Saturday, February 28, 2009

Adventists vs. Same-Sex Marriage

I assume, as with the creation/evolution debate, that the vast majority of Adventists stand firmly on the side of God's word when it comes to the same-sex marriage debate. Basically, it all boils down to, "Should a Christian support, in any way, that which God condemns?"

Since it is very clear that the Scripture declares the practice of homosexuality to be sin, I voted in favor of Prop. 8 and the California constitutional amendment defining marriage as being between a man and a woman. The fact that there is even a need to define marriage as being between a man and a woman is quite telling of our society's moral condition.

I divulge this information so that there is no question as to which side I am standing. I am writing from a fundamental Christian perspective, so my belief in the Bible as the word of God necessarily makes me biased.

It can be argued, with some success, that since the Bible condemns the practice of homosexuality we should not vote for same-sex marriage, but at the same time we should not vote against it, either. It has been said by some that we should not force our religious views on the lives of others. Interesting argument.

My objection is this:

I have heard it said, and in no way possess any legal training with which to evaluate such a claim, that just as we've heard of such legal victories as homosexuals claiming discrimination based on sexual orientation by wedding photographers who refused to shoot photos at a gay wedding, there would be similar legal ramifications against the church if same-sex marriages were legal and homosexuality was considered a "right" and as such placed on the same discrimination list as race, religion, sex, etc.

The scenario goes something like this: A gay couple wants to be married by an Adventist pastor, the pastor cannot oblige this request because his conscience won't allow it and because God condemns it, the gay couple sues the pastor/church for discrimination based on sexual orientation. Or, a homosexual applies to teach at an Adventist academy and is not hired and sues the school claiming discrimination based on sexual orientation. Or, an Adventist pastor marries someone of the same sex and is fired, at which time he sues the church claiming discrimination based on sexual orientation. Or, an Adventist preacher is sued for daring to stand in a pulpit and declare that the Bible calls the practice of homosexuality a sin. Or, an Adventist academy is sued for failing to include same-sex marriages in teachings about normal family units, or normal lifestyles.

I'm not sure if I laid those scenarios out correctly, but you get the point. If we place sexual orientation on the same level as race, religion, sex, etc., then we must, by law, accommodate those who practice homosexuality in every position within the church, and with every service provided by the church, or risk legal repercussions.

Even though, as Christians, our religious liberty affords us the ability to refrain from participating in or accommodating any activity we believe to be morally wrong, our laws are leaning more and more towards punishing those who do not condone, and accept, homosexuality as being morally right.

I've heard it said by some, speaking of the "homosexual agenda": first tolerance was demanded, then it wasn't enough to be tolerated, so acceptance was demanded, then it wasn't enough to be accepted, so they wanted their homosexual "rights" to be protected.

So it is with any sin. Years ago, before I was born, certain sins were done secretly, kept in the closet, because society as a whole condemned such reprehensible behavior. Slowly these sins began being practiced more openly, in spite of much condemnation. After a while, as the older generations began slipping into eternity and the younger generations emerged with these sins being a normal part of society, the sins once locked away behind closed doors and universally considered wrong, were now viewed as acceptable alternative lifestyles.

Consider this:

Top Disciplinary Problems in Schools:

1940: 1. Talking out of turn 2. Chewing gum 3. Making noise 4. Running in the halls 5. Cutting in line.

1990: 1. Drug abuse 2. Alcohol abuse 3. Pregnancy 4. Suicide 5. Rape.

Whether this list is actual or fictitious doesn't concern me, because what it demonstrates is absolutely true regardless.

We don't see the exceedingly sinful and rebellious state of our society because it's all we've ever known. The devil ever so slowly adds trace amounts of poison to our lives, not just individually, but generationally, until, without even realizing it, we have become a generation full of evil. It's the "boiling frog syndrome" in which the environment becomes lethal so slowly that those dying within it aren't even aware of the mortal danger by which they're surrounded.

Speaking of the days of Noah, just before the flood, the Bible says, "The LORD saw how great man's wickedness on the earth had become, and that every inclination of the thoughts of his heart was only evil all the time." - Genesis 6:5

Christ said of the generation living just prior to His second coming, "Just as it was in the days of Noah, so also will it be in the days of the Son of Man." - Luke 17:26

And again, "Because of the increase of wickedness, the love of most will grow cold, but he who stands firm to the end will be saved. And this gospel of the kingdom will be preached in the whole world as a testimony to all nations, and then the end will come." - Matthew 24:12-14

Lastly, a description that seems to be written specifically of our generation, "But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come: For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money, boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy, unloving, unforgiving, slanderers, without self-control, brutal, despisers of good, traitors, headstrong, haughty, lovers of pleasure rather than lovers of God, having a form of godliness but denying its power. And from such people turn away!" - 2 Timothy 3:1-5

Again I say: to see a portion of God's own remnant church aligning themselves with the world on a wide "spectrum" of issues, and finding themselves opposed not only to the Scriptures, but to their Author, is something that sends chills down my spine.

But the knowledge that gives me peace is the following thought, as Clifford Goldstein replied when asked if he sees himself or others leaving the Adventist church for a more doctrinally homogeneous community if the worldly philosophies being espoused by some in the church continue:

"Well, if it were not for Ellen White and what she says about the future, I would think that would be a possibility. But my understanding is that is not what’s going to happen. My understanding, if I understand correctly, is that those who aren’t really grounded will be leaving. After all, if being an Adventist could cost you your life, you have to be a true believer, right?"

A Bundle of Choices

I've heard it explained so eloquently by Jim Hohnberger and received such a blessing from it, that I figured I'd try to write a post about it. You can find Jim's article about it by clicking here.

First, "the Christian life is not made up of doctrines, creeds, reforms, or church membership. It is not even made up of beliefs, but rather the Christian life is a bundle of choices. When God brings a truth or light to our understanding, it always comes with a choice. We must choose to submit to the will of God or refuse. When God has all my known choices, then He has me." - Jim Hohnberger.

The Christian life is a bundle of choices.

The Christian life is like a thick rope that has been cut in two. We are one piece and God is the other. Our goal is to be reconnected to Him. Each frayed strand of that rope is a possible choice. Every new truth we learn comes with a decision to make: will we follow? Will we surrender to God's will? If we choose to follow, then that strand becomes connected.

Caiaphas and the Thief on the Cross

Let's say for the sake of argument that there is a total of 100 choices that make up the Christian life. Out of those 100 choices, let's say that the thief on the cross only knew about 5 of them. But, on that cross, he surrendered to all 5 of his known choices. Jesus gave him assurance of salvation, why? Because he was 100% surrendered to God.

Let's say that Caiaphas, the high priest, knew about 70 of the choices, and was surrendered to 50 of them. If it was him on the cross instead of the thief, could Jesus have given him the same assurance that He gave the thief, that he would be with Him in paradise? No. Why not? Because he wasn't 100% surrendered to all his known choices.

Even though Caiaphas was surrendered to 10x more choices than the thief, he was not fully surrendered to all his known choices, whereas the thief was fully surrendered to all his known choices. And if the thief could have come down off that cross, God would have revealed more and more light to him and given him a chance to follow more and more and become more connected.

So, the Christian life is one of being surrendered to all of your known choices.

As we learn new truths, we have a choice as to whether we're going to submit to God and follow those truths, or whether we're going to say, "No, God." If we surrender ourselves to all our known choices, all the light God has revealed to us, then He will reveal more and more light (see Prov 4:18). If we do not surrender ourselves to God, what light we already have will be taken away (see 2 Thes 2:10,11; Mark 4:25; Matt 13:12).

The Rich Young Ruler

Then there's the story of the rich young ruler in Luke 18:18-23, who came to Christ and said, "What must I do to inherit eternal life?" At which point Jesus starts reciting the 10 commandments to him. So the rich young ruler says, "All these I have kept since my youth." And Jesus says, "One thing you lack, go and sell all your possessions and give to the poor, and you'll have treasure in heaven, and come follow me." Yet the rich young ruler walked away.

What did the rich young ruler's rope look like? He was fully connected except for one little string. All of the strands of his rope were connected to God except one last piece. Could Jesus have given him the same assurance of salvation that He gave the thief? No, because even though he had every strand of rope connected except the last string, he was not fully surrendered to all his known choices.

God doesn't want a 25% surrender from us, He doesn't want a 50% surrender from us, He doesn't even want a 99% surrender from us. He wants us to be fully, 100% surrendered to Him. With God, it's all or nothing. Remember what God said about being lukewarm in Revelation 3:16?

So the question we must ask ourselves is this: Are we fully surrendered to all of our known choices?

Friday, February 27, 2009

A Response To Adventist-Bashing

The following is a response I posted on a blog I found criticizing the Seventh-day Adventist church. As usual, there were a lot of erroneous statements as well as much undue focus on Ellen White. You may find it interesting to see what some misinformed people believe about the Seventh-day Adventist church. The original post can be found by clicking here.

Wow, this is one of the most inaccurate posts I've ever seen about Adventists. I hope you did this unknowingly and are not intentionally lying.

1. "The SDA church also publishes two of their own Bible "translations": The Study Bible and The Clear Word Bible." - NOT TRUE.

Any "Study Bibles" out there are regular translations such as NKJV, KJV, etc, which have study NOTES in them. They are not translations. "The Clear Word Bible" is a paraphrase from one man done as a personal devotional for himself, and is NOT endorsed by the Seventh-day Adventist church. Most SDA preachers use the NKJV, with some using NIV and KJV, etc.

2. "according to SDA's dogma, if an SDA does not accept Mrs. White as infallible, they have no salvation!" - NOT TRUE.

I have never met an Adventist who believes or teaches this, and it is certainly NOT the official position of the church. That is ridiculous. Whether one believes or disbelieves the counsel of Ellen White has nothing to do with salvation.

3. "SDAs believe that one can have immortality only on the condition that he comes to Christ through Ellen G. White; i.e., a works program, following salvation by grace with light of revelation through Ellen G. White as the infallible guide to Holy Scripture, apart from which one cannot have immortality.3 Then, at resurrection day, the body will be re-created (necessary because of soul sleep) for all those who believe in White's guidance and teachings (while non-SDAs will remain in "soul sleep" forever; i.e., will cease to exist [annihilated] and will not suffer everlasting torment). " - NOT TRUE.

SDAs teach that salvation is by grace alone, through faith alone, and not of works, lest anyone should boast. Christianity 101. Again, Adventists do not teach that salvation has anything to do with accepting Ellen White's counsel. Adventists do not believe that non-SDAs will remain in in the graves forever. First of all, Adventists teach that most of those who are part of what Jesus called the "resurrection of life" will not be Adventists at all. Secondly, those who did not accept Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour (notice it has nothing to do with Ellen White) will not just stay in the grave forever. Adventists teach that "the rest of the dead lived not again until after the 1000 years" - Revelation, and that they will "have their part in the lake of fire (hell)", and will be in the "resurrection of damnation" according to Jesus Christ.

4. "Christ. Mrs. White: "Christ took upon His sinless nature our sinful nature"...According to SDA, then, Christ acquired a sinful nature! Of course, if this could have been so, there could have been no sinless sacrifice, no hope for sinners, and no Savior." - NOT TRUE.

The Bible says "God made Him who had no sin to be sin for us, so that in Him we might become the righteousness of God." - 2 Cor 5:21

So yes, Adventists believe what the Bible teaches: that Christ took our sins upon Himself to save us. He took what we deserve, and gave us what He deserves. Again, Christianity 101.

5. "Therefore, one must keep Old Testament dietary and ceremonial laws, paying particular attention to keep the Saturday Sabbath and the Ten Commandments, and most importantly, making sure to faithfully pay the tithe." - NOT TRUE.

Adventists do not teach that salvation comes by keeping ANY law, but by faith in Jesus Christ. Adventists teach that we should follow the dietary laws because God made our bodies and knows what is best for them, and studies have shown that Adventists live longer and have less diseases than the rest of the world. (check articles about the "Adventist Health Study" by ABC News, Good Morning America, National Geographic) Adventists teach the very opposite of what your post says about the ceremonial laws. Adventists teach that ceremonial laws pointed forward to Christ, were a shadow of things to come, and were nailed to the cross. Adventists also teach that paying tithe is between you and God, and they do not meddle in the finances of their members.

6. "SDAs are not "allowed" to experience assurance of salvation, because then there would be no pressure on them to keep the Old Testament law, as interpreted by Ellen G. White, and especially no pressure to pay the tithe" - NOT TRUE.

Adventists teach we can have assurance of salvation. They do NOT teach the false doctrine of "once saved always saved." Adventists teach what the Bible teaches, that we have free will and can choose to walk away from Christ and away from heaven.
"For if we sin willfully after we have received the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins"
"Now the just shall live by faith; But if anyone draws back, My soul has no pleasure in him. But we are not of those who draw back to perdition, but of those who believe to the saving of the soul." Heb 10:26, 38, 39.

7. "Many rank-and-file SDA members deny that their organization any longer decrees Ellen G. White a God-inspired prophet." - NOT TRUE.

Most Adventists do, and should, believe that Ellen White was inspired by God. It is indeed the official position of the church. Most Adventists do, however, understand that believing Ellen White is NOT salvational.

8. "Yet EGW made numerous false prophecies: that "Old Jerusalem never would be built up" (Early Writings, p. 75), that she would be alive at the Rapture (Early Writings, pp. 15-16), that Christ would return before slavery was abolished (Early Writings, pp. 35, 276), that Adventists living in 1856 would be alive at the Rapture (Testimonies for the Church, Vol. 3, pp. 131-132), and many more." - NOT TRUE.

The Bible is clear that God makes conditional prophecies. Jonah is not a false prophet, yet he prophesied: "And Jonah began to enter the city on the first day’s walk. Then he cried out and said, “Yet forty days, and Nineveh shall be overthrown!”, but they repented and, "God saw their works, that they turned from their evil way; and God relented from the disaster that He had said He would bring upon them, and He did not do it." - Job 2:4,10.
Many of Ellen White's prophecies concerning the return of Christ were also conditional upon God's people repenting and turning to Him, and fulfilling the great commission.

9. Ellen White quotes teaching salvation by works: ""Our acts, our words, even our most secret motives, all have their weight in deciding our destiny ... though ... forgotten by us, they [our works] will bear their testimony to justify or condemn"" - NOT TRUE,

If that statement is teaching salvation by works, then so is the Bible and Jesus.

Eccl 12:14, "God will bring every work into judgment, with every secret thing, whether it is good, or whether it is evil."
Rom 2:15 "who show the work of the law written in their hearts, their conscience also bearing witness, and between themselves their thoughts accusing or else excusing them"
Matt 12:36 Christ speaking, "But I say to you that for every idle word men may speak, they will give account of it in the day of judgment."

10. Ellen White quote teaching salvation by works: ""When any have sins remaining upon the books of record, unrepented of and unforgiven, their names will be blotted out of the book of life ..." - NOT TRUE.

1 Jn 1:9, "If we confess our sins, He is faithful and just to forgive us our sins and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness."
We must repent of our sins to be forgiven and cleansed. If we don't, and they are not forgiven and cleansed, then we know the "wages of sin is death." This is not teaching salvation by works, but is again Christianity 101.

11. Ellen White quote teaching salvation by works, ""Each one of you needs to ... [be] working with your might to redeem the failures of your past life. God has placed you in a world of suffering to prove you, to see if you will be found worthy of the gift of eternal life"" - NOT TRUE.

Certainly Christians believe in the concept of restoration. If we become Christians, shouldn't we pay back anything we've stolen, or try to make right any wrongs we've done to people in our past lives?
Works do not save anyone, but they do prove that their conversion is genuine. As James says, "Show me your faith without your works, and I will show you my faith by my works.", "You see then that a man is justified by works, and not by faith only.", "For as the body without the spirit is dead, so faith without works is dead also." - Ja 2:18,24,26. Was James teaching salvation by works?

And as the reformer William Tyndale said: "The fruit that grows on a tree does not make the tree good or bad. It only makes known whether the tree is a good tree or a bad tree. Works do not make a man good or bad. They only make it plain to other men that he who performs those works is good or bad. The man is reconciled before God by faith alone and works are only to make this justification known before men." Was Tyndale teaching salvation by works?

And as Christ said, "By their fruit you shall know them." and "He who abides in Me bears much fruit." Was Christ teaching salvation by works?

Please, I beg you to consider carefully when presenting your views about the Adventist church...take the time to actually learn what Adventists really teach and believe instead of taking the words of other people.

Let's make sure the Bible is used as our sole source of truth.

Seventh-day Darwinians

What scares me is seeing the liberalism, if I may call it that, which has crept into the church. We see a significant number of professed Adventists denying Bible truth so foundational that nearly all Christendom agrees upon it.

Things like a literal six-day creation (seven if you count the Sabbath) or the literal worldwide flood of Noah's day. Seriously? I mean, seriously??

To see a group so seemingly blindly aligning themselves with the world as opposed to the plain truth revealed in Scripture only solidifies in my mind that "the shaking" is near.

While I may not agree completely with the somewhat "divisive" style of Clifford Goldstein, I certainly agree with his message. I was going to put in a quote or two from his article in the Adventist Review, but decided to just go ahead and post the whole thing.

I'm not hip to all the current copyright laws and such, but I'd hope that in the spreading of truth there would be no room for...well, let's just spread the truth without restrictions, ok? The original article can be found by clicking here. Here is the article in its entirety:

Seventh-day Darwinians

Rarely has there been a belief so ridiculous or contrary to the Scriptures that, once it becomes popular, some Christians haven't attempted to incorporate into the faith. In its long and often crude lust for cultural and intellectual correctness, the church has become what Jacques Ellul called "an empty bottle that the successive cultures fill with all kinds of things." Roman paganism, Platonism, Marxism, even Nazism have all had baptized aficionados struggling to cram these "things" into the bottle, now so warped and piecemeal it resembles a kaleidoscope image inspired by someone needing Prozac.

Of all the bizarre mismatches, though, none's worse than the attempt to harmonize evolution with Christianity. Evolution? Please! Nazism's a snugger fit.

Though raised on evolution, I one day found myself a born-again Christian who saw, immediately, an impossible conundrum between what I was taught my whole life and my new worldview. Within the first few days someone gave me the book The Genesis Flood, by Henry Morris, and for the first time I realized that the "proof" I was dogmatically given for evolution wasn't as solid as I had been led to believe from grade school through college. Over time, and after more reading, I was soon purged of all macroevolutionary presuppositions. In fact, if (heaven forbid) I ever lost my faith, I could never go back to evolution. Alien seeding or the Babylonian creation story seems more plausible than the standard scientific paradigm of origins.

"But," someone would say, "it's science." Exactly. And science is still only a human endeavor, and as such it comes burdened with all the prejudices, foibles, fears, and presuppositions of anything human. However much I respect science and stand in awe of its achievements, scientists can be as bigoted and dogmatic as historical critics (well, almost).

Now, it used to be that, for Adventists, evolutionary theory was a threat from without; as unbelievable as it seems, some among us have now accepted theistic evolution--the idea that God used the process of evolution, over millions of years, to create humanity.

These folks, though, don't worship the God of the Bible, for that God didn't use a long, protracted, and vicious dog-eat-dog, survival-of-the-fittest paradigm--one that goes against everything He has taught us about love and self-sacrifice--and then lie to us about it by claiming He created life here in six days when He didn't. Plus, that God didn't ask us to keep the seventh day as a memorial, not to the six days of Creation as He explicitly told us in His Word, but to a brutal, hateful, merciless process that took millions of years.

What amazes me isn't so much that people can believe in evolution (after all, I used to), but that those who do still want to be Seventh-day Adventists. I can respect someone who, believing in evolutionary theory, rejects the Adventist Church entirely. I have no respect for those who think they can meld the two.

For anyone, especially our young people, struggling with these issues, I say: Keep seeking with a fervent and honest heart. As long as you stick to the Bible (and Ellen White's books and articles) you will not go wrong. For those among us who have already decided--despite the Bible and Ellen White--on evolution, there are plenty of other churches for you. Ours isn't one. And to those teaching in our schools who believe in evolution and yet take a paycheck from the Seventh-day Adventist Church, I say: If you honestly reject a literal six-day creation in favor of theistic macroevolution, fine; now turn that honesty into integrity and go somewhere where you won't have to cloak your views under the anfractuosities of language.

I speak, I believe, for millions of Seventh-day Adventists when I declare that whatever the age of the earth itself, we will never make room for anything other than a literal six-day creation for life here--never. And for those who want more, you'll have to fight us for every extra minute--much less your millions of mythological years beyond--of which the Word of God knows nothing and with its first verses utterly denies.

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide.

Thursday, February 19, 2009

The Gospel of Peter

No, I'm not talking about the book of Mark. And no, I'm not talking about some new manuscript uncovered by archaeologists. :-) I'm talking about 10 verses in the book of Acts where Peter lays it all out. Enjoy.

The Gospel of Peter, Acts 10:34-43, "Then Peter opened his mouth and said: 'In truth I perceive that God shows no partiality. But in every nation whoever fears Him and works righteousness is accepted by Him. The word which God sent to the children of Israel, preaching peace through Jesus Christ - He is Lord of all - that word you know, which was proclaimed throughout all Judea, and began from Galilee after the baptism which John preached: how God anointed Jesus of Nazareth with the Holy Spirit and with power, who went about doing good and healing all who were oppressed by the devil, for God was with Him. And we are witnesses of all things which He did both in the land of the Jews and in Jerusalem, whom they killed by hanging on a tree. Him God raised up on the third day, and showed Him openly, not to all the people, but to witnesses chosen before by God, even to us who ate and drank with Him after He arose from the dead. And He commanded us to preach to the people, and to testify that it is He who was ordained by God to be judge of the living and the dead. To Him all the prophets witness that, through His name, whoever believes in Him will receive remission of sins.' "

Kind of wonderful. Peter sums it up nicely, don't you think?