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Sunday, June 29, 2014

The Manifesto of Progressive Seventh-day Adventists

The Manifesto of Progressive Seventh-day Adventists
[I wrote this a while ago because so many Adventist love to find their reason for existence through the writings of the Adventist churches founder. So I thought I would use her from something that might shake up the church a little more.]

1. We are not the church we are members of a denomination, denominations do not make us the church. Those who believe in and follow Jesus Christ make up His church.

"The church is made up of persons of different temperaments and of various dispositions; they have come from different denominations; for the Cleaver of truth has separated one here and one there from the great quarry of the world, and in the church of Christ all these various members must be cemented together by the Spirit of God. If the love of Christ is in the hearts of the members of the church, through the abundant grace of Christ, there will be oneness, unity, among brethren. We must close the door of the heart to every suggestion that shall have the least tendency toward keeping us from this state of harmony. We must not hamper the soul and cripple its powers by the indulgence of selfishness. Selfishness is sin, and it grieves away the Spirit of Christ. When we cherish unkind thoughts, and harbor suspicions against our brethren, we are cutting ourselves off from the channel of God's light and love. Jealousy is as cruel as the grave, and should never be cherished in the heart, much less expressed in the actions. How cruel it is to cherish evil surmising against those who are members of Christ's body! Accusation, condemnation, and revenge are all of Satanic origin, and evil thoughts of others should be at once rejected from the mind, for these things repulse, and separate the hearts of brethren. Satan rejoices when he can create division in the church of God; for weakness follows, and the things that remain are ready to die." (Signs of the Times April ,1891 p-13)

2. Our goal is to be as the church of Philadelphia.

."..He that hath an ear, let him hear what the Spirit saith unto the churches. And to the angel of the church of Philadelphia write: These things saith he that is holy, he that is true, he that hath the key of David, he that openeth, and no man shutteth; and shutteth, and no man openeth; I know thy works; behold, I set before thee an open door, and no man can shut it; for thou hast a little strength, and hast kept my word, and hast not denied my name."' Rev. 3:2, 5-8. "Those who shall be overcomers are to be highly exalted before God and before his angels. Christ has promised that he will confess their names before his Father and before the holy angels of heaven. He has given us abundant promises to encourage us to be overcomers. The True Witness has given us the assurance that he has set before us an open door, which no man can shut. Those who are seeking to be faithful to God may be denied many of the privileges of the world; their way may be hedged up and their work hindered by the enemies of truth; but there is no power that can close the door of communication between God and their souls. The Christian himself may close this door by indulgence in sin, or by rejection of heaven's light. He may turn away his ears from hearing the message of truth, and in this way sever the connection between God and his soul." (Advent Review  and Sabbath Herald March 1889 p-26)

3. The gospel of Jesus Christ is our goal, our mission and our doctrine.

"The second great commandment, "Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself," will be the rule of life with all Christians who are truly growing in grace. Our influence, whether for good or evil, will affect others, and will live when we are no more. Then let us so live that our friends and associates may see that we are governed by the divine rule, full of wisdom and love. A pure, unselfish, well-ordered Christian life is the strongest argument that can be presented in favor of the religion we profess. Such a life will prove to all beholders that there is a divine reality in the gospel of Jesus Christ." (Signs of the Times April, 1887 p-21)

4. In all things we shall strive to find the truth.

"How important that we should be rooted and grounded in the truth! No falsehood is of the truth. The Lord Jesus has promised that if we receive Him by faith and believe in Him as our pattern He will give us "power to become the sons of God." The gospel of Jesus Christ contains the grand principles of all truth, expressed in a life of purity. In love and true righteousness these principles are to be proclaimed to the world. In all our dealings with one another we are to obey the precepts of the law of God. "I sanctify Myself, that they also might be sanctified through the truth. Neither pray I for these alone, but for them also which shall believe on Me through their word."'  (Notebooks and Leaflets from Elmshaven Library Published 1985 p-45)

"...but this work cannot go on in the heart while the light on any part of the truth is rejected or neglected. The sanctified soul will not be content to remain in ignorance, but will desire to walk in the light and to seek for greater light. As a miner digs for gold and silver, so the follower of Christ will seek for truth as for hidden treasures, and will press from light to a greater light, ever increasing in knowledge. He will continually grow in grace and in the knowledge of the truth. "(RH.1890-06-17.015 Sabbath Review and Advent Herald June, 1890 p-17)

5. Our aim is to share the love of God with the world.

"God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son." He gave Him not only to live among men, to bear their sins, and die their sacrifice. He gave Him to the fallen race. Christ was to identify Himself with the interests and needs of humanity. He who was one with God has linked Himself with the children of men by ties that are never to be broken. Jesus is "not ashamed to call them brethren" (Hebrews 2:11); He is our Sacrifice, our Advocate, our Brother, bearing our human form before the Father's throne, and through eternal ages one with the race He has redeemed--the Son of man. And all this that man might be uplifted from the ruin and degradation of sin that he might reflect the love of God and share the joy of holiness. " (Steps to Christ 1892 p-15)

6. Our desire is to rightly express the character of God, and as far as possible correct the misunderstandings which some have about God.

"How are the world to know God and Jesus Christ whom he hath sent?-- Through his word and through his human agents; we are to be his representatives. Through us the world will form their opinion of God and of the religion of Christ. Therefore Jesus said, "Herein is my Father glorified, that ye bear much fruit." "Let your light so shine before men, that they may see your good works, and glorify your Father which is in heaven." When men see, they glorify God. Great dishonor is brought upon the cause of God because those who profess Christ do not possess his Holy Spirit, but walk in their own ways. What a terrible misrepresentation of God, his ways, his character, are the selfishness of life and hardness of heart of his professed followers. A profession of piety is not enough; if religion is not brought into practical service, and does not produce good works, it is valueless. If we do not live to bless others, we are unfaithful stewards, and we shall never receive the heavenly benediction, "Well done." But God will have a peculiar people, of whom it is written, that Christ is not ashamed to call them brethren. They bear his likeness. They are a spectacle to the world, to angels, and to men." (Sabbath Review and Advent Herald June, 1893 p-27)

7. We seek to arouse the world to the love of God.

"Ministers of God, with hearts aglow with love for Christ and your fellow-men, seek to arouse those who are dead in trespasses and sins. Let your earnest entreaties and warnings pierce their consciences. Let your fervent prayers melt their hearts, and lead them in penitence to the Saviour. You are ambassadors for Christ, to proclaim His message of salvation. Remember that a lack of consecration and wisdom in you may turn the balance for a soul, and send it to eternal death. You cannot afford to be careless and indifferent. You need power, and this power God is willing to give you without stint. He asks only a humble, contrite heart, that is willing to believe and receive His promises. You have only to use the means that God has placed within your reach, and you will obtain the blessing." (Gospel Workers 1915 p-36)

8. We teach the love of God demonstrated through Christ, calling all back to a relationship with God.

"But this great sacrifice was not made in order to create in the Father's heart a love for man, not to make Him willing to save. No, no! "God so loved the world, that He gave His only-begotten Son." John 3:16. The Father loves us, not because of the great propitiation, but He provided the propitiation because He loves us. Christ was the medium through which He could pour out His infinite love upon a fallen world. "God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself." 2 Corinthians 5:19. God suffered with His Son. In the agony of Gethsemane, the death of Calvary, the heart of Infinite Love paid the price of our redemption." (Steps to Christ 1892 p-14)

[All quotes taken from early Seventh-day Adventist pioneer Ellen G. White]


Why Did Jesus Have To Die

Why Did Jesus Have To Die

Time to talk about Atonement Theory

By Ron Corson

In a Time magazine article entitled Why Did Jesus Die? [April 12, 2004] The author quotes a conversation on the subject by a men’s group, the leader of the group concludes: “It physically had to happen, I’m not sure I would have said that before I saw the movie [Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ]. But now it’s much clearer to me. I can’t say why he had to suffer the way he did. But Christ had to die.” In theological terms we are have entered the area known as soteriology, which is the theology which deals with salvation as effected by Jesus Christ. In Bible terms we are dealing with Atonement which means the reconciliation between God and man. As the Time article noted The Atonement is the centerpiece of Christianity. Which theory a person holds defines their Christian views as well as their particular view of God.

There have been several Atonement Theories throughout church history all with their own catchy Theological names. They range from the simple to complex. Beginning with the Apostolic Fathers we see the simplest theory which is known as the Moral Influence Theory.  Christ imparted to us: new Knowledge, Fresh life, Immortality. Clement states: Through Him God has called us from darkness to light from ignorance to knowledge of the glory of His name. Clement further says that Christ endured it all on account of us and that His sufferings should bring us to repentance. Hemas adds that Christ reveals to us the true God. Barnabas notes that He came to abolish death and to demonstrate resurrection from the dead. Peter Abelard who is most notable for his promotion of this theory one thousand years later said, “Love answers love’s appeal”.  The Moral Influence theory is directed at mankind, to draw them back to God through the knowledge revealed by Christ, God is love He offers forgiveness and reconciliation and life.

A little later the Theory of Recapitulation was put forward by Irenaeus.  This theory states that just as Adam contained in himself all his descendants so Christ recapitulated in Himself all the dispersed peoples dating back to Adam, the whole race of mankind, along with Adam himself. His conclusion is that humanity which was seminally present in Adam has been given the opportunity of making a new start in Christ, the second Adam, through incorporation in his mystical body. The original Adam by disobedience introduced the principle of sin and death, but Christ by His obedience has reintroduced the principle of life and immortality. Because He is identified with the human race at every phase of it existence, He restores fellowship with God to all. To Irenaeus it is obedience that God requires, and in order to exhibit such obedience, Christ had to live His life through all its stages, including death.

Later a more fanciful theory gained several centuries of acceptance. The Ransom theory with elements taken from Origin interprets the death of Christ as a Ransom paid by God to Satan in order to secure the redemption of humanity, which has been brought under his dominion by sin. Different writers had various options on this theory. Some admitted the possession of his captives, and the death of Jesus is interpreted as a ransom due to the devil on grounds of justice. Others denied the devil has a right to sinners, but saw God as too gracious to take what was His by force. Still others felt that man’s deliverance was secured by deception on God’s part. Satan being deceived by the humble appearance of the Redeemer supposing that he had to do with a mere man. Finding too late that the Deity whose presence he had not perceived escaped his clutches through the Resurrection. Some of the adherents to this view include Augustine, Gregory the Great, Gregory of Nyssa. While this theory has been forgotten by most Christians, remnants are still seen in many Christian Churches today. An example of this is seen in this statement by the late professor  Arnold V. Wallenkampf :“Satan had challenged Jesus' resurrection of Moses on Mount Nebo (see Jude 9); and legally Satan had a point. Moses had been a sinner, and as such he belonged to Satan.”

Around 1100 C.E. a more complex theory of the Atonement gained precedence. The Satisfaction theory was first produced in a clear coherent manner by Anselm, in his treatise, Cur Deus Homo, ( Why a Godman?) Anselm finds no reason in justice why God was under any obligation to Satan. Christ’s Atonement concerns God not the devil. Man by his sin has violated the honor of God and defiled His handiwork. It is not consistent with the Divine self-respect that He should permit His purpose to be thwarted. Yet this purpose requires the fulfillment by man of the perfect law of God. For this transgression, repentance is no remedy, since penitence, however sincere, cannot atone for the guilt of past sin. Nor can any finite substitute, whether man or angel make reparation. Sin being against the infinite God, is infinitely guilty, and can be atoned for only by an infinite satisfaction. Thus either man must be punished and God’s purpose fail or man must make an infinite satisfaction, which is impossible. The only escape is that someone be found who can unite in his own person the attributes both of humanity and of infinity. This is brought about by the incarnation of Christ. In Christ we have one who is very man, and can therefore make satisfaction to God on behalf of humanity, but who is at the same time very God, and whose person therefore gives infinite worth to the satisfaction which He makes. Christ death voluntarily given when it is not due since He was without sin, is the infinite satisfaction which secures the salvation of man.

From this, the majority of Christian Churches both Roman Catholic and Protestants have moved to the Theory put forth in the 1500’s known as the Substitution Theory (Penal Theory). With the exception of the Eastern Orthodox Church which really does not focus on any particular Atonement theory instead focusing upon Jesus’ triumph over death and way made to join Him.

The Substitutionary view held many of Anselm’s presuppositions regarding Christ’s Atonement. However it was modified in one very substantial way. The central position of the Atonement was interpreted not as satisfaction, but as punishment, and hence given a substitutionary significance. The infinite guilt of man’s sin which has so utterly alienated mankind from the Kingdom of Heaven that none but a person reaching to God can be the medium of restoring peace. Such an efficient mediator is found in Christ alone. Through whose atoning death the price of man’s forgiveness is paid and a way of salvation made open. John Calvin considers the Atonement not as a meritorious satisfaction accepted as a substitute for punishment, but as the vicarious endurance by Christ of that punishment itself. Calvin denies that God was ever hostile to Christ or angry with Him, yet in His Divine providence He suffered His Son to go through the experience of those against whom God is thus hostile. In His own consciousness, Christ bore the weight of the Divine anger, was smitten and afflicted, and experienced all the signs of an angry and avenging God.

The Penal Theory was severally criticized by the Socinians, who attacked the entire concept of substitutionary punishment. They held that punishment and forgiveness are inconsistent ideas. If a man is punished he cannot be forgiven, and vice versa. Under the theory of distributive justice, punishment, being a matter of the relation between individual guilt and its consequences, is strictly untransferable. The Socinians held to the Moral Influence Theory as mentioned by the Apostolic Fathers and the Apologists of the second century church.

In response to the Socinians Hugo Grotius wrote a work entitled The Satisfaction of Christ. Grotius was writing in defense of the Penal/Substitution Theory, however he, perhaps unknowingly modified the theory. In this view God does not deal with men as a judge but as a governor, who unlike a judge may temper justice with mercy, but the motives which lead him so to be temperate are never arbitrary. Thus Christ’s death is a substitute for punishment, a suffering inflicted by God and voluntarily accepted by Christ, which works upon men by moral influence in order to conserve the ends of righteousness. Such suffering on Christ’s part is necessary, since forgiveness on the basis of repentance alone might be misinterpreted by men and lead to grave carelessness. Among Arminians it has practically supplanted the older Penal Theory.


Early Christian Doctrines J.N.D. Kelly Harper & Row, Pub. New York 1960 pp. 163-183, 375-395

Encyclopedia of Religion and Ethics Vol. 5 pp. 640-650

The New Schaff-Herzog Religious Encyclopedia pp. 349-356

The Rise and Fall of Intellectual Christianity

The Rise and Fall of Intellectual Christianity
By Ron Corson
The word intellectual when not prefaced by the term “pointed headed,” reflects by definition the use of one’s intellect over emotion or experience. It is by and large in Western society the legacy of early Christianity. The Christian faith is built upon the books written by people after the time of Christ. Jesus wrote no words for us to quote or they would surely have become the Scripture to all Christians. There was no shortage of books about Jesus or about Christians in those first three centuries of the Common Era. There were many literary works with many differing views of God and Jesus Christ.
In the second century Marcion edited and presented his own view of what the Christian canon should be well before the proto orthodox (those who were the first to hold to what would become orthodox Christianity and the compiled a more standardized Christian belief) decided that a canon was a good idea. Marcion’s canon included several books by Paul and an edited version of something very similar to Luke’s Gospel minus the first few chapters. Marcion was a member of the Gnostic form of Christianity. As such the God of Jesus Christ and the God of the Old Testament were two different Gods and as with many Gnostic’s Jesus was not man or God/man He was a spirit, a phantom who only appeared to be a man. We know about Marcion because of what the Early Church Fathers wrote about him, we have none of his writings but we have a good number of other Gnostic writings many found in Nag Hammadi in 1945. Examples of Gnostic writing include the Gospel of Thomas, the Gospel of Philip and the Gospel of Truth. Those being the most readable but by no means cover all the Gnostic or other works from the early centuries of Christianity. Recently the news has told us about the new find called The Gospel of Judas. The debates in the first 400 years of the early church dealt with what today some call the “Lost Gospels”. It was from the Early Church Father’s writings until the find at Nag Hammadi that the Gnostic views were known. It was up to the Early Church Fathers to deal with those works and we can still read of their intellectual arguments.
The Early Church Fathers and even the Gnostic Christians were intellectuals. They used literary works to argue their position against the Gnostics and we have even seen Gnostic literary work that argues against the proto orthodox form of Christianity. The very literature we have today can often be traced back to these intellectual debates in early Christianity. Even the very simply logical idea of context of written material was decided by Christian argumentation. What is common sense to us today was part of the battle ground of the intellectual processes of our early Christian fathers. Today we would likely laugh at many of the arguments that some of the Early Church Fathers used. Yet the encapsulation of the Christian Canon was based upon years of Christian debate; arguments, rebuttals and appeals to reason. However these Christians show us intellectual debate does not remove God from the process.  God must act upon the human mind; it is the point of contact between the transcendent God and the physical man; the nexus between the spirit of man and the Spirit of God.
Intellectual Christianity takes work and as time passed it became easier to merely follow religious institutions. Man by his nature is often lazy and seeks the path of least resistance. Not all men of course, for the Christian church could never have been founded by lazy men and women. As orthodox Christianity grew and spread so did the power of the church. With time intellectual Christianity diminished. The Protestant Reformation gave renewed hope to Christianity as the intellectual Christians began to question what tradition had done to the orthodox Christian religion. The Bible as the accepted standard, again took center stage and intellectual Christians championed new ways of understanding the messages that God had inspired. The mind, perhaps God’s greatest handiwork was used by God through the agency of intellectual Christians to rehabilitate the Christian church from the damage done by tradition. When emotion and experience based upon tradition were opposed by the God enabled intellectuals, the church changed.
Protestants today are in need of intellectual Christianity as much as any other time in history. The intellectual activity of our predecessors does not automatically flow to us. Their wisdom and their folly are there to be seen and learned from by those willing to process the information. Protestant heritage includes great minds; men and women of great accomplishments. But to use our intellectual faculties we have to make decisions that likely will lead us away from traditions which were not well founded. Not all emotion, experience or tradition is contrary to intellectual process. But it is the intellectual process that evaluates emotion, experience and tradition deciding what to keep and what to discard. History is less a guide and more a milepost; a sign to the ever vigilant and a message to those who desire understanding.
As the Adventist church stands at a point where it must decide to cling to tradition or accept intellectual Christian challenges, so also must other Protestant churches. The term Evangelical at one time meant the idea of a church spreading the good news of God found in the four gospels. Today the term has come to mean the same as fundamentalist. Evangelical now means people who hold to the Bible as inerrant, infallible and holding to a strictly vicarious atonement, scientifically and socially out of step with reasonable people. While a Christian may not worry too much about what the world says of them (realizing that as Jesus said the world would reject His followers as it rejected Him). Still there may be some truth to those who now use the word Evangelical as derogatory.
The intellectual Christians that built up the church are becoming less and less visible. Today many of the large Protestant churches have abandoned the long held Protestant church practice of Sunday school. Many churches offer little opportunities for adults to interact with one another in the discussion of religious topics. Cell groups, the popular innovation of the last 20 years are sometimes so authoritarian that questioning a leader is not even allowed. Singing and Sermons have become the main form of religious instruction in today’s Protestant churches with the exception of Televangelists. Divergent views and questions have no place in today’s modern Christian churches. While Adventist churches have not abandoned the Sabbath school program it may be so poorly attended or conducted that it often becomes hard to find a Sabbath school that one feels comfortable presenting a differing view or posing serious questions.
The reason for this situation is very likely that today’s Protestants, as well as Adventists, have accepted the idea that his or her church has “The Truth”. The truth is being preached and there is nothing anyone needs to question or challenge. To challenge and question is what the atheists and the worldly folk do, it is not what we Christians do. It is the decline and fall of the Christian intellectual as the traditional once again gains ascendancy. It is possibly a new Dark Ages at a critical time for Christianity, with the concurrent lack of viability of Christianity in Europe and Canada and the attacks of progressive secularism in America. For Christianity to survive outside of the uneducated third world intellectual Christianity must be maintained. It is something that the Adventist church must fight for; it is something our Sabbath schools must fight for. Sabbath or Sunday school are a good indication of how well members are assimilated in a church, equally importantly however they are vital to intellectual Christians. Stimulating the thinking process and spurring continued study and application of knowledge.
The Christian church has a long history of argument. The arguments are recorded in the New Testament book of Acts and the writings of Paul. Several New Testament authors warn of the false teachers of the day. Truth and error have always existed inside the Christian Church; even the very godly can produce error and error repeated can become tradition. Christian Intellectuals may not be in agreement, they may even argue in Sabbath school and be critical of their own churches, but it is all apart of the process of thinking and applying knowledge. Christian Intellectuals believe that God will lead them into all truth, as the Bible says. However, since throughout history we have not arrived at all truth it is not likely that we will arrive at all truth today or tomorrow. We are all works in progress, and it is our faith in God manifested in Jesus Christ that maintains our unity even during the disagreements.