found in the three letters, again ignoring the other responses that were published throughout the Adventist network of people, Anger, embarrassment of our belief and a simplistic naïveté. Actually that is my normal feeling when reading the Adventist Review. The foolishness of articles like Adams in the Review will also foster anger and embarrassment at Adventist doctrine and leaders. For example here is how Adam’s concludes his article:

…If we’re after making solid Christians, we’d better be completely honest with our audience and not sugarcoat the evidence. To raise The Shack, de facto, to the level of sacred text is silly and naive. Imaginative fiction, however well-meaning, can never trump the Word of God. 

Not one letter writer or any article writer writing to counter Adam’s view suggested raising The Shack to the level of sacred text. So where does that idea come from? It is merely a rhetorical technique, a piece of propaganda to help him sustain his position as a wise expositor of Christian teachings. Certainly he is being naïve; he is also misrepresenting the letter writers which he has set himself against. It is deceptive and manipulative and ultimately since he avoids the real issues he is an obscurantist. But I can say it is a fitting follow up to his first article, poorly reasoned and generally worthless.

There is one final note which I will reflect on; Adam’s criticizes the unbiblical and improper lyrics of the Ave Maria. But there is an equally unbiblical and improper statement made in the Adventist World issue. It is carried on “The People’s Place” Quote of the Month. It reads:

“Eve fell because she thought there was something better. Adam fell because he thought there was no one better.”

There is nothing in the Genesis story or anywhere else in the Bible to imply that Adam fell because he thought there was no one better, i.e. Eve. What that quote does is take an Ellen White idea and raise it to a tradition read into the story and then praised to the World Adventist church. Is that really any different than what the Ave Maria does with Catholic tradition?

One thing I don’t expect to see is that the Adventist Review or World Edition will begin to start thinking critically, and that is the saddest part of all.

Sunday, August 15, 2010

Fooish Bloggers

Adventist Today has a link to a blog critical of Adventist Today. Atoday says:

Kenneth R. Lytle, author of the conservative Adventist blog "21st Century Adventism," is a critic of liberal and progressive Adventism. In a recent blog, entitled "Is the magazine, Adventist Today, truly Adventist?" he urges his readership to write a "kind/loving" letter to the General Conference and "ask them to review the current work of the [Adventist Today] publication."
 When you click on the link and read the article by this conservative blogger, and I guess we have to call him a blogger even though he removes any comments that go against his conservative articles, we read the following:

“Adventist Today” has gone a little too far this time. Even though Mission Catalyst has some good mission ideas and educational material, they should never be allowed to publish their anti-Adventist views in an “Adventist” publication. Publishing the Open Letter by Ron Gladden is like stabbing your brother in the back.

Think about it… “Adventist Today” is endorsing Mission Catalyst’s invitation to leave the Adventist denomination by publishing the Open Letter. Ron Gladden says, “If your frustration tempts you to walk away from your church, please don’t give up on the message. Pray about launching a Mission Catalyst church in your city. Help us with your giving.” Read the letter for yourself.

Here is what the open letter from Mission catalyst actually said:
Here is our advice: If you are happy with the Seventh-day Adventist church, do your best to build it up and make it effective. If God is calling you to give and serve in your local church, do it with all your heart. Mission Catalyst has always prayed for the success of the denomination. We share the mission and message, and we wish God's blessings upon it.

If, on the other hand, you feel like the Church is moving in a direction you cannot support, don't badmouth your church. Don't stir up a ruckus in an effort to change it. And please don't bail out on the message. If you are frustrated with whatever it might be, do not abandon the things you believe. Consider that God may urge you to join Mission Catalyst on a Spirit-led journey to create grace-filled, Bible-based communities of faith that make Jesus first and reach people far from God.

Then the closing paragraph contains the line which the conservative blogger took out of context for his blog article."
Allow me to repeat myself. If you are happy in your church, build it up in every way you can. We are sincerely praying for you. If your frustration tempts you to walk away from your church, please don't give up on the message. Pray about launching a Mission Catalyst church in your city. Help us with your giving. Sponsor a salary for a city. Re-embrace the vision of a healthy, happy church that reaches people for the kingdom.

I posted a comment on the conservative blogger's site where I told him that good writing calls for the use of ellipses when one takes a portion of a paragraph so that the reader knows that there was other things written in direct connection to  sentence lifted from the original context. That when you lift something out of context you end up making yourself as an author look less credible. The blogger in question then removed my comment as I am sure he removed other comments from his article linked to at Atoday. Adventist Today should have set up the link in its regular article form so that people could comment on the Atoday website. But they probably did not realize the censorship the blogger in question uses.

We are constantly reminded that this is the kind of mindset we fight against in the Adventist Church. People who believe themselves to be in the right yet are incapable of dealing with those who oppose their thinking or who simply try to correct their errors and biases. You will notice I did not link to the blog, (you can find it through the Atoday link above however) that is on purpose as it is not worth giving that blog the increased exposure it would get by linking from my blog. I would have if they accepted comments but since they don't it is just another narrow minded person spouting propaganda by taking words out of context.

Saturday, August 07, 2010

Creation Confusion

I recently received a fund raising letter from a group called Reasons to Believe. In it the author Hugh Ross, who I actually had formerly thought was intelligent reflected on a conversation he had with an apologetics professor who noted that he got himself into trouble when his students brought up Genesis 1 with disputes over creation days 1 and 4.

“The professor listened intently as I pointed out how other biblical creation accounts, including Job 38-39, Psalm 104, and Proverbs 8 amplify the Genesis story of God’s activities on the six creation days. Since God inspired all of these accounts, the best interpretation of Genesis 1 will be one that yields an appropriately literal and consistent reading of all these relevant Scripture passages.”

“This integrative approach reveals that God created light when He created the physical universe before rather than on day 1. He also formed the Sun, Moon, and the stars before rather than on day 4 (even before day 1). His work on day 1 involved transforming Earth’s atmosphere from opaque to translucent, allowing light to penetrate Earth’s initially thick, dark cloud cover. His work on day 4 brought about transformation of this translucent (permanently overcast) atmosphere to a frequently transparent one, allowing the Sun, Moon, and stars to become clearly visible objects for the first time.”

“Not only does this approach to the Bible’s creation accounts resolve textural incongruities but it also removes apparent contradictions between what Genesis 1 teaches about cosmic history and what the book of nature—God’s other “book” of revelation—tells us about the Universe, Earth, and Earth’s life.”

It is surprising to me that Hugh Ross or the apologetics professor would think that this application of wisdom literature would clear anything up. Apparently though, the belief that something is inspired means that the inspiration is meant to only reveal literal, historical facts. That in itself is a huge problem but what about the idea that before day 1 of creation there was on Earth an “initially thick, dark cloud cover”. Would not that assumption cause a problem with Day 2

Gen. 1:6  And God said, "Let there be an expanse between the waters to separate water from water." 7  So God made the expanse and separated the water under the expanse from the water above it. And it was so. 8  God called the expanse "sky." And there was evening, and there was morning--the second day.

Apparently working on the atmosphere was a two day job, calling it light on day 1 because He made the dark heavy clouds transparent and then on day 2 separating the mass of water into water and sky. Of course you still have the problem of day 4 with the creation of the Sun, moon and stars so maybe the atmosphere clearing was a 4 day process and it did not really clear up noticeably until day 4 when the inhabitants, none of whom existed yet, could actually see the Sun, moon and stars.

Of course this is, as per the letter, based upon the book of Job which clearly was not trying to set out the order of creation. Such passages as this:

 (Job 38:5-12 NIV)  Who marked off its dimensions? Surely you know! Who stretched a measuring line across it? On what were its footings set, or who laid its cornerstone-- while the morning stars sang together and all the angels shouted for joy? "Who shut up the sea behind doors when it burst forth from the womb, when I made the clouds its garment and wrapped it in thick darkness, when I fixed limits for it and set its doors and bars in place, when I said, 'This far you may come and no farther; here is where your proud waves halt'? "Have you ever given orders to the morning, or shown the dawn its place, that it might take the earth by the edges and shake the wicked out of it?

Does that really sound like we are meant to take it literally? The poetry of Psalms and Proverbs won’t really supply much to the problem either. What they do is provide ways that one can read whatever ideas they want into the poetry. Naturally since they are all inspired they must also all be saying the same thing and since inspired they must be telling us the literal historical truth about creation. They are in fact in agreement. But that agreement is on the creation and the Creator, not at all about the process. Christians that try to explain the process fail in the logic of agreement even between Genesis chapter one, not to mention the differences between Genesis chapter one and chapter two. We can never get past the reality of our universe and our planet in the universe. Surely God knew that man would some day understand space and planets and distant suns and galaxies and He would have meant that His inspiration would not be held to literal understandings which were used to reveal God to a primitive people. Inspiration is not meant to indicate literalness of the account but the import of the account: the establishment of God as the first cause, not how the First Cause worked. Thus the Genesis account reveals a world just like the world we see around us, it does not and cannot tell us about a world that the author or we don’t know or understand. We are here but we don’t see God, He has chosen to reveal Himself slowly over time in a step by step process that culminated in the incarnation of Jesus Christ, inaugurating the reconciliation between God and man, the now and not yet of the Kingdom of God which will never end.

As I recall Hugh Ross is not a young earth creationist, he understands the evidence is too much against that idea but he has not realized the limitations of inspiration that is meant to relate to all people for all time. That just because at one time people believed inspiration said the earth was created in 6 days and inspiration listed genealogies that could only go back a few thousand years (Ussher’s 4004 BC date) that we must continually believe what those people believed because they lacked the scientific knowledge which would have led them to different interpretations had they had the knowledge we have. In other words they have accepted the traditions as inspiration rather than allowing the inspiration to work with us were we are today.

Without realizing how it is tradition rather than inspiration that has created the confusion of creation even someone who is not strictly trying to read the Bible as a literal document gets into trouble: making poetry behave as if it is literal by just picking and choosing choice bits of the imagery. It however does not work, the Christian religion has no need to embrace scientific materialism but it also does not need to accept tradition simply because we, like the scientific materialists, can’t explain origins. Somewhere there is a middle ground and we never get to the middle ground as long as we refuse to move from the ground we hold now. We are in a time when knowledge increases so quickly that it is hard to remember a time when we had to use a coin operated pay phone. All those phone books now sit wasting space because it is faster to look up the local business or address on the internet. We can’t live in the past in a world that advances so rapidly and we only hurt ourselves when we try to live in the past.

We need to realize that we don’t have all the answers and that some of our answers were simply wrong before and move on.

Sunday, August 01, 2010

Graham Maxwell's Great Controversy view

A Response To Graham Maxwell's Great Controversy View

One of the bright lights of the Seventh-day Adventist church is A. Graham Maxwell. Anyone who has heard him speak realizes that he is a gracious individual and a very intelligent Christian man. This response is not meant in any way to attack Graham Maxwell but to explain areas of his Great Controversy views which are difficult for people like me who are Progressive SDA's to accept. One of the things true of most Progressive SDA's is a desire to develop all doctrines based upon the scriptures. By scriptures I mean the Holy Bible, therefore extra Biblical information however authoritative some in the SDA church may feel it to be is not acceptable for doctrines. The short excerpts quoted here are found at the following Internet address "WHY DID JESUS HAVE TO DIE?" Graham Maxwell interviewed by Jonathan Gallagher.

My arguments against Maxwell's views are not really directed against his reasoning as to why Jesus had to die. Largely I am in agreement with him. So those who may believe in a vicarious substitutionary death will not find this article to their liking. As will also be the case for those who like to look to Ellen White for their theology. I will note for those who do view Ellen White as authoritative that she is indeed substitutionary in her view of the atonement. There is little doubt about that fact even though you will likely not hear much of it from Maxwell, even though he frequently praises the writing of Ellen White and as can be seen from the this article he is greatly indebted to her for many of his theological suppositions.

What would be ideal is if there was a short statement of what is meant by "the Great Controversy". A phrase so often used in the SDA church and rarely adequately defined. It appears that the Great Controversy theme is begun with the idea that there was a literal war in heaven where Satan and his angels were cast down to earth. This is a common view in the Christian religion although the timing of this war is very uncertain. In Maxwell's Great Controversy it is believed that the war spoken of in Revelation 12 occurred before the Creation of Adam and Eve. Drawing from Ellen White Maxwell presents the idea that God told Adam and Eve all about this war in heaven and of Satan. Also drawing from tradition and Ellen White Maxwell presents that Satan caused one third of the heavenly angels to fall with him. Intrinsic to this Great Controversy view is the idea that angels are heavily involved, with a great need for answers to their questions and confusion.

If one were to go to Maxwell's class it is likely they would hear that the Great Controversy is over the character and government of God. I would not argue with that thought, nor would most Christians, we all must come to our conclusions whether we believe God is really God, and if we can trust Him or believe what He says. This is part and parcel of our acknowledgment of the Bible as being a communication from God or not. Certainly the Bible does not offer up the idea that God is anything but righteous. Even if we may look at something as questionably righteous or not, the writers of the Bible seem to have little difficulty with His righteousness. So as the Bible shapes our view of God it is also what presents us with information about Satan. If Satan were to critique the Bible he would likely not think he was presented well. With hardly a mention in the Old Testament save the book of Job, he is detailed mainly as an enemy who lies and kills in the New Testament. A force that will arise to attack the people of God.

Back to Maxwell's Great Controversy view, Maxwell often speaks of Lucifer and his fall. As with most people who believe the Lucifer myth they read the verses in Ezekiel and Isaiah which refer to the leaders of the nations of Tyre and Babylon respectively and transfer them to Satan. While it is an interesting study to see how this type of tradition began in the early church with Origin and Tertullian, as most any decent commentary will tell you these verses are not about Satan. They were never viewed as being about Satan by the Jews or by the New Testament. Again Maxwell must turn to Ellen White as his authority to color in the information he needs to explain Satan's fall. When this is added to the war in heaven concept it causes him to say: "I believe that just as the war began in the sanctuary, so the war ends in the sanctuary..." Does the Bible tell us that war began in the sanctuary? Maybe if you believe that all of heaven is the sanctuary, but since he had earlier said that war began in the heavenly sanctuary it seems that he is once again bringing in information that he has not obtained in the Bible. Likewise the Bible does not give us an indication that Holy angels at any time are questioning God as to His character and government or that as he often expresses a "crisis in heaven" for the angels. If you read the above article (WHY DID JESUS HAVE TO DIE?) you see that Maxwell does tend to paint angels as a bit bloodthirsty. Pleased when God destroys the earth with a flood and wanting Him to do it again.

Certain verses in Ephesians and Colossians are favorites of Dr. Maxwell to back up his assertions that angels also need to be taught. These being:

and through him to reconcile to himself all things, whether things on earth or things in heaven, by making peace through his blood, shed on the cross. Once you were alienated from God and were enemies in your minds because of your evil behavior. (Col 1:20-21 NIV)

And he made known to us the mystery of his will according to his good pleasure, which he purposed in Christ, to be put into effect when the times will have reached their fulfillment-- to bring all things in heaven and on earth together under one head, even Christ. (Eph 1:9-10 NIV)

For it seems to me that God has put us apostles on display at the end of the procession, like men condemned to die in the arena. We have been made a spectacle to the whole universe, to angels as well as to men. (1 Cor 4:9 NIV)

The first two are simply about reconciliation between the things of God and the things of earth, namely rebellious people. The verses work wonderfully well without the intrusion of proving to angels that God is good. The third verse shows that we are spectacles to others, which it would seem to include God's angels who are about His business and would therefore in certain cases be present as we testify about God, or fail to testify. To the ancient mind the universe was not thought to be populated by other unfallen beings, nor does the Bible supply such an idea. That is another Ellen White concept that has crept into Maxwell's theology. What angels see or don't see is thoroughly speculation, it may be fun to do, but in the end it is of little consequence unless doctrines become based upon speculations, in which case truth is the first victim.

The fundamental principle to Maxwell's larger view lies in his often-repeated question of what did this or that teach the angels. Or what did the angels think of such and such. The speculation is often encountered that angels could not believe or understand something. The simple fact is we do not know what the loyal angels think, question, or understand. We do know that the Bible is very humanity centric however. The larger view is not what do creatures we know little about think, but what do people like you and me think of God and what He has done or will do. As the Bible tells us it was not for Holy angels that Christ came to earth but for mankind:

For surely it is not angels he helps, but Abraham's descendants. For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. Because he himself suffered when he was tempted, he is able to help those who are being tempted. (Heb 2:16-18 NIV)

The article mentioned above asks Dr. Maxwell the following:

"In the trust-healing model, there was no other way. It exalts the cross.
As a lesson, as a demonstration in providing answers?

Yes. Now those who call it Moral Influence Theory have no Great Controversy, or at best a limited one. So all they see in what we've been saying is "How very loving of God to do this, and it wins us to love him. That's really trivializing this way of understanding things, but that is usually said by someone who stresses Reformation theology, has been especially influenced by Luther, and who de-emphasizes the issues in the Great Controversy--so all he sees is the demonstration of God's love: Abelard. But we're talking about three other things that were never mentioned by Abelard: the questions that divided the Universe. These are of enormous consequence, these are of vast significance. If these questions are not answered, there is no peace and security in the Universe, and Paul says so. Why is Colossians 1--and Ephesians 1 and 3--why are they not included at the heart of the argument? "He shed his blood to bring peace in heavenly places."'

It is very true that "they" have no Great Controversy as Maxwell explains it. But actually that is to their credit as they work within the Biblical context. They do not use Colossians 1 and Ephesians 1 in the same way since it has historically never been used the way Maxwell has asserted. The Holy angels were not alienated from God, Maxwell's use ignores the context. Neither does Luther de-emphasize the Great Controversy. As we have seen above the Great Controversy Maxwell speaks of is not found in the Bible, even the idea of the war in heaven has various interpretations, not to mention that no time indication is given in Revelation 12. Luther was not neglecting something that the Christian church knew for it never knew the Great Controversy, as Maxwell believes it. The Christians did however see the war between good and evil as well as necessity to understand and trust God.

If Maxwell were to say that the Great Controversy were about who do we trust, do we follow the instruction given by God or accept doubts about God as the serpent represents in the beginning of Genesis. He would present a "Great Controversy" that all Christians could eagerly accept. One that is not dependent upon extra Biblical authority. What has the larger view really added but speculation and a call to accept as a prophet one who few Christians outside the SDA church would accept as a prophet. Overall Maxwell's teaching against vicarious substitution are good and something the Christian world needs desperately. However it is also important to draw our doctrines from the Bible, and if we cannot, they do not deserve to be Christian doctrines.