A More Perfect Union: Unity and the Structure of Belief

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A More Perfect Union: Unity and the Structure of Belief

What You Will Learn:

The purpose of this four-article series is to help the reader to:

  1. Understand the basis on which theological unity in the Seventh-day Adventist church is built (see article 1: Unity and the Structure of Belief)
  2. Understand the role (a) hermeneutics and (b) theological method plays in establishing theological doctrine and unity (see article 2: Unity and Diversity in the Context of Mission)
  3. Understand (a) the theological factions in the church, (b) the existing barriers to church unity, and (c) how divisive debates over working policy, fundamental beliefs, and the church manual are merely symptoms of deeper issues in the church (see article 3: The Local Church and Mission)
  4. Explore practical solutions that (a) solve the root problems behind church disunity, (b) rebuild trust between church entities, and (c) help members to experience biblical unity in diversity (see article 4: We Have This Hope)

Background—Where We Stand Today

A Problem Decades in the Making: A cursory glance at Adventist history will reveal that every few decades, the church is confronted with a significant theological crisis. A careful analysis of the buildup to these crises often shows that the issues at the heart of the debate are usually decades in the making, and as those root issues are not dealt with when the opportunity presents itself, an open fight breaks out and the work of God is stalled for a time. Occasionally, some conflicts are so contentious, they become standard “road signs” on the highway of the journey of the church.

A New Level of Disunity: In the past, some of these flashpoints were driven by dissident individuals, and were effectively counteracted by other individuals who often were leaders in the church. The current conflict (over dissident union compliance with General Conference policy on the issue of women’s ordination) also involves individuals—both members and administrators—on both sides of the debate, and it also involves global administrators wrestling with how to deal with the latest threat to unity. However, that is where the historical parallels end. We are experiencing dissent on an institutional basis: entire unions, rather than mere individuals.

The Paradox of Representative Leadership: Due to a myriad of constraints (practicality being a key factor), it is impossible for every member to vote their conscience on any number of issues that our churches face, which is why the Seventh-day Adventist church has a representative form of church government. The implication of such a system is that the decisions our elected representatives make at each successive level of the church are normative and binding on each individual member as if we ourselves had voted.

This representational system introduces a paradox. On one hand, we do not blindly believe in voted doctrines or policies because our church dictates that we should, because of the principle of the freedom of conscience—representative voting systems not-withstanding. On the other hand, for the sake of function, the global church has to accommodate certain impositions and inefficiencies that come from a representational process that effectively dilutes our individual vote.

Theological Disagreements Are Unavoidable: To be specific, disagreement with the way our representatives have  voted is unavoidable. In any given debate, there are always individuals who desire the church to proceed in a certain direction and others who wish the church to go in a different direction. The elected representative, however, cannot vote for both views simultaneously and is thus constrained to vote based on their own conscience and study of Scripture.

To counter this dissatisfaction regarding decisions made at higher levels of church administration that run counter to the strongly-held convictions of certain regions, some have suggested—in the current ordination debate—that regional votes be taken, so that each region can decide for themselves which path to take on ordination and other policy issues. However, this suggestion ignores the fact that even in this reductionist version of voting by region, there still will be division—as a minority will always still feel strongly one way or the other. Thus, there is no practical way to ensure complete agreement.

Representation and the Rise of the Global South: To compound this matter further, our church’s proportional system of representation dictates that, out of the thirteen world divisions, each division in and of itself is vastly outnumbered by the other divisions. The divisions in the northern hemisphere (Global North) are also fewer in number than those in the Southern Hemisphere (Global South). While the Global North used to dictate policy at the global level, recent decades has seen its power erode considerably as Global South divisions have overtaken it in membership levels.

The effects of this shift are seen in the representational system at the global level, as these inequities and imbalances lead to power struggles up and down the church’s structures. These power struggles are the most visible and tangible evidence to the average member that biblical unity has proven to be an elusive goal. When faced with these unpleasant realities, members respond in different ways:

  • Some choose to ignore the problems and try to focus on an area that they have greater say in.
  • Others choose to be non-involved.
  • Others may choose to leave the church entirely.
  • Some may choose to just attend church and contribute very little (if anything).

Disunity and the Local Church: All of these responses to disunity combine to produce a lethargy at the local church level. As the level of theological unity of the church drops off, discord and dissension rise. As individuals begin to chart their own course, both theologically and doctrinally, the level of discord rises, while the involvement of members in the local church drops.

Policy—A Necessary Evil: Consequently, church administrators are faced with the unpleasant realities of having to enforce compliance with policy to keep the church from disintegrating into chaos, schism, and anarchy. But what good is policy if there is no sense of unity behind the agreements made?

A Path Forward: Understanding the nature of biblical unity—and how it is produced—is key to returning the church to a state of unity in Christ. To get there, we must face some unpleasant realities, understand the theological and historical undercurrents behind our current debates, and understand how these issues contribute (in one way or another) to the dividing of God’s people.

Introduction—Understanding Biblical Unity

In this article, we will first briefly look at biblical unity and how biblical unity presupposes biblical diversity. We will then carefully examine two case studies of biblical unity from history: (1) the early church in the book of Acts, and (2) the pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist church. In the process, we will grasp the system of truth upon which the pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist church found unity. We will then be in a position to understand why unity in our day and age has proved to be elusive.

The Importance of Unity: According to church structure and organization expert, Dr. Barry Oliver, “The New Testament appeal for unity is unequivocal.”[1] It is clear to Oliver from his reading of John 17:14-23 and Ephesians 4:1-6 that “Unity is not an optional extra for the church. Unity is intrinsic to who we are. To promote disunity is to compromise the very nature of the community that Christ has established.”[2] He sees unity spoken of by Jesus and Paul as not being unidimensional but rather as “multidimensional.”[3]

Rather than uniformity, [biblical unity] is rich in diversity […] It is a dynamic unity just as the human body is dynamic, and it must adapt to changing circumstances and environments while retaining its integrity as the body – the body of Christ.

He sees this dynamic unity of (1) belief, (2) purpose (mission), and (3) function as essential to the growth of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He asserts,

For unity to exist in the church, as a whole there needs to be strongly and widely held structure of belief that defines in and of itself a boundary which provides an important aspect of identity for the church. If there is no structure of belief that describes the components of the belief system, unity simply cannot exist. Unity cannot exist in a vacuum of belief.[4]

Using Oliver’s 3-part system—(1) Structure of Belief, (2) Purpose, and (3) Function—I will contextualize the concept of biblical unity in this series. In this article, we begin by looking at how our structure of belief was constructed; in article two, we’ll examine how we derived our purpose (mission); in article three, we’ll take a closer look at our function (organization).

Understanding Biblical Unity: It is both a condition of being and a principle.

  • We are said to be united (condition of being) because we agree on certain things, such as a biblical worldview, a worldwide message, and a worldwide mission.
  • We also choose to be united (on principle) to organize and carry out our work in an efficient and orderly way.

Our love for each other—as expressed through both the condition and principle of unity—is a witness to the world of God’s leading in His church (see John 17).

Unity in Scripture: The Bible is rich in its imagery of unity. Inspired writers have reached for metaphors that cover the full range of human relationships, and have occasionally drawn from nature as well.

  • Malachi used the historical event of Creation—employing the metaphor of “one Father” and the “brotherhood” (Malachi 2:10).
  • Jesus used the metaphor of the Vine and its branches in His exposition on unity (John 15).
  • Paul used a series of “ones” to expound on his understanding of unity (Ephesians 4:1-6).

Each of these (and other) examples in Scripture reveal that unity is an intrinsic experience that flows from both a relationship with Christ and an understanding of His word (John 17).

The fact that each person mentioned here used different imagery to explain the same dynamic concept of unity reveals the principle and condition of biblical diversity. Each person’s concept of unity is the same; however, the rhetorical devices they use to describe it reflect both the author’s individuality and their respective audience’s ability to understand it.

Section 1: The Source of Unity in the Early Christian Church

How the Disciples Came to Be United: A careful exposition of the book of Acts will demonstrate that during the forty days between Christ’s ascension to heaven and the descent of the Holy Spirit, the disciples engaged in a period of intense Bible study and prayer. Through this process, they gained a deeper understanding of Christ’s mission. This is revealed in Peter’s reference to the prophecy regarding the person who would eventually betray Jesus.

As they went through the process of choosing another disciple to join the Apostles (to replace Judas), they understood the role of prophecy in predicting Christ’s mission on earth and saw in Christ the complete fulfillment of those prophecies (Acts 1:12-23). In Acts of the Apostles, Ellen White notes that while the disciples waited for the promise of the Holy Spirit to be fulfilled, they spent time in contemplation of the life of Jesus,[5] actively worked to put away any lingering disagreements between each other,[6] and put self aside as they became imbued with a higher purpose.[7] As they were transformed by Christ, they grew in unity with each other.[8]

How Saul Came into Unity with the Early Church: Saul, the persecutor, also underwent a similer period of intense study as he (a) reflected on the prophecies of the Messiah and (b) connected them to the risen Christ (see Acts 9). Ellen White writes of the effect Christ’s words (on the road to Damascus) had on his heart:

In that hour of heavenly illumination Saul’s mind acted with remarkable rapidity. The prophetic records of Holy Writ were opened to his understanding. He saw that the rejection of Jesus by the Jews, His crucifixion, resurrection, and ascension, had been foretold by the prophets and proved Him to be the promised Messiah. Stephen’s sermon at the time of his martyrdom was brought forcibly to Saul’s mind, and he realized that the martyr had indeed beheld “the glory of God” when he said, “Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand of God.” Acts 7:55, 56. The priests had pronounced these words blasphemy, but Saul now knew them to be truth.[9]

She wrote of those three days of darkness in his life as being the equivalent of years, and we can find similarities between Saul’s study of Scriptures with that of the disciples after Christ’s ascension:

For three days Saul was “without sight, and neither did eat nor drink.” These days of soul agony were to him as years […] During the long hours when Saul was shut in with God alone, he recalled many of the passages of Scripture referring to the first advent of Christ. Carefully he traced down the prophecies, with a memory sharpened by the conviction that had taken possession of his mind. As he reflected on the meaning of these prophecies he was astonished at his former blindness of understanding and at the blindness of the Jews in general, which had led to the rejection of Jesus as the promised Messiah. To his enlightened vision all now seemed plain. He knew that his former prejudice and unbelief had clouded his spiritual perception and had prevented him from discerning in Jesus of Nazareth the Messiah of prophecy.

As Saul yielded himself fully to the convicting power of the Holy Spirit, he saw the mistakes of his life and recognized the far-reaching claims of the law of God. He who had been a proud Pharisee, confident that he was justified by his good works, now bowed before God with the humility and simplicity of a little child, confessing his own unworthiness and pleading the merits of a crucified and risen Saviour. Saul longed to come into full harmony and communion with the Father and the Son; and in the intensity of his desire for pardon and acceptance he offered up fervent supplications to the throne of grace.

The prayers of the penitent Pharisee were not in vain. The inmost thoughts and emotions of his heart were transformed by divine grace; and his nobler faculties were brought into harmony with the eternal purposes of God. Christ and His righteousness became to Saul more than the whole world.

The conversion of Saul is a striking evidence of the miraculous power of the Holy Spirit to convict men of sin. He had verily believed that Jesus of Nazareth had disregarded the law of God and had taught His disciples that it was of no effect. But after his conversion, Saul recognized Jesus as the one who had come into the world for the express purpose of vindicating His Father’s law. He was convinced that Jesus was the originator of the entire Jewish system of sacrifices. He saw that at the crucifixion type had met antitype, that Jesus had fulfilled the Old Testament prophecies concerning the Redeemer of Israel.[10]

A Common Source of Unity: Clearly, there are similarities between (a) the re-consecration of the disciples of Christ and (b) the conversion of the Apostle Paul. Both the disciples and Paul came to a deeper understanding of Christ’s mission through a deep study of the Old Testament (the Bible of their day). This understanding was rooted in (a) the Sanctuary system of truth and (b) Christ’s fulfillment of the Jewish system of sacrifices.

Christ’s death on the cross was the epochal event of all time, and in the hour of His seemingly greatest humiliation, all of humanity was reconciled to God. Both the disciples and Paul understood the mission of Christ is such a deep way that they never departed from it. Never again would they seek nationalistic aims for the kingdom of God. Never again would they strive against each other for supremacy. United in the Word, through the word, by the Spirit, they went out and changed the world.

The Centrality of the Church: Ellen White’s analysis of Paul’s conversion reveals another aspect that is commonly overlooked amidst all the exploits of the disciples in the New Testament era. She writes that it was the Lord who arrested his descent into sin; however, the Lord decreed that he should find his mission from the church that He Himself has set up on earth as His agency of salvation:

In the record of the conversion of Saul important principles are given us, which we should ever bear in mind. Saul was brought directly into the presence of Christ. He was one whom Christ intended for a most important work, one who was to be a “chosen vessel” unto Him; yet the Lord did not at once tell him of the work that had been assigned him. He arrested him in his course and convicted him of sin; but when Saul asked, “What wilt Thou have me to do?” the Saviour placed the inquiring Jew in connection with His church, there to obtain a knowledge of God’s will concerning him.

The marvelous light that illumined the darkness of Saul was the work of the Lord; but there was also a work that was to be done for him by the disciples. Christ had performed the work of revelation and conviction; and now the penitent was in a condition to learn from those whom God had ordained to teach His truth.[11]

She sets the correct role of the church in the work of God on earth.

Many have an idea that they are responsible to Christ alone for their light and experience, independent of His recognized followers on earth. Jesus is the friend of sinners, and His heart is touched with their woe. He has all power, both in heaven and on earth; but He respects the means that He has ordained for the enlightenment and salvation of men; He directs sinners to the church, which He has made a channel of light to the world.

When, in the midst of his blind error and prejudice, Saul was given a revelation of the Christ whom he was persecuting, he was placed in direct communication with the church, which is the light of the world. In this case Ananias represents Christ, and also represents Christ’s ministers upon the earth, who are appointed to act in His stead. In Christ’s stead Ananias touches the eyes of Saul, that they may receive sight. In Christ’s stead, he places his hands upon him, and, as he prays in Christ’s name, Saul receives the Holy Ghost. All is done in the name and by the authority of Christ. Christ is the fountain; the church is the channel of communication.[12]

It is important to note that despite the importance of Paul’s conversion, Christ chose to engage with Paul away from Jerusalem, and far away from the original disciples. Furthermore, Christ chose a disciple who is only mentioned once in Scripture. The geographic location of this incident shows that Christ intended that any disciple of His, anywhere on earth could be an agent in saving someone to the kingdom. And it was through this common disciple—Ananias—that the greatest missionary of the church, the one who in the coming years would write the majority of the New Testament, received his mission to be the apostle sent to the Gentiles.

The Source of Theological Unity: The process for achieving true biblical unity is the same today as it was in the days of the disciples. In the early 1800’s, the early pioneers of the Seventh-day Adventist church embarked on a nearly two-decade-long study of Scripture and came to the same depth of understanding of Christ’s mission. It is this understanding that makes unity a possibility.

Without biblical unity built on Scripture, no compatible mission can arise—and without mission, action is purposeless. Unity in Christ is not some ethereal, mystical force. It is only possible through the study of Scripture and a coming to a correct understanding regarding the nature of Christ’s mission. It is only through individual surrender to Christ and the illumination of the word by the Spirit that true biblical unity can be reached.

The Importance of Unity: The church is a collection of individuals who have dedicated their lives to Christ. It is through this agency that the world must come to the knowledge of Christ. Unity in the lives of believers is a testament to the world of Christ’s work in them through the Spirit (John 17). Such a unity is not one built merely from feelings of brotherly love but rather through a rational investigation of truth and the acceptance of it.

We now turn our attention to the Second Advent Movement, to examine how the Adventist pioneers unconsciously replicated the same process the disciples went through in order to discover a biblical system of truth (the sanctuary) and the macro-hermeneutical role it played in rediscovering and integrating truths which had been long-lost to the church in the two millennia that followed the New Testament era.

Section II: The Source of Unity in the Early Adventist Church

Sabbatarian Adventists Unite on a System of Truth: According to Dr. Alberto R. Timm,

After the October 1844 Disappointment, the founders of Sabbatarian Adventism started on a period of almost two decades of intensive study of Scripture. One by one, such doctrines as the perpetuity of God’s law and the seventh-day Sabbath, Christ’s two phase heavenly ministry, Christ’s personal and visible Second Coming, the conditional immortality of the soul, and the modern manifestation of the gift of prophecy in the person and writings of Ellen G. White were incorporated into the new doctrinal system. Foundational in the development of that system were two major concepts – the cleansing of the Sanctuary of Daniel 8:14 and the three angels’ messages of Revelation 14:6-12.[13]

According to Dr. Fernando Canale,

As presented in Scripture, the sanctuary is not primarily a doctrine but a reality. This means that when the biblical authors wrote about a sanctuary they were interpreting reality. The reality of the Sanctuary is not primarily a building, but a Being, God. This means we cannot understand the meaning of the Sanctuary by focusing on the building. Instead we should focus on the Being who inhabits and relates through the building.[14]

The Sanctuary—A System of Truth: It is not surprising, then, that several Sabbatarian Adventist authors recognized the theological centrality of the heavenly sanctuary in their doctrinal system. Joseph Bates, for example, saw “harmonious perfect chain” of truth in the antitypical fulfillment of the typology of the sanctuary.[15] James White regarded the Sanctuary as the place where “all the great columns of present truth center.”[16] He also called it “the great center around which all revealed truth relative to salvation clusters.”[17]

For R.F. Cottrell, the sanctuary was the “grand center of the Christian system” and “the center of present truth.”[18] Uriah Smith spoke of the Sanctuary as the “grand nucleus around which cluster the glorious constellations of present truth.”[19] J.N. Andrews considered the sanctuary to be “the great central doctrine” in the Seventh-day Adventist system, because “it inseparably connects all the points in their faith, and presents the subject as one grand whole.”[20] According to Ellen G. White, the sanctuary was the key that “opened to view a complete system of truth, connected and harmonious.”[21]

The Three Angel’s Messages—A Biblical Purpose: The pivotal nature of the three angels’ messages for Sabbatarian Adventist theology was also stressed by several of the Sabbatarian writers. Joseph Bates, for instance, referred to Revelation 14 as providing “a most graphic delineation of the Second Advent movement, from its rise in about 1840, to a glorious state of immortality.”[22] J. N. Andrews stated that “at the present time, no portion of the Holy Scriptures more deeply concerns the church of Christ than Rev. [14].”[23]

For James White, the three angels’ messages were “links in the golden chain of truth, that connects the past with the present and future, and show a beautiful harmony in the great whole.”[24] Ellen White explained that many Millerites “saw the perfect chain of truth in the angels’ messages, and gladly received them in their order, and followed Jesus by faith into the heavenly sanctuary.”[25]

A United Structure of Belief: We conclude our exploration of the early Adventist structure of beliefs here—with Dr. Timm’s analysis of how the sanctuary and the three Angels’ messages integrated together to form a united whole:

Both the sanctuary and the three angels’ messages integrated the Sabbatarian Adventist doctrinal system in an outer and an inner dimension. In the outer dimension, both the sanctuary and the three angels’ messages integrated that system to the larger context of salvation history. While the sanctuary typology set the system in line with the unfolding plan of salvation, the three angels’ messages placed it within the framework of the historical-cosmic controversy between God and His followers and Satan and his followers. In the inner dimension, both the sanctuary and the three angels’ messages provided the framework for inner integration of the main components of the Sabbatarian system. While the sanctuary typology integrated those components theological-historically, the three angels’ messages integrated them historical-theologically. The theological-historical integration was due to the fact that the post-1844 cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary was theologically connected to almost all basic Sabbatarian Adventist teachings. The historical-theological integration of the system was brought about by the incorporation of those teachings into the chronological structure provided by the consecutive preaching of the three angels’ messages.[26]

The Sabbatarian Adventists drew from this experience when they developed their understanding of church order, which included a clearly developed statement of beliefs as both a tool for witness and a guard against disintegration. Sabbatarian Adventists then developed a credentialing system to regulate their ministers and safeguard the message being preached in the name of the movement.

But first, they achieved biblical unity through a mutual understanding of a system of truth as found in the Sanctuary. They integrated the Sanctuary and the Three Angels’ message, found the inner logic that pointed them to a worldwide mission, and later built a structure to carry out their mission—much like the early New Testament church did from 34 C.E – 100 C.E.

Conclusion—The Heart of the Problem

The Roots of Our Current Disunity: In the hundred and fifty years or so since the inception of the Seventh-day Adventist church, the macro-hermeneutical role of the Sanctuary has been lost among many of its members. Some sections of our church in the Global North no longer see the Sanctuary as a doctrine or system that can be sustained from Scripture. According to Dr. Oliver, “unity cannot exist in a vacuum of belief.”[27]

And yet, many are trying to do precisely that. As Contemporary Adventism has shed its primordial understanding of the sanctuary system, and with it, the understanding of the Three Angels’ Messages, the biblical unity that came with it has been lost.

A Disintegration of Unity: A careful analysis of General Conference Session business meetings will show that the debates over the articulation of our fundamental beliefs are no longer an attempt to convey a more precise witness or testimony as to what we believe. Rather, the process has devolved into a tug-of-war between those who seek to expand the contours of belief to take in culture, science, and other sources of authority, and others who desire to keep the biblical system of truth intact.

Dr. Andrew Mustard writes about the relationship of doctrinal unity in the church to a centralized structure:

“In order to maintain doctrinal unity in the church it would seem that a centralized structure was needed.” The most effective cure for a feeling of unimportance among members is to recapture the full meaning of the doctrine of the priesthood of all believers (cf. 1 Pet. 2:9). Such belief implies that all members of the church should share in its mission and ministry. These two ideas (centrality of organization and the local congregation as the “bulwark of Adventist mission and ministry”) must be kept in creative tension. Exaggeration of either aspect may lead to distortion of the church’s message and mission. For example, in the interests of efficiency, there may well be a temptation to cut short consultation and decision-making processes and concentrate authority in a few leaders. The challenges of dissidents within the church and the threat of schism may be seen as good reasons to increase the powers of those on higher administrative levels. Such temptations should be resisted, as also moves toward congregationalism (perhaps in the name of greater autonomy) should be withstood.[28]

The Rise of Theological Diversity: This ‘war’ between theological factions in the church has led to conflicts over the role of the church, its mission, and the function of its structure. As some factions reinterpret Adventist beliefs into evangelical ones and as others adjust it to science, the underlying basis for unity is contorted, and the sense of mission is shifted to something other than the proclamation of the Three Angels’ Messages.

The inner logic and biblical reality espoused by Scripture is set aside, and as a result, biblical unity is no longer the fruit of our study. Theological unity is no longer a reality in the Seventh-day Adventist church. In its place, we now have theological diversity that is built from a different set of hermeneutical principles and foundations.

The First Step Forward: The process of developing biblical unity begins with (a) our own commitment to Christ and (b) our individual commitment to follow His Spirit in our study of Scripture. The theological methods employed to extract truth from Scripture are simple in theory, but living by them is hard. It takes the grace of God in our lives to both truly understand our own sinful condition and also to be fore-bearing to our brothers and sisters in Christ.

The Fallacy of Theological Diversity: No matter how sincerely we sing the hymn, “We have this hope,” our unity remains shattered. It is impossible to make new disciples in local churches that are torn over conflicts over Scripture and practice. It is impossible to teach in schools where students simultaneously learn that God created the earth over millions of years and also over six literal days. Likewise, it is impossible to hold the structure of the church intact when half of it views the administration as being hostile to their conscientiously held beliefs.

For several decades, theologians have suggested that the way forward is a dynamic diversity that allows mutually exclusive beliefs to peacefully coexist in the church. In the next article, we will look at the different forms of diversity that exist in the church, and examine how biblical unity gives rise to biblical diversity. However, there is a cost attached to this biblical diversity, and it isn’t immediately clear if both the Global South and the Global North are willing to pay that price.

A Return to Biblical Unity: As the church struggles to balance unity and diversity, and as administrators labor to find common ground between competing factions, it may be time to look back to Scripture—to see how the disciples (a) attained unity and (b) moved from individualism and nationalism to embrace a truly global view God’s plan of salvation.

Similarly, we can find historical parallels with our pioneers who—from the ashes of the Great Disappointment—confronted their fears of creedalism, and followed the Lord’s leading in His word to rediscover the underlying system that united the truths contained therein, and in the process united those same believers into a global movement that persists to this day.

The Work Before Us: Just as Christ led Saul to Ananias back in the days of the early church, today, Christ undoubtedly has millions who are patiently waiting to hear His representatives share the Gospel with them. And who knows what theological contributions they will unleash on the world through Christ’s power.

But first, we must be united to the Vine, and each of the branches must find their connections to Him. Only then will true unity exist. Only then will the world take note that we have been with Jesus.

______

Notes.

[1] Oliver, Barry D. Reflections on the Church and Unity in Adventist Maverick: A Celebration of George R. Knight’s Contributions to Adventist Thought. Editors: Gilbert M. Valentine & Woodrow W. Whidden II. Pacific Press Pub. Assoc. Nampa, ID. 2014. Pg. 186

[2] Ibid.,

[3] Ibid.,

[4] Ibid.,

[5] White, Ellen, G. Acts of the Apostles. Pg. 36. “As the disciples waited for the fulfillment of the promise, they humbled their hearts in true repentance and confessed their unbelief. As they called to remembrance the words that Christ had spoken to them before His death they understood more fully their meaning. Truths which had passed from their memory were again brought to their minds, and these they repeated to one another. They reproached themselves for their misapprehension of the Saviour. Like a procession, scene after scene of His wonderful life passed before them.”

[6] Ibid. Pg. 37. “The disciples prayed with intense earnestness for a fitness to meet men and in their daily intercourse to speak words that would lead sinners to Christ. Putting away all differences, all desire for the supremacy, they came close together in Christian fellowship. They drew nearer and nearer to God, and as they did this they realized what a privilege had been theirs in being permitted to associate so closely with Christ. Sadness filled their hearts as they thought of how many times they had grieved Him by their slowness of comprehension, their failure to understand the lessons that, for their good, He was trying to teach them.”

[7] Idem. “These days of preparation were days of deep heart searching. The disciples felt their spiritual need and cried to the Lord for the holy unction that was to fit them for the work of soul saving. They did not ask for a blessing for themselves merely. They were weighted with the burden of the salvation of souls. They realized that the gospel was to be carried to the world, and they claimed the power that Christ had promised.”

[8] Idem. “Under the training of Christ, the disciples had been led to feel their need of the Spirit. Under the Spirit’s teaching they received the final qualification, and went forth to their lifework. No longer were they ignorant and uncultured. No longer were they a collection of independent units or discordant, conflicting elements. No longer were their hopes set on worldly greatness. They were of ‘one accord,’ ‘of one heart and of one soul.’ Acts 2:46; 4:32. Christ filled their thoughts; the advancement of His kingdom was their aim. In mind and character, they had become like their Master, and men ‘took knowledge of them, that they had been with Jesus.’ Acts 4:13.”

[9] Ibid., pg. 116

[10] Ibid., pg. 120

[11] Ibid., pg. 121

[12] Ibid., pg. 122

[13] Timm, Alberto R. “The Sanctuary and the Three Angels’ Messages 1844-1863: Integrating Factors in the Development of Seventh-day Adventist Doctrines” (1995). Dissertations. Pg. 155.

[14] Canale, Fernando L. “From Vision to System: Finishing the Task of Adventist Theology. Part III: Sanctuary and Hermeneutics.” Pg. 46

[15] Bates, Joseph. “A Vindication of the Seventh-Day Sabbath, and the Commandments of God: With a Further History of God’s Peculiar People, from 1847 to 1848″ (New Bedford, [MA]: Press of Benjamin Lindsey, 1848), pg. 90. Cited by Timm, pg. Xiii

[16] James White. “The Sanctuary,” RH, Dec. 1, 1863, pg. 5. Cited by Timm, pg. xiii

[17] White, James. Life Incidents, in Connection with the Great Advent Movement, as Illustrated by the Three Angels of Revelation 14 (Battle Creek, MI: Steam Press of the Seventh-day Adventist Publishing Association, 1868), pg. 309.

See also idem, “The Sanctuary and the 2300 Days,” RH, Mar. 17, 1853, 172. Cited by Timm, pg.  xiii

[18] Cottrell, R.F. “The Sanctuary,” RH, Dec. 15, 1863, pg. 21. Cited by Timm, pg. xiii

[19] Smith, Uriah. “Synopsis of the Present Truth. No. 19,” RH, March 25, 1858, pg. 148. Cited by Timm, pg. xiii

[20] Andrews, J. N. “The Sanctuary,” RH, June 18, 1867, pg. 12. Cited in Timm, pg. xiv

[21] White. Ellen. G. “The Spirit of Prophecy” (Battle Creek, MI: Review and Herald, 1884), 4:268. “The Two Dispensations,” RH, March 2, 1886, 129; idem, The Great Controversy Between Christ and Satan During the Christian Dispensation (Oakland, CA: Pacific Press, 1888), pg. 423, 454, 488; Cited by Timm, pg. xiv

[22] Bates, Joseph. Vindication, pg. 92. Cited by Timm, pg. xv

[23] Andrews, J. N. “The Sanctuary,” RH, June 18, 1867, pg. 12. Cited by Timm, pg. xiv

[24] Andrews, J. N. “The Three Angels of Revelation 14: 6-12,” RH, Jan. 23, 1855, [161]. See also idem, “Thoughts on Revelation xiii and xiv,” RH, May 19, 1851, pg. 81.

[25] White. Ellen. G. “Spiritual Gifts” (Battle Creek, MI: James White, 1858), 1:165-66. See also idem, 133-73, passim; idem, Great Controversy (1888), 435-54; passim idem, Testimonies for the Church (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press, n.d.), 6:17-18 Cited by Timm, pg. xvi

[26] Timm. pg. Xii-Xiii

[27] Oliver, pg. 186

[28] Mustard, pg. 282

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About the author

Adrian Zahid is a senior partner at a management consulting firm in southern California. A recent survivor of advanced-stage cancer, he is trying to make the most of the second lease on life that God has given him. He is the cofounder of Intelligent Adventist and in his free time enjoys helping nonprofits be sustainable and the Seventh-day Adventist Church succeed in fulfilling the Great Commission.

  • DavidB

    Not the most accessible piece, but interesting.

    It seems to me that what underlies much of the discord in Adventism is that we have forgotten the “whys” and “so whats” that hold together our theology. We have spent far too long focusing on “proving” our beliefs and have thus forgotten what their meaning is.

    This is exemplified in a recent discussion I witnessed on Facebook. It began with a well-meaning SDA stating “Saturday is the Sabbath.” One person suggested that was done away with as part of the “Old Covenant.” What followed was an increasingly ill-spirited group attack where various SDAs gave “proof” for Saturday Sabbath and began to call the character and faith of the other person into question. Being right doesn’t matter, when the spirit and meaning of what we profess is lost. I was ashamed. Sabbath is about connection, grace, (re)creation, etc. Too often, as with many of our beliefs, we use it like a club. No wonder people find our theology meaningless and problematic.

    Additionally, (and this is much of what is at stake in the current church crisis) in the face of failing belief and disagreement, our administration has increasingly sought to restore unity and agreement by application of power, rather than grace. This is completely contrary to Adventist principles and only serves to further undermine our witness and message.

    • Thank you for your comment. I wonder what you make of the General Conference Administration’s Year of Grace that it offered to the Unions.

      • DavidB

        I’m not sure exactly what question you are asking, but I think the “year of grace” generally misses the point. The GC continues to approach this as a policy issue. “Grace” is thus time allowed to fall into line with policy (which, in turn, assumes that is the only reasonable outcome). However, this remains a question of conscience and theology. Grace in that context must be meaningful engagement, not “we’ll wait for you to agree with us.” When God extends grace to humanity, it is certainly not “I’ll wait for you to agree with me”; rather, it entails vulnerable, long-term engagement which prioritizes the relationship and values trust over conformity.