Travels of a Generic Christian

A Christian shares the joy of his walk with the Lord Jesus Christ.

Do not stifle the Holy Spirit. Do not scoff at prophecies, but test everything that is said. Hold on to what is good. Stay away from every kind of evil. 1 Thessalonians 5:19-22

Sunday, July 30, 2006

Issues of diet

Here's a text that, looking back now, should have seemed quite problematic to me:

7:18-19: And He [Jesus] said to them, "Are you so lacking in understanding also? Do you not understand that whatever goes into the man from outside cannot defile him, 19because it does not go into his heart, but into his stomach, and is eliminated?" (Thus He declared all foods clean.) (NASB)

The parenthetical statement is actually part of the Biblical text! I didn't add it! Check it out for yourself!

I read through the entire New Testament when I was still a full believer in all 27 (now 28) fundamental SDA beliefs. Somehow this verse didn't really strike me. I think that it was around the time of my reading through the New Testament that I began to relax some of my strongly held SDA-specific beliefs. But, as I remained a believer in the inspiration of Ellen G White (EGW) I should have had a major problem with this verse. It's quite obvious that the verse not only allows for the consumption of meat, but of formerly unclean meats as well. Don't deny it and don't make up excuses; intellectual honesty is critical!

While I can still muster the SDA mindset, I'll try to provide an example excuse that I might have offered myself:
OK, I can accept that Jesus declared all foods clean, but back then they had neither the "health message" [i.e., in this context, EGW's proclamations of what we should and should not eat] or a good knowledge of medicine. When Mrs. White received the "health message" we learned that to eat meat, especially unclean meat, was to risk deleterious health effects--and thereby desecrate the temple of the Holy Spirit [i.e., our bodies]. So now we know that eating meat (especially unclean meat) not only desecrates the temple of the Holy Spirit, but that it ignores the counsel of the Lord's messenger [EGW].

(Ugh... I think I need a bath now! I think I may have gotten my first taste of the feeling C.S. Lewis referred to when he mentioned that he didn't take pleasure in writing The Screwtape Letters because of the mindset that he had to adopt to do it. Of course, I'm nothing next to Lewis.)

In practice, this kind of excuse is much more verbose so that it does a better job of transitioning from the beginning (truth) to the end (error). But you get the idea. Do you see what a person who offers himself this kind of excuse is doing? He takes a clear declaration from scripture and twists it around to entrench in his mind a (preconceived) concept that is in direct contradiction to the Bible!

Paul talks quite a bit about issues of food (see Romans 14, 1 Corinthians 8 and 10, Colossians 2), and all of his counsel completely agrees with Jesus and Mark... but not EGW.

More on the investigative judgment and a thought on SDA theodicy

Another text that made me uncomfortable while I held onto the Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) doctrine of the 1844-initiated investigative judgment is John 5:24--as referred to in my first post.

John 5:24 reads, "Most assuredly, I say to you, he who hears My word and believes in Him who sent Me has everlasting life, and shall not come into judgment, but has passed from death into life." (NKJV)

The judgment of 1844, according to SDAs, is where people with unknown salvational status will pass before the judgment seat of heaven for a decision of guilty or innocent. In the above text, Jesus tells us that the default state for all humans is 'death' and then explains that all those who believe on Him pass from this default state of death into life. ACCORDING TO JESUS, THE SAME JUDGMENT THAT SDAs BELIEVE
HAS BEEN GOING ON SINCE 1844, HAPPENS INSTANTANEOUSLY THE MOMENT SOMEONE ACCEPTS CHRIST OR, BY DEFAULT, DIES WITHOUT ACCEPTING HIM. Thus, by the words of Jesus Himself, there is no need for an investigative judgment—especially an investigative judgment of works!

After considerable contemplation of the Biblical evidence against the IJ, the following thought also hit me regarding the SDA take on theodicy:

Now that we live in the era after Christ’s death, resurrection, and ascension, to suggest that the character of God remains to be vindicated before the universe, is to slap Jesus in the face as He hangs dying on the cross. Did not God demonstrate his infinite love, perfect justice, and everlasting mercy to every living creature as His own Son was sacrificed for the sake of sinners? (“But God demonstrates His own love toward us, in that while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us.” Rom. 5:8 NASB) Must we suggest that in order for God to really be vindicated before the universe, He must display the works of all those who claim salvation in Christ? SDA theology says that the existing universe can already see our works—even our secret works. What more of this can they be shown? And what can better vindicate God than the Cross? The Bible tells us that Christ (God) was vindicated by the Spirit and seen by angels (By common confession, great is the mystery of godliness: He who was revealed in the flesh, Was vindicated in the Spirit, Seen by angels, Proclaimed among the nations, Believed on in the world, Taken up in glory. 1 Tim. 3:16 NASB) Is evidence that vindicates God in the minds of the Spirit and of angels not strong evidence enough for we who are lesser beings than they?

More texts on different topics to come...

Friday, July 28, 2006

Introduction: Freedom and Joy -- Let's Begin!


I have created this blog so that I may share the story of how I came to find salvation and true freedom in Christ and Christ alone. Absolute and utter joy is mine every day—no matter the circumstances. I am as far away from depression as is humanly possible. Yes, I am living the reality that existed only as a theoretical concept to me just a few years ago. I hope my experience will prove infectious.

In general, the first entries in this blog will focus on difficulties that I faced in finding this freedom within the Seventh-Day Adventist (SDA) walk—and how, through the grace of Christ, these difficulties were overcome.

Tenet 1) It has been my experience that one of the most important tools for SDAs who seek a more robust, carefree, exciting, on-fire relationship with the Lord is intellectual honesty. Here is my working definition:

Intellectual honesty means: Whether you like it or not and no matter the cost, accepting the conclusions that are best supported by the evidence (when any conclusions whatsoever can be made)—and, as a corollary, not twisting evidence into saying something that it does not say.

Tenet 2) I have found it critical to stand by the doctrine of Sola Scriptura. As explained at the CatholicMatch website Sola scriptura is the Protestant doctrine that Scripture alone is "the primary and absolute source of authority, the final court of appeal, for all doctrine and practice (faith and morals)" and that "the Bible -- nothing more, nothing less, and nothing else -- is all that is necessary for faith and practice."[1]

All SDAs that I have ever known are more than happy to take up a discussion within the framework of Sola Scriptura. Sola Scriptura is important because, as so nicely explained in David DePinho's personal testimony, SDAs, when cornered in an argument, will often play the EGW “trump card” to drive their point home. SDAs themselves believe that they should be able to provide a ready defense for their beliefs without ever having to rely on the EGW “trump card”.

Now, with intellectual honesty and Sola Scriptura to guide us, I’d like to begin by showing you a number of Biblical excerpts that always made me uncomfortable until I found true salvation and freedom in Christ alone. At this point in my life I can honestly say that I am perfectly comfortable—even excited by the straightforward, direct statements and implications of these texts. I praise and thank the Lord for this blessing every day! I would love for readers to have this experience themselves.

Note that all emphases are mine and that my commentary will sometimes follow text(s) (which, unless otherwise noted, are from the NKJV of the Bible). In general the commentary consists of thoughts and arguments that went through my mind as I contemplated the issues at stake.

Let’s get started:

Hebrews 9:12 "Not with the blood of goats and calves, but with His own blood He entered the Most Holy Place once for all, having obtained eternal redemption."

My final conclusion: If taken as it reads, this verse alone is a death-blow to the SDA doctrine of the investigative judgment (IJ). Note the past tense and use of the term “Most Holy Place”. Many English translations use the actual term “Most Holy Place”. If this is accurate, then the doctrine of the IJ must be rejected. (By the way, it is amazing to me that a defining doctrine of the SDA church hangs on the necessity of the term “Most Holy Place”, as read in Hebrews 9:12, being interpreted as only “Holy Place”. The IJ doctrine seems to be skating on very thin ice indeed.)

I have read the incredibly verbose SDA arguments on how the original greek used here actually means “Holies” and therefore refers only to the “holy” and not “most holy” compartment of the heavenly sanctuary (thereby keeping the doctrine of the IJ in place).

Unfortunately, even if you grant these SDA arguments, I found that in order to maintain the IJ as doctrine I had to cast out common sense: you see, if the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary was NOT used for the once-and-for-all-time event where Christ applied his blood to obtain eternal redemption (for all those who believe in Him) as the text says, then FOR WHAT OTHER EVENT IN GOD’S GREAT UNIVERSE THAT HAS ANYTHING TO DO WITH HUMANITY WOULD THE MOST HOLY PLACE OF THE HEAVENLY SANCTUARY BE USED? WHAT COULD POSSIBLY BE OF GREATER IMPACT FOR US THAT MIGHT BE DONE IN THE MOST HOLY PLACE OF THE HEAVENLY SANCTUARY?

Well, SDAs would suggest that a judgment of salvational assignment is taking place and that this is just as integral a part of redemption as Christ’s sacrifice. In my heart of hearts I disagree with this notion, but OK… Maybe… An assignment of this sort is logically necessary (man, am I itching to bring up John 5:24 here!)… But wait: the earthly sanctuary was a model of the heavenly sanctuary. And if a judgment of salvational assignment was not the core of the High Priest’s activities in the most holy compartment of the earthly sanctuary on the day of atonement, then why should we think it to be the core of what Jesus DID (or, as SDAs would prefer, IS DOING) in the heavenly sanctuary? (Is not the earthly sanctuary modeled after the heavenly?) I’m sorry… I just can’t twist this verse into supporting or even allowing the SDA doctrine of the investigative judgment.

But this isn’t all the author of Hebrews had to say regarding the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary:

Hebrews 6:19-20 19 This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil, 20 where the forerunner has entered for us, even Jesus, having become High Priest forever according to the order of Melchizedek.

And Hebrews 10:19-22 And so, dear brothers and sisters,[c] we can boldly enter heaven's Most Holy Place because of the blood of Jesus. 20This is the new, life-giving way that Christ has opened up for us through the sacred curtain, by means of his death for us.[d] 21And since we have a great High Priest who rules over God's people, 22let us go right into the presence of God, with true hearts fully trusting him. For our evil consciences have been sprinkled with Christ's blood to make us clean, and our bodies have been washed with pure water. (NLT)

SUMMARY: These passages utterly contradict the SDA doctrine of the heavenly sanctuary and the 1844-initiated investigative judgment.

I have no doubt whatsoever that many SDA scholars are more than ready with long, circuitous explanations to tell me what these texts really mean. However, if such explanations are thought to be required beyond the context of the verses themselves, chances are (mostly, not always) that one may need to refer back to what it means to be intellectually honest. Remember, evidence should not be twisted to fit preconceived ideas about the way things are or the way things work. Sola Scriptura.

More texts to come...

[1] Geisler, Norman L. and MacKenzie, Ralph E., Roman Catholics and Evangelicals: Agreements and Differences (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1995).