How Are We Saved? The Character of God and the Atonement in the Adventist Church (Part 1)

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How Are We Saved? The Character of God and the Atonement in the Adventist Church (Part 1)

What is sin? Why did Jesus die on the cross? How are we saved? Is God’s character both loving and just, wrathful and gracious?

These are profound questions—ones that require humble, thoughtful study and biblical reflection. Two recent books by Seventh-day Adventist authors have sought to answer these questions in ways that occasion careful analysis.

Sin, Punishment, and Forgiveness

Timothy Jennings, M.D., in a recent book called The God-Shaped Brain, suggests that sin consists of fear and selfishness, but that this “isn’t our fault” since we were born with a “terminal illness.”[1] Rejecting the idea that Jesus took our place and was punished for our sins, he also discards the idea of a punishment from God altogether.[2] He suggests that the purpose of the cross was to “reestablish trust,”[3] not to pay the penalty for His broken Law.

For Jennings, sin always brings its own punishment. God does not keep any records of sin in heaven for which we need Christ’s intercession, atonement, and forgiveness. Rather, God is like your doctor, who prescribes a remedy and treatment for your illness. The idea of Christ taking our place is ridiculed as the equivalent of the doctor examining a healthy patient in place of the sick one. In this view, salvation consists of healing our minds and recognizing that God does not punish or need the death of Christ in order to forgive us.[4] The ultimate result in Jennings’ view is that God’s healing brings us to a place where we will have “no defects” and “no longer need the written law.”[5]

Another recent book from multiple Adventist authors (including Jennings), Servant God: The Cosmic Conflict over God’s Trustworthiness, propounds the same message. Herb Montgomery suggests that the results of sin are automatic—sin itself punishes, not God. He forgives everyone unconditionally; thus the only difference between the saved and the lost is “not that one group is forgiven and the other isn’t” but rather that some “believe how thoroughly and deeply they have [already] been forgiven.”[6] God accepts us “as we are, in all of our sinfulness,” without substitution or atonement.[7]

Another of the authors, Sue Lewis, suggests that the idea of the substitutionary death of Christ is the equivalent of human sacrifice, and that God forgives without the need for a sacrificial substitute.[8] “Christ did not need to be executed to make God willing to forgive and heal our hearts.”[9] God’s wrath is viewed as being only a giving over of sinful people to their rebellion, not in any way something related to punishment, revulsion, or retribution.[10]

Where Do These Ideas Come From?

Some of these ideas are by no means new in our history. According to Dr. Woodrow Whidden’s seminal biography of E.J. Waggoner, one of them—the denial of Christ’s substitutionary atonement—goes all the way back to this key figure.[11] Though he was greatly used by God in 1888 to draw attention to Christ’s salvation, Waggoner’s views began to change when he went to England in 1892. There he came under the influence of Edward Irving,[12] who taught against the substitutionary death of Christ.

In an article called “Why did Christ Die?”[13] Waggoner wrote (like these recent authors above) that “a sacrifice was not demanded.” He caricatured the idea of substitution in this way: “God was so angry at man for having sinned, that He could not be mollified without seeing blood flow; but it made no difference to Him whose blood it was, if only somebody was killed: and that since Christ’s life was worth more than the lives of all men, He accepted Him as a substitute for them.” Instead, wrote Waggoner, Christ died “to break down man’s enmity.”

This denial of the need for Christ’s substitutionary atonement has probably been most popularized in Adventism by Graham Maxwell (who has made many otherwise positive contributions to Adventism). In his books, Can God Be Trusted and Servants or Friends, Maxwell propounded essentially all of the ideas that Jennings and the other authors of Servant God are embracing.[14] For Maxwell, sin is “not a legal problem,” and there is no need for a substitute or the shedding of blood to allow for forgiveness.[15] Those who accept his view are God’s friends, but those who accept a substitutionary view are mere servants.

Positives and Negatives

What are we to make of these ideas? Certainly, not all of them are wrong. It is true, as several of the above authors observe, that we are all born with the “illness” of sin in us (Ps. 51:5; Prov. 22:15; Eph. 2:3; Gen. 8:21) and that sin does bring natural consequences (Gal. 6:7; Hos. 8:7). It is also correct that God desires us to know Him—His character of love—and that He longs to change our sometimes distorted thinking about Him (Jer. 24:7; 1 John 4:8; Ezek. 18).

But the ideas that the results of sin are only intrinsic or natural; that Jesus was not our Substitute on the cross, paying the penalty for our sins; that vengeance and retribution have no place in God’s character; and thus that the final destruction of the lost is self-generated seem to quite clearly stand at odds with many biblical passages. 

What Is Sin?

The idea that sin brings its own punishment, while partially true, is not a sufficiently conceived description of its horrendous nature. According to Jennings’ views, we are not essentially accountable to God for our sin. As we saw above, he believes that because we were born into a sinful condition, we are no more accountable for our sin than is a patient with a disease. But does this follow?

First of all, this view does not take sufficiently into account the role of Adam as our representative. Because of the Fall, we all enter the world in a lost, condemned state (Rom. 5:12-21). “Through one trespass there is condemnation for everyone” (Rom. 5:18, HCSB). As Ellen White put it, “The inheritance of children is that of sin. Sin has separated them from God. Jesus gave His life that He might unite the broken links to God. As related to the first Adam, men receive from him nothing but guilt and the sentence of death” (CG 475, emphasis supplied). Condemnation and guilt come upon on all because Adam, as the first representative of the human race, bequeathed “guilt and the sentence of death” to all his progeny.[16]

We are not born as a “clean slate.” Our initial condition brings God’s revulsion and wrath (Eph. 2:3). Contrary to what many suppose, volition is not a condition of guilt; we are guilty for unintentional sins, and these require atonement (see Lev. 4-6; Heb. 9:7).[17] We are all born with sinful natures that are out of harmony with God, and God cannot accept us in this state, though we did not choose it. From the moment of our first breath, every human being stands condemned and guilty before God because of what we are in Adam.

This may seem unfair at first, but it is not the whole story. Because “the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men” (Titus 2:11, NKJV) ever since Adam fell—on the basis of Christ’s promised and later actualized atonement—all have an opportunity to accept Christ and escape this condemnation, because He does not want any to perish (2 Pet. 3:9). He is the Second Adam who becomes our representative ifwe accept Him by faith (Rom 5:12-21). God desires our response of love for what He has done. We are justified by faith when we accept the gift of Christ’s righteousness (Rom. 5:17).[18] Until that time, we are under the wrath of God (John 3:18-19, 36; Eph. 2:3) and will remain so until we accept Christ.[19]

But as these authors would rightly acknowledge, no one can be lost on the basis of inheritance alone. Anyone who is lost is lost because they do not accept the remedy for sin. Our inheritance is not our only problem. All human beings have embraced and willingly acquiesced to this inheritance by choosing to disobey God. In both of these ways, “all have sinned and come short of the glory of God” (Rom. 3:23),[20] and “whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, so that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God” (Rom 3:19). “There is no one who does not sin” (2 Chron. 6:36). All who break God’s law are under its curse (Gal. 3:10, 22) and “deserve to die” (Rom 1:32). We are indeed accountable to God for who we are and what we have done.

So then what is the remedy for our condition? According to Jennings and the other authors of Servant God, the remedy is not forgiveness on the basis of the substitutionary death of Christ on the cross, but rather a change of thinking in the human being—an enlightened understanding. Certainly God wishes for us to be healed in our minds. But why does it have to be one and not the other? Why could it not be the case that God’s forgiveness offered through the substitutionary death of Christ is part of the very means He has for healing our condition?

This, in fact, appears to be exactly what Paul suggests in Romans. After describing the reality that “there is none righteous, not even one” (Rom. 3:10, NASB) and that the Law of God condemns every human being (3:19), he explains the solution:

All have sinned and fall short of the glory of God, and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus, whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins. It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus (Rom 3:23-26).

Sin is in fact a legal problem. We need forgiveness for breaking God’s Law. We are condemned by the Law of God and deserve death, but God’s justice was displayed by Christ becoming the propitiation for our sins. This word propitiation (ἱλαστήριον) is connected to the sanctuary service and the “mercy seat” where blood was applied on the Day of Atonement to the Ark of the Covenant to atone for the sins of the people (Ex. 25:17-22; Lev. 16:2; 13-15). Paul (above) and John apply this to what Christ has done for us in His death (1 John 2:2; 4:10). This well-known passage from Isaiah seems to clearly indicate that Christ’s death is substitutionary.

He was despised and rejected by men; a man of sorrows, and acquainted with grief; and as one from whom men hide their faces he was despised, and we esteemed him not. Surely he has borne our griefs and carried our sorrows; yet we esteemed him stricken, smitten by God, and afflicted. But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned—every one—to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all. . . . Yet it was the will of the LORD to crush him; he has put him to grief; when his soul makes an offering for guilt, he shall see his offspring; he shall prolong his days; the will of the LORD shall prosper in his hand. Out of the anguish of his soul he shall see and be satisfied; by his knowledge shall the righteous one, my servant, make many to be accounted righteous, and he shall bear their iniquities. Therefore I will divide him a portion with the many, and he shall divide the spoil with the strong, because he poured out his soul to death and was numbered with the transgressors; yet he bore the sin of many, and makes intercession for the transgressors (Isa. 53:3-6, 10-12).

As Paul points out, it is the very justification we receive by accepting Christ’s death that causes us to “have peace with God” (Rom. 5:1) and to be reconciled to Him. “God shows his love for us in that while we were still sinners, Christ died for us. Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God. For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life” (Rom. 5:8-10).

Notice that God does indeed have wrath, but we need not fear it if we have Christ. It is only those who reject God’s means of salvation through Christ that must face His vengeance and wrath (Rom. 2:5; 2 Thess. 1:8; Heb. 10:30).

Is God Exactly Like Your Family Doctor?

Yes, God is our Great Physician who wishes to heal us. But no, God is not a fellow human being to whom we go for physical improvement. No, the Father laying our sins on Jesus is not the same as human sacrifice. The Trinity was in agreement concerning the plan of salvation. The Triune God poured out Their love to us by sacrifice in the Person of Christ, and all three Persons suffered at the cross. Jesus was not an unwilling victim. He laid His life down for us (Mark 10:45; John 10:15-18). No, a doctor placing a healthy patient’s records in place of a sick one is not at all the same as Christ’s imputed righteousness accepted in our behalf (2 Cor. 5:21; Rom. 5:18-19; SC 62; 1 SM 396) and what is taught in our sanctuary doctrine: that the books of heaven contain records of our sins, and that these are erased on the basis of Christ’s atoning death (Dan. 7:10; Rev. 20:11-15; 21:27; 5T 471; GC 483).

God is the Creator of the universe, and as such He cannot allow the breaking of His Law without the punishment of death. This fact is revealed by the results of the final judgment—those who refuse Christ’s salvation are destroyed by a direct act of God (Rev. 20:9; 11-15; Rom. 2:5-9; 12:19; Heb. 10:26-31; 2 Thess. 1:8-10). And while it is true that all of us die because we are sinners, there are times when God actively executes people. Throughout Scripture God both allows sin to have its natural results as well as sometimes actively punishing and killing recalcitrant sinners (e.g., the Flood, Sodom and Gomorrah, Israel, Israel’s enemies, Nadab and Abihu, Ananias and Sapphira, King Herod, etc.). These people did not naturally self-destruct. And the final judgment of God is such that the lost are “thrown into the lake of fire” (Rev. 20:15)—it does not say that they willingly jump into it. Sin and rebellion against the Creator are treasonous offenses, and there is no such thing as unconditional forgiveness.

Satan deceives many with the plausible theory that God’s love for His people is so great that He will excuse sin in them; he represents that while the threatenings of God’s word are to serve a certain purpose in His moral government, they are never to be literally fulfilled. But in all His dealings with His creatures God has maintained the principles of righteousness by revealing sin in its true character—by demonstrating that its sure result is misery and death. The unconditional pardon of sin never has been, and never will be. Such pardon would show the abandonment of the principles of righteousness, which are the very foundation of the government of God. It would fill the unfallen universe with consternation. God has faithfully pointed out the results of sin, and if these warnings were not true, how could we be sure that His promises would be fulfilled? That so-called benevolence which would set aside justice is not benevolence but weakness. God is the life-giver. From the beginning all His laws were ordained to life. But sin broke in upon the order that God had established, and discord followed. So long as sin exists, suffering and death are inevitable. It is only because the Redeemer has borne the curse of sin in our behalf that man can hope to escape, in his own person, its dire results. (PP 522, emphasis supplied.)

“Without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness” (Heb. 9:22). “For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life” (Lev. 17:11). It is Jesus who came that “by the grace of God he might taste death for everyone” (Heb. 2:9). “He himself bore our sins in his body on the tree, that we might die to sin and live to righteousness. By his wounds you have been healed” (1Pet. 2:24). “For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God” (2 Cor 5:21). “For Christ also suffered once for sins, the righteous for the unrighteous, that he might bring us to God” (1 Pet. 3:18). God is loving and just, wrathful and merciful. God was not made loving by the propitiation, but He provided it because He is loving.

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. . . . 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. (SC 13.)

_______

Notes:

[1]Timothy Jennings, The God-Shaped Brain, (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity Press, 2013), 127.

[2]Ibid., 72. “Whatever the reason for God’s [past] action[s], it could not be as I had been taught since childhood—that God inflicted punishment for sin. If punishment were the reason, then he would still be doling it out, since wickedness has in no way diminished. I realized, even using the logic of those who believe God does inflict punishment for sin, that he would never inflict it before judgment. And since the judgment hasn’t yet happened, then his actions in the past were not for the purpose of punishing.”

[3]Ibid., 165.

[4]Ibid., 130-133.

[5]Ibid., 175.

[6]Dorothee Cole, ed. Servant God: The Cosmic Conflict over God’s Trustworthiness (Loma Linda, California: Loma Linda University Press), 350.

[7]Ibid.

[8]Ibid., 306.

[9]Ibid., 309.

[10]Ibid., 364-365.

[11]Woodrow Whidden, E.J. Waggoner: From the Physician of Good News to Agent of Division (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 2008), 269-273.

[12]William H. Grotheer, An Interpretive History of the Doctrine of the Incarnation as Taught by the SDA Church (typescript), 30, 32. See also Jean Zurcher, Touched with Our Feelings (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1999), 82.

[13]Present Truth, Sept. 21, 1893.

[14]Graham Maxwell, Can God Be Trusted? (Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing Association, 1977); Servants or Friends: Another Look at God (Redlands, CA: Pineknoll Publications, 1992).

[15]Maxwell, Servants, 111-112.

[16]Please note that I am not advocating the particular view of “original sin” that includes the idea that all human beings sinned “in Adam”—that we all sinned when he did. Rather I am suggesting that Paul’s point in Romans 5 is that because of Adam’s sin as our representative, all of us are born in a sinful state which is condemned by God—we thus need a Savior from the start. Jesus, the second Adam, reverses the sinful condition for those who “receive the gift of righteousness” (vs. 17). Some have suggested that passages such as Ezek. 18 are arguments against the view presented here. But this is dealing with a different issue: The Israelites were complaining that they were doomed because of what their parents had done, but God was telling them that they could become different people than their parents. It is a chapter about individual responsibility and consequences; it is not dealing with the question of Adam’s role in our sinful state and condemnation, as is Romans 5. My view is similar to that of Biblical Research Institute writer Gerhard Pfandl, who writes, “It may be useful to distinguish between Adam’s guilt and our guilt as a consequence of our inherited sinfulness. We do not inherit Adam’s [personal] guilt, but as a consequence of Adam’s fall we are born distant from God, out of harmony with his will, in a state of sin which is condemnable and therefore we are guilty before God. E.G. White may be referring to this guilt” (Gerhard Pfandl, http://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/documents/sinoriginal-web.pdf, 20). I recognize that not all SDA teachers and theologians view these passages of Scripture and Ellen White in exactly these ways, and I am open to further insights after further study.

[17]James 4:17 is a verse often used to mean that there is no such thing as unintentional sin. But it refers rather to what are called “sins of omission.” When someone knows the good that needs to be done and does not do it, they are sinning. The Bible is clear that unintentional sins are still sins (see passages cited above).

[18]Some SDAs believe in what is called “universal legal justification.” This is the idea that everyone is born justified by the cross. They then need to experience a second stage of justification during their lifetimes. This view seems at odds with Paul’s repeated point that we are “justified by faith” in Christ and willingly receiving His gift of salvation (Rom. 3:24, 25, 28; 4:3-5, 23-25; 5:1; 9:30; Gal. 3:24; Eph. 2:8-10; etc.). Justification is offered to all, but only those who “receive the overflow of grace and the gift of righteousness” (Rom. 5:17, HCSB, emphasis supplied) are actually justified.

[19]For those who die before reaching the age at which they can make a decision, we trust the mercies of God through Christ’s atonement (see 2SM 260; 3SM 313-315).

[20]Unless otherwise noted, all Scripture passages come from the English Standard Version, ESV.

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About the author

Timothy Arena is a Ph.D. student at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary studying systematic theology with a cognate in New Testament. He is a gifted pianist and is passionate about Seventh-day Adventist theology and history.

  • Timothy R. Jennings

    I would ask the author – why did you write this article? If you were trying to be accurate,
    honest and truthful, shouldn’t you have contacted me to clarify your understanding of what I teach before you wrote this article? Had you done so you could have avoided embarrassing yourself by writing something so blatantly false and distorted. There are far too many falsehoods for me to correct them all in this response, but some of the specific falsehoods are:

    · that I reject the idea that Jesus took are place or was our substitute – false, I teach Jesus was our substitute but not to change God or the law. Think about it – when Adam sinned did God get changed? Did God’s law change? Did humanity in Adam change? Then if God is to restore humanity to unity with Him where does Christ’s work have to be effectual? There is nothing Christ’s death needs to do to the Father nor the law – they remain perfect. Humanity on the other hand needed “healing” “recreation” “restoration to righteousness” and this was done
    in the person of Jesus Christ – our substitute.

    · that I suggest the only “purpose of the cross was to ‘reestablish trust,’” – this is partial truth, which means he misleads by suggesting this is all I teach was the purpose of the cross. This is false. It is true that one purpose of the cross was to reveal the truth about God and expose Satan as a liar and fraud. This was part 1 of what Christ provided for our salvation. But we needed more than this. We needed a restored nature. This Christ did for us as well. As EGW
    states:

    · “The law requires righteousness,–a righteous life, a perfect character; and this man has not to give. He cannot meet the claims of God’s holy law. But Christ, coming to the earth as man, lived a holy life, and developed a perfect character. These He offers as a free gift to all who will receive them. His life stands for the life of men. Thus they have remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God. More than this, Christ imbues men with the attributes of God. He builds up the human character after the similitude of the divine character, a goodly fabric of spiritual strength and beauty. Thus the very righteousness of the law is fulfilled in the believer in Christ. God can ‘be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus.’ Rom. 3:26. {DA 762.2}

    Note the key points in this:

    1. The law requires, not a legal payment, but perfect harmony with it, a right or righteous character– why? Because God’s law is the law upon which life is constructed to operate. It
    would be the same as saying, “the law of respiration requires you breathe.”

    2. Christ developed this because we could not

    3. It is offered to us as a free gift to “all who will receive them.”

    4. Then Christ “builds up the human character after the similitude of the divine” this is healing, this is reality, this is not metaphor. This is not, as the author of the article suggests, a
    mere change in thinking, this is radical transformation of the entire being by the indwelling Spirit. The author misrepresents and thus presents as false my view of our salvation as being a mere change in thinking about God. While it is true we must change our thinking to come to trust Him, our salvation includes complete renewal of heart motive, by the working of the Spirit.

    5. This is the right understanding of the “justification,” to be “justified” means to be “set right” or put back right, or restored back to rightness, or healed back to God’s original design.
    Which is exactly how EGW uses it in the passage above.

    The basic problem the author and all who side with his position have is that they have rejected
    the truth about God’s law and accepted Rome’s lie about God’s law that it is no different than human law, imposed rules put upon us which require external policing, judging, and punishing.

    God is Creator – as such He is the builder of the cosmos, and His laws are the protocols upon which reality is built to operate. (Law of Gravity, laws of health, laws of thermodynamics, law of liberty, law of love, etc.).

    God when He constructed His universe built it to operate in harmony with Himself. God is
    love and love is not self-seeking (1Jn 4:8 1Cor 13:5). We see this principle of giving built into the reality of all living things. Every breath we take we give away CO2 to the plants which give back O2 to us. A circle of love, giving, built into reality upon which life is constructed to operate. (many more examples in my book The God-Shaped Brain)

    Yet we are still free moral agents, and can transgress the law. We can tie a plastic bag over our heads and hoard our CO2 to ourselves. But the wages of transgressing God’s design for life is…. death.

    Here are some inspired references confirming this understanding of God’s law:

    · Love does no harm to its neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. Romans 13:10

    · The entire law is summed up in a single command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Galatians 5:14

    · Jesus replied: “‘Love the Lord your God with all your heart and with all your soul and with all your mind.’ This is the first and greatest commandment. And the second is like it: ‘Love your neighbor as yourself.’ All the Law and the Prophets hang on these two commandments.” Matt
    12:37-40

    · In living for self he has rejected that divine love which would have flowed out in mercy to his fellow men. Thus he has rejected life. For God is love, and love is life. COL 258

    · Our only definition of sin is that given in the word of God; it is “the transgression of the law;” it is the outworking of a principle at war with the great law of love which is the foundation of the divine government. GC 493

    · The law of love being the foundation of the government of God, the happiness of all created beings depended upon their perfect accord with its great principles of righteousness. GC 493

    · But turning from all lesser representations, we behold God in Jesus. Looking unto Jesus we see that it is the glory of our God to give. “I do nothing of Myself,” said Christ; “the living Father hath sent Me, and I live by the Father.” “I seek not Mine own glory,” but the glory of Him
    that sent Me. John 8:28; 6:57; 8:50; 7:18. In these words is set forth the great principle which is the law of life for the universe. All things Christ received from God, but He took to give. So in the heavenly courts, in His ministry for all created beings: through the beloved Son, the Father’s life flows out to all; through the Son it returns, in praise and joyous service, a tide of love, to the great Source of all. And thus through Christ the circuit of beneficence is complete, representing the character of the great Giver, the law of life. DA 21

    Daniel prophesied that a power would arise to seek to change God’s law. This change happened when Constantine converted and the idea of God’s law was changed in the minds of Christians from Design law, the law of love, the protocols upon which life is built, to law no different than our own, imposed rules by the heavenly dictator. EUSEBIUS the FIRST CHURCH HISTORIAN (263-339 CE):

    “There are no reserves in the stilted encomium [praise] with which Eusebius closes his history, no wistful regret for the blessings of persecution, no prophetic fear of imperial control of the Church. His heart is full of gratitude to God and Constantine. And it is not only his feelings that are stirred. He is ready, with a theory, indeed a theology, of the Christian Emperor. He finds a correspondence between religion and politics… With the Roman Empire monarchy had come on earth as the image of the monarchy in heaven.” (S.L. Greenslade, Church and State from
    Constantine to Theodosius, London: SCM Press, 1954.)

    “The great men who built up the Western Church were almost all trained Roman lawyers. Tertullian, Cyprian, Augustine, Gregory the Great (whose writings form the bridge between the Latin Fathers and the Schoolmen) were all men whose early training had been that of a Roman lawyer,—a training which moulded and shaped all their thinking, whether theological or
    ecclesiastical. They instinctively regarded all questions as a great Roman lawyer would. They had the lawyer’s craving for exact definitions. They had the lawyer’s idea that the primary duty laid upon them was to enforce obedience to authority, whether that authority expressed itself in external institutions or in the precise definitions of the correct ways of thinking about spiritual
    truths. NO BRANCH OF WESTERN CHRISTENDOM HAS BEEN ABLE TO FREE ITSELF FROM THE SPELL CAST UPON IT BY THESE ROMAN LAWYERS OF THE EARLY CENTURIES OF THE CHRISTIAN CHURCH.” (Thomas Lindsay in his book A History of the Reformation page 168)

    The author of this article and those who support him have accepted Rome’s false view of God’s law. That God’s law is no different than created beings make, rules put over one’s subject to control their behavior. And as such, God then runs His universe like a Roman dictator runs Rome. Thus the legal metaphors of the atonement, instead of being used to teach the reality of God’s creation law, instead are taken concretely and God is misrepresented as being required to inflict punishment for sin and thus God is put in the role of executing Christ by those who hold this view. This is Satan’s allegation against God’s law from the beginning, “every sin must meet its punishment urged Satan.. (DA 762).

    Note, how closely the atonement model of this author and those who support him are to the Roman Catholic model. Here is a Catholic description of the atonement:

    “What did Christ’s suffering and death actually accomplish that allowed the Father to provide the human race with salvation? … Scripture teaches only that Christ became a ‘propitiation,’ a
    ‘sin offering,’ or a ‘sacrifice’ for sins…Essentially, this means that Christ, because he was guiltless, sin-free and in favor with God, could offer himself up as a means of persuading God to relent of his angry wrath against the sins of mankind… Anger against sin shows the personal side of God, for sin is a personal offense against him. God is personally offended by sin and
    thus he needs to be personally appeased in order to offer a personal forgiveness. In keeping with his divine principles, his personal nature, and the magnitude of the sins of man, the only thing that God would allow to appease him was the suffering and death of the sinless representative of mankind, namely, Christ.” (Robert Sungenis, Founder and President of
    Catholic Apologetics International Publishing: Not By Faith Alone (Santa Barbara: Queenship, 1997), pp. 107-108.)

    Now note how those who support this author describe it:

    “Why did God the Father choose a cross to be the instrument of death? Why did He not choose to have Christ instantly beheaded or quickly run through with a spear or sword? Was God unjust in executing judgment on Christ with a cross when He could have done it by beheading, a noose, a sword, a gas chamber, a bolt of lightening, or a lethal injection?” (Whidden, W., Ministry Magazine, February 2007. http://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2007/February/sinners-in-the-hands-of-god.html)

    “One of the fundamental problems of the Moral Influence Theory is that it rejects the substitutionary nature of Christ’s death. The idea that God had to kill the innocent instead of
    the guilty in order to save us is considered a violation of justice. (Rodriguez, A., Adventist World Review, December 2007; p. 40.)

    God prophesied through Isaiah, that Christ would come to take up our sin-sick infirmed condition, yet we would misunderstand and say God is punishing Him:

    Surely he took up our infirmities and carried our sorrows, yet we considered him stricken by God, smitten by him, and afflicted. (Isaiah 53:4)

    And what did EGW say:

    Satan saw that his disguise was torn away. His administration was laid open before the unfallen angels and before the heavenly universe. He had revealed himself as a murderer. By shedding the blood of the Son of God, he had uprooted himself from the sympathies of the heavenly beings. (Desire of Ages, p.
    761.)

    Who do you believe killed Christ at the Cross, God or Satan? Those who disagree with me put God in the role of killing Christ. Consider carefully, whose side of the argument you choose to align yourself with.

    So, do I believe in the “substitutionary” death of Christ? ABSOLUTELY! But not as a legal substitution, Christ is our substitute in that He took upon Himself humanity broken off and damaged by Adam, and carried that humanity to completion. He fixed what Adam did to our species. In Christ we have a human character that is perfect, sinless and the law of love restored into God’s Spirit Temple. This was all done because God’s law could not be
    changed to meet the sinner in His sin, so our condition had to be changed to
    put us back in harmony with the law.

    For those who wish a deeper investigation of the truth and evidence, thinking it out for themselves. I invite you to visit our website comeandreason.com, or get a copy of The God-Shaped Brain and investigate the evidence for yourselves.

    Timothy R. Jennings, M.D.

    • Michael Younker

      Appreciate your long comment, Timothy Jennings. Speaking for myself, I appreciate much of what you shared (both in your book and comment) and the emphasis you put upon the points Scripture and EGW note in several places above. Your two points on the purpose of the cross both include some truth. However, sometimes it seems we pit various theories, like “moral influence” simply against “penal/legal substitution” theories, when the truth encompasses several dimensions. I invite you to consider the following.

      I think Tim Arena notes some points that warrant further reflection, and I believe he has accurately represented you on the key parts of the specific points he addressed:

      ***First, forgiveness requires a legal “debt” component–an atonement. If I may add some additional quotations from White, as you used her freely in your comment–

      “And ‘when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son.’ God’s wrath against sin must be exhausted. The punishment for sin must be borne. Having taken a survey of all that would be required of Him, Christ summed up the guilt to be canceled. He then gathered the entire responsibility to His heart, and bent His whole being to the task. He clothed His divinity with humanity, and as our Substitute and Surety, prepared Himself for the sword that was to smite Him.” Ellen White, ST Jan4, 1899

      “Jesus suffered the extreme penalty of the law for our transgression, and justice was fully satisfied. The law is not abrogated; it has not lost one jot of its force. Instead, it stands forth in holy dignity, Christ’s death on the cross testifying to its immutability. Its demands have been met, its authority maintained.” HPch9 “The whole debt for the transgression of God’s law was demanded from our Mediator. A full atonement was required.” Ellen White, HPch9

      “So great is the deceptive power of Satan that many have been led to regard the atonement of Christ as of no real value. Christ died because there was no other hope for the transgressor. He might try to keep God’s law in the future; but the debt which he had incurred in the past remained, and the law must condemn him to death. Christ came to pay that debt for the sinner which it was impossible for him to pay for himself. Thus, through the atoning sacrifice of Christ, sinful man was granted another trial.” Ellen White, FW30

      ***Second, and closely related to the first point, while I agree that in many ways sin punishes itself, as God is also a “passive” consuming fire, this does not mean that God does not actively punish the wicked, nor that, as a legal part of God’s plan of how man could be reconciled to him, that “retributive justice” was not given to both the wicked and to Christ–

      “The brief but terrible history of Ananias and Sapphira is traced by the pen of inspiration for the benefit of all who profess to be the followers of Christ. This important lesson has not rested with sufficient weight upon the minds of our people. . . . This one marked evidence of God’s retributive justice is fearful, and should lead all to fear and tremble to repeat sins which brought such a punishment.” CC ch324.

      “But although men have not discrimination to see it, yet the punishment for sin is just as certain as if it were extended when the sin was committed, unless the one who sins repents and turns to God. The longsuffering and forbearance of God will be appreciated by those who repent, and God will save them from sin. But those who continue to disobey will receive punishment which is proportionate to their rebellion against the God of heaven.” Ellen White, 1SAT 221

      The cup of iniquity is nearly filled, and the retributive justice of God is about to descend upon the guilty.–4T 489 (1880).

      “The power that inflicted retributive justice upon man’s substitute and surety, was the power that sustained and upheld the suffering One under the tremendous weight of wrath that would have fallen upon a sinful world. Christ was suffering the death that was pronounced upon the transgressors of God’s law.” 5BC 1103.

      “Man has not been made a sin-bearer, and he will never know the horror of the curse of sin which the Saviour bore. No sorrow can bear any comparison with the sorrow of Him upon whom the wrath of God fell with overwhelming force. Human nature can endure but a limited amount of test and trial. The finite can only endure the finite measure, and human nature succumbs; but the nature of Christ had a greater capacity for suffering; for the human existed in the divine nature, and created a capacity for suffering to endure that which resulted from the sins of a lost world. The agony which Christ endured, broadens, deepens, and gives a more extended conception of the character of sin, and the character of the retribution which God will bring upon those who continue in sin. The wages of sin is death, but the gift of God is eternal life through Jesus Christ to the repenting, believing sinner” (MS 35, 1895).

      The power and authority of the divine government will be employed to put down rebellion; yet all the manifestations of retributive justice will be perfectly consistent with the character of God as a merciful, long-suffering, benevolent being. EGW, GC541.

      “When the Israelites committed sin, and God punished them for their transgression, and the people mourned for the fate of the one punished, instead of sorrowing because God had been dishonored, the sympathizers were accounted equally guilty with the transgressor. {1SP 278.1}
      The Lord teaches us, in the directions given to Aaron, reconciliation to his just punishments, even if his wrath comes very nigh. He would have his people acknowledge the justness of his corrections, that others may fear. In these last days, many are liable to be self-deceived, and they are unable to see their own wrongs. If God, through his servants, reproves and rebukes the erring, there are those who stand ready to sympathize with those who deserve reproof. They will seek to lighten the burden which God compelled his servants to lay upon them. These sympathizers think
      279
      they are performing a virtuous act by sympathizing with the one at fault, whose course may have greatly injured the cause of God. Such are deceived. They are only arraying themselves against God’s servants, who have done his will, and against God himself, and are equally guilty with the transgressor. There are many erring souls who might have been saved if they had not been deceived by receiving false sympathy.” Ellen White, 1SP 278-279.

      I encourage you to consider the above quotations by Ellen White.

      • Timothy R. Jennings

        Thank you for your comments, and for those quotes you shared. The question is, which “law lens” does one use to understand the meaning of those passages. Only by coming back to “worship him who made the heavens, earth, sea” i.e. Designer with Design law, can we rightly understand the meaning of those passages. Notice what EGW says about the destruction of sinners and God’s role:

        “We are not to regard God as waiting to punish the sinner for his sin. The sinner brings the punishment upon himself. His own actions start a train of circumstances that bring the sure result. Every act of transgression reacts upon the sinner, works in him a change of character, and makes it more easy for him to transgress again. By choosing to sin, men separate themselves from God, cut themselves off from the channel of blessing, and the sure result is ruin and death.” 1SM 235

        Notice what she describes – a natural process in which those who sin, get changed by their sin, such that they are out of harmony with God and His design for life, thus they suffer and die, not as a legally imposed penalty inflicted by God, but by the unavoidable result of being out of harmony with how life is built to operate.

        If we hold to Imperial Rome’s idea of law, that God’s law is no different than that of created beings, rules imposed requiring external enforcement, then we misperceive. EGW brings this together in the following quote from Great Controversy. My comments of her quote will be in brackets:

        God has given to men a declaration of His character and of His method of dealing with sin. “The Lord God, merciful and gracious, long-suffering and abundant in goodness and truth, keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty.” Exodus 34:6, 7. “All the wicked will He destroy.” “The transgressors shall be destroyed together: the end of the wicked shall be cut off.” Psalm 145:20; 37:38. The power and authority of the divine government will be employed to put down rebellion; yet all the manifestations of retributive justice will be perfectly consistent with the character of God as a merciful, long-suffering, benevolent being. {GC 541.2}

        [God’s retributive justice will be consistent with God’s character of mercy and benevolence, how? Which law lens do you look through? If one uses the Imperial Roman lens of imposed rules requiring externally imposed punishment, then one finds conflict. But if one looks through the lens of Design law, the protocols upon which life is built then we find a beautiful harmony.]

        God does not force the will or judgment of any.

        [Would this be true if God were to be the one who inflicts externally imposed pain and death on those who don’t obey Him? No, in order for this to be true death and pain cannot come out from God as an infliction upon them. It is true if the pain and suffering is a result of their own choice. Note what she describes.]

        He takes no pleasure in a slavish obedience. He desires that the creatures of His hands shall love Him because He is worthy of love.

        [What makes someone worthy of love? Do men who physically abuse their wives engender love? If God were the source of inflicted torture and death would He be worthy of our love?]

        He would have them obey Him because they have an intelligent appreciation of His wisdom, justice, and benevolence. And all who have a just conception of these qualities will love Him because they are drawn toward Him in admiration of His attributes. {GC 541.3}

        [When God is presented as a being who is the source of inflicted pain and suffering do those qualities draw forth admiration? Again, which law lens do you see God through?]

        The principles of kindness, mercy, and love, taught and exemplified by our Saviour, are a transcript of the will and character of God. Christ declared that He taught nothing except that which He had received from His Father. The principles of the divine government are in perfect harmony with the Saviour’s precept, “Love your enemies.”

        [How can we harmonize this idea that the principles of the divine government are to love one’s enemies, with the torture and death of God’s enemies? If one holds to imposed law one cannot because one sees God as inflicting torture and death, but when we return to design law we see the truth that the torture and death result from unremedied sin not an imposition by God]

        God executes justice upon the wicked, for the good of the universe, and even for the good of those upon whom His judgments are visited.

        [note as the description unfolds how God visits justice upon them, what God’s actions actually are.]

        He would make them happy if He could do so in accordance with the laws of His government and the justice of His character. He surrounds them with the tokens of His love, He grants them a knowledge of His law, and follows them with the offers of His mercy; but they despise His love, make void His law, and reject His mercy. While constantly receiving His gifts, they dishonor the Giver; they hate God because they know that He abhors their sins. The Lord bears long with their perversity; but the decisive hour will come at last, when their destiny is to be decided. Will He then chain these rebels to His side? Will He force them to do His will? {GC 541.4}

        Those who have chosen Satan as their leader and have been controlled by his power are not prepared to enter the presence of God. Pride, deception, licentiousness, cruelty, have become fixed in their characters. Can they enter heaven to dwell forever with those whom they despised and hated on earth? Truth will never be agreeable to a liar; meekness will not satisfy self-esteem and
        pride; purity is not acceptable to the corrupt; disinterested love does not appear attractive to the selfish. What source of enjoyment could heaven offer to those who are wholly absorbed in earthly and selfish interests? {GC 542.1}

        [What is being described, imposed punishments or natural results?]

        Could those whose lives have been spent in rebellion against God be suddenly transported to heaven and witness the high, the holy state of perfection that ever exists there,– every soul filled with love, every countenance beaming with joy, enrapturing music in melodious strains rising in honor of God and the Lamb, and ceaseless streams of light flowing upon the redeemed from the face of Him who sitteth upon the throne,–could those whose hearts are filled with hatred of God, of truth and holiness, mingle with the heavenly throng and join their songs of praise? Could they endure the glory of God and the Lamb? No, no;

        [Why not? What prevents them? Is God the obstacle?]

        years of probation were granted them, that they might form characters for heaven; but they have never trained the mind to love purity; they have never learned the language of heaven, and now it is too late. A life of rebellion against God has unfitted them for heaven. Its purity, holiness, and peace would be
        torture to them; the glory of God would be a consuming fire.

        [Why are they tortured? What is the glory of God to them? Is the glory of God harmful to the righteous? What causes the suffering and pain? Is it God or is it
        unremedied sin in the sinner?]

        They would long to flee from that holy place. They would welcome destruction, that they might be hidden from the face of Him who died to redeem them. The destiny of the wicked is fixed by their own choice. Their exclusion from heaven is voluntary with themselves, and just and merciful on the part of God. {GC 542.2}

        [Who fixes or determines the destiny of the wicked? Is it decided in a courtroom in heaven? Or is it decided in the hearts of each person? And what is the determining factor? Character, whether one loves God and His methods or prefers Satan and his methods]

        Like the waters of the Flood the fires of the great day declare God’s verdict that the wicked are incurable. {GC 542}

        [God’s verdict is they are incurable – does that mean God’s verdict makes them incurable? Is God’s verdict the cause of their condition, the reason they die? Those in the group who disagree with my position argue that it is God’s judgment that is carried out upon the wicked. No, God’s verdict is His diagnosis, simply pronouncing the reality of the condition of the wicked. They are terminal and beyond healing, incurable and they are in this condition as a result of their own choice, not God’s verdict. “Let him who is wicked be wicked still…”]

        • Timothy R. Jennings

          One other point, those who argue against my view often do so under the mistaken belief that I present Moral Influence Theory (MIT). In my book I expose the inadequacies of the Moral Influence Theory and agree Christ had to do so much more than reveal truth to morally influence us to trust. According to the Scripture Christ’s death had three primary purposes:

          that by his death he might break the power of him who holds the power of death—that is, the devil—and free those who all their lives were held in slavery by their fear of death. Heb
          2:14,15

          Christ Jesus, who has destroyed death and has brought life and immortality to light through the gospel. 2Tim 1:10

          The reason the Son of God appeared was to destroy the devil’s work. 1 John 3:8

          “The life of Christ is to be revealed in humanity. Man was the crowning act of the creation of God, made in the image of God, and designed to be a counterpart of God; but Satan has labored [worked] to obliterate the image of God in man, and to imprint upon him his own image.” {LHU 48.2}

          Thus Christ revealed truth to destroy lies and the power of Satan to deceive, He destroyed death by destroying the infection of sin in humanity, and destroyed the devils work by restoring God’s image in humanity. In other words, He picked up humanity, broken off in Adam and fixed what Adam’s sin did to the species human. In Christ a perfect human being is formed, as EGW said in my post above “he developed a perfect character.”

          This is not MIT – so, critique my position if you must, but please critique
          my actual views and not the MIT which I don’t teach.

          • Michael Younker

            Thanks again Tim Jennings. I have not read or carefully studied all your writings, of course. To the points at hand, I think, as quickly and easily demonstrated above through White’s quotes, the topics of God’s law and the atonement are fairly complex, ones that we are often wont to oversimplify. I try to present both sides thoughtfully, and not “choose” too quickly what “law lense” I’m viewing through. Dismissing some aspects of God as being too “Imperial Roman” short-changes the argument; perhaps some of the traditional view sees something correctly that many contemporary protestants are not willing to see. Of course, I agree with all of the quotations from White and Scriptural texts, correctly interpreted, of course, which we must each strive to do. But I trust you see the tension in them? I do not dismiss the tension lightly.

            For example of where tension may be more desirable, you write: [Who fixes or determines the destiny of the wicked? Is it decided in a courtroom in heaven? Or is it decided in the hearts of each person? And what is the determining factor? Character, whether one loves God and His methods or prefers Satan and his methods]

            You appear to force a binary choice upon us that I don’t see as (philosophically) necessary. Who hardened Pharaoh’s heart? Both the man and God. Our destiny was/is decided both in heaven and in our hearts. We each play a role. I think reality is more dynamic and mutual (Creator-creature) than you portray it. We cannot develop “good character” without God’s aid! Faith itself is a gift. But God does not force us to use it, we do have limited free will, as He created us that way. In our fallen natures, however, we are “born” lost, and not in a neutral position from which to “decide.” Some decisions are made “for us.”

            That “wickedness” will ultimately be punished is determined by the “law” that preexisted our birth. The ways in which we violate God’s ideals in our fallen nature are dependent upon His laws (moral and natural), and our ultimate destinies (the options) were determined prior to our birth, unless we “choose” God, which God has made possible out of the love of His heart, a decision on His part in the Courts above before our birth, and made possible by a covenant between Father and Son! (“With clasped hands they [Father and Son] entered into the solemn pledge that Christ would become the substitute and surety for the human race if they were overcome by Satan’s sophistry. The compact was now being fully consummated.”) So, I see several dimensions at work, where you seem to prefer to force a choice that may lead minds down incomplete pathways.

            Concerning the main point of Tim Arena’s article, I think remembering the legal component of the substitutionary atonement is very important to remain balanced. This is not to dismiss how the Cross influences us, or how other aspects of the Cross may also come to bear! It was not an event with limited consequences or only a limited impact.

            May I point you toward some recent papers on these issues:
            http://www.atsjats.org/article/100/media/video-audio-archives/2013-spring-symposium-the-cross
            http://vimeo.com/channels/810748/videos/page:1/sort:preset

          • Timothy R. Jennings

            The Bible does present things in a variety of ways – yet there is only one reality. You mentioned how the Bible records the fact that Pharaoh’s heart was hard but then attributes responsibility to both God and Pharaoh.

            When one thinks imperialistically (i.e. imposed Roman law lens) confusion occurs. When one understands God’s design for His universe, including His design for the human mind (like a software designer has a design for it, God designed the human mind to function in certain ways. Deviations from that design are damaging), then a beautiful clarity occurs in which responsibility for the hardening rests with Pharaoh and not God.

            God provided evidence exposing the impotence of the Egyptian gods.
            Each of the 10 plagues that fell on Egypt demonstrated the powerlessness of the gods of Egypt. God was acting in Egypt to demonstrate He is the only true God, that the gods they worshiped were not God. God was responsible for presenting the evidence, but then, in harmony with God’s design of love and liberty, He left Pharaoh free to decide how he would respond to the evidence. Would he repent and humble himself before the Lord or would they reject the truth and thereby harden his heart?

            God’s role in Egypt was to present the truth to which Pharaoh had to decide how he would respond. If no truth had been presented to Pharaoh, then Pharaoh would not have had to choose to reject it and his heart would not have hardened against God as it did. It is when truth is presented and we reject it that the hardening of the heart occurs.

            So why did God present truth to Pharaoh when He, in His foreknowledge, knew Pharaoh would reject it and experience a hardened heart? Even though Pharaoh was going to reject the truth, God knew it is only by the presentation of truth that sinners can be set free (John 8:32). God would not deny Pharaoh the opportunity to be freed from sin. God would not deny Pharaoh the opportunity to be saved. Therefore God presented truth to Pharaoh in order to reach his heart and save him.

            God did not force Pharaoh’s will. Pharaoh freely chose to reject the truth and when Pharaoh hardened his heart God used Pharaoh as a powerful demonstration of the futility of worshipping false gods. The lessons of Egypt were publicized throughout the ancient world and awareness of the true God spread.

            This understanding harmonizes the various descriptions of Scripture, yet all in harmony with God’s character and methods of love and freedom.

            I really challenge people to see God as Creator – the one who Builds reality – we must stop lowering God down to no better than a created being, who cannot create reality, so we create imposed laws/rules that require external enforcement. When we present God’s law this way we diminish God and His character of love.

          • Michael Younker

            The issues are more complicated than we can give the proper treatment here. You are mostly correct in what you affirm, but it is possible to simultaneously be incorrect in what you’re denying. It is possible that once Pharaoh rejected God, that God could also proactively harden his heart toward a certain disposition of evil? Why do evil people act in a “certain” way? Are evil-hearts still free, or under various influences? How do you understand the freedom of those that are living “evil” lives? Are they still free? And what of those who are “free in Christ,”? How does sinless freedom really work (including prefallen?) I see no answers for these questions in your works. (Nor may there be clear answers anywhere!). I would posit that not all “deviations” from a software designers intent are necessarily damaging, by the way, if I were to be technical on how I view freedom.

            There is only one reality, but it has many facets; for example, depending on your field of study, determinism and indeterminism (many sciences struggle with these two issues). Your view of imperial law as an analogy (imposed laws) undercuts the philosophical complexities in the various sciences (quantum, social laws, etc.). How do you view the effects of God’s curses upon nature, may I ask? Some of them effect us in negative ways that seem unnecessary. Why did God proactively curse nature (instead of only human nature?), and how does that effect your view of laws and our ability to perceive them in nature, which is their ultimate paradigm for philosophy today?

            I would suggest that the vary reason there was even “confusion” in heaven is because the issues are more complicated than you suggest. Satan and evil angels were able to entertain much confusion before falling “too far.” Their natures, however, and knowledge levels, differed from ours, so our fall was treated differently by God. We are granted a second probation thanks to legal intervention on God’s behalf; Satan and his angels were not for reasons we could only speculate.

            Violation of some laws (natural sciences) are immediate in their consequences. Don’t eat to restore energy, you die. But the Sabbath and other moral laws (not eating from the Tree of knowledge) are “arbitrary.” Thus, some laws are “natural” and obvious, others are not. Not all of God’s universe of laws is of equal or plain explanatory equivalency. We still don’t know how “laws” work at the quantum realm, e.g. So some of God’s laws do indeed require external enforcement, by design. Others do not, nature will be its own enforcer. If God hadn’t cast out Adam and Eve, they would have kept eating from the tree of life, eg. But God ‘chose’ to cast them out, and then curse nature as well, to aid us in learning certain lessons.

            Blessings!

          • Timothy R. Jennings

            Let me answer by establishing one of God’s “laws” the law of freedom or liberty. This is a law upon which God’s universe operates and that God Himself does not violate. Why? Because love cannot exist in an atmosphere without freedom. This is testable, try it in any relationship. Restrict liberty, control, dominate, coerce, compel, and see what happens to love – it is always damaged and eventually destroyed. Thus EGW states:

            “God could have destroyed Satan and his sympathizers as easily as one can cast a pebble to the earth; but He did not do this. Rebellion was not to be overcome by force. Compelling power is found only under Satan’s government. The Lord’s principles are not of this order. His authority rests upon goodness, mercy, and love; and the presentation of these principles is the means to be used. God’s government is moral, and truth and love are to be the prevailing power.” {DA 759.1}

            “In striking contrast to the wrong and oppression so universally practised were the mission and work of Christ. Earthly kingdoms are established and upheld by physical force, but this was not to be the foundation of the Messiah’s kingdom. In the establishment of his government no carnal weapons were to be used, no coercion practised; no attempt would be made to force the consciences of men. These are the principles used by the prince of darkness for the government of his kingdom. His agents are actively at work, seeking in their human independence to enact laws which are in direct contrast to Christ’s
            mercy and loving-kindness.” {RH, August
            18, 1896 par. 2}

            There is no nuance here – there is no half and half – God and Satan are diametrically opposed. God NEVER uses Satan’s methods – yet those who misunderstand and accepted the imposed law construct make it appear so. Thus, when one reads the “earth is cursed for your sake” people change the Scripture to insert what is NOT there, that God cursed the earth. Not so!

            God had already disclosed to Adam and Eve what the consequence for sin is – death – not difficulty in agriculture. The change in the earth was due to sin and Satan’s alteration of nature. As EGW states:

            “Christ never planted the seeds of death in the system. Satan planted these seeds when he tempted Adam to eat of the tree of knowledge
            which meant disobedience to God. Not one noxious plant was placed in the Lord’s great garden, but after Adam and Eve sinned, poisonous herbs sprang up. In the parable of the sower the question was asked the master, “Didst not thou sow good seed in thy field? from whence then hath it tares?” The master answered, “An enemy hath done this” (Matthew 13:27, 28). All tares are sown by the evil one. Every noxious herb is of his sowing, and by his ingenious methods of amalgamation he has corrupted the earth with tares.” {2SM 288.2}

            In Genesis 3:17 God looks good as He works to save and heal mankind. In this verse our Savior is pronouncing the natural consequence which
            impacted nature when God’s rule of love was replaced by Satan’s rule of survival of the fittest as a result of Adam’s abdication of his rule to the
            devil.

            Paul says in Romans 8:22 that all nature groans under the weight of sin. God is announcing in Genesis 3:17, that, for mankind’s sake, He would not intervene to prevent the law of sin and death from impacting the earth, but the earth was now under the curse of sin. Why did God allow this? As a protection for mankind in a world of sin.

            Once Adam and Eve sinned their natural tendency was toward sin and selfishness. Industry and work is a hedge of protection from the power
            of the carnal nature. Maybe you have heard the old saying, “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” A powerful truth is espoused in this statement. Idleness allows the carnal mind time to wander away from the right and engage in unhealthy and destructive practices. Therefore, to protect man, to keep his time occupied, to teach self-discipline, self-mastery and diligence, God announced that it was for man’s sake that He would not stop the earth from changing.

            There are NO Arbitrary laws from God – this is Satan’s allegation and to say such demonstrates the depth of the infection of thought that has impacted our church and the desperate need for reformation. As EGW
            states:

            “Satan sought to intercept every ray of light from the throne of God. He sought to cast his shadow across the earth, that men might lose the true views of God’s character, and that the knowledge of God might become extinct in the earth. He had caused truth of vital importance to be so mingled with error that it had lost its significance. The law of Jehovah was burdened with needless exactions and traditions, and God was represented as severe, exacting, revengeful, and arbitrary. He was pictured as one who could take pleasure in the sufferings of his creatures. The very attributes that belonged to the character of Satan, the evil one represented as belonging to the character of God. Jesus came to teach men of the Father, to correctly
            represent him before the fallen children of earth. Angels could not fully
            portray the character of God, but Christ, who was a living impersonation of God, could not fail to accomplish the work. The only way in which he could set and keep men right was to make himself visible and familiar to their eyes. That men might have salvation he came directly to man, and became a partaker of his nature.” {ST, January 20, 1890 par.
            6}

          • Michael Younker

            Thanks Tim. Again, you assert very much that I agree with!! 🙂 However, none of those EGW comments (all of which I agree with fully, read in context) speak to the questions I raised, which concern how we reason about some theological questions (philosophy). My use of “arbitrary” was in a specific philosophical sense. If God had decided to create over 8 days instead of 7, then what day would be the Sabbath? God’s actions were arbitrary (Divine freedom), but the Sabbath was not arbitrary in that it corresponded to God’s actions (resting on the final day of creation), and our remembrance of it corresponds to its original institution (a literal day). Furthermore, in all God’s commands there is also a promise, thus they are not capricious (“arbitrary” in White’s use).

            Should I understand you to advocate autonomous freedom based upon your comments on freedom? Do you reject all biological determinism? This would place you in the stream of dualistic Greek Platonic rationalism, which has inspired both atheism as well as Catholicism, and denies the need for the humility of the human mind, including any atonement (my mind works just fine, they would say).

            You have also misused EGW’s passage on “Christ never planted the seeds of death in the system.” This has nothing to do with God’s “curse” upon nature per se. Rather, “It is transgression of God’s law–the law of love–that has brought woe and death. Yet even amid the suffering that results from sin, God’s love is revealed. It is written that God cursed the ground for man’s sake. Genesis 3:17. The thorn and the thistle–the difficulties and trials that make his life one of toil and care–were appointed for his good as a part of the training needful in God’s plan for his uplifting from the ruin and degradation that sin has wrought.” SC9. This doesn’t deny Satan as an active agent in nature, but it also indicates God is active as well.

            White wrote that Satan “is constantly seeking to excite a spirit of irreverent curiosity, a restless, inquisitive desire to penetrate the secrets of divine wisdom and power. In their efforts to search out what God has been pleased to withhold, multitudes overlook the truths that He has revealed, and that are essential to salvation.” PP53-55. I believe the same holds true when we try to deny what God has revealed (legal atonement) and explain an “easier” or “more logical” way by the standards of fallen human reasoning.

            There are some questions about which we have no clear answers, but
            to pause and reflect on them is helpful to promote humility. Why is it
            that there was not only a tree of knowledge, but also a tree of life?
            For what purpose did Adam & Eve need to continue eating of the tree
            of life, rather than merely of other healthy (perfect) trees? We are not told.

            I’ve not yet seen you respond clearly to EGW’s quotes that do appear to support a legal component to the death of Christ. To suggest “how we read them” seems to evade what they clearly say. It is not our characters alone that matter (our life pattern we develop into the future), but we all are born with a “past debt” that needs to be paid off; Christ has done this.
            Blessings!

          • John

            This “debate” should be wide open to the whole Adventist community.
            Why don’t you guys meet and talk it out where we can all listen online?
            I understand the best disinfectant is sunlight.

    • Timothy Arena

      Response to Jennings:

      Thank
      you for responding and entering into dialogue. I will respond to a number of
      your points below.

      1. I wrote the article because I think you and others are raising interesting
      questions about the atonement, and because I believe that your views, while
      containing some helpful thoughts, also have some problematic ones which lead to
      problematic conclusions which seem to stand at odds with much Scriptural and
      Ellen White data.

      2. As far as I am aware, once a person has published their work, readers are free to
      engage, agree, disagree, and critique this work as they see fit. It is not necessary
      to either contact or obtain the author’s permission before initializing such a
      response. My article was my way of entering into dialogue with you and your work.

      3. You did not demonstrate anywhere in your long response that I actually
      misrepresented your work. What you indicated was that I did not reproduce every
      aspect of it. This is, of course, true. But this is why the references to your
      work are included in the footnotes. Interested readers may freely go and read
      your book to see whether my analysis is correct. This is merely part 1 of an
      article with limited space. I simply engaged with the materials in your work
      that I found to be most problematic.

      4. Therefore, I am most certainly not ashamed of myself or my article. I do not
      claim infallibility, and I am still learning. But I am confident that I have
      devoted my best God-given energies to understanding Scripture, Ellen White, and
      your interaction with them on this issue.

      5. I have no problem with the quotes you posted, but I don’t see how they contradict the ones I posted. We seem to agree that inspired writings would not contradict themselves—especially on such an important matter. You are quite right that Christ died to show that Satan was a liar. Thank you for mentioning this important issue. But your use of DA 762 to support your point that God does not punish is quite problematic because you did not take into account what immediately follows her noting of Satan’s charge that “every sin must meet its punishment” or the many other places where Ellen White says that Jesus took our punishment for the breaking of God’s Law. Satan’s charge was that we must have the punishment: “Through Jesus, God’s mercy was manifested to men; but mercy does not set aside justice. The law reveals the attributes of God’s character, and not a jot or tittle of it could be changed to meet man in his fallen condition. God did not change His law, but He sacrificed Himself, in Christ, for man’s redemption. ‘God was in Christ, reconciling the world unto Himself’ (2 Corinthians 5:19).” “And ‘when the fulness of time was come, God sent forth His Son.’ God’s wrath against sin must be exhausted. The punishment for sin must be borne. Having taken a survey of all that would be required of Him, Christ summed up the guilt to be canceled. He then gathered the entire responsibility to His heart, and bent His whole being to the task. He clothed
      His divinity with humanity, and as our Substitute and Surety, prepared Himself
      for the sword that was to smite Him” Ellen White, ST Jan4, 1899. “Important
      truths concerning the atonement are taught by the typical service. A substitute
      was accepted in the sinner’s stead; but the sin was not canceled by the blood
      of the victim. A means was thus provided by which it was transferred to the
      sanctuary. By the offering of blood the sinner acknowledged the authority of
      the law, confessed his guilt in transgression, and expressed his desire for
      pardon through faith in a Redeemer to come; but he was not yet entirely
      released from the condemnation of the law. On the Day of Atonement the high
      priest, having taken an offering from the congregation, went into the most holy
      place with the blood of this offering, and sprinkled it upon the mercy seat,
      directly over the law, to make satisfaction for its claims” (GC 420).

      6. Justification is not given on the basis of our healing and transformation, but
      by faith. This was the whole point of the Protestant Reformation. “But to him
      that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly, his
      faith is counted for righteousness. (Rom. 4:5). This is the whole point of
      Ellen White saying that “His life stands for the life of men” and “His
      character is accepted in place of your character” (SC 62). “For His sake you
      are accounted righteous” (ibid.). “The righteousness of Christ is presented
      as a free gift to the sinner if he will accept it. He has nothing of his own
      but what is tainted and corrupted, polluted with sin, utterly repulsive to a
      pure and holy God. Only through the righteous character of Jesus Christ can man
      come nigh to God. . . . Let no one take the limited, narrow position that any
      of the works of man can help in the least possible way to liquidate the debt of
      his transgression. This is a fatal deception. If you would understand it, you
      must cease haggling over your pet ideas, and with humble hearts survey the
      atonement. This matter is so dimly comprehended that thousands upon thousands
      claiming to be sons of God are children of the wicked one, because they will
      depend on their own works. God always demanded good works, the law demands it,
      but because man placed himself in sin where his good works were valueless,
      Jesus’ righteousness alone can avail. Christ is able to save to the uttermost
      because He ever liveth to make intercession for us. All that man can possibly
      do toward his own salvation is to accept the invitation, “Whosoever will, let
      him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17). No sin can be committed
      by man for which satisfaction has not been met on Calvary. Thus the cross, in
      earnest appeals, continually proffers to the sinner a thorough expiation” 1SM
      342-343. “Every soul may say: “By His perfect obedience He has satisfied the
      claims of the law, and my only hope is found in looking to Him as my substitute
      and surety, who obeyed the law perfectly for me. By faith in His merits I am free
      from the condemnation of the law. He clothes me with His righteousness, which
      answers all the demands of the law. I am complete in Him who brings in
      everlasting righteousness. He presents me to God in the spotless garment of
      which no thread was woven by any human agent. All is of Christ, and all the
      glory, honor, and majesty are to be given to the Lamb of God, which taketh away
      the sins of the world” 1SM 396. Transformation does occur, but this is not the
      basis for our right standing before God. “He could rejoice in the fact that
      provision had been made for his redemption, through the merits of the blood of
      the only begotten Son of God, and that pardon could be written against his
      name. It was evident to him that the law did not abate one jot of its justice,
      but through the atoning sacrifice, through the imputed righteousness of Christ,
      the repentant sinner stands justified before the law. Christ bore the penalty
      that would have fallen upon the transgressor” RH May 23, 1899. It is true that
      our faith must be living and active, but it is a gift with no merit, and our
      standing before God is on the basis of Christ’s righteousness alone. It is
      actually this reality and its acceptance which lead to sanctification.

      7. Who killed Christ? In one sense, it was all of us, since “the Lord hath laid on
      Him the iniquity of us all” (Isa. 53:6). In another sense, it was God the
      Father Who placed His wrath upon Christ (“Yet it pleased the LORD to bruise
      him; he hath put him to grief: . . . thou shalt make his soul an
      offering for sin”) (Isa. 53:10). “The sins of men weighed heavily upon Christ,
      and the sense of God’s wrath against sin was crushing out His life” (DA 687).
      In another sense, it was the wicked men urged on by Satan (Acts 2:23; 7:52; DA
      761).

      8.This is perhaps the main point of my disagreements with you. You often pit
      ideas against one another that need not be dichotomous. This is the case with “natural result” vs. “punishment.” I appreciate that in one of your posts you are
      seeking to harmonize these ideas. May I suggest an alternative harmonization
      from the one which you presented? What if it is the case, as I suggest in the
      article based on many scriptural examples, that God sometimes allows natural
      consequences, and sometimes directly punishes; and further, that God’s direct
      punishment and vengeance is, in fact the result of sin which is clung to
      and un-atoned. But what about this idea of what is “natural”? From where did this “natural” principle come, if not from God? Vengeance from God is a biblical concept: “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you; And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ:
      Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power (2Thess. 1:6-9). The good news is that we need not
      fear this vengeance if we accept Christ and His atonement (Rom. 5:9).

      9.The “Rome view” trump card: In almost all SDA debates, it seems inevitable that
      at some point the person (usually running out of arguments) says, “But your
      view is Rome’s view.” Rome is wrong about many things, and yet it may be right
      about some things. The key is to compare all ideas with the Bible. At the risk
      of falling into this cycle of “your view is Catholic,” I will simply point out
      that actually, your view of justification being based on transformation and “inner
      renewal” is straight from the Council of Trent. Whereas the view I am
      presenting of the atonement turns out to be not at all the view of Rome.
      According to Rome, accepting Christ’s substitutionary atonement is not
      sufficient as a basis for salvation (just as you are arguing). Notice this from
      the Council of Trent: “Justification itself, which is not remission of sins
      merely, but also the sanctification and renewal of the inward man, through the
      voluntary reception of the grace, and of the gifts, whereby man of unjust
      becomes just, and of an enemy a friend, that so he may be an heir according to
      hope of life everlasting.” http://www.reformationhappens.com/works/trent-justification/.
      But the Bible says that we are justified
      while we are still ungodly (Rom. 4:5ff.), and that this justification is by
      faith, not by inner renewal or transformation. Otherwise how would we know when
      we had had enough transformation in order to be justified? Our justification is
      based on Christ’s imputed righteousness (Rom. 4:5; 20; 5:17-18; 2 Cor. 5:21
      Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-10; 1 SM 389-398). “It is the righteousness of Christ that
      makes the penitent sinner acceptable to God and works his justification.
      However sinful has been his life, if he believes in Jesus as his personal
      Saviour, he stands before God in the spotless robes of Christ’s imputed
      righteousness” (FW 106).

      10.Part II is coming next week. Perhaps it would be better to interact with my
      article until you’ve seen all of it. In Part II you will see that I don’t deny
      the need for transformation. It’s just that this is not the basis of our
      salvation, as was discussed above. This is what makes Christianity unique from
      all other religions.

      • Timothy R. Jennings

        Sadly, the level of misunderstand is so deep, that we are talking right past each other. When you say in your article that I don’t believe in the substitutionary nature of Christ’s death, when I state clearly I do – and then you follow up with claiming you didn’t misrepresent me – how can we even proceed?

        Another level of misunderstanding is when theologians confuse first death and God’s actions in Bible times to bring some first deaths about, with eternal death and the wages of sin. Your writing above suggests you are doing this when you speak of punishment of natural consequences verses imposed.

        It might be beneficial sometime to arrange an open discussion, in which we discuss these things, giving time back and forth to explain. I would be quite willing to do this publicly and recorded, perhaps Andrews would host such an event?

        • Michael Younker

          I’m uncertain concerning future possible exchanges in other venues, but as Editor of Compass I do wish to express my appreciation for your willingness to share your perspectives with us, Dr. Jennings. Sometimes it is possible for people to speak “past” each other, it is true. So, although some of us may have honest questions and doubts about the ideas we perceive you to be presenting, we share them in charity and openness! God’s blessings.

  • rachelcabose

    The Adventist Review recently published an article on the subject of God’s character as related to the destruction of the lost: http://www.adventistreview.org/141514-16. I found the discussion of various metaphors for salvation used in Scripture to be helpful in understanding this topic.

  • David Read

    Well done, Mr. Arena. I’ve long been troubled that the substitutionary atonement is one of the doctrines that so many Adventists have felt at liberty to ignore, fold, spindle and mutilate. Not only is this doctrine clear in the New Testament, it is even clearer in the Old. Not only is Isaiah 53 such a clear exposition of substitutionary atonement, the entire sanctuary doctrine, so well studied by Adventists, focuses on the substitutionary nature of the death of Christ–the Lamb of God–on our behalf.

    If there is no system of added, imposed punishment, there is no reason to keep a record of sin, and no reason for there to be a sanctuary in which that record is kept, no reason to cleanse the sanctuary of that sin on the typical and anti-typical Day of Atonement, no reason for the sins of the redeemed to be placed on the scapegoat, etc. The whole purpose of the sanctuary services was to illustrate how the subsitutionary atonement worked and works. I’m astonished at how some Adventists miss the forest for the trees.

    I look forward to part 2 of this important series.

    • Timothy R. Jennings

      David, Thanks so much for this comment for you help us identify another issue that causes confusion – the inability to differentiate metaphor from reality. When we stay stuck on metaphor, we lose the ability to understand the reality to which the metaphor points.

      If we don’t understand the reality to which the metaphor points, then we misunderstand the meaning of the records, the cleansing and the rest of it.

      EGW makes the reality clear in multiple places, here is one, try rethinking the meaning of all those metaphorical elements with this reality in mind:

      “The first tabernacle, built according to God’s directions, was indeed blessed of Him. The people thus were preparing themselves to worship in the temple not made with hands–a temple in the heavens. The stones of the Temple built by Solomon were all prepared at the quarry and then brought to the Temple site. They came together without the sound of ax or hammer. The timbers were also fitted in the forest. The furniture was likewise brought to this house all prepared for use. {3MR 231.3}

      “Even so, the mighty cleaver of truth has taken out a people from the quarry of the world and is fitting this people, who profess to be the children of God, for a place in His heavenly temple. We want the cleaver of truth to do its work for us. We are taken from the quarry of the world. The material must not be a dead substance but living souls, and these souls must be brought out of the quarry of the world, where the hand of God can fit them for the temple in heaven. We are here as probationers, and we must pass under the hand of God. All rough edges and rough surfaces must be removed and we must be stones fitted for the building. We are brought into church capacity with defects of character, but we must not retain them. We must be fitted and squared for the building. We must be “laborers together with God,” for we are “God’s husbandry,” we are “God’s building.” In view of this we must see that our temple is not defiled with sin. We should be lively stones, not dead ones, but live ones that will reflect the image of Christ. We must be worshipers in spirit and in truth.” {3MR 231.4}

      If one uses only the Bible and EGW to define the building components of the heavenly sanctuary, what does one find it is constructed of? Yes a real physical place, but built out of what? And if the passage above is the reality, then what is the cleansing? Can we explore this unfolding of truth, or must we remain stuck in symbols and metaphor?

      • David Read

        Dr. Jennings, you remind me of Cain, who was upset because his farm produce was unacceptable for sacrifice whereas his herdsman brother’s sheep was acceptable. You’re a doctor, and you seem to be upset that the biblical economy of sin and salvation cannot be expressed entirely in terms of pathology and healing, but requires recourse to the language of the law. (As luck would have it, I’m a lawyer and the doctrine of forensic substitutionary atonement is of my own language, and second nature to me.)

        I’m curious if you’ve ever tried your approach when you’ve been pulled over and given a ticket for speeding: “Officer, the real punishment for speeding is when I get into an accident and wreck my car and/or injure myself and/or others. The state doesn’t want that to happen, so it tells me not to speed, and I should obey that natural law. But a just and fair state would never punish me with an added, artificial penalty, such as a speeding ticket!”

        • Timothy R. Jennings

          Thank you, I think you have expressed very nicely the distinct difference between law that is design and built into the fabric of the reality that only the Creator can institute, and imposed rules that created beings can make. Sadly, so many want to pull God down to our level and make His laws no different than ours.

          • David Read

            So does God want you to be free to ignore the speeding ticket? Should you ignore it on the basis that it is contrary to divine principles of freedom? How can you trust the state when it adds artificial punishments to the natural consequences of speeding?

            Both Paul and Peter make clear that the “imposed rules that created beings can make” are an extension of God’s government:

            “The one in authority is God’s servant for your good. But if you do wrong, be afraid, for rulers do not bear the sword for no reason. They are God’s servants, agents of wrath to bring punishment on the wrongdoer.” Rom. 13:1-7

            “Submit yourselves for the Lord’s sake to every human authority, whether to the Emperor, as the supreme authority, or to the governors who are sent by him to punish those who do wrong and commend those who do right.” 1 Peter 2:13-14

            Here are some laws God wrote with his own finger:

            “Thou shalt not kill,” “thou shalt not steal,” “Thou shalt not bear false witness,”

            Are these so different from human laws? Don’t we in fact have a whole bunch of laws against killing, stealing, perjury, etc? Are we trying to pull God down to our level? Or pull our level up to His?

          • Timothy R. Jennings

            It is very difficult, when we have been so steeped in worldly thinking, worldly methods, worldly laws, to get our minds out of the rut of the world and truly understand God’s methods and ways.

            Our worldly minds are so vulnerable to compare God’s kingdom
            to the world. But notice what EGW says:

            “Whereunto,” asked Christ, “shall we liken the kingdom of God? or with what comparison shall we compare it?” Mark 4:30. He could NOT employ the kingdoms of the world as a similitude. In society He found NOTHING with which to compare it. Earthly kingdoms rule by the ascendancy of physical power; but from Christ’s kingdom EVERY carnal weapon, every instrument of coercion, is banished. This kingdom is to uplift and ennoble humanity. God’s church is the court of holy life, filled with varied gifts and endowed with the Holy Spirit. The members are to find their happiness in the happiness of those whom they help and bless. {AA 12.2}

            We misrepresent God to compare His government to our own,
            and His laws to our laws.

            Here is a description of God’s law:

            “The same power that upholds nature, is working also in man. The same great laws that guide alike the star and the atom control human life. The laws that govern the heart’s action, regulating the flow of the current of life to the body, are the laws of the mighty Intelligence that has the jurisdiction of the soul. From Him all life proceeds. Only in harmony with Him can be found its true sphere of action. For all the objects of His creation the condition is the same–a life sustained by receiving the life of God, a life exercised in harmony with the Creator’s will. To transgress His law, physical, mental, or moral, is to place one’s self out of harmony with the universe, to introduce discord, anarchy, ruin. {Ed 99.2}

            This is the message of the 3 angels – until we come back to worship Him who MADE the heavens, earth, sea.. Until we come back to worship the Designer, and reject the dictator view of God, until we reject this view of God that presents Him and His law like our laws we cannot fulfill our mission as a church and Christ waits for a people to arise to present Him rightly and stop this perpetual distortion of Him and His law!

          • Michael Younker

            Tim J., again, the situation here is you’re not seeing the whole picture on the very complex subject of laws. For example, what was the purpose of the “ceremonial law”? Why is it “changeable” (or “fulfill-able; what was “fulfilled)?

            When White says “The Holy Spirit saw good not to impose the ceremonial law on the Gentile converts, and the mind of the apostles regarding this matter was as the mind of the Spirit of God,” (AA194), that implies there was a time when it WAS imposed, with serious consequences for disobedience. How would your approach handle such situations? (I use this example as your EGW quote above specifically excludes the ceremonial). Sincere question, if you’ve the time.

          • Timothy R. Jennings

            Thank you for your sincere question, and one that is very reasonable, given how God HAS used imposed laws in human history, as you mention.

            Keeping in mind all the previous Bible and EGW quotes about God’s law being the law of love, the simple answer is – because sin damaged the mind of mankind such that we could no longer properly comprehend God and His law, thus He stepped in and communicated in a way they could comprehend, in order to protect and lead them back to Him and His design.

            As Paul states:

            “We know that the law is good if one uses it properly. We also know that law is made NOT for the righteous but for lawbreakers and rebels, the ungodly and sinful, the unholy and irreligious; for those who kill their fathers or mothers, for murderers, for adulterers and perverts, for slave traders and liars and perjurers—and for whatever else is contrary to the sound doctrine that conforms to the glorious gospel of the blessed God, which he entrusted to me” (1 Tim. 1:8-11, NIV).

            Why? Because we needed a diagnostic instrument to inform us of the sick condition of our being, as Paul says elsewhere, we would not know what sin is if it wasn’t for the law.

            EGW puts it this way:

            “If man had kept the law of God, as given to Adam after his fall, preserved by Noah, and observed by Abraham, there would have been no necessity for the ordinance of circumcision. And if the descendants of Abraham had kept the covenant, of which circumcision was a sign, they would never have been seduced into idolatry, nor would it have been necessary for them to suffer a life of bondage in Egypt; they would have kept God’s law in mind, and there would have been no necessity for it to be proclaimed from Sinai or engraved upon the tables of stone. And had the people practiced the principles of the Ten Commandments, there would have been no need of the additional directions given to Moses. {PP 364.2}

            And EGW states explicitly that the law that God ADDED after sin included the 10 Commandments, which is the distilled written version of the Law of Love that was always in existence:

            “I am asked concerning the law in Galatians. What law is the schoolmaster to bring us to Christ? I answer: BOTH the ceremonial and the moral code of ten commandments… “The law was our schoolmaster to bring us unto Christ, that we might be justified by faith” (Gal. 3:24). In this scripture, the Holy Spirit through the apostle is speaking ESPECIALLY of the moral law. {1SM 233, 234}

            The Moral law of the 10 Commandments didn’t exist in that form before
            humanity’s sinned – angels didn’t have a law of sin passing down the
            generations, or honoring mother and father. And Sabbath didn’t exist until this earth and sun were made. But the law of love, as described earlier, being an expression of God’s character and the protocols upon which life is built, has always been in existence. The 10 Commandments were a codification of the law of love especially written for humanity in its fallen state.

            Paul tells us in Hebrews 5-6 that the immature infants still on milk “are
            not acquainted with righteousness” and then he tells us what the elementary or infant formula is, that is not yet righteous?

            “Therefore let us move beyond the elementary teachings about Christ and be taken forward to maturity, not laying again the foundation of repentance from acts that lead to death…” Heb 6:1

            Note, they focus on acts that lead to death, i.e. breaking the rules, law keeping, is not mature, it is childish and not righteous. We must grow up to the full statures of sons and daughters of God.

            There are seven levels of understanding right and wrong – because God is love, God speaks to each person at their level of development, just as a parent speaks to their children in different ways at various stages of development. A parent explains things differently to a 3 year old than a 30 year old, so does God.

            The seven levels are:

            1. Reward and punishment – The most basic level of understanding whether something is right is if we receive reward and wrong if we are punished. This is a slave mentality. This is ancient Israel as slaves in
            Egypt, doing what the master says to avoid punishment.

            At stage one a ruler establishes his right to rule by displays of power and vengeance upon his enemies. He rules by threat of punishment and hope of reward. Mercy, or failure to punish, is seen as evidence of weakness, not morality, by stage one mentality. People at this level see a God of mercy as a marshmallow God and insist God use His power to torture and kill the unrepentant wicked.

            God meets people where they are and with ancient Israel in Egypt He first established His credentials to rule Israel by acts of punishment upon the Egyptian gods, and by mighty, spectacular miracles demonstrating the Egyptians gods were not gods at all. “I did this so that you might know that I am the Lord your God.” (Deut. 29:6 NIV)

            This is so primitive it doesn’t even require a brain, the mind is completely sidelined. Animals, plants, bacteria can be conditioned to avoid painful stimuli and grow toward rewarding stimuli. This level of functioning is not worthy of human beings created in the image of God. It is Satan’s goal to reduce us to “brute beasts creatures of instinct” operating on level one.

            2. Marketplace exchange – Level two morality is the quid pro quo, you do something for me in exchange for something of agreed value in return. This is ancient Israel at Sinai, “an eye for an eye and tooth for tooth”. At this level, vengeance is a moral duty. People who do evil must be paid back with an equal amount of pain and suffering. To not return pain and suffering is considered immoral. This was also ancient Israel saying at Sinai, when the law was first read, “All the Lord has said, we will do.”

            3. Social conformity – At this stage right and wrong is determined by community consensus. This is the child who says, “Everyone else is doing it.” Right is deemed right by the approval of peers.

            This was ancient Israel when they wanted kings. All the other nations had kings, so it must be right and Israel demanded to have kings.

            4. Law and order – At level four right and wrong is determined by a codified system of rules, impartial judges and imposed proscribed punishments. Respect for properly elected or otherwise constituted authority. Right is getting a proper pay or reward for good work, and proscribed and inflicted punishment for breaking the rules. Authority figures rarely questions, “He must be right he is the President, the Judge, the Pope, God”

            This was ancient Israel at the time of Christ – “we have a law!” they proclaimed, as they sought to stone Jesus for healing on the Sabbath.

            This is much of our modern world, with its codified laws, courts, prosecutors, judges, juries and imposed rules. Authority at this level rests in the coercive pressure of the state to bring punishment upon those who deviate from the established laws. At this level police agencies and law enforcers are required to monitor the population searching for breaches in the law in order to impose standardized penalties.

            5. Love for others – Level five morality understands right is determined by doing what is in the best interest of others, realizing people have value in who they are irrespective of the rules. Right is determined, not by a checklist of rules, but by doing what is actually helpful and beneficial for another.

            Jesus demonstrated this level of functioning when he touched lepers, spoke to women, socialized with tax collectors, and healed on the Sabbath. The Pharisees, operating at level four and below wanted to stone Him for breaking the law.

            6. Principle based living – Level six morality understands the design protocols or principles upon which life is constructed to operate and intelligently chooses to live in harmony with them. It is not doing something because a rule says to do so, but because it is understood to actually work this way.

            This was Jesus living out God’s character of love in all He did, and Apostles after Pentecost. It is understood at this level that God says what is right because it is right, because it is the way things actually are. It isn’t right simply because God said it.

            7. Enlightened Friend of God – At level seven a person not only has love for God and others, not only understand God’s design protocols for life, but also understands God’s purposes and intelligently chooses to cooperate in fulfilling their role in His purposes.

            Jesus said to His disciples in John 15:15 “I no longer call you servants, because a servant does not know his master’s business. Instead, I have called you friends, for everything that I learned from my Father I have made known to you.”

            Person’s functioning at this level understand the truth about God’s character of love, His nature and design for life, the origin of evil, the nature of sin, the weapons of Satan, the original purpose for the creation of humanity, the fall of humanity into sin, God’s working through human history, the purpose of the Cross, and the ultimate cleansing of the universe from sin. Jesus operated at this level, as will all those who are ready for translation when Jesus comes again.

            Thus the NT church didn’t put the ceremonial law upon the Gentiles because they understood its purpose was a theater, with script, costumes and stage designed to act out God’s plan of salvation. As such, they understood there was no need for the continuation of the “little drama” now that Christ had come. But they still enjoined the principles of healthful living, because the laws of health were still operational.

            In normal human development, one can only get their mind around one developmental level above the one they are currently operate at. Those operating at level four and below, generally persecute and attack those operating at level six and seven, as demonstrated throughout history.

            Christ wants to return for His Bride, but He doesn’t want a child bride – He wants a mature bride a people who have grown up to be like Him. This is my passion, to help people grow in God’s grace to be like Him so He will come and take us home!

            Finally, those operating at level four and below are not trustworthy because they require some external threat to do what is right. Only level five and above can be trusted because it is at those levels the law is written on the heart, and we actually love God and others, understand and value His methods and willingly participate in His purposes. Thus at level four and below we find the multiplicity of codified laws in Leviticus and our human laws – but when one enters level 5 and above, the entire law can be summed up in Love for God and others. For when we genuinely love God and others, we don’t need a law not to murder them etc.

          • David Read

            There’s nothing “worldly” about the substitutionary atonement. People reject this doctrine because it is mortifying, because all human merit is seen to be “garbage” (Phil. 3:8) next to what Christ has accomplished for us. Moreover, there’s no canon within a canon that will allow us to ignore what Ellen White wrote about the atonement, or the sanctuary, or anything else, or everything in the Bible on these topics. There’s more than natural law, there’s also added moral law (the Ten Commandments) the ceremonial law, etc.

            So, yes, EGW endorsed a natural law of God, but she also endorsed substitutionary atonement:

            “Christ, our substitute,was to suffer without the boundaries of Jerusalem. He died outside the gate, where felons and murderers were executed. Full of significance are the words, “Christ hath redeemed us from the curse of the law, being made a curse for us.” Gal. 3:13″ DA 741

            “Upon Christ as our substitute and surety was laid the iniquity of us
            all. He was counted a transgressor, that He might redeem us from the
            condemnation of the law. The guilt of every descendant of Adam was
            pressing upon His heart. The wrath of God against sin, the terrible
            manifestation of His displeasure because of iniquity, filled the soul of His Son with consternation. All His life Christ had been publishing to a
            fallen world the good news of the Father’s mercy and pardoning love.
            Salvation for the chief of sinners was His theme. But now with the
            terrible weight of guilt He bears, He cannot see the Father’s reconciling
            face. The withdrawal of the divine countenance from the Saviour in this
            hour of supreme anguish pierced His heart with a sorrow that can never be fully understood by man. So great was this agony that His physical pain was hardly felt.” DA 753

            With any set of authoritative writings, the point is to make our doctrine conform to ALL the writings, not to use some of the authoritative writings to dismiss or get rid of others of the authoritative writings. If we’re doing the latter, we are in error.

          • Timothy R. Jennings

            You are absolutely right, substitutionary atonement is not worldly – it is what I teach, go back and read my very first response to this article. Christ is our substitute, He came and “became sin for us so that we might become the righteousness of God.” No doubt about it! Thanks for making that clear.

            One of the misunderstandings that occurs is when I points out how penal substitution is worldly, and based on worldly law and not God’s law, some people erroneously hear the idea that substitutionary atonement is being denied. Not So! So, again thanks for helping make that clear.

            PENAL substitution (not substitutionary atonement) is based on the idea that the law of God is functionally no different than the laws of men, imposed rules requiring the ruling authority to use coercive power to enforce and inflict punishments. In that false penal model the punishment for sin comes out from God, thus putting God in the role of executioner and source of death. It is ugly and it is wrong and it is based on worldly thinking.

          • David Read

            But doesn’t fire come out from God to destroy the unsaved? “They marched across the breadth of the earth and surrounded the camp of
            God’s people, the city he loves. But fire came down from heaven and
            devoured them.” Rev. 20:9 See also, Mat. 5:22; 7:19; 13:30, 40-43, 49-50; John 15:6.

          • Timothy R. Jennings

            I have an entire chapter on the fire that destroys in my book The God-Shaped Brain. I will give a small amt of that information in the response to Timothy Arena below.

          • Timothy Arena

            Dr. Jennings: There are a number of questions that are elicited by your system of 7 levels.

            1. If Israel was operating on level 1 or 2, then why does God tell them “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.These words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart”(Deut. 6:6-7), or “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” ideas that you associate with levels 5 and above?

            2. Again, if Israel was operating on these low levels, why does God present Himself to Moses and to all of them as one who is both merciful and just? You say that they could not accept a merciful God. “And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (Ex. 34:6-7). “For the LORD thy God is a merciful God. he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them (Deut. 4:31).

            3. What level was Jesus operating on when He said, “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 13:41-42)?

            4. What level are the inhabitants of heaven in who rejoice at God’s vengeance against Babylon, “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever (Rev. 19:1-3)?.

            5. What level was Paul on when he wrote, “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
            And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; (2Thess. 1:6-9)? You suggested that “the apostles after Pentecost” were beyond this sort of thing.

            6. What level was Ellen White on when she wrote of King Herod’s being smote by an angel of God so that he would die in painful agony for his many crimes of murder (including at least 17 people)? “Herod was acquainted with the law of God, which says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3); and he knew that in accepting the worship of the people he had filled up the measure of his iniquity and brought upon himself the just wrath of Jehovah. . . .Herod died in great agony of mind and body, under the retributive judgment of God.” AA 151-152.

            7. It seems that you must argue (as you seem to be doing) that the ideas conveyed in these passages are mere accommodations to the receivers at the lower levels to which they were addressed. Were there any “enlightened friends of God” in the times of the Bible writers? Then why did all of these writers continue to convey ideas that you associate with the lower levels? The only conclusion I can see to be drawn from what you have written is that you believe that the Bible writers, from Genesis to Revelation, either 1. gave everyone to whom they wrote, including us, at the very least in many, many passages of Scripture–FALSE views of reality corresponding you your lower levels. or 2. that these writers themselves were not “enlightened friends of God” such as you are obviously claiming to be.

            What is the burden that you have regarding God’s vengeance? If we are with Christ, we need not fear His vengeance. Surely the Bible presents God as just and good for taking vengeance upon the murderers of the Inquisition, Hitler, Stalin, and other monstrous figures of history. But we need not fear God’s wrath because Jesus bore it on our behalf. It is only those who reject God’s salvation that are lost.

            But the main problem I see in your views will be addressed in part two of my article–How are we saved?: The inevitable conclusion of your views seems to be that people are saved solely on the basis of who they are and what they have become, rather than upon what Jesus has done for them in His life and death, and the justification provided by His imputed righteousness (something Ellen White calls our “title to heaven”–RH Jun3 4, 1985) and penal substututionary death (e.g. Rom. 3:20-31;RH Sept. 29, 1896). Our transformation is not the basis of our justification. We are justified while repentant and willing to grow, but still ungodly (Rom. 4:5). The transformation of our lives in a non-negotiable aspect of being connected to Christ, but since everything we do is defiled by sin (Ex. 28:38-40; Heb. 7:25; 1SM 344), our only basis of salvation can be what is OUTSIDE OF OURSELVES–Jesus own perfect righteousness imputed to our account. “Every soul may say: “By His perfect obedience He has satisfied the claims of the law, and my only hope is found in looking to Him as my substitute and surety, who obeyed the law perfectly for me. By faith in His merits I am free from the condemnation of the law. He clothes me with His righteousness, which answers all the demands of the law. I am complete in Him who brings in everlasting righteousness. He presents me to God in the spotless garment of which no thread was woven by any human agent. All is of Christ, and all the glory, honor, and majesty are to be given to the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” 1SM 396.

          • Timothy Arena

            Dr. Jennings: There are a number of questions
            that are elicited by your system of 7 levels.

            1. If Israel was operating on level 1 or 2, then why does God tell them “And thou shalt love the LORD thy God with all thine heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy might.These words, which I command thee this day, shall be in thine heart”(Deut. 6:6-7), or “thou shalt love thy neighbour as thyself,” ideas that you associate with levels 5 and above?

            2. Again, if Israel was operating on these low levels, why does God present Himself to Moses and to all of them as one who is both merciful and just? You say that they could not accept a merciful God.
            “And the LORD passed by before him, and proclaimed, The LORD, The LORD God, merciful and gracious, longsuffering, and abundant in goodness and truth, Keeping mercy for thousands, forgiving iniquity and transgression and sin, and that will by no means clear the guilty; visiting the iniquity of the fathers upon the children, and upon the children’s children, unto the third and to the fourth generation” (Ex. 34:6-7). “For the LORD thy God is a merciful
            God. he will not forsake thee, neither destroy thee, nor forget the covenant of thy fathers which he sware unto them (Deut. 4:31).

            3. What level was Jesus operating on when He said, “The Son of man shall send forth his angels, and they shall gather out of his kingdom all things that offend, and them which do iniquity; And
            shall cast them into a furnace of fire: there shall be wailing and gnashing of teeth (Matt. 13:41-42)?

            4. What level are the inhabitants of heaven in who rejoice at God’s vengeance against Babylon, “And after these things I heard a great voice of much people in heaven, saying, Alleluia; Salvation, and glory, and honour, and power, unto the Lord our God: For true and righteous are his judgments: for he hath judged the great whore, which did corrupt the earth with her fornication, and hath avenged the blood of his servants at her hand. And again they said, Alleluia. And her smoke rose up for ever and ever (Rev.19:1-3)?.

            5. What level was Paul on when he wrote, “Seeing it is a righteous thing with God to recompense tribulation to them that trouble you;
            And to you who are troubled rest with us, when the Lord Jesus shall be revealed from heaven with his mighty angels, In flaming fire taking vengeance on them that know not God, and that obey not the gospel of our Lord Jesus Christ: Who shall be punished with everlasting destruction from the presence of the Lord, and from the glory of his power; (2Thess. 1:6-9)? You suggested that “the apostles after Pentecost” were beyond this sort of thing.

            6. What level was Ellen White on when she wrote of King Herod’s being smote by an angel of God so that he would die in painful
            agony for his many crimes of murder (including at least 17 people)? “Herod was acquainted with the law of God, which says, “Thou shalt have no other gods before Me” (Exodus 20:3); and he knew that in accepting the worship of the people he had filled up the measure of his iniquity and brought upon himself the just wrath of Jehovah. . . .Herod died in great agony of mind and body, under the
            retributive judgment of God.” AA 151-152.

            7. It seems that you must argue (as you seem to be doing) that the ideas conveyed in these passages are mere accommodations to
            the receivers at the lower levels to which they were addressed. Were there any “enlightened friends of God” in the times of the Bible writers? Then why did all of these writers continue to convey ideas that you associate with the lower levels?

            The only conclusion I can see to be drawn from what you have written is that you believe that the Bible writers, from Genesis
            to Revelation, either 1. gave everyone to whom they wrote, including us, at the very least in many, many passages of Scripture–FALSE views of reality corresponding you your lower levels. or 2. that these writers themselves were not “enlightened friends of God” such as you are obviously claiming to be.

            What is the burden that you have regarding God’s vengeance? If we are with Christ, we need not fear His vengeance. Surely the Bible presents God as just and good for taking vengeance upon the murderers of the Inquisition, Hitler, Stalin, other monstrous figures of history as well as all who reject His salvation offered at such infinite cost (Heb. 10:26-31). But we need not fear God’s wrath because Jesus bore it on our behalf. It is only those who reject God’s salvation that are lost.

            But the main problem I see in your views will be addressed in part two of my article–How are we saved?: The inevitable conclusion of your views seems to be that people are saved solely on the basis
            of who they are and what they have become, rather than upon what Jesus has done for them in His life and death, and the justification provided by His imputed righteousness (something Ellen White calls our “title to heaven”–RHJun3 4, 1985) and penal substututionary death (e.g. Rom. 3:20-31;RH Sept. 29, 1896). Our transformation is not the basis of our justification. We are justified while repentant and willing to grow, but still ungodly (Rom. 4:5). The transformation of our lives in a non-negotiable aspect of being connected to Christ, but since everything we do is defiled by sin (Ex. 28:38-40; Heb. 7:25; 1SM 344), our only basis of salvation can be what is OUTSIDE OF
            OURSELVES–Jesus own perfect righteousness imputed to our account. “Every soul may say: “By His perfect obedience He has satisfied the claims of the law, and my only hope is found in looking to Him as my substitute and surety, who obeyed the law perfectly for me. By faith in His merits I am free from the condemnation of the law. He clothes me with His righteousness, which answers all the demands of the law. I am complete in Him who brings in everlasting
            righteousness. He presents me to God in the spotless garment of which no thread was woven by any human agent. All is of Christ, and all the glory, honor, and majesty are to be given to the Lamb of God, which taketh away the sins of the world.” 1SM 396.

          • Timothy R. Jennings

            Timothy Arena –
            God has had individuals throughout history operating at all levels. Moses at Sinai tells the people, when they are cowering in fear “there is no need to be afraid” because Moses was a friend of God who new God’s true character and methods, operating at level 7. But the people as a whole were operating at levels 1-2.

            You can find another example of this in 1Kings 22 where Micaiah prophecies to Ahab telling him the God sent lying spirits into the mouth of his prophets. Do you really think God sent lying spirits? Or, do you recognize the prophet was speaking in a language, presenting a message, with the intent to enlighten Ahab to the reality that Ahab had been lied to. This way of speaking was to a spiritual blunted, darkened, Baal worshipping king. Likewise, God has through His spokespersons always worked to speak in ways the people could understand.

            Yet, God has always revealed the end goal of the reality of His desire for them, thus the revelations of His character of love and His desire for them to love Him with all their heart. It was sad they, and many today, cannot comprehend what God wants them to.

            Jesus was always operating at level 7, but he was talking to people at level 4 and below, thus He, in love used language you quoted. Yet, the interpretation of what Jesus said is what matters – and frankly as SDA Christians we should know better. We have been blessed with the insights of EGW and if we want to use the fire passages, then lets put them together with all that has been revealed. “To sin wherever it is found OUR GOD is a consuming fire” also see Heb 12:29.

            Notice everywhere in Scripture God’s presence is it is described as a fire, yet it is a fire that doesn’t consume matter, (the burning bush, Sinai, Moses’ face, Solomon’s temple, Daniel 7 with millions standing in the fire etc) it is not a fire of combustion. It is a fire that consumes sin, it is a fire that the righteous live in forever. Leviticus 10 Nadab and Abihu take unauthorized fire in before the Lord and fire comes out from the Lord and consumes them and they die before the Lord, but then the cousins carry them out “still in their tunics”. What does this mean? It is not a fire of combustion, it is a fire of God’s presence, a fire that consumes sin. And what is sin made out of? According to inspiration two root elements:

            Lies – Satan is the Father of lies and selfishness. What burns out lies – truth, what burns out selfishness – love. The Holy Spirit is the Spirit of Truth and Love and thus at Pentecost when the “fire” fell it had two forks, truth and love, yet no one in the upper room was “burned” or “consumed,” because their hearts were prepared to receive truth and love poured out.

            However, the wicked in the end, who have solidified their characters in lies and selfishness cannot tolerate the presence of unveiled truth and love, and as truth burns through the lies they have comforted themselves with, as they experience themselves for who they are and have full awareness of what their evil has done, they suffer agony, terrible and without mercy because there is nothing to shield them from their own evil condition. Thus as Revelation says, they are “tormented in the PRESENCE of the holy angels and the Lamb.”

            Regarding God’s vengeance – if one operates at level four and below, stuck in human legal models, then one concludes that God must use His power to inflict pain and suffering on evil people in order to make them pay, and one appeals to the despots of history as how this is right to do.

            Yet, when we look through Design law, we realize it isn’t necessary for God to inflict the torment, because the condition itself, unremedied causes it. Then what, according to Scripture is God’s vengeance?

            Therefore the Lord, the Lord Almighty, the Mighty One of Israel, declares: “Ah! I will vent my wrath on my foes and avenge myself on my enemies. I will turn my hand against you; I will thoroughly purge away your dross and remove all your impurities. Isa 1:24,25

            Note, God takes vengeance on sin like a doctor takes vengeance on disease, thus God’s wrath against sin will never go away in the same way a doctor never stops hating disease. But the doctor never takes vengeance on his patient, and God does not take vengeance on His children. God, in harmony with His nature and character and law – will let each person go to receive what they have chosen, thus Paul (and many other places in Scripture) tell us that God’s wrath is Him letting go and stopping His merciful intervention to hold back what unremedied sin does (Rom 1:18,24,26,28)

            Or EGW puts it this way concerning the “judgments of God” and the final plagues (and not she was SHOWN i.e. God specifically revealed this to her, this is not her own wisdom and insight):

            “I was shown that the JUDGMENTS of God would NOT come directly out from the Lord upon them, but in this way;

            “They place themselves beyond His protection. He warns, corrects, reproves, and points out the only path of safety; then if those who have been the objects of His special care will follow their own course, indepentent of the Spirit of God, after repeated warnings, if they choose their own way, then He does NOT commission His angels to PREVENT Satan’s decided attacks upon them.

            “It is Satan’s power that is at work at sea and on land, bringing calamity and distress, and sweeping off multitudes to make sure of his prey, and storm and tempest both by sea and land will be, for Satan has come down in great wrath. He is at work. He knows his time is short and, he is not restrained; we shall see more terrible manifestations of his great power than we have ever dreamed of.” Manuscript Release vol. 14, p. 3

            In regard to your “understanding” of how people are saved, before your next article let me say explicitly, you are NOT representing my position. Please argue all you want against those theologies that say we are saved by what WE become, but don’t attribute that to me, because that is not what I teach. It might be what you THINK I teach, but it is not what I teach.

            We are saved solely by the work of Jesus Christ and then the Holy Spirit making effectual in us what Christ has done for us. We could never have done what Christ accomplished. Yes, His death was substitutionary for the purpose of our salvation, which means healing, restoration, recreation in righteousness.

            I really think it would be of great benefit if we could have an open discussion, before a live audience, recorded and made available to flush these ideas out. I think it would be very simple to run some of these misunderstandings to ground, if we could speak in person.

            But to close this response, you mentioned the robe of righteous, just to demonstrate how there is a deeper, richer and fuller meaning to the legal metaphor (yes the legal is a metaphor not the reality, the reality is healing) I will quote EGW and notice what she says it actually means to be clothed with that robe:

            “Only the covering which Christ Himself has provided can make us meet to appear in God’s presence. This covering, the robe of His own righteousness, Christ will put upon every repenting, believing soul…

            “This robe, woven in the loom of heaven, has in it not one thread of human devising. Christ in His humanity wrought out a perfect character, and this character He offers to impart to us… By His perfect obedience He has made it possible for every human being to obey God’s commandments. When we submit ourselves to Christ, the heart is united with His heart, the will is merged in His will, the mind becomes one with His mind, the thoughts are brought into captivity to Him; we live His life. This is what it means to be clothed with the garment of His righteousness. Then as the Lord looks upon us He sees, not the fig-leaf
            garment, not the nakedness and deformity of sin, but His own robe of righteousness, which is perfect obedience to the law of Jehovah.” {COL 311.4}

          • Timothy R. Jennings

            Oh, just to avoid confusion – the Bible does speak of a fire in which the elements melt in the intense heat – but this is the fire that comes AFTER all sinners have died, that cleanses the physical earth from the defects of sin. In the symbolic system of the OT, they never burned an animal alive, likewise, the wicked will not burn in fires of combustion alive. They will burn in the fire of God’s presence of unveiled truth and love, which the righteous live in for all eternity (Isa 33:14,15). Also, which caused Christ more agony and suffering – the physical or the mental anguish? So, too the wicked in the end suffer the mental/psychological suffering of unremedied sin ultimately dying in the end. Please review the earlier EGW statement as she describes this process.

          • Michael Younker

            Rather: “Satan rushes into the midst of his followers and tries to stir up the multitude to action. But fire from God out of heaven is rained upon them, and the great men, and mighty men, the noble, the poor and miserable, are all consumed together. I saw that some were quickly destroyed, while others suffered longer. They were punished according to the deeds done in the body. Some were many days consuming, and just as long as there was a portion of them unconsumed, all the sense of suffering remained. Said the angel, “The worm of life shall not die; their fire shall not be quenched as long as there is the least particle for it to prey upon.”” EW294

          • Michael Younker

            God’s law in heaven (EGW):

            It was the highest crime to rebel against the government of God. All heaven seemed in commotion. The angels were marshaled in companies, each division with a higher commanding angel at their head. Satan was warring against the law of God, because ambitious to exalt himself, and unwilling to submit to the authority of God’s Son, heaven’s great commander. {ST, January 9, 1879 par. 8}

            All the heavenly host were summoned to appear before the Father, to have each case determined. Satan unblushingly made known his dissatisfaction that Christ should be preferred before him. He stood up proudly and urged that he should be equal with God, and should be taken into conference with the Father and understand his purposes. God informed Satan that to his Son alone he would reveal his secret purposes, and he required all the family in heaven, even Satan, to yield him implicit, unquestioned obedience; but that he (Satan) had proved himself unworthy a place in heaven. Then Satan exultingly pointed to his sympathizers, comprising nearly one half of all the angels, and exclaimed, These are with me! Will you expel these also, and make such a void in heaven? He then declared that he was prepared to resist the authority of Christ, and to defend his position in heaven by force of might, strength against strength. {ST, January 9, 1879 par. 9}

            Good angels wept to hear the words of Satan, and his exulting boasts. God declared that the rebellious should remain in heaven no longer. Their high and happy state had been held upon condition of obedience to the law which God had given to govern the high order of intelligences. But no provision had been made to save those who should venture to transgress his law. Satan grew bold in his rebellion, and expressed his contempt of the Creator’s law. This Satan could not bear. He claimed that angels needed no law; but should be left free to follow their own will, which would ever guide them right; that law was a restriction of their liberty, and that to abolish law was one great object of his standing as he did. The condition of the angels he thought needed improvement. Not so the mind of God, who had made laws and exalted them equal to himself. The happiness of the angelic host consisted in their perfect obedience to law. Each had his special work assigned him; and until Satan rebelled, there had been perfect order and harmony among the angels in heaven. Then there was war in heaven. The Son of God, the Prince of heaven, and his loyal angels, engaged in conflict with the arch rebel and those who united with him. The Son of God and true, loyal angels prevailed; and Satan and his sympathizers were expelled from heaven. All the heavenly host acknowledged and adored the God of justice. Not a taint of rebellion was left. All was again peaceful and harmonious as before. {ST, January 9, 1879 par. 10}

            The loyal angels mourned the fate of those who had been their companions in happiness and bliss. Their loss was felt in heaven. The Father consulted Jesus in regard to at once carrying out their purpose to make man to inhabit the earth. He would place man upon probation to test his loyalty, before he could be rendered eternally secure. If he endured the test wherewith God saw fit to prove him, he should eventually be equal with the angels. He was to have the favor of God, and he was to converse with angels, and they with him. He did not see fit to place them beyond the power of disobedience. {ST, January 9, 1879 par. 11}

          • Michael Younker

            Again, it appears, Dr. Jennings, that you are speaking many half-truths, and cherry-picking the EGW quotations that support the positions you are advancing, while ignoring those which disagree with you. So you share many things I can agree with, but mix in that which I, and others, may not agree with, as they contradict plain Scripture and EGW. This makes it very difficult to openly discuss the issues, as you take your notion of “Design” and rationalistic thinking to be absolute in relationship to how we should view “law,” when it is not. Your view of “reason” is Platonic, which is a situation for which you seem to be completely unaware.

            But let me demonstrate some tension in how one (as you have been) use EGW and draw conflicting theological conclusions:

            ***For example, Whites does indeed write of the final period of earth’s history:

            DA764 “This is not an act of arbitrary power on the part of God. The rejecters of His mercy reap that which they have sown. God is the fountain of life; and when one chooses the service of sin, he separates from God, and thus cuts himself off from life. He is “alienated from the life of God.” Christ says, “All they that hate Me love death.” Ephesians 4:18; Proverbs 8:36. God gives them existence for a time that they may develop their character and reveal their principles. This accomplished, they receive the results of their own choice. By a life of rebellion, Satan and all who unite with him place themselves so out of harmony with God that His very presence is to them a consuming fire. The glory of Him who is love will destroy them. {DA 764.1}
            At the beginning of the great controversy, the angels did not understand this. Had Satan and his host then been left to reap the full result of their sin, they would have perished; but it would not have been apparent to heavenly beings that this was the inevitable result of sin. A doubt of God’s goodness would have remained in their minds as evil seed, to produce its deadly fruit of sin and woe.”

            —On the other hand, White also wrote concerning the issues that lead up to the Second Resurrection and the Final Judgment! (May I ask you, Dr. Jennings, why there is a second resurrection of the wicked after probation has already obviously closed? Why the “grand show?”):

            (EGW) “Then I saw thrones, and Jesus and the redeemed saints sat upon them; and the saints reigned as kings and priests unto God. Christ, in union with His people, judged the wicked dead, comparing their acts with the statute book, the Word of God, and deciding every case according to the deeds done in the body. Then they meted out to the wicked the portion which they must suffer, according to their works; and it was written against their names in the book of death. Satan also and his angels were judged by Jesus and the saints. Satan’s punishment was to be far greater than that of those whom he had deceived. His suffering would so far exceed theirs as to bear no comparison with it. After all those whom he had deceived had perished, Satan was still to live and suffer on much longer.” {EW 290.3}

            “The wicked receive their recompense. . . . Some are destroyed as in a moment, while others suffer many days. All are punished “according to their deeds.” The sins of the righteous having been transferred to Satan, he is made to suffer not only for his own rebellion, but for all the sins which he has caused God’s people to commit. His punishment is to be far greater than that of those whom he has deceived. After all have perished who fell by his deceptions, he is still to live and suffer on. In the cleansing flames the wicked are at last destroyed, root and branch–Satan the root, his followers the branches. The full penalty of the law has been visited; the demands of justice have been met; and heaven and earth, beholding, declare the righteousness of Jehovah.”—GC 670-673.

          • Timothy R. Jennings

            As long as one holds to the idea that God’s law and government has aspects like human law, then one struggles to comprehend the larger reality. Because humans live and operate in a world of sin, God stoops to try and communicate in language we can understand, always leading us to a better and clearer picture as truth is ever unfolding.

            The passages you quote provide no tension whatsoever to my view, but under the penal view present terrible ideas about God’s character.

            For instance, we understand that humans are mortal. We also understand that God’s power is more infinite than our human bombs, including atom bombs. A human being at the epicenter of an atomic bomb explosion would not suffer at all but be vaporized instantly. What then would it mean about God, if the imposed penal view is true, other than God performs a miracle to keep mortal beings alive for the sole purpose of torturing His created beings.

            Even as fallen beings we find torture unjust – yet the infection of Satan’s view of God is so deep people actually put forth this idea as if it is somehow righteous and holy. It is not, it is ugly and it is false.

            My view harmonizes all these statements while retaining God’s majestic beauty of love. When we understand the “consuming fire” is, as the inspired record states over and over again, the fire of God’s presence “our God is a consuming fire.” Heb 12:29 And that fire is truth and love that the righteous live in, then we realize that some wicked will be days consuming, suffering in the fires of truth and love and these fires consume them as they fight selfishly to retain their false views of self and reality. And Satan suffers the longest as he has the longest history of evil and deepest rooted lies for the truth to burn through.

            As EGW states:

            “To sin, wherever found, “our God is a consuming fire.” Hebrews 12:29. In all who submit to His power the Spirit of God will consume sin. But if men cling to sin, they become identified with it. Then the glory of God, which destroys sin, must destroy them… The light of the glory of God, which imparts life to the righteous, will slay the wicked.” {DA 107.4}

            Notice this is the fire of God’s life giving glory burning out all deviations from His character. It is not some imposed punishment, but what happens as a result of the condition of each being coming into God’s unveiled presence. Some are glorified, others consumed.

            Regarding why God raises the wicked after the 1000 years – it is for people who have held the false view of Him yet, still trusted Him but are confused as to His true nature and character, those who teach that He kills the wicked and that His actions are the reason some are not in the city (i.e. Flood, Sodom, first born of Egypt). Some teach these uses of power by God are examples of God punishing sin and God determining the eternal destiny of those who died in those events.

            The resurrection at the end of the 1000 years proves all of these distortions about God to be wrong. Read the record from the Bible and EGW and you will find the following:

            · The wicked are raised at the end of the 1000 years

            · They have the same character and the same current of thoughts as they had when they entered the grave

            · The New Jerusalem with Christ and the saints are on earth

            · The gates of the New Jerusalem are OPEN

            · A period of time goes by in which the wicked build implements of war to attack the city

            · Only when they march in mass upon the city is the voice of Christ heard to close the gates

            · Then as they attack the city, Christ rises above the city and fire comes down from Christ THROUGH the city, out the gates and consumes the wicked.

            What does all of this demonstrate? That God’s actions in the OT were not punishment for sin and did not determine the final end of the wicked. That they arise and meet their end by the exercise of their own choices. And even with the evidence of the New Jerusalem on the earth NONE choose to come in the city. This demonstrates they are kept out, NOT by God but by their own freewill choice. Thus, the universe is secure and freed of sin in a method that does not cause any to fear God and validates God and His law as perfect and holy.

            As a SDA scholar I am assuming you are familiar with the passages and references from which all the elements above are taken. If not, please ask and I will provide the quotations.

          • Michael Younker

            We’ll have to politely agree to disagree about whether the EGW quotations I cited contradict your positions. As I’ve mentioned, you say some things that are true. But the depth of the realities surrounding the nature of sin are deeper than your system can acknowledge. Platonism (designer-ism) has limits and denies the biblical understanding of penal substitution on philosophical (rationalistic) grounds, which you are entrapped within, creating a subtle but false contrast between “designer God laws” and “human laws,” that has no justification from Scripture or EGW, but does spring from thousands of years of false, earthly, philosophy. Although the methods of how human laws are used are obviously not God’s, it is no wonder that there has always been a tension between Platonism and human justice (as society today, and historically, well illustrates!), because humanity reflects (via the imago dei) the capacity for such tension! Life is “not fair,” we can’t truly fix it, and we know it! Penal substitution is much deeper than a simple “restitution-ism,” which you seem to believe. So yes, human laws as we can understand and use them are flawed, but they echo a principle that endures on the nature of heavenly laws, as EGW clearly attests.

            I would suggest that, indeed, while God is always accommodating Himself to us, this is not to deny “propositional revelation”! You appear to move us further away from God, not closer to Him, by limiting His ability to communicate that which He clearly has communicated. Your views are quite popular amongst many Christians who have been steadily moving away from Scripture to natural theology, etc.

            God is “just” to punish the wicked, at the end, and has likewise also accomplished his mission of restoring “trust” and convincing the inhabitants of the universe that He is both just and righteous as well, owing to his patience and love while our minds reflect on what is happening. God does not always visit “justice” immediately (as humans are forced to do sometimes), because this would have left important questions unanswered! But, after all is said and done, God is no longer inhibited from exacting justice, and indeed must do so, for the “penalty” of sin to be properly carried out. This is precisely what EGW believed, and explained at great length (read the full contexts of the passages I cited).

            Why do the “more wicked” ones (like Napoleon, White actually mentions him by name, EW293) suffer more? “But fire from God out of heaven is rained upon them, and the great men, and mighty men, the noble, the poor and miserable, are all consumed together. I saw that some were quickly destroyed, while others suffered longer. They were punished according to the deeds done in the body. Some were many days consuming, and just as long as there was a portion of them unconsumed, all the sense of suffering remained.” EW294.

            I’m honestly uncertain how you can claim that the quote above, and the following quote, support your position. We even, as the righteous, participate in measuring out and judging how much the wicked will suffer! We will study Hitler and the lowly sinner alike, and determine Hitler should suffer more: (EGW) “Then I saw thrones, and Jesus and the redeemed saints sat upon them; and the saints reigned as kings and priests unto God. Christ, in union with His people, judged the wicked dead, comparing their acts with the statute book, the Word of God, and deciding every case according to the deeds done in the body. Then they meted out to the wicked the portion which they must suffer, according to their works; and it was written against their names in the book of death. Satan also and his angels were judged by Jesus and the saints. Satan’s punishment was to be far greater than that of those whom he had deceived. His suffering would so far exceed theirs as to bear no comparison with it. After all those whom he had deceived had perished, Satan was still to live and suffer on much longer.” {EW 290.3}

          • Michael Younker
        • Scott Bennett

          Being a layman, David, I believe understanding the atonement is even more simply expressed in laymen’s language in contrast to a Doctor or Lawyer. Let me give it a try:

          God forgives everyone freely because that is His nature. Good News, aye?

          The salvation issue is a little more complicated because God never promises to save everyone whom He loves, but only those who love Him. Thus salvation comes only to those who respond to His love, those who are justified or set right by His love. Those who turn around (repent) when they see His love. Those who fall in love with the God that Jesus revealed.

          I’m sure Satan loves all the legal and medical jargon because it serves His purpose to confuse. Or maybe there are just so many layers of lies about God that many have fallen so far that they simply don’t believe that God can save them. The legal metaphor where someone else takes their guild and punishment might change their mind. Or maybe there are those who are so hurting and damaged by sin they can’t see how things could ever get better. The healing metaphor just might bring them to look to Jesus. Maybe some of us left good families to discover the world of sin and found ourselves sitting in a pig pen wishing we could go back home.

          But if all of us could see God the way that Jesus saw God, if we could know Him intimately like Jesus did then wouldn’t eternal life be as simple as an adoption into His Family? Couldn’t He just pack us into his van and drive us to our new home? Does He really need Satan’s permission, the court’s verdict, or even the Church’s approval?

          May I suggest that most atonement theology is an attempt to answers Satan’s allegations against God’s character. “You can’t save them and be just.” “You can’t just forgive them after what they’ve done!” “You can’t let them back into heaven without letting me back in too!” “That just wouldn’t be fair!” “You can’t heal them after they’ve purposely broken all your health laws!” “They don’t belong to you, they belong to me. I’m their leader. Just watch them dance to my tunes.” “You don’t love us! We’re just your slaves. You are just an egotistical monster that requires worship!”

          I guess for every lie someone falls for there is a story that God tells that can turn them around. But don’t try to make the legal metaphor the realty as if God’s throng is literally a big court room where He plays judge and Jesus begs for our forgiveness. Remember that even in the legal metaphor Jesus is both the judge and our advocate. In other words the whole stage is set for our sake, not for His. The reality is that God is Love . . . Unconditional Love . . . and, by the way, forgiveness only has one condition; that we forgive others.

          • David Read

            Scott, the reason I use the language of substitutionary atonement is because that is the language Scripture uses. The courtroom scene is the scene Scripture paints. I don’t think I’m at liberty to disregard that.

          • Scott Bennett

            David, the majority of the NT is not legal language. Jesus didn’t speak legal language at all. The translators of the Bible into Greek and Latin and then into English use legal terminology that is not universally needed to translate the verse, but it was part of their theological understanding. John didn’t use legal language nor did Mathew, Mark, or Luke. Did they neglect to teach the gospel as you understand it?

          • David Read

            John did use legal language when he calls Jesus an advocate (parakletos) for us with the father. 1 John 2:1. And it is John who draws the courtroom scene in Revelation, where books were opened and thrones put in place. In the books is a record of sin, which would seem to be entirely pointless if God never adds punishment to sin, but sin only has “natural” consequences.

          • Scott Bennett

            There is a big different between using a legal term and speaking legal language. But that might not even be the case in 1 John 2:1. Why would Jesus need to be an attorney with our Father? It seems that John would have used the word Judge rather than Father if He was speaking legal language. Instead John refers to “patayr’ or our tribal father or our ancestor. There are legal terms used in adoption just as well in court. In fact there are filler words that translators add to make sentences make sense in English. Also there are added commas that we get to install according to our own interpretation of the text. SDA’s know how this works when dealing with Jesus’ words to the thief on the cross. Just by moving a comma one can claim the thief was in paradise with Jesus that very day.

            In this case the text could read (does read): My little children I’m writing these things to you so that you don’t wander from the path or miss the mark. If anyone does miss the mark we have someone who is called to our aid to warn or hold in his hand to help us, the father of us all, Jesus Christ the Righteous.

            There is no reason, other than the personal theology of the translator, to add a third person to this mix. Jesus is our older brother and our Father and in an adoption scenario we are brought into His family being rescued from the first Adam’s family.

          • Scott Bennett

            If you leave out the third person in verse 1 then the next verse makes Jesus propitiating the world back to himself rather than God back to the world. And this makes perfect sense because we left Him . . . He didn’t leave us. It’s the love of God that constrains us, not the love of Jesus that constrains God. Remember that God was in Christ Jesus reconciling the world to himself and He so loved the world that He gave His only Begotten Son . . .

  • Brad Cole

    I would like to affirm one statement from this article that is an accurate representation: “God’s wrath is viewed as being only a giving over of sinful people to their rebellion, not in any way something related to punishment, revulsion, or retribution.”

    Of course, this may superficially seem to fly in the face of many verses such as Leviticus 26:14-22 where God says, “then I will do this to you: I will bring upon you sudden terror,
    wasting diseases and fever that will destroy your sight and drain away your
    life… I will punish you for your sins seven times over… I will multiply your afflictions seven times over, as your sins deserve. I will send wild animals against you, and they will rob you of your children…”

    And, in Deuteronomy 28:63, “Just as the LORD has found great pleasure in causing you to prosper and multiply, the LORD will find pleasure in destroying you. You will be torn from the land you are about to enter and occupy.”

    Because these words are in scripture, does this mean that God finds pleasure in destroying? Of course, we can lob verses at each other like hand grenades (Ezekiel 33:11, etc.), but how are we to understand these passages?

    For me, the key is always to place front and center the belief that God is exactly like Jesus. If we want to know what God is really like, we look to Jesus who is the clearest reflection of who God is. In this light, I believe that we must reject Deuteronomy 28:63 as a clear reality
    because there is no way we can see God as delighting in destruction if Jesus was God in human form.

    But if this is true, why is it in our Bible?

    I think one important key is to see that God is frequently described as actively doing, what He instead allows to take place. There are so many examples of this. For example, the story of David’s census as told in 2 Samuel 24:1 where God tempted David vs. 1 Chronicles 21:1 where it was Satan.

    As another example, David described the possible ways that Saul might die with these words: “By the living LORD,’ David continued, ‘I know that the LORD himself will kill Saul, either when his time comes to die a natural death or when he dies in battle.’” (1 Samuel 26:10) As David considered the demise of Saul he concluded that God would kill him, either through natural death or at the hands of his enemies. That way of expressing things seems
    foreign to our ears, but yet as we read on about how Saul committed suicide the
    story concludes with the words, “So the LORD killed him…” (1 Chronicles 10:14)

    The Ten Commandments say that God punishes to the 3rd and 4th generation. Yet, the entire passage of Ezekiel chapter 18 tells us that God does not actively punish the children for the sins of the parents. Which is true? Ezekiel tells us who punishes for sin: “Turn away from all the evil you are doing, and don’t let your sin destroy you.” (Ezekiel 18:30)

    I think that the harsh words of God in the Bible were given to meet stubborn rebels. When we consider the violent culture in the OT, polygamy, the continual rebellion against God and very real temptations to worship cruel gods that demanded child sacrifice, is it any wonder that God needed to speak with a loud voice? If we don’t place God’s words in the setting of that time and culture, we will misrepresent what he is up to.

    There is also the story in Numbers where the people once again left God’s side and desired to return to Egypt. What did God do?

    “Then the LORD sent poisonous snakes among the people, and many Israelites were bitten and died.” (Numbers 21:5)

    Is that true?

    Rather, God gave them the freedom they desired and to suffer the natural consequences. He did not send snakes to bite (see Patriarchs and Prophets, 428,429).

    Finally, Alden Thompson makes this excellent point in his chapter about the relative absence of Satan in the Old Testament:

    “The nations surrounding Israel were polytheistic, worshiping many gods. In a polytheistic culture, the good things are attributed to the good gods, bad things to the evil ones. And those evil deities could be so volatile that humans were constantly brewing up incantations and magic rituals to placate them…The great danger for Israel lay in the temptation to worship Satan as another god. So rather than just forbidding magic and incantation, God went a step further and claimed full responsibility for both good and evil. As a result, throughout most of its pages, the Old Testament portrays God as the active agent in all things. God is the one who causes everything. Satan simply drops from sight until the very end of the Old Testament.”

    • Timothy Arena

      Hello Brad,

      Thanks for joining the discussion. Yes, Jesus shows us what God is like. Jesus is God, and as such He was and is the God of the Old Testament in Israel (1 Cor. 10:4). Jesus revealed many things about God–it was not a one-sided picture. Jesus also talked about vengeance and hell fire, even in the Sermon on the Mount. God’s love does not exclude punishment and vengeance.

      “God has given in His word decisive evidence that He will punish the transgressors of His law. Those who flatter
      themselves that He is too merciful to execute justice upon the sinner,
      have only to look to the cross of Calvary. The death of the spotless Son
      of God testifies that “the wages of sin is death,” that every violation
      of God’s law must receive its just retribution. Christ the sinless
      became sin for man. He bore the guilt of transgression, and the hiding
      of His Father’s face, until His heart was broken and His life crushed
      out. All this sacrifice was made that sinners might be redeemed. In no
      other way could man be freed from the penalty of sin. And every soul
      that refuses to become a partaker of the atonement provided at such a
      cost must bear in his own person the guilt and punishment of
      transgression.. . . .The principles of kindness, mercy, and love, taught and exemplified by
      our Saviour, are a transcript of the will and character of God. Christ
      declared that He taught nothing except that which He had received from
      His Father. The principles of the divine government are in perfect
      harmony with the Saviour’s precept, “Love your enemies.” God executes
      justice upon the wicked, for the good of the universe, and even for the
      good of those upon whom His judgments are visited” (GC 539, 541).

      • Brad Cole

        Hi Tim,
        It seems that the fundamental difference we are discussing is this: you read “the wages of sin is death” as “the wages of sin is that God will punish and have vengeance on the sinner who has not accepted the blood of Jesus”; what many of us are trying to say is that “sin itself pays the wage – death.” The Cross is where we see this most definitively. The Father did not kill his Son. Sin did the punishing. You like to quote Isaiah 53, but this says “we thought that his suffering was punishment sent by God” (vs. 4) but no, it was sin that did the punishing.
        I know that you don’t like this analogy, but to explain this using the doctor-patient relationship you are saying “The doctor will punish you if you smoke. Smoking itself isn’t that bad, it’s what the angry doctor will do to you that is bad.” I know that you won’t agree with this statement, but your model makes the ultimate problem with sin that God doesn’t like and will punish. We are saying, “The doctor is there to heal. Just put your trust in him. But if you don’t, smoking will have vengeance on you and will punish – unmercifully.”

  • yrl

    Tim Arena:

    Thank you for your article and for stimulating the discussion. I also appreciate Tim Jennings’ willingness and effort in clarifying the view you speak against.

    Both views obviously hold a High view of both scripture and Ellen White. It would appear that the lens used to view the passages in scripture and EGW writings is the difference in interpretation.

    In light of the notion that the plan of salvation is so complex that we will study it for eternity, would you agree that these views (& maybe others which also carry a high view of scripture/EGW) should be welcomed within our church community and the discussion continue? Or do you think that the views proposed by Jennings and Servant God are heretic and need to be purged from the church?

    • Timothy Arena

      Hello, “Yrl.”

      Thanks for writing and asking an important question. I will address a few points and attempt to answer it as best as possible in the process.

      1. The plan of salvation is indeed complex, but it is also so simple that all can understand it: “But he was pierced for our transgressions; he was crushed for our iniquities; upon him was the chastisement that brought us peace, and with his wounds we are healed. All we like sheep have gone astray; we have turned– every one– to his own way; and the LORD has laid on him the iniquity of us all (Isa. 53:5-6). There are deep, mysterious aspects to this truth, but the meaning is straightforward. Christ took our punishment.

      “Guiltless, He bore the punishment of the guilty. Innocent, yet offering
      Himself as a substitute for the transgressor. The guilt of every sin
      pressed its weight upon the divine soul of the world’s Redeemer. The
      evil thoughts, the evil words, the evil deeds of every son and daughter
      of Adam, called for retribution upon Himself; for He had become man’s
      substitute. Though the guilt of sin was not His, His spirit was torn and
      bruised by the transgressions of men, and He who knew no sin became sin
      for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (1SM 321).

      2. Just because someone quotes or alludes to many scripture passages does not mean that their view is correct. “In order to sustain erroneous doctrines or unchristian practices, some will seize upon passages of Scripture separated from the context, perhaps quoting half of
      a single verse as proving their point, when the remaining portion would
      show the meaning to be quite the opposite. With the cunning of the serpent they entrench themselves behind disconnected utterances construed to suit their carnal desires. Thus do many willfully pervert the word of God. Others, who have an active imagination, seize upon the figures and symbols of Holy Writ, interpret them to suit their fancy, with little regard to the testimony of Scripture as its own interpreter, and then they present their vagaries as the teachings of the Bible (GC 521). It is up to you and everyone else to decide who it is that is doing this.

      3. It is not up to me to decide who gets “purged” from the church, as you put it. However, I will state clearly that I believe that the doctrine of Christ’s substitutionary atonement in which “He bore the punishment of the guilty” as EGW put it above, is an absolutely essential, definitional Christian doctrine. To deny it is to deny the fundamental core of what makes Christianity unique and truly meaningful.

      4. That being said, I believe that our SDA context calls for patient understanding with those who disagree (though I believe that all of our teachers, leaders, and administrators should be quite clear on it) because of our history–a history in which the biblical Gospel has been often misunderstood or even rejected. Most of all, I think that it should be taken into account that many people, including Jennings himself (I’ve written about this is part 2, quoting from his book where he tells his story) were brought up in such a way so that they had no peace or assurance of salvation because they feared the punishment and wrath of God and feared the law because it condemned them, and they were not taught the true Gospel which would have assuaged these fears. It is not at all unreasonable that such people would seek to eradicate all vestiges of God’s punishment and vengeance–the things they have always feared the most.

      5. Unfortunately, this is not a helpful solution at all. Without understanding the realities of the Law (that it condemns us all–Rom. 3:19), that everyone needs a Savior to avoid the results of sin–including death and God’s wrath (John 3:36), we cannot really grasp the realities of the biblical solution–Jesus bore God’s wrath in our place, took our punishment, and offers us eternal life as a free gift. Unfortunately, without accepting this atonement, all we are left with is our own sinful selves as the basis for our salvation. This does not work, no matter how much “healing” (as Jennings puts it) takes place. Everything we do and are is defiled by sin–this is why we need Christ’s imputed righteousness placed to our account (Rom. 4:5; 5:18; 2 Cor. 5:21).

      “Righteousness is obedience to the law. The law demands righteousness,
      and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering
      it. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through
      faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord
      places the obedience of His Son to the sinner’s account. Christ’s
      righteousness is accepted in place of man’s failure, and God receives,
      pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though
      he were righteous, and loves him as He loves His Son” (FW 101).

      6. The “lens” that Jennings is both 1. not found in Scripture and 2. contradicted by Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Nowhere in Scripture are we told to view every passages of God’s punishment and vengeance as being neither of those things in any meaningful sense of these words. Nowhere are we told to eschew legal realities, or to view them as metaphors only without any realities behind them. Nowhere are we told that there are 7 levels of maturity in which those with Jennings’ view are in some rarefied air of superiority. The lens and the levels are being superimposed upon Scripture, they neither arise from it nor are consonant with it, as I believe that the plethora of inspired data both I and Michael (and others) have shown evinces.

      • Floyd Phillips

        Timothy, I find the tone of your condescending comments and the others from your staff about Tim Jennings to be both insulting, offensive and un-Christlike. It is one thing to disagree, but you are stooping to innuendos, false charges and unprofessional comments. I have considered making comments here as I have read through all of the comments but the atmosphere created here by everyone in your organization is what I might term politely hostile. I would simply ask you to reconsider the spirit being exhibited here on all sides.

        • Timothy Arena

          Hi Floyd. Thanks for your comment. I’m sorry that you feel this way. It would help me if you could provide some examples of where I or someone else has done this. We can all make mistakes in our presentation or tone sometimes.

          It seems to me that it can always seem “condescending” when we are (on both sides) trying to convince each other to accept a different view. But this is just part of discussion of ideas, and need not be interpreted as insulting.

          I am puzzled, however, by your suggestion that it is only me or Compass staff that have been condescending. I’m wondering what you think of Dr. Jennings’ post about the 7 levels. He suggests that the only people who are “enlightened friends of God” are those who accept his views. Those below level 5 (which, understood in his scheme, would again, include me and everyone else who does not accept his views) are “not to be trusted.”

          Clearly people such and Jennings and myself agree on one important thing: We believe that the ideas we are discussing are quite essential matters, misunderstanding of which can lead to disastrous consequences. I will say again: Doctrines matter–ideas are powerful. It is not unkind to discuss the importance of having sound doctrine.

          Inevitably this means that we (on both sides) will present our views in ways which some will view to be “un-Christlike.” But Jesus did not avoid telling people that their views were mistaken and that they had disastrous consequences. E.g. John 8:24; John 6:27ff.; Rev. 2:15-16.

          Just let us know how, more specifically, you think we can be more kind in our discussion. Thanks for your input.

        • David Read

          I’ve found both Timothy and Michael to be polite, patient and completely Christian in their dialog on this thread. It is clear that Dr. Jennings has developed a following, and some of his followers are commenting on this thread, which says something about how well organized Dr. Jennings and his followers are and, sadly, how entrenched his teachings have become.

          • Floyd Phillips

            David, I suppose that is what I should expect from a lawyer. To assume that Jennings somehow organizes ‘followers’ to defend his position. As I made quite clear elsewhere here, I received my similar beliefs from my own study, not at all from Jennings but that may be easily overlooked. I won’t comment further about the spirit of some of the comments as I see there is not interest in honest dialog. But neither do I take offense. I will say that it is extremely difficult for anyone brainwashed in law practice to view these subjects otherwise. Jesus ran into the very same problem.

          • Kevin Straub

            I do appreciate your response to Bro. Read, Floyd. But suppose David reads ad hominem tonality into “what I should expect from a lawyer” or a spirit of judgmental accusation of the brethren into “there is not interest in honest dialogue” or sharp thrusting into “Jesus ran into the very same problem”? Then what do you say in defense of your words when others will claim that they are participating in the very same vein as you would claim for your own words, as matter-of-fact, “Truth spoken in love”? You see how this goes? The double-edged sword it is.

  • Larry Ashcraft

    The dialog here has been fascinating, to say the least. The thought that keeps reoccurring as I roll all this over in my mind is: Once the last proof-text has been cited, and the last EGW quotation offered, how does each reader leave this conversation? Do we leave saying, “Wow! _______ really delivered the knock-out punch!” Do we leave saying, “I’m so glad that there are people like this who are looking out for my spiritual well-being, sorting out these matters that are too complicated for me to understand?” Or do we leave saying, “Hmmm? I think I’m going to study this out for myself. I think I’m going to start thinking and reasoning, rather than leaving matters affecting my relationship with God in the hands of others.” I wonder…

    “But I say to you, Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you, so that you may be children of your Father in heaven; for he makes his sun rise on the evil and on the good, and sends rain on the righteous and on the unrighteous. (Matt 5:44, 45) As unrelated as this passage may initially seem to this conversation, I feel that it strikes at the very core of the differences expressed so far. If we’re expecting a God to appear at the end of Earth’s history who is radically different than the one revealed here, we’re going to be disappointed. We’ll also likely to be spending extra years enrolled in Hereafter 101.

    God does not smile on us with favor when we throw stones at one another, regardless of the point we are trying to make. Is that the aim of The Compass Magazine, to throw stones in defense of the editorial board’s interpretation of Seventh-day Adventist Church doctrine? Why not lay out all of the differing views on a particular topic, and let the readers make up their minds based on the evidence? Why not have a representative of each view write a short piece? Wouldn’t that serve a greater good?

    “I give you a new commandment [because you seem to have forgotten all about it from the first time], that you love one another. Just as I have loved you, you also should love one another. By this everyone will know that you are my disciples, if you have love for one another.” John 13: 34, 35

    • Michael Younker

      Absolutely, Larry! Your comment is much appreciated. This is not “throwing stones” at each other, far from it, and fully voluntary with no repercussions (beyond this website). Just friendly dialogue. As I’ve mentioned more than once, there’s much to agree about between Arena’s and Jennings general picture… God is good and loving… we all agree about that. And I’m sore tempted to just leave it at “a difference that makes no difference is no difference.” 😉 However, when I witness some views pushing us away from “common sense” readings of Scripture & EGW, I must push back gently, as I see the confusion it causes in the minds of younger people (both in age and Christian growth). We must not twist strange readings onto Scripture and EGW. Let her speak, as she has done, through her writings.

      There are many lesser issues that divide well-meaning Adventist Christians, upon which we can disagree and still share community. There are other issues, however, that by their nature divide and cause confusion, and should not be made prominent. The nature of the atonement is a central issue, and I welcome Arena’s (and Jennings comment responses, in addition to the book he has written) to help us see why this issue is important (Arena has a 2nd article concluding his work soon to be published, which will highlight more of why this discussion is an important one).

      • Timothy R. Jennings

        The Reformers did teach penal substitution theology, as a movement away from worse ideas toward the truth. As EGW points out in her writings, these reformers, while doing God’s work could not comprehend all the light to be recovered. There work was to begin the reformation, but many believe the SDA church was called by God to complete the reformation, not rest satisfied with only a partial recovery of the truth.

        To defend the Reformers as presenting the truth for our day is an error – it was a positive movement from the darkness they were in but it is NOT the truth for today and to hold to it is to oppose the movement of God in revealing more truth today. As EGW states:

        “We shall NOT be accepted and honored of God in doing the same work that our fathers did. We do NOT occupy the position which they occupied in the unfolding of truth. In order to be accepted and honored as they were, we must IMPROVE the light which shines upon us, as they improved that which shone upon them; we must do as they would have done, had they lived in our day. Luther and the Wesleys were reformers in their time. It is our duty to continue the work of reform. If we NEGLECT to heed the light, it will become darkness; and the degree of darkness will be proportionate to the light rejected. {4SP 186.2}

        Are we actuated by the spirit of the Reformers? Are we willing to advance in the truth? Is the church today moving forward in the unfolding light, or are there elements in our church that are resisting the light, holding to outdated ideas that are not truth for this time?

        • Michael Younker

          Of course we do not rest (cease to develop our theology) with the Reformers. They did not have all the light. But is new light merely an improvement, or actually “new” light? The Sabbath is not an improvement upon Sunday, it is a correction. Let us keep the differences in mind. Part of being a Reformer is to hold fast to that which is good. Truth does not “date” itself. We should still study the Levitical laws, even if some of them have been “fulfilled.”

          I think the key difference, and issue, is the way in which we speak. I’m not comfortable with your new metaphysics (for that’s what it is, even if you’re not trained in philosophy) and its implications. It will cause other problems that you’ve not yet foreseen (I study philosophy). I share this respectfully.

          On the other hand, I’m comfortable quoting from EGW’s 500+ paragraphs in which she uses the phrase “wrath of God.” You’d rather avoid an entire category of her statements that emphasize legal and forensic (I dislike the word “penal”) language concerning the death of Christ. I’m forced to wonder, why? Why is your language superior to White’s? Of course I love all the quotes you do use from her, but they are the balance to the other side. Balance is important when wrestling with “abstract” theological topics that are important, but not salvific for all to grasp perfectly. Is your presentation of truth, as you’ve presented it (are your 7 levels “inspired”), essential to salvation? Are you ready to say that?

          • Timothy R. Jennings

            The “knowledge” of the seven levels are nothing – but growing up in Christ and becoming like Him in character is. The seven levels are just one way to communicate a maturing process. As I quoted from Hebrews 5-6 there are different levels of Christian maturity, some of the lower levels, according to Hebrews “are not acquainted with righteousness.”

            I want people to experience the righteousness of God – this is the big difference between the penal view and my view. The penal view, as I have read, and confirmed with theology professors, often emphasizes God’s “declaration” that people are righteous “even though they are not.” (Yes, this is how it is presented).

            But I prefer 2Cor 5:21 “God made him who knew no sin to be sin for us so that we might BECOME the righteousness of God.”

            There is a distinct difference between being declared righteous “even though you are not” and through the works and merits of Christ “becoming” righteous.

            The legal view puts obstacles in the way of true holiness and leaves people with a false security with a legal solution to an actual condition of being. Humanity is in actuality, a deviant state from God’s design “sin sick” “dead in trespass and sin” i.e. terminal. Our condition needs to be fixed, healed, cured. Legal declarations are meaningless, what is meaningful is what Christ actually accomplished, the full restoration of righteousness in humanity. The perfecting of the human species, the eradication of the infection of sin by His life, death and resurrection.

            But this is a different level of thinking and is very difficult to grasp when one has spent decades indoctrinated in human law models.

            My views are not metaphysical humanism – but God centered Creator worship – calling us back to an integrated understanding of reality. One of the problems theologians struggle with is the ability to integrate all three threads of evidence God has given us. Most theologians I have spoken with want only one thread – Scripture – but God has provided three threads, which are to be perfectly harmonized. When we do this, penal theories are eliminated.

            The three threads are:

            •Scripture: All Scripture is God-breathed and is useful for teaching, rebuking, correcting and training in righteousness. (2 Timothy 3:16)

            •Science: For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities—his eternal power and divine nature—have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been MADE, so that men are without excuse. (Romans 1:20)

            •Experience: Taste and see that the Lord is good. (Ps 34:8); Then he said to Thomas, ‘Put your finger here; see my hands. Reach out your hand and put it into my side. Stop doubting and believe.’ (John 20:27)

            Or as EGW said:

            Jesus followed the DIVINE PLAN of education. The schools of His time, with their magnifying of things small and their belittling of things great, He did not seek. His education was gained directly from the HEAVEN-APPOINTED sources; from useful work, from the study of the SCRIPTURES and of NATURE, and from the EXPERIENCES of life– God’s lesson books, full of instruction to all who bring to them the willing hand, the seeing eye, and the understanding heart. {Ed 77.2}

            When we separate the three three threads we get into trouble:

            Science alone leads to godlessness

            Experience alone leads to mysticism

            Scripture alone leads to confusion – currently there are 34,000 different Christian groups all claiming the Bible supports their teaching.

            We must require all three threads to harmonize – ALWAYS must be Scripture based and sound, but our understanding of Scripture must harmonize with God’s revelations and testable laws in nature and science and with the experiences of life.

            My view does this – penal views fail, thus the unfolding of truth, and the need to move past 500 year old transitionary ideas that were helpful for the Reformers to move out of worse ideas, but to retain those understandings only obstructs the preparation of the church for Christ’s return.

          • Michael Younker

            If I may, T. Jennings, you are evading my questions (and have been consistently doing so). Why does White (whom you quoted so much earlier) use so much legal language that you would and do not in your writings? You insist you agree with her, but why then do you avoid her legal (she doesn’t use the word “penal” so I don’t require it either) comments in your writings? Does she give people the wrong impression in her books/articles, an impression you wish to move “beyond”?

            I agree the Reformers were not the final word. However, I’m alarmed by your cavalier attitude to truth via “transitionary ideas.” E.g., the ceremonial laws were not “transitionary IDEAS,” but the ceremonial mode of teaching an “actual historical truth,” Christ’s future legal, substitutionary, atonement.

            By the way, I agree completely about drawing data from nature & experience (and the gift of prophecy). This is where much of my own personal research is focused! Thus, I’m also especially sensitive to their misuses. I question your understanding of “law” in nature, an area much disputed, might I add, in academic literature. As I mentioned earlier, you appear to hold an Enlightenment view of “free-will,” based entirely on secular, worldly philosophy. Your views DO appear to me as metaphysical naturalism. Your own private interpretation of nature has been elevated much higher than you appear to realize, and I question the wisdom of this.

            What do you make of the Garden of Eden? Why did God “cast out” Adam and Eve? Why was there not only a tree of knowledge, but also a tree of life? If God hadn’t “punished” Adam and Eve, how would evil “naturally result”? The tree of life had “supernatural virtue” (EGW). Thus, without God’s “active” punishment of “casting” them out, Adam and Eve would have lived forever in sin (Gen 3:22). How does this harmonize with your views on sin causing its own consequences? God’s pronouncement of “you shall die” was conditional upon God enacting this through active punishment.

            Your view on God’s “passive-active” punishment methods are interesting, but ultimately pointless. Passive-aggression is still aggression. If a doctor could apply a medicinal cure to a patient, but withheld the medicinal cure, is the doctor or patient to blame?

          • Timothy R. Jennings

            There are two lenses through which facts can be filtered, the human law construct, and Design law. The example of the Trees in the Garden is a perfect example of this.

            Through human law we see rules, when breached requiring punishment. Through Design law we see God protecting and limiting pain and suffering. Imagine the pain, suffering, evil that would have occurred had they had access to the tree of life? See how bad it was before the flood, when not immortal, they lived centuries. Thus, shorting lifespan resulted in reduction of pain, suffering and evil.

            Also, access to the tree of life would not have prevented beheading, crushing a skull with a rock (Cain and Abel), vaporization in an atomic blast, murder, killing in war. It would have only prevented aging and physiological disease. So imagine the horror of wars fought to control access to the tree. No, not punishment, mercy. We should know this because the punishment for sin is eternal death, not first sleep death, thus denying them access to the tree only resulted in first death, not eternal death.

            Your description of a doctor withholding a healing remedy is a straw man and misrepresents what I teach. To be more accurate in your analogy, you should have said, a doctor who didn’t force a patient that refuses the remedy to take it. And since the remedy to sin is a remedy of “mind, heart and character” it cannot be force, only willfully participated in. Thus, God letting people go to reap what they have sewn is totally Biblical, “Those who sew to the carnal nature FROM THAT NATURE will reap destruction” Gal 6:8

            Regarding EGW and use of law language – She is God’s spokesperson and is trying to communicate to all God’s children – the infants in Christ as well as the mature. She uses language designed to reach people where they are, just as all God’s inspired writers do. Sometimes they write in metaphor, sometimes in parable, sometimes in legal language, sometimes in prophetic symbol, sometimes in direct exhortation.

            But, my presentation of the law makes the law much more eternal and uncompromising than the penal view. The penal view creates a legal loophole through which sinners can evade the consequences of the law. My view, demonstrates the law cannot be evaded, one can only be restored to harmony with it, via the work of Jesus.

            You like EGW legal language, then I challenge you to do a CDROM search in her writings of the following “The law requires” and see what you come up with. You won’t find it requires a LEGAL penalty – zip, nada, no where. You will find the following:

            The law requires righteousness,–a righteous life, a perfect character; {DA 762.2}

            But the law requires that the soul itself be pure and the mind holy, that the thoughts and feelings may be in accordance with the standard of love and righteousness.–RH, Apr 5, 1898. (2SM 211.) {2MCP 564.1}

            The divine law requires us to love God supremely and our neighbor as ourselves{A New Life NL 32.1}

            That which God required of Adam before his fall was perfect obedience to His law. God requires now what He required of Adam, perfect obedience, righteousness without a flaw, without shortcoming in His sight. God help us to render to Him all His law requires. We cannot do this without that faith that brings Christ’s righteousness into daily practice. {2SM 380.4}

            God offered them, in His Son, the perfect righteousness of the law. If they would open their hearts fully to receive Christ, then the very life of God, His love, would dwell in them, transforming them into His own likeness; and thus through God’s free gift they would possess the righteousness which the law requires. {MB 54.2}

            His law requires your heart’s supreme affection for your Maker. It requires you to do unto others as you would have them do to you. {BEcho, February 15, 1889 par. 8}

            This is the voice of God to you, my brethren and sisters who profess to keep the law of God. That law requires that you love your neighbor as yourself. Are you doing it? {RH, March 11, 1884 par. 10}

            And while man refuses to become pure, holy, and undefiled, as God’s law requires him to do, he is walking away from Christ. {RH, February 15, 1898 par. 10}

            The law requires us to present to God a holy character. It demands of men today just what it demanded of Adam in Eden,–perfect obedience, perfect harmony with all its precepts in all relations of life, under all circumstances and conditions. {ST, May 30, 1895 par. 2}

            God’s law requires that justice and right be exercised between man and his fellow man; it requires that we shall not injure our neighbor in his property, his feelings, his health, or his good name. It requires compassion for the afflicted, even if he be our enemy, that in all our associations with our fellow beings we shall show the same love and care that we would wish to have exercised toward ourselves. Who can stand before this great moral standard, and plead not guilty? {ST, January 7, 1897 par. 3}

            And the last quote, will explain the penalty, because there is a penalty for sin, but not a legal penalty.

            Christ saw the helpless condition of the race, and he came to redeem them by living the life of obedience the law requires, and by paying in his death the penalty of disobedience. He came to bring us the message and means of deliverance, an assurance of salvation, not through the abrogation of the law, but through obedience made possible by his merits. {RH, April 29, 1902 par. 10}

            Note the weight of evidence, the law requires a life of obedience, there is a penalty for sin, but the law doesn’t require sin be punished, It requires only that the infection of sin be destroyed so that a life of obedience could be obtained. Thus lawlessness (transgression of the law) results in death and Christ could only restore a life of obedience into humanity by destroying the infection of sin He assumed – thus
            suffering the penalty sin brought. Not a legal penalty, but the penalty the actual condition caused be experience by Christ in order for humanity to be fixed back to righteousness. But all in harmony with God’s law of love, His design upon which life is built to operate, as all the quotes above state. This is what the law requires.

            The legal model erroneously diverts our attention away from the true high and holy state of God’s character and law, and instead locks us into worldly, human law constructs.

          • Michael Younker

            Your views would suggest that we “only” need sanctification, not any actual “legal” justification. I question this. I trust you can understand the primary challenge the official church position would have with your views is not so much with what you affirm per se, but in what you deny.

            ***There is a legal “penalty” for “violating” the “Law” that created a “debt”-all legal language–. What makes this situation more difficult to understand is that for human laws, there are often minor penalties–money, for example–whereas the penalty for violating God’s law is death. Sin is merely the transgression of the law. How this manifests itself in relation to moral and natural laws is naturally different in our everyday world. If the penalty for violating God’s laws were not death for minor offenses (eating fruit), but only major ones (murder), but both required payment of the debt for salvation, then it would be possible for some to not need the blood of Christ, while others would need it, for salvation. I hope you catch this nuance. But this is not how God arranged things. All sin warrants death by payment.

            “There was no power in the law to pardon its transgressor. Jesus alone could pay the sinner’s debt. But the fact that Jesus has paid the indebtedness of the repentant sinner does not give him license to continue in transgression of the law of God; but he must henceforth live in obedience to that law.” 1SM229-230.

            “Many accept Jesus as an article of belief, but they have no saving faith in him as their sacrifice and Saviour. They have no realization that Christ has died to save them from the penalty of the law which they have transgressed, in order that they may be brought back to loyalty to God. Do you believe that Christ, as your substitute, pays the debt of your transgression? Not, however, that you may continue in sin, but that you may be saved from your sins; that you, through the merits of his righteousness, may be re-instated to the favor of God. Do you know that a holy and just God will accept your efforts to keep his law, through the merits of his own beloved Son who died for your rebellion and sin?” EGW RH July24, 1888

            “God had manifested His abhorrence of the principles of rebellion. All
            heaven saw His justice revealed, both in the condemnation of Satan and
            in the redemption of man. Lucifer had declared that if the law of God
            was changeless, and its penalty could not be remitted, every
            transgressor must be forever debarred from the Creator’s favor. He had
            claimed that the sinful race were placed beyond redemption and were
            therefore his rightful prey. But the death of Christ was an argument in
            man’s behalf that could not be overthrown. The penalty of the law fell
            upon Him who was equal with God, and man was free to accept the
            righteousness of Christ and by a life of penitence and humiliation to
            triumph, as the Son of God had triumphed, over the power of Satan.”DD5

            “From every one God requires perfect obedience. Of himself, man can not obey the law. Never could he pay the debt incurred by transgression [of the law].” ST Jan25, 1905.

            “Nothing less than the life of God’s beloved Son would suffice to pay the heavy debt that we had incurred by breaking the law of God. He took on him our nature, and became sin for us, that we might have “remission of sins that are past,” and through his divine strength and grace, might fulfill the righteous requirements of the law.” RH march 6, 1888.

            ***There is a reason justification, and not only sanctification, are necessary for salvation, and that reason is to remove any hope of salvation by works, the Roman way. If only sanctification were necessary, then we would be tempted to perfect ourselves and think God owed us something. Thus the law, of course, cannot fix this problem of “past sins.” There is, however, authority in the law, which is granted its power by the lawgiver, to declare a penalty.

            “By the deeds of the law shall no flesh be justified. There is no power in law to save the transgressor of law. If man, after his transgression, could have been saved by his utmost energy to keep the law, then Jesus need not have died. [It’s not about simply restoring trust!] Man could have stood on his own merits and said, “I am sinless.” God will never bring down the law to man’s standard and man can never lift himself up to answer to its claims of perfection. But Christ comes to our world and pays the sinner’s debt, suffers the penalty for transgression of the law and satisfies justice” 6MR 141.

            “The light given me of God places this important subject above any question in my mind. Justification is wholly of grace and not procured by any works that fallen man can do. “ FW20

            “Let the subject be made distinct and plain that it is not possible to effect anything in our standing before God or in the gift of God to us through creature merit. Should faith and works purchase the gift of salvation for anyone, then the Creator is under obligation to the creature. Here is an opportunity for falsehood to be accepted as truth. If any man can merit salvation by anything he may do, then he is in the same position as the Catholic to do penance for his sins. Salvation, then, is partly of debt, that may be earned as wages. If man cannot, by any of his good works, merit salvation, then it must be wholly of grace, received by man as a sinner because he receives and believes in Jesus. It is wholly a free gift. Justification by faith is placed beyond controversy. And all this controversy is ended, as soon as the matter is settled that the merits of fallen man in his good works can never procure eternal life for him.” FW 19-20.

            ***I have some challenging thoughts for you. It has never been demonstrated (outside of fallen natural law/nature) that sin results in death. Satan and his angels are, to our knowledge, all still living. Not a one of them has died yet by murdering each other. Why could this not continue forever?

            Adam and Eve, had they not been forced into a fallen natural environment, would not necessarily have killed each other (we just don’t know, do we? Everyone could take turns picking from the tree of life). Fallen Angels haven’t killed each other, so why would Adam and Eve (or their children) if they hadn’t been cast outside of the Garden?

            In fact, what Cain killed Abel for was precisely Abel’s offering the correct sacrifice demonstrating his legal guilt. Cain wouldn’t stand for it as the eldest brother, offering a “sacrifice” that lacked the legal symbol (blood) God required. He was jealous that Abel was accepted by blood, and he was not without it. Cain believed in God. So without God saying He rejected Cain, Cain wouldn’t have been angry, and wouldn’t have killed Abel, for all we know. The debate, then, has always been about legality (blood), which is why some care so much: “without blood, no remission of sins.” Heb 9:22. There was a “lot of blood” in the OT ceremonies, and this was not by accident. It was not just to restore trust that death was required, but as the penalty for violating the law, a debt.

            Why do you think it is, that immediately after the Fall, the first thing God instructs Adam to do is kill an animal? Why is it that the penultimate appearance of the Christ found in the story of Abraham required him to “take life” (actively) his son, an antitype of Christ? Why did God want man to know the following lessons?

            “To Adam, the offering of the first sacrifice was a most painful ceremony. His hand must be raised to take life, which only God could give. . . . As he slew the innocent victim, he trembled at the thought that his sin must shed the blood of the spotless Lamb of God. This scene gave him a deeper and more vivid sense of the greatness of his transgression, which nothing but the death of God’s dear Son could expiate.” EGW, AGch7.

            “This ceremonial offering, ordained of God, was to be a perpetual reminder to Adam of his guilt, and also a penitential acknowledgment of his sin. This act of taking life gave Adam a deeper and more perfect sense of his transgression, which nothing less than the death of God’s dear Son could expiate. He marveled at the infinite goodness and matchless love which would give such a ransom to save the guilty. As Adam was slaying the innocent victim, it seemed to him that he was shedding the blood of the Son of God by his own hand.” 1SP53

            You speak of “designer” laws. Have you studied Divine Decree theory? Not all God’s laws are designed simply for platonically logical mutual social beneficence, as “designer” theorists often say. The tree of knowledge was not prohibited until God said it was. This has no analogy with “natural laws,” which are constant and perpetual. Moral laws and natural laws should be kept distinguished from each other, conceptually.

            There is a difference between violating a “law” and violating the will of the “lawgiver.” Your designer God theory doesn’t adequately address this difference.

            If I may, it appears your reasoning treats the relationship between the Law and Lawgiver in a strange, Platonic, way (meaning, God is under obligation to the law of Love, and does not freely choose it. Love is something beyond and above the Being of God Himself, to which God adheres. Love is a Platonic category, contained within “designer laws.” For a true Platonist, God is not free to create “new laws” like not eating fruit or the Sabbath, which make no logical sense in that they are unnecessary or “arbitrary” (meaning=could have been different), whereas not murdering is of course logically necessary for Love, and “platonic-mathematical laws” could not have been any other way). Be careful not to use “mathematical designer laws” (in nature?) as paradigms for all laws.

            Of course, without a Lawgiver, the Law is powerless to enact upon the guilty their punishment. It is the Lawgiver who is under obligation to enforce His Laws, and this is what White describes as the situation in Heaven, as I noted earlier. But again “Adam was informed that an angel’s life could not pay the debt. The law of Jehovah, the foundation of his government in Heaven and upon earth, was as sacred as God himself; and for this reason the life of an angel could not be accepted of God as a sacrifice for its transgression. His law was of more importance in his sight than the holy angels around his throne. The Father could not abolish nor change one precept of his law to meet man in his fallen condition. But the Son of God, who had in unison with the Father created man, could make an atonement for man acceptable to God, by giving his life a sacrifice, and bearing the wrath of his Father.” 1SP51.

            I think this is at the root of the differences between your view and the official Church’s position. Interestingly, would your view require God to offer Himself a sacrifice, because that is what “love” would do, and He lives by the Law of Love? Or was it a free choice with God, one with which He struggled? If God struggled (and White says He did, both in Heaven and on Earth), then your view may not be correct. Law and love are compatible!

            I truly do hope you are perceiving that I agree with much of what you say (I love those EGW quotes!). It’s not what you always affirm, but rather deny, that creates the obstacle to understanding. I can have the cake and eat it too (embracing Love and Law), whereas your system appears to limit you to only a certain view of law in heaven.

            I am also uncomfortable with your comments that White simply writes to where people “are.” Of course she does, but that doesn’t mean “truth” isn’t communicated. Will we then be “saved” where we are, or will we all reach not only an essential behaviorial “perfection” (obedience to the law) but also intellectual perfection along your lines of love, before the 2nd coming? Why the Sabbath “test” in the manner White presents it? Would it be necessary to cast aside legal substitution to attain salvific Love, or will we, even at the 2nd coming, still retain incorrect beliefs at some deeper levels of philosophical-theological reflection about God that the ages of eternity will reveal? Are both “perfections” (behavior and precise intellectual beliefs) necessary; how would you distinguish the two? I guess what I’m saying is: I can believe in the good stuff you say without your anti-legal views, and still be very loving (at least I think so 😉 ). Can you say the same for the rest of us? I’ve only asked serious questions (and quite a number of them, I realize!).

            I just disagree whether the traditional view requires a softer view of behaviorial modification, or one that is merely motivated by fear. It is good to know that you have a high standard, though. May those who follow your path retain the highest standards of both love and behavioral modification through Christ’s example.

            Concerning White’s views on “active/passive”, I just differ from your reading that forces such a harsh dichotomy between them. Sort of like divine foreknowledge and human freedom: I just “accept” both. How can anyone escape the causative implications of the language below?:

            “God has given in His word decisive evidence that He will punish the transgressors of His law. Those who flatter themselves that He is too merciful to execute justice upon the sinner, have only to look to the cross of Calvary. The death of the spotless Son of God testifies that “the wages of sin is death,” that every violation of God’s law must receive its just retribution. Christ the sinless became sin for man. He bore the guilt of transgression, and the hiding of His Father’s face, until His heart was broken and His life crushed out. All this sacrifice was made that sinners might be redeemed. In no other way could man be freed from the penalty of sin.”DD16

            “Here the mysterious cup trembled in His hand. Here the destiny of a lost world was hanging in the balance. Should He wipe the blood drops from His brow and root from His soul the guilt of a perishing world, which was placing Him, all innocent, all undeserving, under the penalty of a just law? Should He refuse to become sinners’ substitute and surety? Refuse to give them another trial, another probation?” {CTr 266.6}

            “We should not obey the commandments merely to secure heaven, but to please Him who died to save sinners from the penalty of the transgression of the Father’s law. The sinner’s salvation depends upon . . . ceasing to transgress and obedience to that transgressed law. No one should venture or presume upon the mercy of God, feeling at liberty to sin as much as they dare. . . . It is a sad resolve to follow Christ as far off as possible, venturing as near the verge of perdition as possible without falling in.”—Letter 35b, 1877

          • Brad Cole

            Hi Tim and Michael,

            One additional thought on appeasement. To my knowledge, Ellen White never spoke of the wrath of God as being appeased in her later writings. I know that this opens the door for some maturity with regards to Ellen White, but I think a good case can be made for this. Below is a quote from an excellent series by Alden Thompson called, “From Sinai to Golgotha”. I would be happy to share the entire series in electronic format if anyone is interested:

            “5. The love of the Father for sinners.
            In the first two accounts, Christ is clearly the friend of sinners, but the wrath of the Father still burns. Thus Jesus explains that He is willing to “stand between the wrath of His Father and guilty man” (Spiritual Gifts, Vol. I, 23; The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. I, 46; italics supplied). Only in Patriarchs and Prophets does Ellen White integrate John 3:16 into the story, thus emphasizing the love not only of the Son but of the Father, as well. Accordingly, instead of describing Christ’s role as shielding the sinner from the wrath of His Father, Patriarchs and Prophets states that Christ was willing to “stand between the sinner and the penalty of sin” (p. 64; italics supplied). Sin loses none of its offensiveness, however, for it must still “separate the Father and His Son” (p. 63.). But the important thing is that the sinner can now see the friendly face of God not only in the Son but also in the Father.”

            My conviction is that it is not God who demands a price, but rather this is the demand of sin-sick humanity which can be traced back to pagan conceptions of God. Rebellion against God has warped the human mind such that an angry image is projected onto the One who is love and forgiveness personified. But, God has graciously met those who hold to this view and meets them where they are.
            Perhaps the greatest action we can take as humans is to receive offense and yet still forgive with no demands for painful penalties to be imposed on those who have wronged us. This is what we see at the Cross. Jesus forgave his tormentors. Many of those I would assume will not be in the here-after yet, from a “legal” perspective, they were forgiven. We see this also just before the 40 years wandering where God said in Numbers that “I forgive them” but that didn’t change their rebellious hearts. They were forgiven rebels in good legal standing – – if forgiveness were the thing that stands in the way. But it isn’t! God forgives lavishly – that is not the issue. Rather, the question is this: has the forgiveness/kindness of God led us to repentence?

          • Scott Bennett

            What you said is critical, Brad, in that the cross is objective, but if one says that it is a legal acquittal for all men then are all men going to be saved? That would good with me, but it’s not the case. Jesus and the cross demonstrate God’s forgiveness. God so loved the world that gave His Son . . . to the whole world. God’s nature is forgiving, but that doesn’t mean He can allow destruction and rebellion, murder and rape to go on eternally. There will be no prisons in heaven.

            The criteria of salvation is to be born again. Some call it Justification and make it a legal term, but that is because it changes the state of the sinner from being a child of Adam to a child of the second Adam. It is adoption and an inheritance. The phrase “New Covenant” in Greek is diatheke which is like the reading of a final will. At the death of the Savior the will was in place and Jesus bequeathed to all who would repent and be born again eternal life based on knowing the Father through His ministry here on earth.

            Just because God loves us and forgives the whole world that doesn’t mean everyone is saved. Salvation is not promised to those whom God loves, but only to those who love Him . . . those who respond, to the love demonstrated in the life and death of Jesus, by opening their hearts to God and receiving His Spirit. Justification is being set right through the Revelation of God’s Love. Justification is our acceptance of His offer of forgiveness and the Helper that longs to live with us called the Holy Spirit. Justification is simply us changing our minds about God and accepting Jesus’ version of the story instead of Lucifer’s. Everything changes!

            He stands at the door and knocks, but we have to open the door of our mind and heart and let Him in. Justification is the turning point in our lives. We move from legally being children of the darkness that Adam gave us as an inheritance into Jesus’ family where we become children of the light and inherit His glory.

            The Hebrew word for Old Covenant is “beriyth” which is a cut covenant or a pledge ratified with blood. All the sacrificial animals pointed to the finality of blood sacrifice in Jesus’ death where His perfect life ended in a violent death at the hands of sinners. Now Satan is defeated, there was a man on earth that didn’t fall for his lies, and Christ has the legal right to reclaim the “dominion” that was given to Adam. Everything now belongs “legally” to Jesus and God didn’t renegotiate his promise to Adam as the rightful owner of this creation. God’s word is still good, His law of love is still good, and now the rightful owner of this earth is good (Jesus), and we again inherit the earth made new for eternity.

            This is the real story and not a fable or metaphor.

          • Scott Bennett

            One more thing I wanted to add is the story that Ellen tells of Adam’s first meeting with Jesus the prince. Find it and read it, but just to recall: Adam bows and takes off his crown and places it at the feet of Jesus. Jesus, God’s Son, but also Adam’s Son now rules the kingdom that Adam lost to Satan. I think the two of them will be good friends.

    • Timothy Arena

      Hello Larry,

      Thanks for posting. I’m wondering: is quoting the Bible and Ellen White, seeking to understand them correctly, and then advocating a position based on the evidence really “throwing stones?” Doctrines really do matter, and all ideas are not equally valid.The editorial board and the writers for this magazine are perfectly free to advocate one position above another or to publish an article which they feel represents most accurately the biblical evidence, and those who disagree are perfectly free to come here and write longer posts than the article itself (which has been done). How is it that their voice is not being heard? It’s being heard loud and clear. Dr. Jennings has his own website and books. We do not have to treat all ideas as equally valid any more than he does (and he does not).

      If it is unloving to call certain viewpoints wrong, then Jesus Himself was unloving. He did it many times in his ministry, and Paul counseled Timothy and Titus to rebuke false ideas (Titus 1:9ff.; 2 Tim. 4:2ff.)–yet with patience and love. Many today do not think that such a thing is possible, but not according to Paul. You mentioned the final judgment and God’s loving His enemies. As you can see from the posts above, God’s punishment, wrath, and vengeance are not incongruous with His love. More importantly, Jesus has borne the wrath of God on our behalf so that we don’t have to (Rom. 5:8-11)–this is the Good News.

      Love does not equal agreement with everyone or in viewing all ideas as equally valid, or presenting them as such. Love is seen in HOW it is that we engage in dialogue. Hopefully (and we can always do better) we are seeking to show love throughout the process. But this does not mean that we have to love all ideas. Jesus said that he hated certain doctrines (Rev. 2:15).

      The doctrines of the Reformation changed the world forever. Important Ideas have changed the world, and they could not have done so if the holders of these ideas had acted as if the alternative opposing viewpoints were simply other valid options. It is not reasonable that we should simply lay out all ideas and pretend that they are all equally valid, especially on such an important issue, or one that has been laid out with such clarity in Scripture.

      What IS, helpful, though, I think, is to recognize that (as I tried to do in the article) the views of someone else with whom you disagree are not wrong in all aspects. They have some good points, and these should be acknowledged.

      It is always good to be reminded of the words of Jesus! Thank you for your post, and I hope that we will remember these words as we proceed.

      • Larry Ashcraft

        Timothy,

        You wrote: “is quoting the Bible and Ellen White, seeking to understand them correctly, and then advocating a position based on the evidence really ‘throwing stones?'”

        As I’m sure your mom used to tell you, “It’s all about your tone of voice, Timothy. It’s your attitude.” Yes, we have record of Jesus correcting others, but I can’t help but to read those instances as Him doing so with tears in his voice. As for Paul, I can only hope that he didn’t publically act out of character with his treatise on attitude and behavior in 1 Corinthians 13. Now it’s true, I can’t hear your tone of voice when reading the words above, but the tone that registers in my mind is more like that of a “resounding gong or a clanging cymbal.”

        In all honesty, though, the throwing stones metaphor was meant just as much for The Compass Magazine, who at their website on the Board of Directors page, claim to exist for the purpose of exposing errors that creep into the church.

        “We founded this ministry to help laypeople confront the unbiblical teachings and practices that all too often creep into the church. The Compass Magazine exposes these errors and affirms the church’s fundamental beliefs.” ~ Stephen Lucht

        Consider the arrogance that is implicit with making such a statement! I couldn’t prevent that air of superiority implied by this from coloring all of what I read from you. From this statement, it sounds like The Compass Magazine is founded on the charter of throwing stones.

        You also wrote, “Doctrines really do matter, and all ideas are not equally valid… As you can see from the posts above, God’s punishment, wrath, and vengeance are not incongruous with His love. More importantly, Jesus has borne the wrath of God on our behalf so that we don’t have to (Rom. 5:8-11)–this is the Good News.”

        I don’t have the time today to thoughtfully address each point you’ve made in the article and in the following dialog. Who would thoughtfully read it if I did? But I can ask, have you left the door ajar enough in your thinking to acknowledge that the way you see this concept of God’s wrath playing out may not be what’s in God’s mind? “For my thoughts are not your thoughts, nor are your ways my ways, says the LORD. For as the heavens are higher than the earth, so are my ways higher than your ways and my thoughts than your thoughts.” Isaiah 55:6, 9

        May the Lord guide your thoughts as you polish your second installment on this topic of how God makes us at one with Him.

        • Michael Younker

          It’s a difficult time to be an “Adventist,” Larry! As a large, global church, we’re more divided now than ever before, sadly. I cordially invite you to browse our past articles to see whether we are a “throwing stones” ministry. 🙂

    • David Read

      It is a false idea of love that does not distinguish between truth and terror, and that would allow error to enter the church unrebutted. The elders of the church are specifically charged not only to rebut but, if possible, to PREVENT false teaching in the church. (Titus 1:5-16) The idea that God never punishes but only allows natural law to play out requires a spiritualized, non-literal reading of many Bible passages, including the story of the Flood, Sodom & Gomorrah, and many others. This type of reading of Scripture is far outside of the Seventh-day Adventist hermeneutical and theological tradition. For the Compass Magazine to point that out is not unloving, but seeks to prevent the flock from being confused.

      • Larry Ashcraft

        Gentlemen,

        If we all take a few steps backward from this conversation about at-one-ment with God, and God’s wrath, realizing that the quotes and passages we’re sharing have all been seen and pondered considerably by each, it’s a little presumptuous to think that one’s articulation of how they see it all fitting together will somehow give the others a light bulb moment, allowing them to consider something that they’ve never entertained before. We all have reviewed the evidence. We all have sided with a viewpoint that we see makes the most sense when considering the evidence. We all should realize that there is evidence that can be interpreted to support the other person’s view.

        I’ve been actively rolling this specific issue over in my thoughts for over three decades. Some have been doing it for much, much longer. To be quoting something, as if to say, “The most casual observer should be able to figure this out,” is less than becoming to any of us.

        I assume that Timothy Arena is going to tell us all in the next installment, why any deviation from his perspective is a terminal condition for one’s relationship with God. And if a deviation isn’t terminal, then I’m sure he’s going to justify his concern about all this. Most certainly, it has to be a little more than, “See-I’m right and you’re wrong,” else why create all the unrest? James White and Uriah Smith both sided with Arius on the non-divinity of Christ until their deaths, yet EGW didn’t go ballistic over the matter. Her Christ-like restraint sets an example for us all.

        One thing definitely needs to be acknowledged: precious few are ever going to read articles like these, and even fewer are going to scroll down, reading dozens of pages of remarks like I’m contributing to right now. With that realization, let’s temper our zeal just a little as we imagine ourselves championing God’s cause like a watchman on the wall, lest we snub the Still, Small Voice that speaks within each of us. Let’s also humbly acknowledge that the primary person that each is aiming to convince is ones self.

        • David Read

          The idea that error should not be corrected unless it is “salvational” is false. Any error publicly taught in the church should be publicly rebutted. But this would seem to be close to “salvational”: if you do not believe that you are saved by the merits of Christ substituted for your own sins, how are you saved? None of us will be saved by our own merits, which are filthy rags (Isa. 64:6), but only by Christ’s merits. Hence there has to be an exchange, a substitution, of the one for the other. To deny this is to rest on one’s own merits, and be lost.

          • Scott Bennett

            Personally, I appreciate the venue to discuss openly our different interpretations of the scriptures. Historically it is the Christian conversation. As long as it is done in love and respect! I say that, but I’m pretty thick skinned and don’t offend easily. Some are more sensitive and as much as I would love to hear their thoughts an open forum might not be the place to share them. Let’s keep the conversation going with open heart and minds, but in the knowledge of God’s love and tolerance for each one of us.

      • Kevin Straub

        Bro. Read, “Adventist…tradition” are key words, here. We have to get past that.
        A gentle and wooing God who at times becomes violent when rebellion goes too far or when He sees that His position is threatened (as in the flood, as it is often said that He had to ensure that the line to the Messiah would be preserved) and who in the end tortures His enemies in a manner that is contrary to His own repudiation of the principle of eye for eye justice is a bit hard to swallow.
        Some of us are not concerned about Adventist tradition, nor are we concerned about maintaining the status quo of the ancient near-Eastern pagan concept of Deity, which was the major lens through which the Hebrews also viewed their God, or the inroads–nay, the paved highways–of the “Constantian Shift” in Christianity which both provide the “major voice” coloring for the gamut of inspired writing in the former and the “hermeneutic” (of eisegetic tradition) for interpreting it in the latter. Rather, we seek to interpret according to the keys provided in those same writings, albeit in the “minor voice,” as well as according to the principles concerning “the character of god, the nature of sin, and the real issues at stake in the great controversy” (GC88 568.4), which are revealed most fully in Christ Himself, through His incarnation, life, teachings, and cross.
        In this same passage, GC 568.4, we find Satan’s primary focus. When the devil gets up in the morning, this three pronged-attack is at the top of his laundry list. If he gets nothing else done, he will work to make all manner of misrepresentation in these areas. So, these are the subjects where we also need to be very sharp, understanding exactly what the issues are. God’s relation to violence is at the very core of the controversy in all three.
        The unfolding of light of present truth has ALWAYS confused the flock. Principally, this is due to the cares of life and love of the world which can only produce weakness in personal study in submission to the Holy Spirit’s guidance, as well at the resistance of the “ancient men” holding the reins of corporate establishment power, which they fear to lose. We have to mindful that we do not make our religious career one of maintaining a crystallized institution that has lost its fluidity as a movement. Churchianity, or Christianity, which will it be?

  • Timothy Arena

    “God has given in His word decisive evidence that He will punish the transgressors of His law. Those who flatter themselves that He is too merciful to execute justice upon the sinner,
    have only to look to the cross of Calvary. The death of the spotless Son
    of God testifies that “the wages of sin is death,” that every violation
    of God’s law must receive its just retribution. Christ the sinless
    became sin for man. He bore the guilt of transgression, and the hiding
    of His Father’s face, until His heart was broken and His life crushed
    out. All this sacrifice was made that sinners might be redeemed. In no
    other way could man be freed from the penalty of sin. And every soul
    that refuses to become a partaker of the atonement provided at such a
    cost must bear in his own person the guilt and punishment of
    transgression.. . . .The principles of kindness, mercy, and love, taught and exemplified by
    our Saviour, are a transcript of the will and character of God. Christ
    declared that He taught nothing except that which He had received from
    His Father. The principles of the divine government are in perfect
    harmony with the Saviour’s precept, “Love your enemies.” God executes
    justice upon the wicked, for the good of the universe, and even for the
    good of those upon whom His judgments are visited” (GC 539, 541)

    • Timothy R. Jennings

      Timothy – I have no problem with this passage – I agree with this – the only question is what method does God use? It appears in both our views the following is true:

      Only the righteous are saved

      The wicked are eternally lost (annihilated)

      The wicked suffer terrible torment, appropriate length of time for their level of evil and sin, before they ultimately die for all eternity

      God is just (right and righteous) in all His dealings with sin and sinners

      So the outcome in what we teach is the same – it is the methods in accomplishing this that is different and those methods reflect back on the character and attributes of God. I quoted EGW earlier in this discussion in which she describes how God accomplishes this in perfect harmony with His character of love. This is what I describe in my view, and the quotes from EGW and Scripture support this – death does NOT come from God it comes from sin, the deviation from God’s design. But in the penal view death comes out from God as an infliction upon those who have broken rules.

      This goes right to the heart of the Great Controversy, which is a controversy over God’s character. Is God like Jesus revealed or is He like Satan alleged. If one were to go through Scripture and EGW and pull out the various allegations of Satan you would find:

      God is arbitrary, unforgiving and severe (DA 21, ST 1/20/1890)

      The penal view teaches all of this and these ideas have been stated in this very discussion. Earlier, it was stated that some of God’s laws are “arbitrary” this is one of Satan’s allegations – supported by the penal view. The penal view states God cannot and will not forgive without some payment or propitiation of His Son’s blood, i.e. He is unforgiving, not what EGW states in DA 762. And the idea that God uses His power to artificially inflict torture on His creatures makes him out to be severe. “The very attributes that belonged to the character of Satan, the evil one represented as belonging to the character of God.” (ST 1/20/1890)

      Thus, we have a choice, we can teach the reality of the final end of sin and sinners in a way that results in the same outcome for the wicked – but paints God with the brushstrokes of Satan, or we can do it in harmony with the character of Jesus, demonstrating that God is love!

      • Kevin Straub

        I would tweak a word here: You said, “The wicked suffer terrible torment, appropriate length of time for their level of evil and sin….” “Appropriate” lends itself to an implication that somewhere in the background there is an arbitrary determination. I believe that the intensity and duration of suffering is not imposed by God or by God and the saints together, as can be construed from EGW. Rather, the level of wickedness and rebellion will determine the fierce resistance to finally accepting the truth about God and about the way things are and giving up the struggle. They know that the end of their struggle means they are unplugged from life forever. They finally choose it, because they know that there is no place to stand otherwise. They hate God and His government; they want life but only on their own terms: self rule. They process the reality of the impossibility of the situation and know they have to come to a full acceptance of the terms. The whole bearing of the burden of sin, the drinking of the cup to its dregs, is coming to the final moment when they say, “So be it. Let me go.” So I would say that “The wicked suffer terrible torment, to a length of time and intensity which is commensurate with their level of evil and sin.”

  • Timothy Arena

    1. “Guiltless, He bore the punishment of the guilty. Innocent, yet offering
    Himself as a substitute for the transgressor. The guilt of every sin
    pressed its weight upon the divine soul of the world’s Redeemer. The
    evil thoughts, the evil words, the evil deeds of every son and daughter
    of Adam, called for retribution upon Himself; for He had become man’s
    substitute. Though the guilt of sin was not His, His spirit was torn and
    bruised by the transgressions of men, and He who knew no sin became sin
    for us, that we might be made the righteousness of God in Him” (1SM 321).

    2. Just because someone quotes or alludes to many scripture passages does
    not mean that their view is correct. “In order to sustain erroneous
    doctrines or unchristian practices, some will seize upon passages of
    Scripture separated from the context, perhaps quoting half of
    a single verse as proving their point, when the remaining portion would
    show the meaning to be quite the opposite. With the cunning of the
    serpent they entrench themselves behind disconnected utterances
    construed to suit their carnal desires. Thus do many willfully pervert
    the word of God. Others, who have an active imagination, seize upon the
    figures and symbols of Holy Writ, interpret them to suit their fancy,
    with little regard to the testimony of Scripture as its own interpreter,
    and then they present their vagaries as the teachings of the Bible (GC
    521). It is up to you and everyone else to decide who it is that is
    doing this.

    3. It is not up to me to decide who gets “purged” from
    the church. However, I will state clearly that I believe
    that the doctrine of Christ’s substitutionary atonement in which “He
    bore the punishment of the guilty” as EGW put it above, is an absolutely
    essential, definitional Christian doctrine. To deny it is to deny the
    fundamental core of what makes Christianity unique and truly meaningful.

    4. That being said, I believe that our SDA context calls for patient
    understanding with those who disagree (though I believe that all of our
    teachers, leaders, and administrators should be quite clear on it)
    because of our history–a history in which the biblical Gospel has been
    often misunderstood or even rejected. Most of all, I think that it
    should be taken into account that many people, including Jennings
    himself (I’ve written about this is part 2, quoting from his book where
    he tells his story) were brought up in such a way so that they had no
    peace or assurance of salvation because they feared the punishment and
    wrath of God and feared the law because it condemned them, and they were
    not taught the true Gospel which would have assuaged these fears. It is
    not at all unreasonable that such people would seek to eradicate all
    vestiges of God’s punishment and vengeance–the things they have always
    feared the most.

    5. Unfortunately, this is not a helpful solution at all. Without understanding the realities of the Law (that it condemns us all–Rom. 3:19), that everyone needs a Savior to avoid the results of sin–including death and God’s wrath (John 3:36), we cannot really grasp the realities of the biblical solution–Jesus bore God’s wrath in our place, took our punishment, and offers us eternal life as a free gift. Unfortunately, without accepting this atonement, all we are left with is our own sinful selves as the basis for our salvation. This does
    not work, no matter how much “healing” (as Jennings puts it) takes
    place. Everything we do and are is defiled by sin–this is why we need
    Christ’s imputed righteousness placed to our account (Rom. 4:5; 5:18; 2
    Cor. 5:21).

    “Righteousness is obedience to the law. The law demands righteousness,
    and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering
    it. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through
    faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord
    places the obedience of His Son to the sinner’s account. Christ’s
    righteousness is accepted in place of man’s failure, and God receives,
    pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though
    he were righteous, and loves him as He loves His Son” (FW 101).

    6.The “lens” that Jennings is both 1. not found in Scripture and 2.
    contradicted by Scripture from Genesis to Revelation. Nowhere in
    Scripture are we told to view every passages of God’s punishment and
    vengeance as being neither of those things in any meaningful sense of
    these words. Nowhere are we told to eschew legal realities, or to view
    them as metaphors only without any realities behind them. Nowhere are we
    told that there are 7 levels of maturity in which those with Jennings’
    view are in some rarefied air of superiority. The lens and the levels
    are being superimposed upon Scripture, they neither arise from it nor
    are consonant with it, as I believe that the plethora of inspired data
    both I and Michael (and others) have shown evinces.

    • Timothy R. Jennings

      Timothy, I appreciate and understand that you have not found what I teach in Scripture – but that doesn’t mean it isn’t there. Different minds process information in different ways, some are more concrete and have less ability to abstract and see past symbolism, metaphor, illustration to a cosmic reality centered on God’s character.

      The religious leaders in Christ’s day demonstrated this in Jn 6, when Jesus used the metaphor of drinking His blood and eating His flesh, or when He spoke of destroying the Temple and He would rebuild it in three days. They couldn’t get their minds around a bigger reality than the concrete, and yes very legal, view they had been steeped in.

      Many struggle with this today.

      Is Jesus our substitute – Yes –

      Did Jesus suffer the wrath of God – Yes –

      Did Jesus suffer the punishment of sin – Yes –

      Did Jesus have the weight of human guilt weigh down on Him – Yes –

      Could we be saved without the life, death and resurrection of Christ – No –

      Do we have a responsibility to understand all of this in harmony with God’s character of love as revealed in Christ and reject understandings that sustain Satan’s allegations against God’s character – Yes –

      My model endorses everyone of these elements, yet in perfect harmony with God’s character of love. As I pointed out above, the penal model presents these elements in a way that paints God’s character with Satan’s allegations that God is arbitrary, severe and unforgiving.

      I respect your choice to see it that way – I also see where you can take Scripture to support that view. But, that is only possible because of the rejection of the other two threads that Scripture tells us God provided – Nature and Experience.

      If you following the “Divine Plan” for education as EGW describes above, you would have to harmonize those other two threads, and suddenly you would discover, your model falls apart.

  • Scott Bennett

    I find it extremely difficult to enter a discussion
    where Ellen is the authority and has the final word since she counseled against
    using her writings this way. That being said I would like to address a few of
    Timothy Arena’s points in His last post.

    1. First of all no one has denied that Ellen did not have a penal view of the atonement.
    What Tim has pointed out is that she explains much of the penal view in
    non-penal terms. For Ellen not to have a penal view in her day would have been
    rare indeed especially among her Methodist friends and family. Had she not
    spoken in legal language she couldn’t have reached those God sent her to
    influence. Her having the penal view is not the point (all of her piers had
    that view), but how she broke it down. Which Reformer, before her, wrote that
    God’s wrath should not be see as inflicting violence on the lost? Which
    Reformer ever said, “Rebellion was not to be overcome by force. Compelling
    power is found only under Satan’s government.” or, “Earthly kingdoms rule by
    the ascendancy of physical power; but from Christ’s kingdom EVERY carnal
    weapon, every instrument of coercion, is banished.”? My point is that her view
    of penal substitution was much different than those before her.

    2. Quoting Ellen’s warnings of misusing scriptures to fit “erroneous doctrines or
    unchristian practices” and applying them with no context is less than generous
    at best. You can’t really have a meaningful discussion if you’ve already decided that Tim’s views are erroneous. So this isn’t a discussion to explore, but to expose so be careful to be honest about your intentions. Remember that accusing and exposing are not good Christian practices. What unchristian practices do you accuse Tim of doing?

    3. You state in the 3rd point of your list, “I will state clearly that I believe that the doctrine of Christ’s substitutionary atonement in which ‘He bore the punishment of the guilty’ as
    EGW put it above, is an absolutely essential, definitional Christian doctrine.
    To deny it is to deny the fundamental core of what makes Christianity unique
    and truly meaningful.”

    Tim could make the exact same statement (as could I)only with the caveat that Christ’s punishment didn’t come from God, nor did Christ’s substitutionary act change God’s disposition towards humanity one iota. It was designed to change sinful men’s disposition toward God. Christ incarnate into the human family and identified Himself as “The Son of Man” taking on our degraded bodies and our death sentence in an act of solidarity with each of us. Human love is willing to die for someone we love, friend, family, child, or even the heroes soldiers that dies for their country or the fireman that dies to save another life. There are thousands of stories in the human saga that demonstrate men and women willing to give their lives for what they love or identify with, but God’s love is
    different. Show me one story before Christ where someone died for their enemies
    who hated them, spat on them, and crucified them. Christ is the first story,
    but not the last. Since He died for us many have taken up His cross to live and
    die for others in His name. God’s love is not determined by how He treats his
    family or friends, but how He treats His enemies. By Christ entering our
    humanity and taking on our death he has defeated Satan’s lies about God’s
    character and has taken the place of the first Adam as our representative who
    has ascended to the right hand of the Father as us. I like Jesus representing
    my race in the Heavenly courts instead of Lucifer (See Job 2). “But God
    demonstrated His love for us that while we were sinners (His enemy) Christ died
    for the ungodly.”

    4. While you call for the SDA church to be patient with those who disagree (I suppose
    you mean who disagree with you) might I suggest that the church also be patient
    with those unwilling to move the Reformation forward? You used the term “biblical
    gospel” as a reference to penal substitution. I don’t believe Jesus ever taught
    that God was so angry with us that He demanded the death of an innocent in
    order to forgive. I know this sounds a little harsh, but have you studied the
    Baptist or even the historical Protestant version of the Penal Substitution
    that you are defending? How many changes can you make before you should change
    the name? And, by the way, if God demanded the death of Jesus in order to
    forgive then isn’t forgiveness just a sham? How can Jesus ask us to forgive like we’ve
    been forgiven if our forgiveness is based on full payment by an innocent third party?
    Not very “good news” if you ask me.

    However if God is just so graceful that He forgives us freely that is good news and, by the way, that is exactly what Jesus was so excited about the character of the Father’s graciousness. That’s the gospel that Jesus preached i.e. the character of God’s graciousness. And He preached it until all those who hated a loving, merciful, not petty, not exacting, forgiving, accepting, kind, and gracious God had to kill Him to shut Him up.

    • Michael Younker

      Thanks Scott! Indeed, how many are willing to be patient with those “unwilling to move the Reformation forward”? 🙂

      We should not beholden to any “theologian’s” articulation of “penal substitution.”

      To forgive like Jesus does not mean we can grant mercy like Jesus. Our word has no merit, nor knows their heart. If I forgive someone for murdering a friend/family member, does that mean I should insist they not go to jail? Society wouldn’t like that; they are still a danger to others. The price of every sin (even eating a fruit!) is death. Jesus can forgive because he paid our price. Even then, in our fallen world (and this masks the value of His forgiveness for a time), God must wait to reward us until this mortal flesh is cast aside at his 2nd coming.

      Could we suggest that God’s graciousness is actually revealed through the death of His Son, which grants Him the authority to forgive?

      • Scott Bennett

        Be careful not to become the hatchet man for dogmatism. One of the things I tell my SS class is if their theology hasn’t changed in the last couple of years they simply aren’t studying their Bibles. It seems to me that you might believe you’ve arrived. Try listening to what Tim is saying rather than gathering evidence against his words. To repeat a wise man “What is true is rarely new and what is new is rarely true.” On the other hand truth is eternal and multidimensional and our single dimensional understanding should be changing with every corner we turn toward God. I, personally, came to Jesus through the legal metaphor, but I’m so happy to learn that it really isn’t about keeping a law or being acquitted for my past and present sins. It’s about falling in love with the person of God and knowing Him through Jesus. It’s about the joy of being accepted and restored by His love. Sometimes we take the hard way to the top of a mountain just to discover there’s an elevator.

        • Michael Younker

          Always true! We do need to be continually immersing ourselves in Scripture. That doesn’t mean we should forget what has been given to us, however! Truth may be progressive, but it is not transitory. Yes, it is about Jesus!

          Appreciate your comment; however, I don’t think it’s an accident that both the concepts of justification and sanctification have both been handed down to us through Scripture, pious believers, prominent Reformers, and shared through the Spirit of Prophecy. White cautions us not to parse them too finely, but that doesn’t mean we should neglect them completely. To be sanctified is our goal (forward looking unto Jesus), but that’s not possible without justification (backwards acknowledgement of debt paid). God is an historical God, all His ways have always been perfect.

          • Scott Bennett

            I’m not exactly sure what you mean by “transitory.

            I agree 100% in both Justification and Sanctification. One as a response to the revelation of God’s love through Jesus and the other as a lifetime of responding to God’s voice through the Holy Spirit. I would, however, suggest that the historic penal view of justification is not the view that Ellen supported nor the view that you espouse. Therefore it is not historic.

            Neither can the penal view honestly be called “The Gospel” that Jesus taught. I can’t imagine Jesus walking around teaching penal substitution, even your version, yet it is said by the Gospel writers that He went all over the country side teaching the Gospel. It seems to me that His focus was on the graciousness, love, acceptance, mercy, and forgiveness of the Father. To the point that Philip finally asked him to “show us the Father and we will be satisfied”. And then Jesus’ famous reply, “Have I been with you so long, and yet you have not known Me, Philip? He who has seen Me has seen the Father . . .”

            If you like I can post descriptions of Penal Substitution from the Reformation churches and popular historical evangelists and teachers of the Protestant and even Catholic Church. You will see very quickly that it isn’t your view.

          • Michael Younker

            I’ve mentioned before, I’m beholden to no one theologian’s view of penal substitution. Indeed, I dislike that word. I do like to support that there is a “legal” component of the atonement.

            Article by a classmate of mine.

            http://www.adventistreview.org/141514-16

          • Scott Bennett

            Michael, wouldn’t you agree that Christ taking the place of Adam as the representative of this world is a legal transaction? When Jacob blessed his 12 sons he came to Judah and said, “The scepter will not pass from Judah until Shiloh come.” All of Israel’s kings came through Judah until Solomon’s death and Israel was split. The word Shiloh isn’t translated in the text, but if translated it would read, “He who has the right”. We know that was a prophecy of the Kingship of Jesus.

            Ezekiel was sent to warn the last King of Israel before the Babylonian dispersion:

            “Remove the turban, and take off the crown;Nothing shall remain the same.
            Exalt the humble, and humble the exalted.
            Overthrown, overthrown,
            I will make it overthrown!
            It shall be no longer,
            Until He comes whose right it is,
            And I will give it to Him.”’ Ezekiel 21:26,27.

            No more kings in Israel until He who has the right comes and God will give Him the throng.

            To save the earth, that God had given Adam dominion of and sealed the deal with the Sabbath oath, a Son of Man (Adam) must defeat Satan and gain the right to represent us. The Old Covenant wasn’t given for us to keep as a means of Salvation, but it was given until the seed came to whom all the promises were made. It was a covenant given to the Children of Israel that would become obsolete with Christ. From Sinai to the Cross.

            It was given to the family that carried the seed down through history until He was born in a manger. It was the covenant where all men could look at the symbols and pinpoint the Savior and at the same time an instructor, through symbols, of the Savior Himself as to His purpose and how He fit into the plan of Salvation. Keeping the Old Covenant and the 10 Commandments perfectly Jesus overcame Satan and earned the right to rule this earth. Now He has a Name Above All Names and has been given All Power and Authority to rule the Universe eternally as the 2nd Adam who redeemed all of Adam’s children.
            Now that’s a legal component if I’ve ever seen one 🙂

          • Michael Younker

            Yes, I would say that involves a part of the entire legal arrangement!
            It’s important to remember that both Christ’s life & death serve separate legal roles. He is the way, truth, and life. Christ had the legal right to finally take Adam’s place only following His sacrifical death. Of course, there are many other
            covenants and promises and prophecies in the OT that play into what God did and is doing in relation to our human history. The one true salvific covenant is from Gen 3:15, 21; 4:2-4. God promised to offer Himself in place of what Adam was due to receive.

          • Scott Bennett

            So Michael, would you say Christ’s “blood” that redeems us is his physical dripping red blood from His veins or is it a metaphor for giving His life as a demonstration of His love? As the ultimate act of love demonstrated by dying for His enemies?

          • Michael Younker

            “The life is in the blood.” We can but dimly realize the significance of many metaphors and the connections they have with reality. Within those drops of blood was divinity. I think overdwelling upon such points is not fruitful.

            But the point here is that Christ needed to present His blood to the Father. This is the Sanctuary service, in antitype and type.

          • Scott Bennett

            Let me get this straight.

            You said: “Christ needed to present His blood before the Father.”

            So the typical lamb that was slain and offered on the alter in the court yard daily service was a symbol of Jesus offering His blood on the alter before the Father as a payment for sin?

            Seriously! That’s all you see?

          • Michael Younker

            It’s not all I see, but it is the core of what I see as a legal exchange. The character of the ones making the exchange is worthy of eternal study.

          • Scott Bennett

            What else do you see in the symbolism of Christ’s blood?

          • Michael Younker

            Yes, Christ’s blood does represent His sacrifical love. It is also the vehicle through which our sins are transferred to the sanctuary, where they must be removed.

            The ongoing temporal nature of the sanctuary service (something broader evangelicalism hasn’t grasped, which only sees the cross) is a key here. The reason the blood was sprinkled on the mercy-seat and the altar of incense is significant in completing the “legal” issue; the blood we offered (the dailies as priests) in the OT was our acknowledgement of the authority of the law, and signified that we were looking forward to our Redeemer. But at this time, the people weren’t yet released from the condemnation of the law; this was left for the Day of Atonement (on earth and heaven), when it was sprinkled on the mercy-seat, directly over the law, to make satisfaction for its claims. I recommend Gane’s works on this.

          • Dean A. Scott

            Of course there’s a legal component of the at-one ment! The Law of Love demands that you give of yourself without any reservation whatsoever. The Law of Liberty demands that you leave people free to chose and believe as they want to. The Law of Worship demands that you become what you behold and cherish.

            What is the wages earned for not fulling these immutable and universal absolutes?

            Is that wage arbitrarily inflicted, arbitrarily imposed, and coercively forced upon you?

            By who?

            Why?

            Simple questions with simple answers for simple people of faith. No need for all this “my copy/paste is better than your copy/paste, because I have a degree and you don’t, which makes me better at understanding and interpreting Holy Spirit compared to you.” Just let Holy Spirit do the internal speaking for you and leave self on the dirty garage floor. Works for little ol’ uneducated me.

          • Michael Younker

            Thanks Dean, that really is the essence of it! 🙂 I just think that the “death” of Christ was not optional to “pay” the “ransom” owed us by our transgression of the Law. Atonement is a little more complicated, as we delve into it. God could have earned our “trust” by simply living a full, natural, life and dying of old age of natural causes, right? But not so. His blood was required… His death was a sacrifice, a legal atonement.

          • Kevin Straub

            “Required” is language that gets misconstrued into pagan notions of appeasing the wrath of angry deity. What was required was that Christ become incarnate into our experience and into our flesh. AND BLOOD. And in that flesh and blood, live a life in perfect obedience to God by the power of the Holy Spirit. Note that this life blood of His humanity was leaked out of His capillaries and into His sweat glands under the extreme condition of stress known as “hematohidrosis.” What caused this condition, which would have been death to His body had not He been strengthened to go right on up to Golgotha? For He said, “My soul is exceeding sorrowful, even unto death” (Matt. 26:38). Was it not the burden of sin imputed to Him? Ultimately, this is why He died.

            The blood that was required was his life, given for us. As we would plumb the meaning of this, we would find it as far from the ideas of “propitiation,” “satisfaction” “punishment,” and “retribution” as heavens are high above the earth–the very epitome of Gods thoughts contrasted with our thoughts. And language. These are all metaphors that have limited usefulness as we are now moving into territory that Christ could not share directly with His disciples, as He had advised, “I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now” (John 16:12)–things pertaining to righteousness, sin, and judgment–all subjects related to our discussion today.

            We need to go right back to Waggoner’s article as referenced in Timothy Arena’s article and study it. It is truth. At the time Waggoner wrote this, he was still fully supported by Ellen White, as they travelled and lectured together, along with A. T. Jones. These were the men and the message that received the endorsement of the prophet as of heavenly origin and having “heavenly credentials,” respectively. Their message was that which was identified as the work of the fourth angel, the beginning of the latter rain. This alone tells me that Mr. Arena is working on an extremely slippery hillside, having a certain comradery with Elders Butler and Smith.

          • Michael Younker

            I’ve responded to Tim J.’s thread on here with me, touching on these questions. I don’t think Leviticus and the Sanctuary can be interpreted without ‘required’ blood. We must be careful to wander into language that is not inspired. We must also be careful not to equate the wrath of God as the same as the wrath of petulant deities constructed after man’s image.

          • Kevin Straub

            The blood of animals was a teaching tool. The people, surrounded by pagan idolatry, needed a visual representation of what God intended for them to understand at a much deeper level than cultic worship. We might think that this system was the epitome of God’s glory, and though we are informed that it was glorious (because of the depth of its typological portraiture of Christ and the plan of salvation) we are also given to understand that it was given because of our infirmity:

            “But the people were slow to learn…. Accustomed as they had been in Egypt to material representations of the Deity, and these of the most degrading nature, it was difficult for them to conceive of the existence or the character of the Unseen One. IN PITY FOR THEIR WEAKNESS, God gave them a symbol of His presence. ‘Let them make Me a sanctuary,’ He said; ‘that I may dwell among them.’ Exodus 25:8.” (Ed 35.1).

            We must not be slow to learn as were they. We must not invest the blood itself with merit as some sort of potion or liquid talisman. The merit is in the life of Christ, given for us. The shedding of blood is the symbol of the merits of His sinless life and the exchange that is effected through the offering of the Holy Spirit for our regeneration of character, in place of His assumption of our sinful flesh and our very sin–taking them both, once and for all, to eternal oblivion.

            I very much agree that we must be careful not to equate man’s wrath, as depicted in the pagan gods, with Divine wrath. However, I know that we do not mean the same thing when we say these words. How I differentiate between them is that God does not destroy as the petulant deities destroy. I.e., His is not based upon any sort of arbitrary decree, determination, or dictum. God destroys by strict adherence to law.

            I.e., His law is based upon love; and love, in order to BE love, must be free. That is to say, God’s subjects must be free to choose Him. Or not. And they must be free to do so in an environment that is totally devoid of coercion. That means that His government, which is a totally perfect reflection of His character, must not foster any sort of motivation that would stem from hope of reward or fear of punishment. That means that punishment is out of the equation. Humans, and devilish deities operate by these means. The Scriptures are clear: “There is no fear in love; but perfect love casteth out fear: because fear hath torment. He that feareth is not made perfect in love” (1 John 4:18). The NIV gets it right on this one: “…because fear has to do with punishment.” Bingo!

            Further, God’s character defines His role as Life Giver, Protector, and Sustainer. “Every good gift and every perfect gift is from above, and cometh down from the Father of lights, with whom is no variableness, neither shadow of turning” (James 1:17). Does this mean we ignore the stern judge? The avenger? The wrath? Not at all. But we define them in terms of the constitution of His government, based upon the twin principles of freedom and non-coercion, as mentioned above. God’s justice, as stated wherein He “will by no means clear the guilty” is executed when He hides His face. Only God can exercise such a wrath, because only in God is the source of life. So for God to withdraw is to give way to chaotic forces which will bring decay, disease and destruction. This is where the “punishment” comes in. The results of His withdrawal are allowed to come upon the guilty.
            But even this description is limited, because it still puts the emphasis in the wrong place: God’s withdrawal, as though it were based upon His choice, or at least upon some arbitrary or imposed regulatory system. This is where we need to understand that God would rather DIE than have to leave us. But He must operate in accordance with His own government, law, and character. He will not ever give Satan any legitimate ground for accusation that He imposed His protective agencies beyond the legal limits. When Satan has legitimate claim, through the rejection of God to such level as freely determined by the free moral agent, God stands down. But God does not relinquish one iota more than He must. He is ever right at the line, pushing on mercy as far as the bounds of His love will allow Him to. But when rebellion pushes back, love must give way to it. Then comes justice, vengeance, wrath, retribution, and punishment. This is what is meant by His mercy, or His patience, coming to an end. The Bible declares dozens of times that “His mercy endures forever,” so it does not ever come to an end by His choice, nor by any arbitrary formula. It is ever determined by OUR choice.
            So, I am interested in how you would differentiate between the wrath of petulant deities and the wrath of God, as it functions within the standard paradigm?

          • Scott Bennett

            Thank you Kevin! Beautifully said! I’m sorry, but I seriously doubt the moderators read more than the first paragraph.

          • Kevin Straub

            It is difficult to seriously step outside of one’s own position and take on the perspective of the other. It is very threatening even to consider it, I think, when the evidence starts to show that the new view may have some merit. Indeed the ramifications of adopting the full truth on God’s Character are heavy. I could tell you story after story of the persecution that comes from the brethren on this.

          • Scott Bennett

            Amen!!! God attempted to give our church the “Everlasting Gospel”, but we thought we’d spend another 100 years or so teaching the law and talking about sanctuary furniture.

          • Kevin Straub

            And the law of sin and death requires that those who reject God will reap the wages of sin, which is death. The Bible is clear on how the payroll is administered. It does not say “the wages of God is death.” It says “BUT,” a conjunction denoting contrast, “the gift of God is eternal life.” So then, why isn’t it clear that to reject God is to reject life? Why do we not understand that when WE turn off the light, the light is gone and we are left in darkness? As ever, we must appeal to the minor voice keys of Scripture to interpret the major voice “God-did/does it” language:

            “But he that sinneth against me wrongeth his own soul: all they that hate me love death” (Prov. 8:36).

            “And death shall be chosen rather than life by all the residue of them that remain of this evil family, which remain in all the places whither I have driven them, saith the LORD of hosts” (Jer. 8:3).

            “Say unto them, [As] I live, saith the Lord GOD, I have no pleasure in the death of the wicked; but that the wicked turn from his way and live: turn ye, turn ye from your evil ways; for why will ye die, O house of Israel?” (Eze. 33:11).

            “And he shall bring upon them their own iniquity, and shall cut them off in their own wickedness; [yea], the LORD our God shall cut them off” (Ps. 94:23).

            “Therefore shall they eat of the fruit of their own way, and be filled with their own devices.
            “For the turning away of the simple shall slay them, and the prosperity of fools shall destroy them” (Prov. 1:31, 32).

          • Scott Bennett

            It’s very important within the penal view for God to be violent (of course in a loving way) because if you take away violence as an alternative for God to use against His enemies then you take away the Fundamentalist view of inspiration.

            The Fundamentalist will insist that you are throwing the Canon in the trash because the language of the prophets was that of violence therefore God must be violent or the Bible isn’t true. This is a total false dichotomy. What it really shows is how far men fell into pagan polytheism, spiritualism, and a culture of violence and how far the Reformation has to go in order to get us back to believing what Jesus came to teach us with His live and death.

            Even the works of Jesus, from the incarnation to His resurrection, get interpreted by the cultural mindset of the ancient prophets rather than allowing Jesus to edit their writings within the paradigm of the New Covenant. There is many examples of Jesus expressing the idea that He came to change our minds. In the transfiguration we find Jesus talking to Moses and Elijah (the law and the prophets) and when Peter tries to understand what’s going on Jesus is raised above Moses and Elijah, a bright light shines on Jesus, and a voice comes out of heaven saying, “This is My Son, listen to Him!” I wonder who they had been listening to.

            This is exactly what Hebrews 1 teaches in the first three verses. In times past He spoke though the prophets, but now is speaking though His Son who the brightness of the sun and the exact representative of His Character. David compares the word of God, which was the writings of the prophets in his day, to a little light on a dark path, but in these verses Jesus is compared to the blazing sun. What happens to a flashlight when the sun comes out?

            But Fundamentalism tries to confine and contain the teachings of Jesus to fit within the little box of the Canon. The bible is the word of god written on paper, but Jesus is the WORD OF GOD manifest in the flesh and has been given all authority and power. The bottom line is that Christianity have become Bible worshipers and rather than letting the Bible lead them to Christ and Christ to God we are stuck arguing about whether the sanctuary is a literal building or not and whether God demands blood sacrifice.

          • Kevin Straub

            Amen. Our own prophet is marginalized also on her teaching on inspiration. Some major defining parameters that we really need to understand are these points:

            1. “The writers of the Bible were God’s PENMEN not His PEN.” And “God, as a writer, is not represented.” Right there, we need to be made wary of language. Appeal to verbal literalism can quickly and often get us into murky waters, setting us up for all manner of contradiction in Scripture. Satan’s method of inspiration has often shown to be that his inspired vessel is his PEN. This is called “automatic writing.”

            2. “God has not put Himself in words, in logic, in rhetoric, on trial in the Bible.” If God is not to be put on trial by the words, logic, or rhetoric of Scripture, then where do we look to make our judgment about Who God is and how He acts in this crisis of the great rebellion? I am quite sure it is Jesus that provides our hermeneutic for interpreting the Bible.

            3. “…[T]he words [of the inspired writers] receive the impress of the individual mind. The divine mind is DIFFUSED.” Those of us who live in the typical northern winter climates are well acquainted with windows that get frosted. The view we get on the world is “diffused.” As such, that stump in the back yard which caught a loose tarp that blew onto it in the wind, may just look like a struggle between a tiger and a winged serpent.

          • Scott Bennett

            Another issue is the authority of Christ over the prophets. Matthew 5 is a good example where Jesus said, “you’ve heard . . . but I say”. Where did they hear it? From Moses! That’s why the religious leaders accused Him of contradicting Moses. Because He did! But the difference is that Moses would have recognized Him because they were friends. An eye for an eye was a much better system than cutting off one’s hand because of petty theft, but forgiving and restoring are much better and much closer to God’s justice than an eye for an eye.

          • Andy Blosser

            Tim Arena! I love you brother (I say that sincerely). You know how I disagree with you on this issue. All I have to say is, there are those of us who refuse to believe that God approves of brutal punishments of innocent people. The idea that God created a law that requires innocent death is simply repulsive and unbelievable. We cannot accept it and sleep well at night. If we believed the Bible taught it, we would not be able to accept the Bible as revelation from God. The epistemic grounds of our faith would be pulled out from under us, leaving us in a great heap of cognitive dissonance. Perhaps we are wrong, but we have no other options.

          • Scott Bennett

            I read the article by Joseph Olstad months ago and even made comments afterwards.

          • Kevin Straub

            I read Olstad’s article when it came out seven months ago and have a response paper written, which is posted on my FaceBook page (find me typing “GodDestroysNoOne” into the search bar). The article is called “Move On…Nothing to See Here” and published under “Notes” on the left side. I realize this is a rather cheeky title, yet it reflects the reality that Joseph Olstad sets the table for us to expect that he is going to bring some light on the subject of the Character of God that is in some way an advancement over the SdA traditional view but in the end is providing nothing more than an apologetic for it. Furthermore, his criticism of the Character of God message is aimed at the Maxwellian model, which is flawed and deserves some of the response that comes out of the traditional camp.

  • Timothy Arena

    There are differences between mysteries, paradoxes, multifaceted language, and contradictions. (My friend the moderator, Michael Younker–philosophical systematic theologian–can help me out here in case I miss some things). What follows is my current understanding.

    An example of a mystery is how exactly God miraculously placed the punishment of all the sins ever committed upon Jesus, who received the wrath of God in our place. Or the mystery that God is One substance in three Persons.

    An example of a paradox would be the truth that God’s wrath, punishment, and retribution toward sinners are also actually manifestations of His loving character.

    An example of multifaceted language is Ex. 20:20, where Moses tells the people of Israel to “not fear,” yet to have the “fear of God” or when Paul says that those who are perfect will realize that they are not yet perfect (Phil. 3:12-16). The words are being used in different senses.

    An example of a contradiction would be what is taught in Calvinism: God truly offers the Gospel to all human beings, but only gives the elect unilaterally the capacity to accept it and prevents all others from receiving it by withholding his grace from them. Or when they say that God gives freedom to all, but that He also determines all outcomes of their freedom.

    Dr. Jennings has written a number of contradictions:

    He said, “I believe that Jesus bore God’s wrath, that He received the punishment for sin, and that He was our substitute.” “I don’t believe in penal substitution.” The word “penal” means “punishment,” and the word substitute means “substitute” 🙂

    He also said that “Penal substitution teaches that God is unforgiving: i.e. that He needed a sacrifice in order to forgive.” (?!) So he just stated that penal substitution teaches that God IS FORGIVING. Penal substitution does not teach that God is unforgiving, but rather that His forgiveness is not UNCONDITIONAL. Notice again the quote I posted in the article: “The unconditional pardon of sin never has been, and never will be.
    Such pardon would show the abandonment of the principles of
    righteousness, which are the very foundation of the government of God.” PP 522. (cf. Heb. 9:22).

    There are also many examples of contradicting inspired writings: Jennings suggests that EGW NEVER says that the the law of God “demands” a legal penalty. Really? “The broken law of God DEMANDED the life of the transgressor. The blood, representing the forfeited life of the sinner, whose guilt the victim bore” (CIHS 95).

    “I would call on all who would win heaven, to take warning. Do not devote
    your precious probationary time to sewing together fig leaves to cover
    the nakedness which is the result of sin. As you look into the Lord’s
    great moral looking glass, His holy law, His standard of character, do
    not for a moment suppose that it can cleanse you. There are no saving
    properties in the law. It cannot pardon the transgressor. THE PENALTY MUST BE EXACTED. The Lord does not save sinners by abolishing His law,
    the foundation of His government in heaven and in earth. THE PUNISHMENT HAS BEEN ENDURED BY THE SINNER’S SUBSTITUTE. Not that God is cruel and
    merciless, and Christ so merciful that He died on Calvary’s cross to
    abolish a law so arbitrary that it needed to be extinguished, crucified
    between two thieves. The throne of God must not bear one stain of crime,
    one taint of sin. In the councils of heaven, before the world was
    created, the Father and the Son covenanted together that if man proved
    disloyal to God, Christ, one with the Father, would take the place of
    the transgressor, and suffer the PENALTY OF JUSTICE that must fall upon
    him” (Manuscript 145, 6BC 1070).

    This penalty did not “naturally” fall on Christ. God the Father placed it there–Isa. 53.

    Of course I understand that he is trying to redefine many terms.

    But in all these attempts at redefinition, the words become robbed of all recognizable meaning, and ultimately the blatant contradictions are clearly visible, not only the internal ones, but the contradictions to Scripture, such as when it is stated (essentially) that God’s wrath has nothing to do with God’s wrath, or that there is punishment but nothing penal, or that vengeance and retribution do not contain vengeance or retribution, or that he believes in God’s punishment, wrath, and Jesus’ substitution, but not in penal substitution.

    Obviously the problem is that he is attempting to convince people who trust Scripture and Ellen White that he is right, so he must assent to the words of Scripture. But then these words are redefined such that they lose all correspondence to what the words actually mean.

    Alternatively, it is sometimes suggested that the inspired writers “met people where they were” in using legal terms, punishment, vengeance, penal substitution, etc. But the conclusion that follows is clear if this is the approach taken: Jennings is essentially claiming that the inspired writers promoted FALSE about God, and that he is now telling the truth.

    I can understand attempts at nuance, such that Jennings might say, “in a sense, I agree that the substitution is penal” or “in a sense, I agree that God’s wrath fell on Jesus” and then explain what he thinks these terms mean. But when his explanations come, the phrases are then robbed of all content that corresponds to their antecedents, such that there is no coherence of meaning in the proposed model in its relationship to Scripture.

    Nuance, qualified language, paradox, mystery, are all part of biblical revelation. But, as C.S. Lewis put it (with all due respect): “Nonsense remains nonsense even when we talk it about God.”

    • Carmen

      Would it all be simpler if we read the Bible in the original language? Greek? Hebrew? I am no scholar, but it is my understanding that Biblical scholars are taking note of how English translations came to be….translators who did King James Version would choose the word justice when righteousness could have rightly been used, for example…I have noticed a growing mound of scholarship which could shed a different light on what the original Biblical languages actually said. I am not able to quote specifics here, but this is what I have noticed in varied readings over the years. This scholarship would weaken the entrenched protestant penal substitution and strengthen Christus Victor, for example.

      So the critique that Jennings (et al) are simply redefining terms, really should consider that these terms were not in English originally. Also, one should consider new knowledge of Biblical language and the words chosen for various translations.

      New knowledge should not cause fear in the hearts of SDAs. Truth can withstand investigation. If scholars are understanding more about the original words that we have used to construct penal substitution, we should welcome it and embrace it. Actually, my faith in SDAism has been strengthened by the studies of theologians in the last 50 years (Wright, Campbell, Moltmann, Brueggemann). It has seemed that they are reinforcing cosmic conflict/great controversy/Christus Victor models. Also, this all strengthens the notion that in the end of time we all must be people of the book. More knowledge is available than ever before. This is not the time to buckle down to say we must stay at the level of Luther and Protestant reformers. Or so it seems to me….

      • Timothy Arena

        Hi Carmen,

        Thanks for your comment. The original languages are truly important. That’s why we study them at the seminary.

        It seems that the linguistic evidence on the words I’ve referred to is rather straightforward.

        “Since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you, (2Thess 1:6 ESV)

        The word for “repay” is ανταποδιδωμι–“repay”

        “In flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.” (2Thess 1:8 ESV).

        The word translated vengeance is εκοδικησις, which means “vengeance,punishment.”

        I’m not aware of any place where these words are used to mean “not take vengeance.”

        Again, I agree that words have many nuances and meanings, but why would someone suggest that God never takes vengeance? At the very least someone should say, “God takes vengeance. But let’s reexamine what this means, etc.” There has been some of this kind of explanation. But if at the end of all the explanations it turns out that “God does not take vengeance, this does not fit His character,” there seems to be a problem with the fitting of his view with the Scriptural data.

    • Brad Cole

      Hi Tim,

      You said that we have falsely interpreted that “God’s wrath has nothing to do with God’s wrath…” but this is because you have a preconceived idea as to what God’s wrath is. It sounds like you have read the “Servant God” book. Dozens of examples of God’s wrath are given and how this is used in the Bible again and again to describe being “given up” or “handed over”. Why don’t you incorporate these in to your understanding?
      Also, you seem to suggest that the Bible is not inspired if the inspired writers use words and descriptions to meet people where they are. I previously gave many specific examples. It would help me to understand where you are coming from if you could tell me how you interpret Numbers 21:6, for example.

      • Timothy Arena

        Hi Brad,

        Yes, I’ve studied the “Servant God” book. I agree with you that part of how God’s wrath is expressed is by “handing over” and “giving up.” I have indeed incorporated this into my understanding. This is an example (as I mentioned above) of a word having various nuances.

        Numbers 21:6 indicates that the LORD sent snakes among the people of Israel. Ellen White refers to this as God’s removing His protection. So this is an example of God expressing His wrath by “giving over.” But it is still His active decision which involves personal wrath, revulsion, and rejection of those who reject Him.

        What I have a hard time understanding is why then all passages referring to God’s wrath, punishment, killing, etc. must be interpreted in the same exact way when the contexts vary in each given situation.

        Was the Flood simply allowed? Did the earth’s opening up to swallow Korah, Dathan, and Abiram etc. involve a mere allowance? Did Herod simply happen to have maggots enter his body to eat him coincidentally at the time when he was worshiped as a god (Acts 12:23), or is it rather, as the Bible says, that the angel of the Lord struck Him, and as Ellen White comments, “The angel smote Peter to arouse him from slumber; it was with a
        different stroke that he smote the wicked king, laying low his pride and
        bringing upon him the punishment of the Almighty. Herod died in great
        agony of mind and body, under the retributive judgment of God” (AA 152). Did God just allow Ananias and Sapphira to die at just the right time when Peter said they would? Etc., etc. The lost are “thrown” into the lake of fire. They don’t jump in. Fire comes down “from God” out of heaven and devours them.

        What I’m saying is that it is one thing to suggest that God’s wrath can be expressed in different ways. It is one thing to suggest (as we should!) that God’s wrath and punishment or vengeance are not exactly like our vengeance or implementations of punishment. It is another to say that God does not take vengeance, or that His vengeance is NOTHING like our conceptions, or that punishment has NOTHING to do with how we understand it; or that His wrath is expressed ONLY by simply allowing “natural” consequences (by the way, Who made what is natural?), or that when the Bible uses legal language, it is simply presenting a false view for the purpose of accommodating.

        This discussion reminds me of ones theologians have had about God’s emotions. For many years, many theologians denied that God had emotions. The Bible says that He does in many places, but they said, “Clearly we know that God does not have emotions, because we know from philosophy that what is good and best never has any change. Emotions involve change, thus God cannot have emotions.” It is more helpful, I think, to say that God does have emotions, but because He is God, they are not exactly like ours. Yet they must correspond to them in some way, otherwise words like “grieved, wrath, joy” etc. should not be used at all.

        It is the same with God’s punishment, wrath, vengeance, etc. Yes, they cannot be exactly like our conceptions, but neither can they be NOTHING like our conceptions otherwise there would be no purpose to even using these kinds of words. God using accommodation I understand, but not obfuscation or completely misleading terminology.

        I hope this helps you understand where I’m coming from better . . .

        • Brad Cole

          Hi Tim,

          I think that it’s great that you have incorporated this understanding of God’s wrath (at least in part). I also appreciate your time and explanations as it does help me understand better where you are coming from. One thought to consider: If Ellen would not have interpreted Numbers 21 the way that she did, would you feel that God did it because this is what the text says? Should we use Ellen as the final word on each story where it says that God did it?

          With regards to the examples you listed, I’ll address the first 2 or this post will be too long. I should first say that I have thought about and discussed these stories for years and my views have changed somewhat over time. So, I’m not “set in stone” but see myself more on a journey of understanding. Over time, however, I feel that the character of God as revealed by Jesus must take supremacy of every belief and that as soon as God is beginning to look like a flame-throwing, bone-crunching deity then I haven’t understood the story correctly.

          As for the flood, the Bible says that God was down to one trusting friend which would seem to be true since no one else got on the
          boat. What happens after Noah dies and generations pass with no one in contact with God? I can only see self destruction, chaos and death. So, at a minimum we can see the flood as a rescue mission rather than as a mission of destruction. God is preserving contact with the last family that trusts him. I would go even further, however, and point out that many renowned O.T. scholars argue that the flood was essentially an undoing of creation that resulted by God withdrawing
          his preserving presence (Heb. 1:3) and allowing the forces of chaos to un-create the world, returning it to the state of ‘tohu wabohu.’” You have suggested that this is still active on God’s part (i.e. Numbers 21) but I think it makes a big difference – – the difference between a doctor killing his patient who smokes vs. fully “giving up” the patient to the self-destructive consequences.

          Finally, Korah’s rebellion, like the story of God sending the snakes to bite says that fire came “out from the Lord” (vs. 35). Paul describes in 1 Cor. 10:10, however, that the people in Korah’s rebellion were “killed by the destroying angel.” Revelation 9:11 identifies this being as Satan. As with a previous post, I mentioned the importance of the relative absence of Satan in the O.T. This verse is a specific example of this principle.
          The New Testament understanding moves away from attributing violence to God and shifts the blame to Satan. Jesus never uses violence but instead humbly forgives his enemies and dies. The book of Revelation portrays God as the “violently slaughtered Lamb” and Satan and the “Destroyer”. This is a message that had to slowly un-folded to us. God did not fully reveal Satan until it was safe to do so (i.e. when he could do it in human form). In Jesus, God was able to reveal, expose and defeat the one who uses the methods of coercion and violence.

          • Timothy Arena

            Hi Brad,

            Thanks again for the dialogue and for the desire to communicate carefully and thoughtfully.

            There are two things that I find particularly puzzling about the ideas referred to above.

            1. Moses said that it was the Lord that would create a new thing and open the earth to swallow the rebels. Why would Satan want to affirm the authority of the Lord and Moses and Aaron’s legitimate leadership by destroying the people that were rebelling against the Lord?

            2. There is a lot of writing here and in the books about “seeing the character of God through Jesus.” But what does this mean? Didn’t Jesus talk about hell, vengeance, punishment, wailing and gnashing of teeth? Doesn’t Revelation talk about “the wrath of the Lamb”? Isn’t there rejoicing over the vengeance the Lord takes against Babylon in chapters 18 and 19?

            It’s difficult to not see this “God through the lens of Jesus” as being a very one-sided, cherry-picked, canon-within-a-canon kind of approach. Do you see what I mean? The Sermon on the Mount Jesus also talked about hell. And there is that EGW quote I’ve already posted about the final vengeance on the wicked being perfectly consonant with God’s character of love (GC 539, 541)

            On the other hand, I see little difficulty in harmonizing the passages about the love of God and those about His wrath. As Ellen White observes, it is even in love to those that God destroys that He does so to them, as well as to many others.

            Finally, I would say that I find all of this emphasis against the wrath of God interesting. I mean, why this need to get rid of something that we need not ever fear? As I noted in one of my other posts, and in part 2: It seems that people drawn to this theology have lived in fear of the wrath of God and His judgment. Their unfortunate solution is to take it away entirely, rather than accept the Good News that Jesus has borne it for them. I find this perhaps the hardest thing to understand. Why not let Jesus be our sin-bearing, punishment-taking substitute?

            Even more importantly, as I really emphasize in part 2: My largest concern with Jennings’ theology is its denial of the imputed righteousness of Christ (based on His perfect life) and His atoning, sin-bearing death as being the dual basis of our salvation. When these are removed, what we are left with is solely what is found in the sinful human being. How can we believe that we can stand before God without a righteousness outside of ourselves–the righteousness of Christ? How would we ever know that we were “healed” enough to be saved? Everything we do and are is tainted by sin. As I know you agree (this is often affirmed), sin cannot abide in God’s presence. So how can we think to stand before God on the basis of our “transformation” or “healing”–we are still sinful beings even when we are in the process of growing to be like Christ. (I give many Bible and EGW quotes to this effect in part 2). This process is crucial, even conditional, to be sure–BUT it could never be meritorious or any kind of basis of salvation. But this is just where Jennings’ (and really all non-penal substitution views) lead. This is really my greatest concern.

          • Timothy R. Jennings

            One of the difficulties with which you may be struggling, is an inaccurate diagnosis of the problem of the human condition after Adam sinned.

            In medical school physicians are educated, NOT to accept the diagnosis from another doctor, but to always do their own assessment, evaluated the evidences for themselves and either confirm or update the diagnosis based on their evaluation of the evidence.

            Seminaries, going back millennia, indoctrinate into assumed beliefs, based on established “orthodoxy” of those who went before. They are taught the “correct” interpretation of various passages, shown the “proofs” of why one idea is right and the other is wrong, all based on assumed beliefs from previous generations. This methodology only compounds error on top of error.

            This was the condition of the seminaries at the time of Christ:

            “In the natural order of things, the son of Zacharias would have been educated for the priesthood. But the training of the rabbinical schools would have UNFITTED him for his work. God did NOT send him to the teachers of theology to learn how to interpret the Scriptures. He called him to the desert, that he might learn of NATURE and nature’s God.” {DA 101.3}

            Nature operates on Design law, the seminaries of Christ’s day operated and taught imposed law, with a legal solution to the sin problem. We must humbly seek education from God Himself, from Scripture in harmony with His revelations in nature and science.

            There is a fundamental reality of cause and effect – if the diagnosis is wrong, the solution is usually wrong.

            Penal models start with the wrong diagnosis, thus teach the wrong solution. They start with the diagnosis that we are in legal trouble with God, and thus they create a system of doctrines designed to resolve a legal problem that never existed. They take beautiful metaphors and misrepresent them.

            Yes, the METAPHOR of legal language is used to help lead people back to the reality of our true condition, so we might experience the true solution. But metaphor is not reality.

            The true diagnosis is an actual change in the character, motive, mind, heart of human beings. Human beings were constructed by God to operate upon the law of love. When Adam sinned, the human species was changed, internal, in mind, in heart, in character, in condition. Only restoring God’s law back into the human being could the species be saved.

            You will protest that I don’t value imputed righteousness. That is because you understand it under the false legal diagnosis and use the term to create a legal fiction, in which God accounts to the records the perfect record of Christ, but the person is actually not right with God.

            This would be like a person with terminal illness going to the doctor who could cure Him and asking his healthy brother be examined and the findings of that exam be written in the dying person’s medical record, but no change in the terminally ill patient.

            My model is a model that requires first that Jesus achieve what no human could a perfect humanity. Under the umbrella of the species being restored to rightness with God in the person of Jesus Christ (our second Adam), my model requires a fundamental change in the core motive of the heart – what is that change? A change from distrusting God to trusting God.

            Abraham “trusted God” and was “recognized” (you would like to say accounted, but it only means recognized to be) as righteous (Rom 4). Our natural heart state after Adam sinned is “enmity” toward God. Thus when Abraham trusted God, this was a fundamental change in heart attitude toward God, which came BEFORE he was recognized as righteous and in fact is the reason he was recognized as righteous, because once trust is reestablished one can receive all the benefits (merits) of Christ which causes one to be righteous. Our trust or faith does not make us righteous, it is the connecting link with God to receive Christ and His righteousness which does make us righteous.

            Thus, in my model our “security” is based on a trust relationship with God, in which one can say to God, like Jesus, “into your hands I surrender my spirit.” And in a surrendered trust relationship with God, God, via the Holy Spirit takes all Christ has achieved for us and reproduces it within us, so “it is no longer I that live but Christ lives in me.”

            But in the penal model, as you have stated, our security is not based on trusting God enough to surrender our complete selves into His hands – no, our security in the legal model rests in the “imputed righteousness” the legal work of Jesus, who has “paid” our debt, and this legal payment means God can’t touch us. In your model, the security is in the payment and it means functionally you are safe FROM GOD. Whereas, in my model we are restored to such trust we don’t need to be protected from God, we surrender completely to Him and He is the One who heals us.

          • Michael Younker

            I may differ with you on how nature works; “designer law” is a philosophical presupposition which you’ve perhaps inherited from Greek philosophy and your academic training in school (medical school operates under the same views of nature that the Greeks did; the false twins of empiricism and rationalism, which govern “experience” and “nature,” your 2nd and 3rd wings of theology).

            Do you believe in divine foreknowledge and human freedom? How do you see this relationship? Does your logic force you to choose one or the other, at the expense (in some way) of the other? In systematic theology, we must keep all issues in mind simultaneously, this is where your views concern me. They promote some very nice truths, but distract us from seeing the whole picture.

            I can handle the tension. I can believe in total surrender & a legal payment. Why are they mutually exclusive? Why the binary, Greek, choice imposed upon those who differ with you? Who is using coercive logic? Are you suggesting other people can’t do this? 🙂

            We all want to be restored to a position where we trust fully in God. You seem to be missing, or choosing to dismiss, justification from sanctification. Why can’t we believe in both?

          • Timothy R. Jennings

            Michael,

            I actually came to Designer law from Scripture and Ellen White and the understanding that God did actually build the universe and did Design things to operate in harmony with His own nature. Greek philosophy has no bearing on my views, but I can see how labeling it as such could allow you to feel comfortable negating it.

            I will just recap one of the many quote here – notice the Design law:

            The same power that upholds nature, is working also in man. The same great LAWS that guide alike the star and the atom control human life. The LAWS that govern the heart’s action, regulating the flow of the current of life to the body, are the LAWS of the mighty Intelligence that has the jurisdiction of the SOUL. From Him all life proceeds. ONLY in harmony with Him can be found its true sphere of action. For ALL the objects of His creation the condition is the same–a life sustained by receiving the life of God, a life exercised in harmony with the Creator’s will. To transgress His LAW physical, mental, or MORAL, is to place one’s self OUT OF HARMONY with the universe, to introduce discord, anarchy, ruin. {Ed 99.2}

            I am uncertain where the question about divine foreknowledge and human freedom is coming from – but yes, God has perfect foreknowledge, to Him the past, present and future are alike outspread. And we still have perfect freedom BECAUSE foreknowledge is not causality. No tension there whatsoever. I know some try and create it because they confuse foreknowledge with causality. I don’t have that cognitive encumbrance.

            You asked why I see some things as mutually exclusive – because some things are mutually exclusive. Have you considered the possibility that what you consider a healthy tension is actually a mixture of good and evil?

            “Man lost all because he chose to listen to the deceiver rather than to Him who is Truth, who alone has understanding. By the MINGLING of evil with good, his mind had become confused, his mental and spiritual powers benumbed.” Ed 25

            This is why I make distinctions and separate issues, because the word of God is a double edged sword separated bone and marrow – dividing what is true from false. The “mature are those who by practice have developed the ability to discern the right from the wrong.” Heb 5:14

            Some of the mingling of good and evil that causes confusion:

            · By mixing God’s design law with human imposed law, which results in arguing God is arbitrary.

            · By mixing God’s freedom with coercive practices, that in Jesus we are free, but if we don’t accept Jesus He will kill us

            · By mixing the truth about the Godhead, with Jesus being the God who loved us so much He died for us, but the Father requiring a legal payment

            · By mixing forgiveness with legal payment – think about it – if you forgiving someone a debt, can you also collect it? And if you collect the debt can you turn around and say, “Now that I have been paid in full, I forgive your debt.”

            · By mixing life and death in the character of God – this is done by teaching God is the source of life and also the source of inflicted death

            Penal theologies, like those promoted in initial article, mix the good and evil and cause confusion. You call it a virtue to be able to hold both simultaneously – I recognize it as an obstacle that impairs people from receiving the power to live in genuine Christian victory.

            Did you know in Christianity there is no difference in the rate of Child abuse, Spouse abuse, Addiction, Pornography use, Anxiety disorders than in the non-Christian community? Why? Because Christians have been duped into believing that salvation is claiming a legal solution to an actual condition of heart and mind. People seek “legal forgiveness” for bad deeds and rest satisfied with a false security in the “claimed” legal righteousness of Christ, but don’t experience the actual righteousness produced in the heart and mind. Go back and review all those EGW quotes above about what the law requires and you will note it requires the sinner be renewed to live in love, why? Because that is how God designed life.

            I didn’t dismiss justification and sanctification – I actually described it but I guess, not having labeled it as such, it didn’t get noticed. Justification is when a person is “set right” in their heart and relationship with God. Sanctification is the process of healing and restoration that occurs once a person actually trusts God again.

          • Michael Younker

            I replied to a few of these points in another response, but late I see. On the move here…. I do reject ULJ (universal legal justification), by the way. I just can’t escape the directness of Scripture and Ellen White’s plain words on a debt paid, and would find it terribly confusing to share your ideas with non-Christians or younger SDA that no longer can trust EGW’s articles to “sound” the right way. You’ve clearly placed yourself above the “tone” of the messenger of the Lord; that is what causes me concern.

            I completely agree that justification is not sufficient! I’m well aware of “once saved always saved” problems. I completely agree.

            I don’t think you’re taking seriously enough the foreknowledge problem as an intellectual problem. Though, yes, I do accept them both as well!

            Yes, again, but what does “design” mean? Are you not then still dependent upon the discoveries of others? Standard empirical science? What definition of design do you follow? Quoting EGW is of no use here. Which science textbook do you recommend? How do you interpret nature? What does “design” mean? What do you make of quantum randomness? Neuroscience and free-will? Biological determinism? These questions in the philosophy of science are hardly resolved…. Yes, I love the argument from design, but no, it is incomplete, and God “designed” this incompleteness. EGW talks about the mysteries of nature, and their depths we have not fathomed. And she speaks of divine mysteries we will “never” penetrate. Maybe you’re reducing things too much to solve mysteries we ought not fully resolve, at the cost of the “time tested” simple explanations the Scriptures, pious Reformers, and Spirit of Prophecy have relied upon.

            “Men have endeavored to be wiser than their Creator; human philosophy has attempted to search out and explain mysteries which will never be revealed through the eternal ages. If men would but search and understand what God had made known of Himself and His purposes, they would obtain such a view of the glory, majesty, and power of Jehovah that they would realize their own littleness and would be content with that which has been revealed for themselves and their children. {DD 9.1} It is a masterpiece of Satan’s deceptions to keep the minds of men searching and conjecturing in regard to that which God has not made known and which He does not intend that we shall understand. It was thus that Lucifer lost his place in heaven.”

          • Timothy R. Jennings

            Michael, with a comment like this “God can forgive a debt because he collected it!”

            All I can do is smile – it reminds of Edward Fudge describing his conversation with those who believe in eternal torment – no matter what evidence he presented to them, destruction didn’t mean destruction, perish didn’t mean perish. He said he just didn’t know how to talk to people like that.

            I told him some people’s minds cannot get around certain truths.

            The idea that forgiving a debt actually means collecting a debt, truly astounding contradictory definitions, I wouldn’t want to live in a universe governed in such a way.

            Your statement “justification is about our hearts accepting God’s payment.” doesn’t surprise me at all, it is exactly what one must conclude if they believe God’s law is like human law, rules imposed and enforced by dictator like force. But it only confirms your security is not in trusting God, but in trusting Jesus’ payment to God. Ultimately, you have confirmed that the penal view presents a God who must collect a payment or else he will destroy – a very sad presentation of God indeed.

            I prefer to know the God that Jesus revealed, who so loved the world He didn’t need a payment at all, but sent His Son to fix what sin did to us so we could be with Him again.

            Your ramble of various questions regarding science:

            “what does “design” mean? Are you not then still dependent upon the discoveries of others? Standard empirical science? What definition of design do you follow? Quoting EGW is of no use here. Which science textbook do you recommend? How do you interpret nature? What does “design” mean? What do you make of quantum randomness? Neuroscience and free-will? Biological determinism?”

            Demonstrates to me you really have not listened or seem to understand anything I have written or said. Science alone leads to godlessness, as I have said repeatedly. Science, Scripture and experience must be harmonized, when we do this then all three threads put a check on the others. Our view can be shown to be true in all three threads, the penal view requires the rejection of two of the three threads of evidence God has given.

            Well, I have presented enough evidence on this thread for any reasonable person to be able to discern the difference between the view we present and the penal view, and the difference between the God of love we present and the one who must collect a payment. So, I will bow out now and wish you all the best in your continued search for truth.

          • Michael Younker

            Thanks Dr. Jennings. I have read what you’ve written. I just have also studied nature and “reason/experience,” and have doubts about just what they offer us, even while I also consider studying them essential. I’ve appreciated the opportunity here to learn your views here in more detail, which are shared by others. I’d never really dug into some of their nuances until the past few days. Truly good exchanges. I do just feel obliged in such circumstances, if offered EGW, to return with some EGW quotes that sound quite different, and ponder why God chose to phrase things in alternate ways in inspired writings meant for the last day people. “A ransom has been paid, even the precious blood of Christ,” that’s inspired language. I’m sure both of us are trapped within our own, human, philosophical constructs!

            Justification and sanctification are complex concepts, and we’ve both oversimplified them at times.

            Those were not ramblings, just letting you know I’ve no idea precisely what your “designer God idea” really is about, or what it’s based upon. I wouldn’t know how to teach it to others, as it makes no sense for some of us from different fields and backgrounds. I study “design” in my studies. The study of nature and “experience” in many philosophical traditions have caused Christianity considerable confusion, from mind/body dualisms, etc. Studying the history of the philosophy of science yields many insights into how we study and view nature even today, and how we import its teachings into our theology. One cannot assume neutrality in their “Reasoning processes.” By what external criteria do you harmonize them all? Philosophers are well aware of some of these circularity problems, and though we may dislike them, we mustn’t discount them too readily (in the sense of thinking we’ve ended a discussion).

            A favorite quote of mine from EGW, on the exhaustless theme of the atonement. (Notice the duality of the one offering the payment, and the one accepting it? God as Trinity can both offer and accept the sacrifice…):

            “The penalty for breaking the law of God is proportionate to the price paid to redeem its transgressors. What unutterable bliss is prepared for those who will be saved through Christ, and what depths of woe for those who despise and reject his great salvation! Whatever of a worldly nature men esteem valuable sinks into insignificance when viewed in this light, and how great appears our obligation to use in the service of God all the talents that he has intrusted to our keeping. {ST, April 3, 1884 par. 6}
            Science is too limited to comprehend the atonement; the mysterious and wonderful plan of redemption is so far-reaching that philosophy cannot explain it; it will ever remain a mystery that the most profound reason cannot fathom. If it could be explained by finite wisdom, it would lose its sacredness and dignity. It is a mystery that One equal with the eternal Father should so abase himself as to suffer the cruel death of the cross to ransom man; and it is a mystery that God so loved the world as to permit his Son to make this great sacrifice. The Holy Spirit exalts and glorifies the Saviour. It is his office to present Christ, the great salvation that we have through him, and the sacred, elevated purity of his righteousness. Says Christ, “He shall take of mine, and shall show it unto you.” The Spirit of truth is the only effectual teacher of divine truth; those who are taught of him have entered the school of Christ. How must God esteem the race, that he gave his Son to die for them, and appoints his Spirit to be man’s teacher and continual guide. Satan understands this, and he lays his plans to mar and wound man, the workmanship of God, and to prevent him from enjoying the happiness that this great rebel lost through his disobedience and malice. {ST, April 3, 1884 par. 7}
            Since his fall from Heaven, it has been Satan’s only joy and constant employment to thwart the plan of God by preventing the salvation of perishing men. He has carried on this work with marked success, and will continue it until Christ shall bring his career to an end. He has tried to induce men to aid him in treading the honor of God into the dust, and many have become co-laborers with him, and have encouraged his rebellion. Those who do this, who glory in their skepticism, and lead others to despise the law of Jehovah, place themselves in the ranks of the enemies of Christ, and use their influence to destroy rather than to save souls. They second Satan in his efforts to undermine the law of God by assuring the sinner that he will be saved while transgressing that law. They serve Satan, and will share his terrible fate. {ST, April 3, 1884 par. 8}

            Likewise, many continued blessings to you!

          • Timothy Arena

            Thanks, Michael. That’s such a helpful quotation for what we’ve been discussing! Scripture, reason, and experience are all indeed important, but the question you asked is crucial: By what external means do we harmonize them? Our reasoning and experience are full of sinful distortions. Our interpretations of Scripture (which involve reason and experience) can be as well; but Scripture is inspired by God, whereas our reasoning and experiences are not and must always be tested by Scripture. Reason and experience can help us to understand Scripture, but Scripture is the highest authority, and as such its declarations should not be contradicted by speculative theories which deny its plainest truths, regardless of how reasonable they might appear to some. In the end though, all of Scriptures truths DO in fact agree with reason and experience in a sense. It’s just that in this case we are discussing, it seems that the views being espoused by Jennings and others involve a situation in which Scripture is actually sometimes “trumped” or insufficiently considered because of an unbalanced reliance upon reason and experience.

          • Timothy R. Jennings

            Michael,

            I feel I must respond to your last comment – only to clarify for those who might read this thread that you and Timothy Arena both seem to argue against, not what I teach, but your “understanding” of what I teach.

            I have seen this over and over again with those who hold the legal/penal model – they seem only to be able to conceive of two alternative, the legal/penal/payment view, which they hold, and Moral Influence Theory.

            You wrote, “Without a legal requirement for His death, God merely submitting to being “willing” to die, like Abraham and Isaac, would have been enough. No need for the sacrifical-courtroom setting. That’s my understanding of your view’s actual implications!”

            I truly appreciate you writing this, because it gives insight into how you “understand” my view. Will you allow me the privilege of stating, this is not my view? Or will you insist, despite all my protestations and evidences provided, on painting me with the way you see it and telling others “Jennings’ denies the blood atonement of Jesus Christ,” which many from your camp have unkindly and inaccurately done?

            I will try AGAIN, because I have said it before, but your comments here do demonstrate that what I have written previously has not been understood. So let me try again:

            Our salvation REQUIRED:

            · The incarnation of Jesus

            · His perfect life

            · AND His voluntary sacrificial death (NOT mere willingness to die – He had to actually do it)

            What did He accomplish by this?

            · Revealed truth which destroys lies and wins to trust

            · Developed a perfect HUMAN character (i.e. restored God’s law into the species human)

            · Destroyed the carnal nature, the infection of sin, selfishness, whatever you want to call it, the defective humanity we inherited in Adam

            Why – Because this is what the Law REQUIRED – see all the EGW quotes above regarding what the law requires.

            You wrote “A ransom has been paid, even the precious blood of Christ,” and I assume you think I don’t support or agree with this? In fact I do.

            Question – To whom to you believe the ransom of the blood of Christ was paid?

            When I have asked this of other penal/legal theologians, they dodge and say “we don’t know we only know it had to be paid.” They realize the pagan nature of suggesting God had to be paid, and the foolishness of suggesting that Satan collected the payment, but in the legal model there are no others to collect payment, some will opt for the God proxy, and suggest it was the law – but the law is merely a transcript of God’s character so it would still be paid to God.

            I will attempt to demonstrate how we can “reason” through this together (Isa 1:18).

            First consider the meaning of the blood, where is it to be effectual, i.e. applied? Do we trust Jesus, or does our model already know the answer without the need for Jesus to tell us? The penal view suggests the blood payment was collected by God. But Jesus said “unless you eat my flesh and drink my blood you have no part with me.” At the Last Supper He reaffirmed the need to partake His blood.

            So, first point from Jesus is the blood must be effectual and applied into the believer, not to God.

            But he wasn’t speaking cannibalism, not literal blood, then what does the blood symbolize? Two meanings:

            · The life is in the blood – the perfect life, character of Christ He achieved

            · The leaven of truth works a change in the whole man, making the coarse refined, the rough gentle, the selfish generous. By it [the truth] the impure are cleansed, washed in the blood of the Lamb. {COL 102.3}

            So the blood symbolizes the perfect, sinless life of Christ and the truth of God He revealed.

            Now, what does a ransom do functionally? It is the price necessary to free one from bondage.

            What holds us in bondage?

            The lies about God we believe that prevent us from trusting God and our own carnal nature.

            Then what is the ransom price to free us?

            The truth that destroys lies and a new nature – well, amazingly, that is exactly what inspiration says the blood is symbolic of.

            Then, to whom is the “Ransom” paid? To us! It is the price necessary to free us? And what made this price necessary? The law of God, Why? Because the law of God is the law upon which life is created to operate and only by restoring humanity to that design, that perfection, could humanity be saved.

            If your child disobeyed your instructions to never play with the chemicals in the garage, and drank some antifreeze, and from this disobedient act destroyed their kidneys (which is what happens when one drinks antifreeze and doesn’t get treatment) and therefore was dying of renal failure, what would you do?

            Your child could be saved if you donated a kidney, but what would justice require of you do to and for your disobedient child? Would you inflict punishment upon your dying child? Or would you donate your kidney?

            And if you donated your kidney, could we say, “You paid a high price to save your child?” Or, “it cost a high price to save your child?”

            And what was that price? The price necessary to restore your child to health. Who required the price? The laws of health, who created those laws, that design? God? Why don’t we instead make a legal payment to the law? Because no legal payment would effect a new kidney for your child.

            Could we also say, that your child was held in the bondage of renal failure, with no ability to save themselves or do anything to fix their condition? Could we say that donating your kidney was the price to free them from the bondage of renal failure, i.e. the ransom price?

            This is what Christ did – paid an infinite price, ransomed us from sin and death absolutely.

            So, if you want to attack Moral Influence Theory – go ahead, but please don’t attribute it to me. If you want to attack what I teach, you certainly have the freedom to do so, but it would be helpful in your attack, if you actually understood correctly what I teach. And if I ever hear you represent my view correctly, I will affirm that you have said it right.

          • Michael Younker

            Thanks Tim. Appreciate those clarifications. As you left us with
            “questions,” I will respond to them. I understand we each have other
            time obligations than on this forum.

            A note. Upon reading key pages from your two books, and sharing selected paragraphs with others, if I may suggest it, some of my mistaken views of your position are easily derived. Perhaps you’ve not been as clear on the theological side of things in your published books as you could be, focusing more on other aspects (analogies from nature, etc.) of your perspectives to make your points than textual exegesis. I was not familiar with your personal views in any detail until last week.

            I do see and accept you hold a distinguishable view apart from Moral Influence and legal/penal. I’m not sure it stands the test of biblical/SoP scrutiny, but that’s the context of this whole discussion.

            We agree on so many things (let’s maintain genteel spirits); our differences are subtle. Yet they are very significant. Permit a few more EGW quotes, as she is my favorite expositor of Scripture.

            ***I do truly not understand ‘why’ in your view Jesus had to die ‘the way He did’. Why would it destroy carnal nature? If your natural analogies were followed through, I’d prefer, if your model were true, that Christ died a ‘natural’ death, as most of humanity has suffered as the natural ‘consequence of sin.’ A life of quiet ignominy, not a legal trial context, both on earth and in heaven where his offering was accepted (Sanctuary–Throne). Your view appears to dismiss that reconciliation and mediation were necessary. To reconcile in a law dispute means one party has been offended; to mediate means to step between the offended and the offender. God was offended by man’s negligence to obey His just law.

            “The law of God is changeless. For this reason, Christ died, taking upon himself the guilt of the transgressor, and making it possible for every penitent, repenting sinner to take hold of his strength, and through him to make peace with the offended Lawgiver.” ST July 29, 1886.

            “It was not a dread of the physical suffering he was soon to endure that brought this agony upon the Son of God. He was bearing the penalty of man’s transgression, and shuddering beneath the Father’s frown. He must not exert his Divine power to escape this agony, but, as a man, he must bear the consequences of man’s sin and the Creator’s displeasure toward his disobedient subjects,” EGW

            ***My previous point was, God could ‘win’ our trust by a ‘willingness’ to
            die. And He could perfect humanity by ‘suffering a natural death after a
            perfect natural life’ (If this were possible. I’d be curious to know what you believe would have happened to Christ’s ‘brain’ had old age decayed it).

            Thus, your medical analogy does not apply here. I explained why previously (the tree of life and fallen angels), but you did not acknowledge any recognition of the problem it creates for you. You wrote:

            –If your child disobeyed your instructions to never play with the chemicals in the garage, and drank some antifreeze, and from this disobedient act destroyed their kidneys (which is what happens when one drinks antifreeze and doesn’t get treatment) and therefore was dying of renal failure, what would you do?–

            This analogy is not accurate to our situation with God. The instructions” Adam (and Satan) disobeyed had no natural consequences. His kidneys were fine. There was nothing wrong with Adam after he sinned, save his feeling of guilt and missing robe of sinlessness. He could still eat from the Tree of Life, and live forever. Moral laws are not natural (platonic) laws. There was no “cure” for Adam, no “kidney” to replace, no “simple one-way sacrifice” to make. His moral nature was corrupted, not his natural nature. Yet, the prescribed penalty for his crime was the same as if he ‘had’ poisoned himself; death! God in His loving patience delayed the penalty’s execution for His own Glory from out of the abundance of His own Righteousness.

            ***The critical question: To whom was the blood ransom paid? The evidence from Scripture/SoP appears to clearly be God the Father, for the benefit of the Father & the eyes of all unfallen beings who must see justice fulfilled to trust God! We must be careful to not slide into one-God-ism. I believe in the Trinity. Jesus offered his own blood (representing both his perfect life and death) as the ransom to the Father, who alone could pardon our sin. This is the Levitical Sanctuary service fulfilled. Christ intercedes for us before the Father, because the Father requires something before He can pardon repentant sinners. The ransom was paid ‘for’ us, not to us.

            The Father and the Son separately love us, because they are two separate personalities.

            “The throne of grace is itself the highest attraction because [it is]
            occupied by One who permits us to call Him Father. But God did not deem the principle of salvation complete while invested only with His own love. By His appointment He has placed at His altar an Advocate clothed with our nature. As our Intercessor, His office work is to introduce us to God as His sons and daughters. Christ intercedes in behalf of those who have received Him. To them He gives power, by virtue of His own merits, to become members of the royal family, children of the heavenly King. And the Father demonstrates His infinite love for Christ, who paid our ransom with His blood, by receiving and welcoming Christ’s friends as His friends. He is satisfied with the atonement made. He is glorified by the incarnation, the life, death, and mediation of His Son.

            No sooner does the child of God approach the mercy seat than
            he becomes the client of the great Advocate. At his first utterance of
            penitence and appeal for pardon Christ espouses his case and makes it His own, presenting the supplication before the Father as His own
            request.” AG68

            “When Jesus died on Calvary, the Father accepted the sacrifice, and humanity was exalted in the scale of moral worth with God, because Christ had become a partaker of humanity, and had undertaken its redemption.”EGW

            “Jesus bade the heavenly host be reconciled to the plan that his Father accepted, and rejoice that fallen man could be exalted again through his death, to obtain favor with God and enjoy Heaven.” EGW

            “Jesus refused to receive the homage of His people until He knew that His sacrifice had been accepted by the Father, and until He had received the assurance from God Himself that His atonement for the sins of His people had been full and ample, that through His blood they might gain eternal life. Jesus immediately ascended to heaven and presented Himself before the throne of God, showing the marks of shame and cruelty upon His brow, His hands and feet. But he refused to receive the coronet of glory, and the royal robe, and He also refused the adoration of the angels as He had refused the homage of Mary, until the Father signified that His offering was accepted.” EGW

            “His intercession is that of a pierced and broken body, of a spotless life. The wounded hands, the pierced side, the marred feet, plead for fallen man, whose redemption was purchased at such infinite cost.
            The intercession of Christ in man’s behalf in the sanctuary above is as essential to the plan of salvation as was His death upon the cross.” {AG 69.3}

            “Through Christ, restoration as well as reconciliation is provided for man. The gulf that was made by sin has been spanned by the cross of Calvary. A full, complete ransom has been paid by Jesus, by virtue of which the sinner is pardoned, and the justice of the law is maintained. All who believe that Christ is the atoning sacrifice may come and receive pardon for their sins; for through the merit of Christ, communication has been opened between God and man. God can accept me as His child, and I can claim Him and rejoice in Him as my loving Father.” AG

            “So Christ, the great High Priest, pleading His blood before the Father in the sinner’s behalf,” PP351.

            “The sinner is justified through the merits of Jesus, and this is God’s
            acknowledgment of the perfection of the ransom paid for man. That Christ was obedient even unto the death of the cross is a pledge of the
            repenting sinner’s acceptance with the Father.” FW107

            “The high priest entered the most holy place, representing the place where our High Priest is now pleading, and sprinkled the atoning blood upon the mercy seat. . . While the priest was interceding within, every heart was to be bowed in contrition before God, pleading for the pardon of their transgression.” EGW.

            “Many have wondered why it was that God appointed so many sacrifices in the old dispensation; but it was to teach the world in ever-bleeding sacrifices concerning Christ, the victim of man’s transgressions. The offering for sin was a most solemn, sacred offering, and was placed upon the altar with impressive ceremony,
            and every detail was explained by the priest to the people, that they
            might understand that the Son of God was to be made an offering for
            their sins. This is the central truth of the plan of salvation, and it
            should be often repeated in the hearing of both believers and
            unbelievers.” EGW

            “[Christ] died that sin might be made to appear exceeding sinful, the hateful thing that it is. By his death he became the possessor of the keys of hell and of death. Satan could no longer reign without a rival, and be reverenced as a god. Temples had been erected to him, and human sacrifices offered on his altars. But the emancipation papers of the race have been signed by the blood of the Son of God,” and, for legal purposes, submitted to the Father as Judge.

            ***Yes, to be effectual in the life of the believer, we must accept (be
            justified) by Christ’s blood in our hearts. However, for Christ’s blood
            to be effectual for us, it must have already been accepted by God the
            Father.

            “… [Christ has] offered in man’s behalf a complete sacrifice to God. By virtue of this atonement, He has power to offer to man perfect righteousness and full salvation.” (RH April 18, 1893).

            “In the grave Christ was the captive of divine justice. To the Judge of the
            universe He had made Himself responsible for the transgression of the
            law. It was necessary that there be given to the world a stern manifestation of the wrath of God against all who reject light and evidence and stubbornly remain in unbelief. In the crucifixion of His
            Son is revealed God’s hatred for sin. This penalty Christ bore for the
            sins of the transgressor. He has borne the punishment for every man, and for this reason He can ransom every soul,” EGW.

            “Some have limited views of the atonement. They think that Christ suffered only a small portion of the penalty of the law of God; they suppose that, while the wrath of God was felt by His dear Son, He had, through all His painful sufferings, the evidence of His Father’s love and acceptance; that the portals of the tomb before Him were illuminated with bright hope, and that He had the abiding evidence of His future glory. Here is a great mistake. Christ’s keenest anguish was a sense of His Father’s displeasure. His mental agony because of this was of such intensity that man can have but faint conception of it.” EGW

          • Timothy R. Jennings

            Michael,

            Your last response I think was the most helpful so far in helping us understand the diverging points in our views.

            I will attempt to highlight the critical beliefs that seem to be driving a wedge in our viewpoints.

            Thank you for acknowledging I do not present Moral Influence. Hopefully, some others in the penal subst camp will be willing to acknowledge this and state that I DO present the substitutionary death of Christ as essential but explain what is essential differently than legally essential.

            Before I try to explain why, in my view Christ had to die, I want to point out the divergence.

            You said: “This analogy is not accurate to our situation with God. The instructions” Adam (and Satan) disobeyed had no natural consequences.”

            This is a diverging point – I believe the evidence of inspiration supports that breaking moral law does have have natural consequence (not to mention the evidence of life and neuroscience when one violates moral law it damages the brain and body):

            · God told them “dying you will die” when they deviate from His law (see EGW quote below for a detailed description of this)

            · “Sin when full grown brings forth death” Jam 1:15

            · “Those who sew to the carnal nature FROM THAT NATURE reap destruction”

            ·
            The same power that upholds nature, is working also in man. The same great laws that guide alike the star and the atom control human life. The laws that govern the heart’s action, regulating the flow of the current of life to the body, are the laws of the mighty Intelligence that has the jurisdiction of the soul. FROM HIM ALL LIFE PROCEEDS [Not from a
            tree]. Only in harmony with Him can be found its true sphere of action. For all the objects of His creation the condition is the same—A LIFE SUSTAINED BY RECEIVING THE LIFE OF GOD, [not fruit of
            a tree] a life exercised in harmony with the Creator’s will. To transgress His law, physical, mental, or MORAL, is to place one’s self out of harmony with the universe, to INTRODUCE DISCORD, ANARCHY, RUIN. {Ed 99.2}

            So, from my perspective my analogy works perfectly, because I see God’s law just like EGW describes above, the protocols upon which life is constructed by God to operate, and deviation naturally results in ruin and death, unless the Creator intervenes to restore the deviant to harmony with Him and the design.

            This restoration to harmony with God is “reconciliation”. This brings us to the second point of divergence when you said: “To reconcile in a law dispute means one party has been offended”

            This statement assumes that the problem is a legal dispute, why? Because law is viewed in your model in its worldly sense, has imposed rules require adjudication. But I view in the way EGW described above in the design sense and thus reconciliation doesn’t require adjudication, it requires resolution of the deviations from the law, or else no unity or oneness can actually exist.

            When one comes to the issue, already believing the human law construct, then one reads “offended Lawgiver” as God being offended and personally upset with us in some legal way because His law was broken.

            God was offended – absolutely – but we see what was offensive to Him differently. To watch His creation suffer and die offends, to the giver of life watching death overcome your children offends. It is truly offensive! But, if one thinks through a legal lens one interprets the words differently.

            Same issue when one reads “his displeasure toward his disobedient subjects.” If one thinks through human law, then one sees one thing. If one sees through design law, then one sees the displeasure a parent has as they watch their children disobey not only their instructions for healthy living, but God’s laws of health by smoking, drinking and getting cancer and liver failure. The parent would be terrible displeased. But the parent would have no need for a legal solution. (Again, if you reject the view that God’s moral law has natural consequence, then you cannot allow for this interpretation, and must continue to present God as the heavenly dictator who is the ultimate source of inflicted pain and death.)

            Next point – of divergence – I disagree that God could win our trust by a “willingness” to die – because a willingness is held in the heart, and God had that willingness all along. Christ was the lamb slain from the foundation of the world, but despite God’s willingness all along the 1/3 of angels and humans lost trust in God. It wasn’t until the Cross, where the willingness became reality, that the angels were secured and the plan of salvation achieved.

            The next point of divergence, you suggest Christ could have perfected humanity by a “natural” death, in my view this is not possible.

            Christ’s humanity was unique – He didn’t come from dust like Adam, nor taken from the side of a sinless being like Eve, nor did His humanity come from sinful parents. His humanity was unique, a sinful mother impregnated by God Himself. Jesus partook of humanity damaged by Adam’s sin, and subject to being “tempted in every way just like we are but without sin” and each of us are “tempted we are dragged away by our own evil desires.” Christ took a humanity that not only experienced temptation from external sources, but also internal source.

            Gethsemane – Christ experienced powerful human emotions that tempted Him to save self- not to love, but to act selfishly, to use His power to save self. This was all happening in His HUMAN brain – because “God cannot be tempted” James 1. So, Jesus, by the exercise of His HUMAN brain overcame where no other human being could, living sinless His entire life, but in Gethsemane having the psychological and emotional weight of separation from His Father, which sin causes crush Him.

            We cannot fathom the levels of His suffering. Let me just say, it would hurt you much more to be taken away from your wife and child than to be taken away from a stranger or even a enemy. Christ’s love and unity with His Father was infinite – His anguish in having that relationship severed, is indescribable, and much more severe than a human will experience who hates God and doesn’t even want to be with Him.

            God let the full weight of sin fall down upon Christ and sever His connection with the Father – this was the result of sin. And Christ chose, to resist the carnal desire to act in the survival of the fittest way and save Himself. Instead, He trusted His Father completely and gave His life in love. Thus, in the Human brain of Jesus Christ, selfishness was eradicated by perfect, selfless love!

            Thus – the EGW quote from DA 762 “The law requires righteousness, a righteous life, this man has not to give, but Christ came in the form of man and DEVELOPED a perfect character. This he offers as a free gift to all who will receive it.”

            Or Heb 5:8 – Christ “once he was MADE perfect became the source of salvation for all who obey.” Wait – “once he was made perfect”? I thought He was always perfect? Christ was always sinless – but as you know Bible perfection is about maturity, and character cannot be created it can only be developed. Thus, once Christ developed a perfect HUMAN character then He became the source of salvation, not before. This is why shedding His blood as a sinless baby would not have provided what we needed to be saved, so God prevented Herod from killing Him.

            Another point of divergence – You have the blood being paid to God, yet you reject the evidence of Jesus Himself who said it must be taken in by us. You also don’t explain why the Father needed truth presented to Him, which the blood is symbolic of, or a perfect humanity? The Father didn’t need these, we did.

            The quote you used by EGW of Christ interceding to introduce us to the Father – notice the function, i.e. what Christ is doing to make the introduction, what change Christ is effecting and where:

            · He intercedes to give US power

            · He intercedes to give US the virtue of His merits which transforms US to harmony with God thus WE become members of the royal family. This is the application of His metaphorical blood, His character is being produced in the saved.

            · He doesn’t apply to a heavenly law court for adoption papers (the Bible adoption metaphor is just that a metaphor, not an actual legal transaction)

            · God is satisfied, why? For the same reason a parent, whose child is dying of metastatic cancer is only satisfied when the cancer goes into remission. Thus, without the shedding of blood there is no remission of sin. Remission, remit, without Christ’s victory sinfulness in the human species could not be remitted. The human creation could not be remitted back to God’s original perfection.

            I am not going to go through all the rest of the quotes, but they are all the same. All rightly understood only in light of Design Law.

            Again, thanks for your most recent comment, it really helped pull out the diverging point in our views.

          • Michael Younker

            Sure, I hope there is clarity here! I do appreciate the opportunity for thinking through difficult issues here. I posted elsewhere, so I’ll keep this one short.

            It’s all about what “designer” law means, how it’s defined, what analogies from nature it uses, etc. Mathematical laws and the way most people understand “physical-deterministic” laws are not good analogies for moral law. Social, moral laws are different, because God, as a person, is not simply a “platonic designer” but a Person.

            I see moral and natural laws differently. They should not be confused.

            Note my quotes elsewhere: Adam and Eve could have kept eating from the tree of life and lived forever. Satan thought they would, and hoped they would. God “punished” them mercifully, and “decided” out of His love to grant them a second probation. All this was optional, not determined. God was free to let them die, or kill them instantly. His choice.

            Why are Satan and his angels still alive? Why were they free to violate angelic law and still live? God will punish them, but has restrained the time until the end.

          • Brad Cole

            Hi Tim,

            I can identify with your position regarding Moses’ request that the earth be opened up. It was one that I used to hold, yet here we have Paul encouraging us to think a little more about this story.

            Moses wasn’t the only one who asked God to do something like this. Elijah asked God to send fire down to destroy his enemies. Following that lead, the disciples asked Jesus to do the same. Of course, Jesus strongly rebuked them for this and said that they did not know what spirit that sort of request came from. I would say that it is un-Christian
            (certainly not Christ-like) to ask for our enemies to be swallowed up by the earth or destroyed by fire. I want to only do what I see Jesus doing. We aren’t followers of Moses or Elijah. The Psalmist might bless the action of dashing babies against rocks and might say “I hate my enemies with a total hatred”, but I don’t see Jesus doing that so I try not to wish those things on my enemies.

            I would also say that the story of Job is the best example in the O.T. of “how things work.” We should thank God every day for the protection that he extends over all of us (both the “righteous” and
            the “wicked”). When God’s protection is removed, the devil goes out as a roaring lion to destroy. In Job, Satan even controls the elements to destroy. This protection is how I would interpret what is described in Revelation as the “holding back of the winds.” When rebellion pushes God away, the destroyer does what he does – creating death and destruction in his wake. I would also ask, did the story of Korah help or hurt God’s reputation? Are more people today drawn to God because of the traditional understanding of this story (i.e. – “Now there is a God with hair on his chest! That’s a God I can admire!”), or are more people pushed into protest atheism with the thought that God acts in that way? As an example, have you read what Mark Twain thinks about the God of the O.T. because of this story? I’m just saying that it wasn’t entirely foolish for Satan to act in this way.

            On the issue of Korah’s rebellion, you won’t get a uniform answer on this from those that you describe in your article. Graham Maxwell, for example, would say that God was using “emergency measures” to try and hold together that rebellious group of individuals who were wandering through the desert. I think the point where all of those you
            describe in this article would like to strongly differ with you is that there is no example in the Bible of God punishing retributively – that is, retributive justice merely seeks to fit the punishment to the crime. Retribution is all about punishment and isn’t for the purpose of protection or to reform the perpetrator. My understanding is that God doesn’t care to see anyone punished in an “eye for the eye” system of justice. Jesus came to undo “eye for an eye” justice when he said, “You’ve heard it said…BUT I SAY, love your enemy”.
            God forgives, which involves a releasing of the debt and with
            no need to exact revenge or punishment. Once again, sin does enough punishing on its own – that is the entire story of the O.T. repeated over and over – God doesn’t need to add to the pain. Yet, despite Jesus’ words, the view of the atonement that is commonly held is essentially an “eye for an eye” model where God cannot release the debt without exacting punishment. Let’s say you owe me $5 and refuse to pay it back. If I only “forgive” you when someone else pays me the $5, did I really forgive you? Real forgiveness releases the debt.

          • Brad Cole

            I also wanted to address your point that Jesus spoke of hell and punishment. I would be careful how you interpret a parable. As you
            know, these are meant to have one or two main points, and not to extract every detail and apply that to human reality. As for hell, Jesus did talk about this but he was referring to Gehenna.

            What did the hearers in Jesus’ day understand about hell? Of course, this comes from the Hebrew meaning “Valley of Hinnom.” Rather than associating this with some place of future torture or with a punishment imposed by God, the Jewish audience of Jesus’ day would associate “hell” with a real place they were all familiar with: the Valley of Hinnom south of Jerusalem (Joshua 15:8; 18:16). References to this valley from the Old Testament paint a distinctive picture with terrible connotations. It is repeatedly described as a place of idolatry and child sacrifice to appease cruel foreign gods (Jeremiah 7:30-33; 19:4-7; 2 Chronicles 28:3; 2 Kings 16; 2 Kings 23:10).

            In New Testament times, tradition is that Hinnom Valley (Gehenna) was the garbage dump outside Jerusalem where the fires were continuously burning: “If that is so, his hearers would have known Gehenna as an abhorrent place where maggots and
            fire raced to consume the garbage, refuse and offal [by-product] dumped there each day…The first-century Jewish historian Josephus says that this valley was heaped with the dead bodies of Jews following the Roman siege of Jerusalem in A.D. 69-70” (Edward William Fudge and Robert A. Peterson, Two Views of Hell, p. 42).

            In the Old Testament, the location where the 185,000 Assyrian forces were killed was most likely Hinnom Valley. “When the Judeans got up early in the morning, they saw all the corpses” (Isaiah 37:36). This helps to explain Jesus’ quote from Isaiah of “the worm that never dies” which refers to this specific event. This quote is “the most misunderstood, misused and misapplied passage in the Bible
            on [the subject of] hell” (Fudge, p. 32). The context is the mass of corpses of 185,000 Assyrians. The worm does not describe conscious suffering since “Discarded corpses are fit only for worms (maggots) and fire—both insatiable agents of disintegration and decomposition… This passage of Scripture says nothing about conscious suffering and certainly nothing about suffering forever.” (Fudge, p. 32).

            Thus, Jesus’ warning about “hell” (Hinnom Valley or Gehenna) is, quite literally, a “hell on earth” and should not be associated with a future place of endless torture and anguish. Rather, the meaning is to associate hell with a real place that had a history of cruel idolatry, false gods, death, and self-imposed destruction.

          • Scott Bennett

            Brad, I believe that if you take a close look you will be hard pressed to find a system of religion that believed their deity was only good. The religious Jews of Jesus’ day believe very similar to the Jews of today. They believed that God’s power and sovereignty would never allow a rebellion from an angle and that evil and Satan are metaphors of the evil side of God’s will. He would snuff any rebellion out immediately. Eastern though is that of the yin yang where the universe demands a balance of good and bad.

            Jesus was the first person historically, that I’ve ever discovered, to present God as only good and attribute evil to an enemy at war with God. The OT talks about an adversary, but it was and is seen as an allegory of the two sides. I would say that Christ’s first mission on earth after His baptism was to show us the Great Controversy by exposing Satan in the wilderness.

            This being the cultural mindset of the Bible writers it is easy to see how they would contribute every event to God. They really had no other choice within their paradigm.

          • Brad Cole

            Thanks so much, Scott. “No one has ever seen God” prior to Jesus. Yes, God showed up in person many times in the O.T. but compared to Jesus’ revelation, no one has seen God. That’s something to get excited about!

    • Scott Bennett

      I appreciate your attempt to explain NT mystery, but that is not exactly what the NT calls a mystery. The manifold wisdom of God is the writings of the prophets that were a mystery until Jesus came and “made manifest” the mystery. Like light through a prism the prophets caught one colorful ray after another. One prophesied of the Savior’s birth place where another prophesied of His death. One prophesied of the family, tribe, and town He was to be born in, but all in all they longed to understand the mystery. Once Jesus came he was the blazing light of the Sun (see Hebrews 1) which explained all the prophecies by bringing them together in the event of salvation through Jesus the Anointed. Think of David calling the word of God a lamp unto his feet and a light on a dark path. What would happen if the sun were to come up? The little flashlight would become obsolete. Jesus would light the path. Read Hebrews 8 and you will realize that is exactly what happened. Not obsolete to those who are yet to meet Jesus, but obsolete to those who see and believe.

    • Floyd Phillips

      Timothy, you seem to love to fall back on the idea of mystery, as if throwing out that term can cover everything up to favor your stern views of God by relying on surface assumed meanings of Scriptural terms.
      I grew up believing pretty much everything you teach here. It is not foreign to me and what I now have come to believe after years of Spirit-led searching of Scripture and an openness to go back and question every assumption I ever had has led me to views not that different from Tim. But let me make it explicitly clear that I did not come to these conclusions because of Tim, Graham or any other teacher. I discovered them through humbling myself, questioning why so much of the penal substitutionary view is self-contradictory and kept asking God to show me truth until I was led to it mostly through my own time with God. To my amazement, shortly after I came to my current understanding and felt quite isolate, God allowed me then to discover that many other have been discovering the same glorious truths and I was able to confirm and solidify what God had already shown me personally.
      One of the biggest problems in this entire discussion, the problem causing you and Tim to talk past each other on every round, is that you are not using the same definition of the words you both are using and quoting. This is one thing God pushed me to examine early on and over the years I have come to realize that very many religious terms and words have been long hijacked to mean something very different and at times the exact opposite of what they mean when sticking with the Bible alone to let it define them. But again, if you do so with any agenda other than agreeing with Jesus’ plain statement that He and the Father are identical in character in every respect, anything goes.
      I have observed repeatedly throughout this entire conversation (which I have been enjoying immensely by the way, thank-you for allowing it to continue) that each time you use the term wrath or quote a passage with that word, you don’t even have a hint of the biblical definition of the term but rather assume that it means what 99.5% of the world assumes it means. But it matters not if even 100% of the world uses the wrong definition, as Paul says, may God be true and every man a liar.
      This one breakthrough in my study unlocked a great deal of mystery for me and cleared a lot of confusion that is circulating here. But if you are willing to reconsider that your assumption of this word may in fact be questionable, then the conclusions you think are so airtight may not be nearly so secure as you assume. I know, I had to face a crisis in belief as I had to confront word after word and felt convicted by the Spirit of God that my life-long assumptions learned from this church were not infallible as I had long thought.
      A careful and honest examination of this term wrath will produce the biblical definition which simply means, handing over or releasing to the natural consequence. There are many both in and out of our church who can confirm this at many levels. Wrath does come from the Greek word for intensity, passion and is assumed even by most translators to mean anger. But that is not the required definition but merely the assumed definition by the vast majority of translators and theologians who came to the table with the unchallenged assumptions you also bring. Yet if you are willing to open you mind a little and let truth challenge long-held beliefs and assumptions, especially in the light of the blazing truth about God’s love as revealed in Jesus, you can discover that wrath, at least God’s version of it, is simply the intense passion of His love combined with His fierce defense our our freedom to choose for ourselves whether we will love Him back. And for those who resist and finally reject His love, the results and spelled out explicitly in Romans 1 and many other places is not imposed punishment on those who reject Him but a very reluctant withdrawing of His protective hand of mercy that has long prevented the natural consequences of sin (the effects of violating any natural law based on cause and effect which describes all of God’s laws) from having their chilling and finally death-producing results in the life of such a person.
      Again, I did not adopt this view from blindly following any theologian or anyone else. It is in Scripture, even under all the confusing layers of bias from translators. I did have to do some digging into the Greek and Hebrew to clarify it for myself but it was there and the Spirit led me to it when I was willing to ask for wisdom.
      I could give many other instances where you are assuming things that are not there. The one most obvious to me in the quotations you use is the assumed insertion of God where it does not appear. Above you quote 6 BC assuming that God is the one inflicting the punishment. It is easy to see why you think that because you have not once opened your mind to any other possibility yet. But if you look carefully at your interpretation of that quote you correlate sin and punishment as one and the same thing. While God laid all of our sins upon Christ, it does not mean that He then turned around and imposed punishment on Christ for those sins. The wages that sin pays out is death, not the wages God pays out. If you reject that fundamental truth then anything after that is going to arrive at false conclusions. This transposition inserting God in as the assumed executioner for sin happens all throughout your comments leaving it clear that you do not believe that sin is self-destructive like a cancer and requires violent intervention on God’s part to be exterminated.
      Yet the longer I consider the merits of both sides of this issue the more irrational the teaching you espouse become for me Biblically and logically. God does not act in ways He commands us not to act. So if God commands us to not take vengeance, then it is not so that He can exact punishing, torturing vengeance better than we could ever do but rather because He knows we don’t yet know what He has in mind, i.e. His definition of the term. I could explain what I have learned along that line but I won’t take the time here.
      In short, nothing is changing anyone’s mind here because language is not synchronized. You may be saying the same words but are far from meaning the same things. This is because many of the assumed definitions of religious words you are relying on are in fact not biblical definitions even though you can confidently amass proof texts to back them up. The truth as it is in Jesus as Ellen so often says it is very different than the truth as it is in tradition, religion and philosophy.
      You claim that Tim is redefining many terms. May I suggest that indeed he is, but not for the reasons that you assume. If the definitions have already been redefined to an incorrect meaning long ago – like over the past 1700 years, then it is vital that to move forward into the light of the glory of the 4th angel we desperately need to restore the original intent and meanings of every hijacked word back so that when we read Scripture it finally begins to support the truth as revealed in Jesus instead of by the traditions of men, popes and emperors.

  • Kevin Straub

    I have been attempting now for two days to engage in this discussion, but every comment I have made has been somehow lost or removed. Some hours of my efforts are gone. Discouraging. I know that people have been able to see it. I got a response from Brad Cole by private message on FaceBook. If I am being silenced on purpose, I would like to know why. Perhaps the moderator can help me out? Over the years, I have been privately in dialogue with many of the top contemporary teachers on the Character of God subject, including Tim Jennings and Brad Cole, my personal friend Steve Wohlberg, and others, and have a published book also on the subject. So, it is somewhat disheartening to be marginalized in this thing, whether by circumstance or by intent.

    I am not about pushing myself into notice; I am both a teacher and a student in this arena. My desire is to continue to advance and build upon what I have already come to understand as present truth in the work of the advancing light of the fourth angel, glory of God. However, as I am on the front lines of bringing forward the reformation light on God’s Character, particularly in regard to His relation to violence in His side of the conduct of the great controversy, I do have some relevant thoughts on the subject which I have been desiring to share here.
    God destroys, but HOW He does this is the matter which is of vital importance to the ending of the lies about God and His government and the ultimate securing of the universe. Other teachers of this subject take to variations on the “Maxwellian” view, which they fondly refer to as the “LV” or the “larger view.” I appreciate that, and it IS a larger view than the traditional view. I believe that the Maxwellian view, as an intermediate view, sets itself up to receive some valid criticism from the traditional camp–the mainstream Adventist position. However, it is the understanding of a growing movement of people that there is an even larger view and this is what I would call the “new view” or the “consistent view.” While the “larger view,” as taught by Maxwell, holds in common with the traditional view that so-called “active wrath” comes into play at times (in the execution of the “sleep death,” first death), the consistent view maintains that we must appeal to the minor voice of Scripture which provides the keys to the modality of Divine wrath as “hiding of face” or withdrawal of God’s presence to various degrees, which result in “punishing” circumstances/events, including first death.
    There is no actual Biblical hermeneutic that gives us the license to interpret the “God-did-it” language as “active wrath.” The language is present in BOTH cases; 1) where we have a narrative or back story or where it is distinctly identified in the text as God “hiding His face,” “giving over,” “sparing not,” etc., and; 2) where we are lacking these things, having only the bare “God did it” language. The problem comes in the latter case, where the human mind reverts to notions of hot wrath, where the avenger moves TOWARD his subject, the same as man’s wrath. From here on, exegesis ends and eisegesis provides the hermeneutic. Divine wrath in Scripture is defined in terms of the Avenger moving AWAY from His subject. (I had taken the time to provide a study on this, but it is now gone.) There is no Biblical warrant for this dualism on wrath and we have now every reason to purge it from our theology of God and His ways of dealing with sin and sinners.

    I will say no more at this point, but determine whether the forces at work will allow me to take part in any further discussion. 🙂

    • Michael Younker

      Apologies, we’ve had a couple issues with registered users needing approval unnecessarily. (Unregistered users had no problems, I believe!) We’re working on this!

    • rachelcabose

      Kevin, sorry for your trouble. For some reason Disqus marked all your comments as spam, which was clearly not the case. I went in and approved them all, so they should show up now.

      We haven’t been intentionally screening out anyone’s views, nor have we had to remove comments for being derogatory. The dialogue has been in a respectful tone overall, which we really appreciate.

    • Michael Younker

      Thanks Kevin, great thoughts!

      I agree there is room for much fruitful study on active/passive wrath. I’m uncertain of the significance of it for resolving the “legal substitutionary atonement” question that has been raised in close connection with it. It “pleased God” to bruise Christ, while at the same time God suffered greatly, and technically Christ physically suffered at the hands of wicked men. This tension is part and parcel of how hard it is to work these issues out.

      There are interesting philosophical problems associated with purely passive wrath (that doesn’t always lead to death), in all instances, including by God’s direct heavenly agencies (Angels). E.g., Satan was “forcibly” kicked out of Heaven, yet seemingly none of his fallen angelic companions suffered death. I’m not sure how else to interpret “war in heaven.”

      I’m also not sure how we read texts on Uzzah (2Sam 6:6) outside of proactive activity. I note with interest that the shock of God’s activity in this instance angered even David! (v8). (EGW “David was astonished and greatly alarmed, and in his heart he questioned the justice of God,”PP705, just as some of us are!). I also note with interest that when ignorance accompanied a violation of the Ark’s treatment (with the Philistines), God “winked” (become “more” passive) and allowed it.

      We welcome your thoughts!

      http://www.adventistreview.org/141514-16

      • Kevin Straub

        God was pleased to bruise Christ in the same way that Christ endured the cross, despising the shame, for the joy that was set before Him. This is language: God did not in any sense come against Christ; He gave Him up. In fact, inspiration uses the hiding of face language to depict God’s wrath against sin, as imputed to the Sin-bearer.

        “…the unutterable anguish that filled His soul at the HIDING OF HIS FATHER’S FACE–speaks to each child of humanity, declaring, It is for thee that the Son of God consents to bear this burden of guilt….
        He, the Sin Bearer, ENDURES THE WRATH OF DIVINE JUSTICE, and for thy sake becomes sin itself” (DA 755.1).

        We see it over in over in both the SoP and the Bible; there are numerous texts that provide the key to wrath as Divine recession. We should not require that every expression of wrath include the modifying language. Nor, when the modifier is absent, should we seize upon the language to mean proactive wrath.

        This has everything to do with the legal/penal justice model of atonement. The same kind of unannealed approach to the language does not withstand the stress placed upon it by the revelation of Jesus Christ. The time is coming when we are going to look back on this traditional view as the dark ages of our experience in the reformation.

        “At the Kansas meeting my prayer to God was, that the power of the enemy might be broken, and that the people who had been in darkness might open their hearts and minds to the message that God should send them, that they might see the truth, new to many minds, as old truth in new frame-work. The understanding of the people of God has been blinded; for Satan has misrepresented the character of God. Our good and gracious Lord has been presented before the people clothed in the attributes of Satan, and men and women who have been seeking for truth, have so long regarded God in a false light that it is difficult to dispel the cloud that obscures his glory from their view. Many have been living in an atmosphere of doubt, and it seems almost impossible for them to lay hold on the hope set before them in the gospel of Christ” (RH, July 23, 1889 par. 9).

        On the war in heaven, whatever the nature of their expulsion and barring from entrance into the gates, it is not entirely relevant to the discussion of active vs. passive wrath. I don’t believe that a consistent view of passive wrath means that God can’t intervene to protect His own. All minds had been made up and there was no need to allow Satan to further harass and annoy those who no longer wished to engage in his “discussion.” I don’t believe such intervention is ever in such a way as to cause disease, death or other damage. God can put a hedge around His own, and does. This is different from wrath, which goes further than barring or quarantining. It lets go. Even the wicked, though restrained, still enjoy God’s protection.
        Uzzah. I would put this in the same category as Korah rebellion. Paul, in 1 Cor. 10:10 is referencing to Korah (Numbers 16) when he speaks of murmuring and being destroyed of the destroyer. The word used for “destroyer” is a direct reference to Satan, meaning literally “a serpent.” Satan loves to kill and make it look like God did it. Combine this with the Bible language and he has almost everyone set up for easy deception.

        • Michael Younker

          It’s a difficult thing to know what to do with the language inspiration has given us.

          White uses very legal language here; “sentence of death,” “between the wrath of His Father,” “find pardon,” “ransom,” etc. If God had intended something else, then in the straightforward prose/narrative descriptions of the key events, I’m wont to wonder why God didn’t inspire our end times messenger differently.

          “The anxiety of the angels seemed to be intense while Jesus was communing with His Father. Three times He was shut in by the glorious light about the Father, and the third time He came from the Father, His person could be seen. His countenance was calm, free from all perplexity and doubt, and shone with benevolence and loveliness, such as words cannot express. He then made known to the angelic host that a way of escape had been made for lost man. He told them that He had been pleading with His Father, and had offered to give His life a ransom, to take the sentence of death upon Himself, that through Him man might find pardon; that through the merits of His blood, and obedience to the law of God, they could have the favor of God, and be brought into the beautiful garden, and eat of the fruit of the tree of life. {EW 149.2}
          At first the angels could not rejoice; for their Commander concealed nothing from them, but opened before them the plan of salvation. Jesus told them that He would stand between the wrath of His Father and guilty man, that He would bear iniquity and scorn, and but few would receive Him as the Son of God.”EW150

          • Kevin Straub

            On EW 149.2 do you think that God and Christ, being the Eternal Omniscient One, would have needed to “hash it out?” Seeing the end from the beginning, what need would there be to have a meeting and go through a struggle? This was the plan laid from the foundation of the world, was it not? Going back even further, was it not the plan that brings about God’s eternal purpose to have a Divine Family, to bring many sons to glory? Note that in this depiction, it seems that the Father would shrink back three times. Christ in Gethsemane reveals the Son recoiling from the plan three times.

          • Michael Younker

            I’ve raised the issue of the tension of foreknowledge and creaturely freedom. The dynamism/relationality of the Trinity is equally challenging. I accept both these realities in their full complexities. I fear we are too content sliding into platonism on these issues–Greek philosophy happily awaits us! The dynamism of reality is such that our logic should respect it; I accept no binary choices. God can show wrath, yet with love. Of course God does not enjoy punishing, actively/passively, the wicked. But His laws must be respected. He is a creator of laws/tests, that his creatures understood as such in the narrative presentations of the issues in inspiration. I’m aware that foreknowledge (even of God’s own future actions!) creates all kind of logical tensions. Are we ready to accept the tension, or force reality to be a certain way based on our creaturely logic?

          • Kevin Straub

            I do not believe God created laws (or punishments for breaking those laws) any more than I believe He created Himself.

          • Michael Younker

            Thanks, Kevin, for that clear statement. I accept it as a possible conclusion of philosophy which many accept. That also is “platonism,” if you’re familiar with the history of philosophical ideas. (E.g., God couldn’t “create” mathematics and its “relational laws” {2+2=4} any other way; mathematics is what it is, co-equal with God eternally. This is the most “clear” explanatory example I can share. When applied to nature’s laws, understood deterministically, then the broader picture emerges in its full implications, if humanity is a part of nature=we’re determined and not free). While I remain agnostic on what mathematics “is,” concerning other realities, I am strongly anti-platonistic, as platonism struggles to meaningfully define the meaning and nature of freedom and time. All of postmodernism is a reaction to platonism on these two points. In other words, “secular” philosophy is in a crisis right now, and dragging theology into its impasse.

            From an EGW/Biblical perspective, God can and did create laws. What exactly was the prohibition on the Tree of Knowledge? If you accept EGW, what do you do with the following? Laws are “created” here, yes?

            “A compassionate God gave no severe test, no strong temptation that would tax human endurance beyond the power to resist. The fruit itself was harmless. If God had not forbidden Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, their action in taking it would not have been sinful. Up to the moment of God’s prohibition, Adam might have eaten of the fruit of that tree without realizing any harm. But after God had said, Thou shalt not eat, the act became a crime of great magnitude. Adam had disobeyed God. In this was his sin. The very fact that Adam’s trial was small, made his sin exceeding great. God tested him in that which was least, to prove him; and with the prohibition he stated that the punishment consequent upon his disobedience would be death. If Adam could not bear this smallest of tests to prove his loyalty, he surely could not have endured a stronger trial had he been taken into closer relationship with God, to bear higher responsibilities. He evidenced that God could not trust him; should he be exposed to Satan’s more determined attacks, he would signally fail.” {ST, January 23, 1879 par. 14}

            “In no kingdom or government is it left to the lawbreakers to say what punishment is to be executed against those who have broken the law. All we have, all the bounties of His grace which we possess, we owe to God. The aggravating character of sin against such a God cannot be estimated any more than the heavens can be measured with a span. God is a moral governor as well as a Father. He is the Lawgiver. He makes and executes His laws. Law that has no penalty is of no force.” {12MR 208.2}

          • Kevin Straub

            I am not a student of philosophy (love of sophistry?). I process, exegete, and intuit from inspiration and contemplation on the life of God in Christ.

            I do believe that the fundamentals of God’s law are such that they are what they are and we can see this, as you say by way of example, in mathematics. As God is perfect, that which He has established exists upon perfect principles, perfect parameters, perfect cosmological and spiritual constants. I like what Jennings says, with his phrase that God’s law is the “protocol upon which life is built.” I do not belief that there can BE life any other way and that to introduce any variation in it is to introduce flaws resulting in entropy resulting in ultimate and total disintegration to the state of formless void.

            The placement of the tree was not the creation of a new law. It was a manifest device intended for the purpose of giving the new pair an opportunity to deny God and vote for another voice on the basis of creature merit–their own ability to discern truth as inherent in self. This was the same downfall which Satan allowed to develop within himself. The law behind the tree test was the Eternal reality of God and His trustworthiness on all points, as in “Thou shalt have no other gods before me.”

          • Michael Younker

            Yes, but it is the “spatialization” and “temporalization” of the Tree of Knowledge and the Sabbath that pose interesting problems for the concept of no new laws. Semantics may be at play here; I do consider it a “new” law, of a very “human” form, likened to what we create in our societies. So it depends on how we view space and time; and whether we realize it or not, we are using (inheriting) philosophy here to interpret just what harmony and constants mean.

            How we understand freedom is somewhat determined by whether Adam could have first sinned in a way besides eating of the tree. I agree that the tree manifested an opportunity for violating the first commandment, idolatry. But it is more complicated than that. The Sabbath brings in additional dimensions of spatialization and temporalization.

          • Kevin Straub

            Well, I suppose I’ll leave that to you and your philosopher friends. The Sabbath was made for man, yes, but it is still about the first commandment.

  • Timothy Arena

    “Let no one take the limited, narrow position that any of the works of man can help in the least possible way to liquidate the debt of his transgression. This is a fatal deception. If you would
    understand it, you must cease haggling over your pet ideas, and with
    humble hearts survey the atonement. This matter is so dimly comprehended that thousands upon thousands claiming to be sons of God are children of the wicked one, because they will depend on their own works. God always demanded good works, the
    law demands it, but because man placed himself in sin where his good
    works were valueless, Jesus’ righteousness alone can avail. Christ is
    able to save to the uttermost because He ever liveth to make intercession for us. All that man can possibly do toward his own salvation is to accept the invitation, “Whosoever will, let him take the water of life freely” (Revelation 22:17). No sin can be committed by man for which satisfaction has not been met on Calvary. Thus the cross, in earnest appeals, continually proffers to the sinner a thorough expiation” 1SM 343.

    • Scott Bennett

      Timothy, this is a straw horse because no one in this discussion believes they are saved by either their own works/merit or even the by the work of the Holy Spirit in them. We all believe we are saved by grace along through faith alone. Personally I believe that God will save everyone who can be healed from sin and are willing to be healed.

  • Timothy Arena

    “If
    you would gather together everything that is good and holy and noble
    and lovely in man and then present the subject to the angels of God as
    acting a part in the salvation of the human soul or in merit, the
    proposition would be rejected as treason. Standing in the presence of
    their Creator and looking upon the unsurpassed glory which enshrouds His
    person, they are looking upon the Lamb of God given from the foundation
    of the world to a life of humiliation, to be rejected of sinful men, to
    be despised, to be crucified. Who can measure the infinity of the
    sacrifice!{FW 24.1}Christ
    for our sakes became poor, that we through His poverty might be made
    rich. And any works that man can render to God will be far less than
    nothingness. My requests are made acceptable only because they are laid
    upon Christ’s righteousness. The idea of doing anything to merit the
    grace of pardon is fallacy from beginning to end. “Lord, in my hand no
    price I bring, simply to Thy cross I cling.” FW 24

    • Scott Bennett

      The righteousness of Christ is the righteousness of the law which is a transcript of the Character of God.
      Simply put: The Righteousness of Christ is just who He is!

      He is Righteousness and none of us are and to be saved we must be perfectly righteous (which is impossible with our fallen natures) or we must accept his imputed righteousness and be justified by faith.
      Simply put: We must know God and trust Him because to Know God is Eternal Life. He’ll take care of the rest because that’s just who He is. And the good news is that Jesus came to show us the Father.

  • Timothy Arena

    Now we know that whatever the law says it speaks to those who are under the law, (Rom 3:19 ESV)that every mouth may be stopped, and the whole world may be held accountable to God.
    20 For by works of the law no human being will be justified in his sight, since through the law comes knowledge of sin.
    21 But now the righteousness of God has been manifested apart from the law, although the Law and the Prophets bear witness to it–
    22 the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus Christ for all who believe. For there is no distinction:
    23 for all have sinned and fall short of the glory of God,
    24 and are justified by his grace as a gift, through the redemption that is in Christ Jesus,
    25 whom God put forward as a propitiation by his blood, to be received by faith. This was to show God’s righteousness, because in his divine forbearance he had passed over former sins.
    26 It was to show his righteousness at the present time, so that he might be just and the justifier of the one who has faith in Jesus.
    27 Then what becomes of our boasting? It is excluded. By what kind of law? By a law of works? No, but by the law of faith.
    28 For we hold that one is justified by faith apart from works of the law.
    29 Or is God the God of Jews only? Is he not the God of Gentiles also? Yes, of Gentiles also,
    30 since God is one– who will justify the circumcised by faith and the uncircumcised through faith.
    31 Do we then overthrow the law by this faith? By no means! On the contrary, we uphold the law.

    ESV Romans 4:1 What then shall we say was gained by Abraham, our forefather according to the flesh?
    2 For if Abraham was justified by works, he has something to boast about, but not before God.
    3 For what does the Scripture say? “Abraham believed God, and it was counted to him as righteousness.”
    4 Now to the one who works, his wages are not counted as a gift but as his due.
    5 And to the one who does not work but believes in him who justifies the ungodly, his faith is counted as righteousness,
    (Rom 3:19-5 ESV)

    • Scott Bennett

      “The righteousness of the law has been manifest apart from the law. . . the righteousness of God through faith in Jesus.”

      Where the Law was the standard of righteousness (whereby all men were to be judged) in the Old Covenant, the Righteousness of Christ is the standard of righteousness in the New Covenant. To have faith in Christ in the New Covenant is the same as Keeping the Law in the Old Covenant. The problem is that there is only one OC dude that kept it perfectly enough to be saved and that was Jesus. It’s just lucky for all those Old Testament guys that The New Covenant preceded the Old Covenant going clear back to Eden through faith in God’s promise to send a Savior.

  • Timothy Arena

    For if we go on sinning deliberately after receiving the knowledge of the truth, there no longer remains a sacrifice for sins,
    27 but a fearful expectation of judgment, and a fury of fire that will consume the adversaries.
    28 Anyone who has set aside the law of Moses dies without mercy on the evidence of two or three witnesses.
    29 How much worse punishment, do you think, will be deserved by the one who has trampled underfoot the Son of God, and has profaned the blood of the covenant by which he was sanctified, and has outraged the Spirit of grace?
    30 For we know him who said, “Vengeance is mine; I will repay.” And again, “The Lord will judge his people.”
    31 It is a fearful thing to fall into the hands of the living God. (Heb 10:26-31 ESV)

    • Scott Bennett

      Timothy, no one is teaching there is no punishment for the wicked. Jerusalem fell into the hands of God’s judgments and Jeremiah threatened Israel with all sorts of bad violent things God was going to do to them, but in the end it was Babylon who did all the bad things. We have a myriad of examples of this type of judgments in the Bible so why is it so important to you that God pick up the sword and slaughter everyone personally?

      • Larry Ashcraft

        What Scott has hinted at would make a fascinating discussion, though this might not be the place for it. WHY is it so important for each of us to interpret the evidence the way we do. (Please don’t respond to this remark with a black & white comment implying that we humans are capable of analysis without subjectivity. We aren’t.) We fantasize about inductive thinking in our quest for objectivity, but everything we consider is biased by an untold number of influences, some apparent to us and some completely off of our radar screen.

        Why is it important for some in this conversation to view God as a nice, non-violent person? Why is it important for others in this conversation to view God as one who resorts to violence to settle matters? If we could answer these questions, then it might be easier to see why we’re talking past each other.

        • Timothy Arena

          Hello Larry,

          If I understand you correctly, you are asking a question concerning why it is that we consider the doctrine of penal substitutionary atonement to be an essential one. (I don’t accept the seeming premise that it is just a matter of interpretation. Of course there is subjectivity, but there is certainly sufficient clarity in the Scriptures for all essential matters such as this. The fact that we are all not perfect in our understanding does not remove the need for studying for basic clarity). You will notice that part 2 addresses this very question, so I encourage you to read this (notice above after the article is says, “Coming next week: How did this happen? and Why does it matter?–it should be coming this week. I’ve already written it; they simply divided my article into two parts).

          For now I will say this: First and foremost, without penal substitutionary atonement, it is inevitable (and this is a clear and explicit teaching of Dr. Jennings, Maxwell, and others who deny this doctrine) that the sole basis for our salvation is left to reside in the locus of the sinful human being. Imputed righteousness, our “title to heaven” (as EGW puts it) is taken away in favor of an infused, internal righteousness (“healing”) as being the basis for our salvation. Of course I believe that the Bible teaches that both imputed righteousness (Christ’s perfect character covering my sinful one) as well as an infused, imparted, sanctifying righteousness are both essential. But it is crucial to recognize that because even our best is tainted by sin, we will always need that imputed righteousness of Christ as the grounding of our acceptance before God. Indeed, both Jennings and Maxwell use the language of perfectionism in that they claim that people will reach a place where “God does not need to forgive” them anymore. This, again, leaves the basis of salvation to be solely based upon what is found in the human being, as opposed to the Protestant view that the basis of our salvation resides with what Christ has done in His sinless life, on the cross, and what He is doing now in the sanctuary in His intercession–we accept His gifts by faith, and the fruit of this acceptance is transformation. But the gift is the basis for salvation, not the transformation.

          The second reason is related to the issue of God’s vengeance. I would say that the reason this matters (again, this is discussed in part 2) is the continual cry throughout Scripture for justice. Notice how many times in the Bible it is noted that the wicked are prosperous and the righteous suffer. Notice the cry of the martyrs, “How long, O Lord?” The “natural consequences” do not at all come. Many mass murderers throughout history and today have not received justice.There is a deep need for justice to be done–a legitimate concern that those who remained stubborn against God till the end, those who murdered His people for sport, and for all other recalcitrant rebels should have retribution–read e.g. Revelation 18-19.

          I hope that this helps to answer your question, Again, part 2 is coming soon . . .

        • Scott Bennett

          I adopted an interesting way of studying ideas that people throw at me or that pop into my head. I try to defend the idea until I can no longer defend it. I look for evidence to support it and take notes of my questions. Sometimes I actually present it to my SS class as if it were true and then defend it as the SS class throw rocks at me (metaphorically). I’ve gotten in trouble a couple of times, but I’m not afraid to come out and say, “I looked at that objectively and decided it isn’t true.” Sometimes no one comes up with anything better and I can’t find any reason not to accept it so I’m forced to adopt it into my theology. This is an exciting journey we are on if we don’t take ourselves too seriously.

          • Kevin Straub

            That can backfire. I have learned to be more careful. I had an idea pop into my head, years ago, that there was more to the ancient feasts than what we are doing with them today in antitype. That idea sat for a long time, but came back and I decided to start reading books out of the modern SdA feast-keeping camp. I ended up defending it for two years and causing a lot of confusion for others, some of whom to this day are still confused, though I came out of it. Dangerous approach, I think. I am no longer so open minded. I will hear an idea and follow it through with research, study, and consultation of like-minded brethren, but not accept and teach it until thoroughly vetted.

        • Kevin Straub

          The nice, non-violent God is to us as “hard sayings” and we might ask, like the disciples, “Who, then, can be saved?” Most of us do not want that God. We want vengeance. Our way. We understand that God says not for us to take it out on our enemies. So, we think we are being obedient unto righteousness when we fantasize bathing our feet in the blood of the wicked as God takes it out by proxy. A God after our own heart. We are no better than the man who said to me that he’s going to be selling popcorn on the walls of the New Jerusalem when the fire comes down to torture the wicked.

  • Timothy Arena

    After this I heard what seemed to be the loud voice of a great multitude in heaven, crying out, “Hallelujah! Salvation and glory and power belong to our God,
    2 for his judgments are true and just; for he has judged the great prostitute who corrupted the earth with her immorality, and has avenged on her the blood of his servants.”
    3 Once more they cried out, “Hallelujah! The smoke from her goes up forever and ever.”
    4 And the twenty-four elders and the four living creatures fell down and worshiped God who was seated on the throne, saying, “Amen. Hallelujah!”
    5 And from the throne came a voice saying, “Praise our God, all you his servants, you who fear him, small and great.”
    6 Then I heard what seemed to be the voice of a great multitude, like the roar of many waters and like the sound of mighty peals of thunder, crying out, “Hallelujah! For the Lord our God the Almighty reigns.
    (Rev 19:1-6 ESV)

  • Timothy Arena

    Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
    10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
    11 More than that, we also rejoice in God through our Lord Jesus Christ, through whom we have now received reconciliation. (Rom 5:9-11 ESV)

    • Scott Bennett

      Paul starts this dissertation in Romans 1 where he shows systematically that God’s wrath is giving people what they want and allowing their actions to take them to the next level all the way to destruction.

      • Timothy Arena

        Yes. God’s wrath involves giving people what they want–they don’t want to be with God, so he will destroy them. Even when there are times when God allows consequences, He is still involved in the situation–He ensures that the consequences will occur. Other times there is a more direct involvement. But God is always involved. But His wrath is not ONLY about “natural” consequences.

        This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering–
        6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you,
        7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels
        8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
        9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might, (2Th 1:5-9 ESV)

        But because of your hard and impenitent heart you are storing up wrath for yourself on the day of wrath when God’s righteous judgment will be revealed.
        6 He will render to each one according to his works:
        7 to those who by patience in well-doing seek for glory and honor and immortality, he will give eternal life;
        8 but for those who are self-seeking and do not obey the truth, but obey unrighteousness, there will be wrath and fury.
        9 There will be tribulation and distress for every human being who does evil, the Jew first and also the Greek,
        10 but glory and honor and peace for everyone who does good, the Jew first and also the Greek.
        11 For God shows no partiality. (Rom 2:5-11 ESV)

        • Scott Bennett

          You should read your first sentence again.

          Timothy: “Yes. God’s wrath involves giving people what they want–they don’t want to be with God, so he will destroy them.”

          Is that really OK with you?

          • Kevin Straub

            This reminds me of an uncle of mine who came into the faith. In a living room discussion, someone read about the wicked receiving “the wine of the wrath of God, which is poured out without mixture into the cup of his indignation” and being “tormented with fire and brimstone in the presence of the holy angels, and in the presence of the Lamb” (Rev. 14:10) to which he commented, “and you like that?”

            Indeed, this idea that somehow the righteous are looking forward to the punishment of the wicked is completely incongruous with true Christianity. This misreading of the Bible has justified a thirst for vengeance. We all too readily chime in with the Psalmist,

            “Break their teeth, O God, in their mouth: break out the great teeth of the young lions, O LORD….
            “The righteous shall rejoice when he seeth the vengeance: he shall wash his feet in the blood of the wicked.
            “So that a man shall say, Verily [there is] a reward for the righteous: verily he is a God that judgeth in the earth” (Ps. 58:6, 10, 11).

            I once had dialogue with a man who was just seething with anger, saying, “I can’t wait until they get THEIRS. I’m gonna be SELLING POPCORN ON THE WALLS when the final show goes down.” If we think that this is a good attitude, then we don’t know Jesus or the Father. If we don’t overcome this, we will be lost. No more hiding behind Bible language. That’s where Satan is lurking. Enough said.

          • Timothy Arena

            If you really think that Satan is lurking in the language of the Bible, something that Paul called “breathed out by God and profitable for teaching, for reproof, for correction, and for training in righteousness” (2Ti 3:16 ESV), then there really is very little more to be said indeed. This is a very dangerous place to be–calling the Word of God satanic. Please reconsider . . .

          • Kevin Straub

            Don’t jump to conclusions. I did not say the Bible is Satanically inspired. But we cannot put prophets on such a high plane that their writings are not colored by human misconception. God is not represented as a writer. His thought is “diffused” in the writing. They were penmen, not pens. God has not put Himself on trial in logic, in rhetoric, or in the words of the Bible. These are all Ellen White’s teachings. When we say “God breathed,” we cannot understand this in any way to mean God-dictated. I believe that things were written according to what they thought they heard and knew about God, but as it turns out, we needed a far brighter picture, a sharper clarification than they could give us.

            Satan lurks behind the language because in our own desire for revenge we can easily be led to interpret it through the dark lens of pagan cultism and human law. God knew that they would be expressing in such terms and in His mercy, ensured that the minor voice of Scripture would provide us with the keys we needed to understand Divine wrath as Divine recession, or “hiding of His face.” Deuteronomy 31:17, 18 give us the first mention of hiding of face, as the definition of wrath. As mentioned elsewhere, study the chiasm of Isa. 57:17. Check also Hos. 9:12. These indications of the nature of God’s wrath occur many times. I think the onus falls upon the traditional view to prove from inspiration a viable hermeneutic for a dual modality of Divine wrath. The language is the same in both cases of active or passive wrath. In my quest for a hermeneutic I have only been stone-walled, ignored, marginalized and told I am going to hell. None of it helpful. (Please write [email protected] for my paper, “Righteous Evil.”) So far, I have not heard anything that makes any sense at all, much less derived from the Bible. All I can see going on is that when the narrative, or “back-story” is missing from the “God-did-it” language we automatically assume God has turned to proactive violence.

            Back to this idea about Satan hiding behind Bible language, please look at this:

            “Their [the Jews’] sufferings ARE OFTEN REPRESENTED as a punishment visited upon them by the direct decree of God. IT IS THUS THAT THE GREAT DECEIVER SEEKS TO CONCEAL HIS OWN WORK. By stubborn rejection of divine love and mercy, the Jews had caused the protection of God to be withdrawn from them, and Satan was permitted to rule them according to his will. The horrible cruelties enacted in the destruction of Jerusalem are a demonstration of Satan’s vindictive power over those who yield to his control” (GC88 36.1).
            Question: Represented where? I submit that it is represented as such by believers in God, throughout history, both before and after Christ. Where do they get this idea? In the OT, from the prevailing cultural mindset which fed into the Scriptures, reinforcing their culture, acting as a feedback loop which ended in the crucifixion of their Saviour who refused a violent solution to their perceived need. In the NT, this representation by believers continues, again, through the prevailing culture of war and human law systems based on rewards and punishments, and through false interpretation of the Scriptures. There is Satan, hiding behind all of it.

          • Timothy Arena

            Yes. “This is evidence of the righteous judgment of God, that you may be considered worthy of the kingdom of God, for which you are also suffering–
            6 since indeed God considers it just to repay with affliction those who afflict you,
            7 and to grant relief to you who are afflicted as well as to us, when the Lord Jesus is revealed from heaven with his mighty angels
            8 in flaming fire, inflicting vengeance on those who do not know God and on those who do not obey the gospel of our Lord Jesus.
            9 They will suffer the punishment of eternal destruction, away from the presence of the Lord and from the glory of his might.”
            (2Th 1:5-9 ESV)

  • Timothy Arena

    “The doctrines of grace and truth are not really understood by the larger
    number of our students and church members. Blindness of mind has
    happened to Israel. For human agents to misconstrue and put a forced,
    half truthful, and mystical construction upon the oracles of God, is an
    act which endangers their own souls, and the souls of others. “For I
    testify unto every man that heareth the words of the prophecy of this
    book. If any man shall add unto these things, God shall add unto him the
    plagues that are written in this book: and if any man shall take away
    from the words of the book of this prophecy, God shall take away his
    part out of the book of life, and out of the holy city, and from the
    things which are written in this book.” Revelation 22:18, 19.
    Those who, by their human construction, shall make the Scripture to
    utter that which Christ has never placed upon it, weaken its force,
    making the voice of God in instruction and warnings to testify
    falsehood, to avoid the inconvenience incurred by obedience to God’s
    requirements, have become signboards, pointing in the wrong direction,
    into false paths, which lead to transgression and death” FE 386

    • Scott Bennett

      Amen and amen! I wonder if this applies to Saint Anselm and those who follow Him?

  • Timothy Arena

    “Faith
    is the condition upon which God has seen fit to promise pardon to
    sinners; not that there is any virtue in faith whereby salvation is
    merited, but because faith can lay hold of the merits of Christ, the
    remedy provided for sin. Faith can present Christ’s perfect obedience
    instead of the sinner’s transgression and defection. When the sinner
    believes that Christ is his personal Saviour, then, according to His
    unfailing promises, God pardons his sin, and justifies him freely. The
    repentant soul realizes that his justification comes because Christ, as
    his substitute and surety, has died for him, is his atonement and
    righteousness. {1SM 366.3}“Abraham
    believed God, and it was counted unto him for righteousness. Now to him
    that worketh is the reward not reckoned of grace, but of debt. But to
    him that worketh not, but believeth on him that justifieth the ungodly,
    his faith is counted for righteousness” (Romans 4:3-5).
    Righteousness is obedience to the law. The law demands righteousness,
    and this the sinner owes to the law; but he is incapable of rendering
    it. The only way in which he can attain to righteousness is through
    faith. By faith he can bring to God the merits of Christ, and the Lord
    places the obedience of His Son to the sinner’s account. Christ’s
    righteousness is accepted in place of man’s failure, and God receives,
    pardons, justifies, the repentant, believing soul, treats him as though
    he were righteous, and loves him as He loves His Son. This is how faith
    is accounted righteousness; and the pardoned soul goes on from grace to
    grace, from light to a greater light. He can say with rejoicing, “Not by
    works of righteousness which we have done, but according to his mercy
    he saved us, by the washing of regeneration, and renewing of the Holy
    Ghost; which he shed on us abundantly through Jesus Christ our Saviour;
    that being justified by his grace, we should be made heirs according to
    the hope of eternal life” (Titus 3:5-7).{1SM 367

  • Brad Cole

    Hi Tim, I mean this with respect, but I don’t find it helpful to paste lengthy Bible verses and “zinger” EGW quotes. I have my own “home run” texts and EGW quotes and, if I wanted to, could also misuse the Bible to support everything from slavery, polygamy, using tithe money to buy alcohol, genocide on national enemies, that God laughs as he destroys his enemies, and that women should not speak in church. Ellen White could similarly be used in ways to make her appear ridiculous as some have done. I don’t think that it is helpful to throw all of our Bible verses and EGW quotes at each other. To use one of your verses as an example, I think that a much more helpful discussion would be, “Hebrews 10 talks about a ‘fearful expectation of judgment’. How does this fit with what you guys are saying?”

    Also, one other question. How familiar are you with the new perspectives on Paul by N.T. Wright, Richard Hays, J. Christiaan Beker, J. Louis Martyn and others. I have only read some of this, but recent scholarship outside of the SDA church is reaching interesting (and I think exciting) conclusions that I think are more supportive of what some of us are trying to communicate. In fact the cosmic conflict theme seems to be taking off more outside the SDA church than within. As I read Ellen White, she was a strong voice away from the emphasis on “me myself and I getting to heaven” (emphasis on personal salvation) and instead to a larger picture of the war in heaven theme and that Christ came to defeat the cosmic opponent. (John 12:31). I’ll paste this link for one of her clearest descriptions:

    http://text.egwwritings.org/publication.php?pubtype=Periodical&bookCode=ST&lang=en&year=1890&month=January&day=20

  • Timothy Arena

    I’m sorry that you don’t find Bible and Ellen White quotes to be helpful, Brad. I find them to be immensely helpful, and I can post them as much as like. I will not stop because you don’t find it helpful. 🙂 Of course we can talk about what they mean–that’s important. That’s the whole point of posting them. How DO they fit into what you are saying?–indeed. Until we come to terms with what is actually there, we won’t get very far.

    I’m happy to talk about what it all means, but it is difficult to take a viewpoint seriously when it explicitly denies what is consistently affirmed in Scripture. By the way, your list of things that you gave that the Bible is misused for can clearly be understood from contextual considerations and a thorough canonical study of the subjects in question. E.g. the Bible does refer to slavery–in certain contexts, but not in the sense that we usually understand slavery–the Hebrew slavery was usually more like indentured servants and employees. The Bible supports Israelite wars (in certain contexts) etc. The Bible does not support polygamy–rather it reports that people were polygamous and how awful the results were.

    It’s one thing to say, “Let’s explore what the Bible means by vengeance” or “Let’s explore what the Bible means by Jesus blood saving us from the wrath of God.” But when you say things like, “God does not take vengeance. God does not kill. God does not need atoning blood in order to forgive.” How can anyone who has read the Bible take such a view seriously when the Bible affirms all of those things repetedly from Genesis to Revelation? I’m all for exploring definitions, nuances, interpretations, etc. These are essential–but first we need to agree that all of these things are in the Bible and Ellen White. Why are they there if they are not true? Otherwise we could conclude that you are saying that the Bible gave us a false view, and God has waited until Graham Maxwell to reveal Himself in His true character.

    What I’m saying is that at the very least, the way the view being presented is not consistent with the language of Scripture or Ellen White. Jennings has at times tried to affirm the language Bible and Ellen White statements and then sought to reinterpret the usual meanings. I don’t have a problem with doing something like this per se. What I challenge about his approach is the inconsistency that emerges from his affirmations and denials, and that the redefinitions wind up removing any resemblance to the original language. Based on our previous exchanges, the points I would be interested in seeing an answer to are: Did God lie to us in the Bible about who He is, what He did, and how we are saved? Or is it rather that it wasn’t really God lying to us, but rather that the Bible is not an inspired source of truth? Why did He wait for Maxwell to reveal Himself? If these are not questions you think are relevant, then please explain. And yes, I will keep posting Bible and Ellen White quotes.

    • MrBadger

      Someone called you on your “tone” previously. If you want to know what they were talking about, reread this post.

      • Timothy Arena

        Hello MrBadger,

        I’m sorry you feel that way, and I apologize for anything I’ve said that is unkind. I have reread this post and I’d still like to know more specifically what the problem is. I can see that some of it might be considered strong by some, but is all of it bad? I don’t wish to have an offensive “tone” but in order to know what the problem is, I need you to tell me where I’ve said something problematic. Most of it is advocating for a position (Scriptural fidelity). I’ve found that many people find advocating for a position to be offensive and dislike the “tone” involved in making reasoned arguments for something, or more specifically pointing out the problems with someone else’s view. Barring this kind of thing (because I can’t see how this is either wrong or avoidable–the Bible writers and Jesus not only did this many times but counseled us to do the same), what did you have in mind? I appreciate your feedback.

        • Carmen

          “I’m sorry that you don’t find Bible and Ellen White quotes to be helpful,”

          “The original languages are truly important. That’s why we study them at the seminary.”

  • Timothy Arena

    “But God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the
    Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all
    reforms. The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the
    creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and
    discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the
    majority—not one nor all of these should be regarded as evidence for or
    against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or
    precept, we should demand a plain “Thus saith the Lord” in its support” {GC 595.

    • Scott Bennett

      Timothy, I’m concerned that you are not defending the Bible, but defending a fundamentalist view (your view) of the Bible actually claiming the prophets to be God’s pen rather than penmen. I agree with Ellen’s statement above, but for you to apply it here is no different that someone with a more liberal view applying it to your view and comparing you to a pharisee. There are thousands of Christian churches all claiming the Bible as their authority, yet they disagree with each other and much of what you believe. I think the issue here is much more complicated than “God said it, I believe it, and that’s good enough for me!”

      What degree of inaccuracy would you tolerate from the prophets and still consider them inspired. Could they have been told to pen an event and be allowed by God to express it from their own view considering their cultural paradigm or do you believe that the prophets were given the knowledge of everything before they wrote?

  • Timothy Arena

    “The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth
    around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood
    and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to
    Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of
    Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and
    regeneration, salvation and redemption—the Son of God uplifted on the
    cross” Ev 190.

    • Scott Bennett

      Amen!!!

    • Kevin Straub

      Amen. The cross reveals that in God’s wrath He did His face, did not move in to kill His Son.

  • Timothy Arena

    “The plan of salvation has been plainly revealed in the word of God, but the wisdom of the world has been sought too much, and the wisdom of Christ’s righteousness too little. And souls that might have rested in the love of Jesus, have been doubting, and troubled about many things.” {GW92

    • Scott Bennett

      Amen and amen!

  • Timothy Arena

    In this the love of God was made manifest among us, that God sent his only Son into the world, so that we might live through him.
    10 In this is love, not that we have loved God but that he loved us and sent his Son to be the propitiation for our sins. (1Jo 4:9-10 ESV)

    • Scott Bennett

      Amen and amen and amen. Imagine for a moment that God loves us so much that He sent Jesus down to propitiate Himself back to men. If He loves us so much why would His disposition need to be changed toward us? Because of our sins we separated from God and Jesus was sent to bring us back . . . to propitiate us back to the Father. Jesus did nothing to change God’s mind about us.

      Please allow me to paraphrase these texts: “God’s love was made known to us in sending His Son into the the world so that the world might live their lives in the knowledge of His love. This is real love. It’s not that we loved God, but that He love us and sent His Son to bring us into oneness with Him and heal the breach that sin caused.”

      In other words God made us love Him by showing us His love through Christ’s life and death. Thus fulfilling the fullness and intent of the Law in our hearts.

      • Timothy Arena

        The only way that the reconciliation can occur is through the propitiation. And yes, this does indeed awaken our love for God.

        “Since, therefore, we have now been justified by his blood, much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God.
        10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, now that we are reconciled, shall we be saved by his life.
        (Rom 5:9-10 ESV)

        “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself and gave us the ministry of reconciliation;
        19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them, and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation.
        20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God.
        21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin, so that in him we might become the righteousness of God.”
        (2Co 5:18-21 ESV)

        • Scott Bennett

          “Since, therefore, we have now been justified [set right in our understanding] by his blood [demonstration of His love revealed in His death], much more shall we be saved by him from the wrath of God [God leaving us to the consequences of our choices].
          10 For if while we were enemies we were reconciled to God [we made peace with God] by the death of his Son [because he showed us God’s extreme love for us], much more, now that we are reconciled [friends again], shall we be saved [put back together] by his life [the Holy Spirit living in us].

          (Rom 5:9-10 ESV)

          “All this is from God, who through Christ reconciled us to himself [made friend from His enemies] and gave us the ministry of reconciliation [telling others about His forgiveness and love];
          19 that is, in Christ God was reconciling [making friends out of enemies] the world to himself, not counting their trespasses against them [forgiving them], and entrusting to us the message of reconciliation [and giving us the privilege to share His forgiveness with others] .
          20 Therefore, we are ambassadors for Christ, God making his appeal through us. We implore you on behalf of Christ, be reconciled to God. [Stop being God’s enemy and make up]
          21 For our sake he made him to be sin who knew no sin [He came as a little baby human into Adam’s condemned family], so that in him we might become the righteousness of God [so we can have victory over hate and love like He loves].”
          (2Co 5:18-21 ESV)

          [brackets are me paraphrasing]

          • Timothy Arena

            Hello Scott,

            In the Greek and based on the context, there is no evidence for “justified” meaning “set right in our understanding.” The problem that humanity faces in condemnation by the Law of God (this is throughout the first three chapters of Romans, culminating in 3:19-20–guilt before a holy God. We need forgiveness and a right standing before God. “A right understanding” is important, to be sure, but it is insufficient. 4:5 says that God “justifies the ungodly” because they grasp the atonement of Christ by faith, not merely because they have a “right understanding.” The whole point of this section of Romans is that God’s righteousness is imputed to those who have faith in the atoning blood of Christ–which is the basis for our being justified.

            You are right that God’s wrath is a consequence of our choices, but this involves His action in both allowing and causing these consequences. The Bible speaks of both kinds of situations (as many of the posts have shown here). The reason we are saved from God’s wrath is because Jesus bore this wrath on the cross on our behalf.

            In your view, how did Jesus save us from God’s wrath?

  • Timothy Arena

    For the life of the flesh is in the blood, and I have given it for you on the altar to make atonement for your souls, for it is the blood that makes atonement by the life. (Lev 17:11 ESV)

    • Scott Bennett

      Christ’s blood is symbolic of giving His life to make at-one-ment, bring together, to reconcile the separation that sin caused between us and God. I would say that the blood of Christ represents the extent that God would go to reveal to us His love. Nothing would have ever been atoned without that demonstration of love. “But God demonstrated His love for us that while we were His enemies Christ died for the ungodly.” He shed his blood for those who hated Him.

      • Michael Younker

        “The law of God is changeless. For this reason, Christ died, taking upon himself the guilt of the transgressor, and making it possible for every penitent, repenting sinner to take hold of his strength, and through him to make peace with the offended Lawgiver.” ST July 29, 1886.

        “It was not a dread of the physical suffering he was soon to endure that brought this agony upon the Son of God. He was bearing the penalty of man’s transgression, and shuddering beneath the Father’s frown. He must not exert his Divine power to escape this agony, but, as a man, he must bear the consequences of man’s sin and the Creator’s displeasure toward his disobedient subjects,” EGW

        “The Captain of our salvation was perfected through suffering. His soul was made an offering for sin. It was necessary for the awful darkness to gather about His soul because of the withdrawal of the Father’s love and favor; for He was standing in the sinner’s place, and this darkness every sinner must experience. The righteous One must suffer the condemnation and wrath of God, not in vindictiveness; for the heart of God yearned with greatest sorrow when His Son, the guiltless, was suffering the penalty of sin. This sundering of the divine powers will never again occur throughout the eternal ages” (MS 93, 1899).

        • Scott Bennett

          Ellen sure had a penal view, didn’t she? Just like all her piers. But she made many statements that are non-penal and don’t fit into the penal view. Both Tim and Brad shared many of those with you. Statements that fly in the face of the penal view and even the idea that God destroys through a direct act. Do you believe she was wrong for veering off the penal path and starting a wave of believers who actually question the penal view? In fact I would guess that the reason your view is not the historical protestant penal view is because of her statements that don’t fit.

          • Timothy Arena

            Hi Scott,

            No. I for one accept the historical Protestant penal view as I understand it, and so did she. What statements did you have in mind that “fly in the face” of the penal view? As both Michael and I have noted, there is a problem here in setting up false dichotomies–unnecessary either/or questions. She understood and embraced the penal substitutionary atonement view, as you acknowledge. The other kinds of statements do not contradict this, but rather emphasize other complementary aspects of Christ’s death, or other aspects of God’s punishment. I don’t see these as contradictions, but rather as complementary facets or angles on the subjects in question.

          • Scott Bennett

            “I was shown that the judgments of God would not come directly out from the Lord upon them, but in this way: They place themselves beyond His protection. He warns, corrects, reproves, and points out the only path of safety; then, if those who have been the objects of His special care will follow their own course, independent of the Spirit of God, after repeated warnings, if they choose their own way, then He does not commission His angels to prevent Satan’s decided attacks upon them.” –Ellen White, LDE 242

            Timothy, would you call Ellen’s explanation of the “Judgments of God” a one time situation or is it possible that she is describing an unchanging principle?

          • Michael Younker

            If I may offer a response as well: I’m not sure! For “A single angel destroyed all the first-born of the Egyptians and filled the land with mourning. When David offended against God by numbering the people, one angel caused that terrible destruction by which his sin was punished. The same destructive power exercised by holy angels when God commands, will be exercised by evil angels when He permits. There are forces now ready, and only waiting the divine permission, to spread desolation everywhere.–GC 614 (1911).”

            It is in Satan’s interest to destroy the wicked when he can, because:
            “[Satan] held a council with his angels. He had prevailed nothing against the Son of God, and now they must increase their efforts and with their power and cunning turn to His followers. They must prevent all whom they could from receiving the salvation purchased for them by Jesus. By so doing Satan could still work against the government of God. Also it would be for his own interest to keep from Jesus as many as possible. For the sins of those who are redeemed by the blood of Christ will at last be rolled back upon the originator of sin, and he must bear their punishment, while those who do not accept salvation through Jesus will suffer the penalty of their own sins.” EW 178

          • Scott Bennett

            If that be the case then every minute of life that humans experience is because of God’s covering hand. In the end is it possible that those who side with Satan, being nothing more than pawns, are destroyed by him purposely out of spite? That would be a pretty harsh “punishment” to be killed by the one you believed in and worshiped and emulated his character. Especially since he just claimed to have resurrected them. Satan doesn’t have any human friends. He probably thinks we are all pretty pathetic.

          • Michael Younker

            Satan deserved instant death once he showed himself deserving of being kicked out of heaven. God didn’t do it for several reasons.

            I think the trick in our discussion is this: God did NOT have to die to simply establish trust. He also had to do it to show himself Just IF he chose to forgive Adam and Eve, which he chose to do because he is Loving. These are not incompatible ideas. But some seem to think they are.

            Let me explain. What if Adam and Eve had not been created or had not fallen? EGW reveals that Satan, for reasons unknown, had violated angelic laws that prohibited any forgiveness or reconciliation.

            The other good angels wondered what was going on… would God allow Satan to live indefinitely? How would Satan manifest his rebellion?

            Without man, how would God have reestablished “trust” in such a situation? By submitting to die at Satan’s hand?

            We don’t know the answers to such speculations. But I mention them to make a point. Mankind’s sin, and its peculiar nature, did allow forgiveness, granted that the price for the violation of law was paid, to honor His law before the universe. God also used the situation to the maximum, to reestablish trust, to demonstrate his loving nature, etc. by offering forgiveness to mankind. So God has “used” mankind as the battlefield upon which Satan would fully reveal himself, in killing our redeemer. But this doesn’t mean that God didn’t also require Christ’s death for the justice of His Law. Only God can see so many angels simultaneously. These multiple purposes are not incompatible.

          • Scott Bennett

            I’m having a little problem with the idea that we were created to solve the problem in heaven that Lucifer started. Unless, of course, the issue could have been solved without man sinning.

            If multiple views and purposes are not incompatible and the penal view has been the major focus of the Reformation churches for 600 years, to the point that God is so angry with men that He demanded Jesus experience physical torture equal to what the most evil man deserves in order to appease His wrath, would it be ok to focus on other views?

          • Michael Younker

            Thanks Scott,
            Right. I don’t believe we were created to solve Lucifer’s problem. But I’ve wondered if some of the ideas advanced here don’t force me to ask that question sincerely. No angel has ever died, that we know of. I don’t know if Angels can die without God’s active agency. Can Satan kill other dark angels or commit suicide? I don’t know. If he can’t, then we do have “a problem” with a purely passive God, that, unfortunately, a sinful humanity easily “solves,” as it allows God to die without dying (divinity can’t die: EGW).

            Why God “bore long” with Lucifer, and yet, after Satan was cast out of heaven, there was no redemption possible, are in striking contrast to the “tiny” sin of Eve (she was deceived!) that required her to die. It just doesn’t seem balanced. But I accept it for what the inspired writings say happened.

            On your final word, yes. I’ve had no problem letting the conversation flow. A difference that makes no difference… may be no difference…. But I hope I’ve made a case for why it’s not unforgivable to hold fast to a penal sort of view; it’s hardly indefensible from the inspired writings, and does not make God out to be a monster if properly balanced with God’s love, given there are many mysteries we but dimly understand, and the atonement is at the center of many of them.

            Blessings!

          • Kevin Straub

            I was wondering when someone would bring up the “single angel” quote.

            I have a paper on this and it is too much to write here. I’ll just say this. Read it in context, the before and after are instructive.

            The setting is that of the close of probation and the falling of the plagues and the zealotry of religious people seeking to exterminate
            God’s people. It is at this time that God’s strange act is manifest, which is shown by careful study to refer to God releasing or “giving over” the wicked to their fate.

            KEY: God releases the winds of destruction by sending instruction for the commanding angels to release their “hold” on the evil powers.

            He has no choice in the matter, for to stay in place any longer would be to force His will upon the wicked and continue to protect them from their dark lord. This is God’s command, to release, and it is how “holy angels” exercise “destructive power,” the same destructive power that is then exercised by the evil angels, by His permission. It is the same power. The holy angels release the power to be exercised by the evil angels. The evil powers are the forces standing by with bloodlust, “ready and waiting the Divine permission to spread desolation,” just as stated at the conclusion of this paragraph.

            This is a tremendous statement and we have to come at it from a knowledge of how God destroys and what the function of angels are. I do not believe for one second that holy angels kill nor that they have ever killed. God’s armies do not fight with carnal weapons, just as His kingdom banishes the use of every “carnal weapon” and every “instrument of coercion,” (AA 12.2).

            “At no period of time has man learned all that can be learned of the word of God. There are yet new views of truth to be seen, and much to be understood of the character and attributes of God…” FE 444.2

          • Timothy Arena

            Hi Scott,

            In regard to your question about the LDE quote being a “unchanging principle” or a “one time situation”: I would say it is neither. There have been, are, and will be more than “one time” when God removes His protection and allows Satan to attack. And I cannot accept this passage either as a “universal principle” because there are many other times when the same writer affirms that God has acted directly upon people in judgment. This is why Ellen White can write something like this: “The same destructive power exercised by holy angels when God commands, will be exercised by evil angels when He permits” GC 614.

            God is the sovereign of the universe. He is the one who determines how much will be permitted in terms of Satan’s involvement, His own protection, its removal, or active judgement. The Bible and Ellen White affirm cases of all of the above, and indeed, we may not always be able to tell which one is involved in any given situation. But there are enough clear examples of each in the Bible and Ellen White to show that all of these options are used by the Lord.

          • Kevin Straub

            They are not complementary when they are incompatible.

          • Kevin Straub

            Rather than amassing two sets of contradictory quotes to lob at each other, or to separate wrath into categories “active” and “passive,” or to say that sometimes holy angels destroy and sometimes God prefers to let evil angels do it, I believe it is better to take the route of harmonization. We need to be able to take the keys that define Divine wrath clearly (Divine recession) and apply them to apparent instances of active wrath. For Ellen wrote unequivocal statements at the same time as using the language of active wrath.

            “I was shown that the judgments of God would not come directly out from the Lord upon them, but in this way: They place themselves beyond His protection. He warns, corrects, reproves, and points out the only path of safety; then if those who have been the objects of His special care will follow their own course independent of the Spirit of God, after repeated warnings, if they choose their own way, then He does not commission His angels to prevent Satan’s decided attacks upon them” (14MR 3.1).

            “God does not stand toward the sinner as an executioner of the sentence against transgression; but He leaves the rejectors of His mercy to themselves, to reap that which they have sown…. The Spirit of God, persistently resisted, is at last withdrawn from the sinner, and then there is left no power to control the evil passions of the soul, and no protection from the malice and enmity of Satan. The destruction of Jerusalem is a fearful and solemn warning to all who are trifling with the offers of divine grace and resisting the pleadings of divine mercy. Never was there given a more decisive testimony to God’s hatred of sin and to the certain punishment that will fall upon the guilty” (GC 36.1).
            Then there are the references to the “fire unquenchable” or the “quenchless fire” which are clearly not physical fires nor any other kind of physical punishment imposed by God.
            We must use these to interpret the others and not get caught up in this false duality, or we are right back to the dark misapprehension of God that was blinding the minds of the ancients to the true God. Stated another way, we must rely upon the plain language to interpret the obviously symbolic: “worm that dieth not,” “chains of darkness,” “fire that will not be quenched,” “smoke that ascends for ever,” etc.

          • Timothy Arena

            Hello Kevin,

            It is not harmonization when one set of passages is used to completely contradict or cancel out the meaning of other passages. God’s choosing to manifest His glory to consume the wicked at the end of time (GC 37) is still God’s own act, without which the wicked would continue to live longer. They do destroy themselves in one sense–they reject God. But God is the One who decides (in various instances) when to either a. remove His protection or b. reveal His glory which kills, or c. more directly send punishment. These are complimentary, not contradictory. One of these descriptions or instances does not cancel the others out.

          • Kevin Straub

            Timothy, God’s glory is specifically defined consistently as His character. It is not blinding sheets of flesh-disrupting energy. Also, the “name” of God is His character. As you read the Scriptures, keep this in mind, when you see “glory” and when you see “name.”

            It is true that we do not use one set of passages to cancel the other. I detest the idea of “balancing” statements. This is just an excuse made by a debater to discount what the other is bringing forward. It all has to work together. That is why I have issued the challenge of “Righteous Evil.”

            I believe that God destroys by removing protection, yes. I also believe it is by revealing His glory. Inspiration declares that “gospel truth ruins if it does not save.” This is how His glory destroys. I believe God sends punishment but not by the direct wielding of weapons of mass destruction.

            “Then shall they that obey not the gospel be consumed with the spirit of his mouth, and be DESTROYED WITH THE BRIGHTNESS OF HIS COMING. [2 Thessalonians 2:8.] LIKE ISRAEL OF OLD, the wicked destroy themselves; they fall by their iniquity. By a life of sin, they have placed themselves so out of harmony with God, their natures have become so debased with evil, that the manifestation of his glory is to them a consuming fire” (GC88 37.2).
            Don’t be so enamored of institutionalized higher learning that you can’t see the truth. 🙂

        • Kevin Straub

          The recession of Divine light is the realization of the Father’s frown, the equivalent of wrath:

          “As the Son of God bowed in the attitude of prayer in the Garden of Gethsemane, the agony of His spirit forced from His pores sweat like great drops of blood. It was here that the horror of great darkness surrounded Him. The sins of the world were upon Him. He was suffering in man’s stead as a transgressor of His Father’s law. Here was the scene of temptation. The divine light of God was receding from His vision, and He was passing into the hands of the powers of darkness. In His soul anguish He lay prostrate on the cold earth. He was realizing His Father’s frown. He had taken the cup of suffering from the lips of guilty man, and proposed to drink it Himself, and in its place give to man the cup of blessing. The wrath that would have fallen upon man was now falling upon Christ. It was here that the mysterious cup trembled in His hand” (AG 169.2).

          • Scott Bennett

            Kevin, I’ve thought before about what Jesus went through. In my mind Jesus was born “born again”. In other words He was never separated from the Father through His whole life. We are born separated from God and from the minute we are born the devil finds someone to tell us that we are better than everyone else or that we aren’t worth a nickle. Either way he deceives us. Then when one sees God and falls in love we call it being born again. What Christ suffered, the separation from the Father must have been quite a shock. Christ really did affiliate with our sinful predicament right before the cross. He became like us in every way. God had to remove His protection from Jesus in order for Jesus to be taken and killed similar to every man who has died, but more like the punishment of the wicked in the end. With God’s presence withdrawn I’ll bet this old world won’t take long to self-destruct.

  • Timothy Arena

    Therefore not even the first covenant was inaugurated without blood.
    19 For when every commandment of the law had been declared by Moses to all the people, he took the blood of calves and goats, with water and scarlet wool and hyssop, and sprinkled both the book itself and all the people,
    20 saying, “This is the blood of the covenant that God commanded for you.”
    21 And in the same way he sprinkled with the blood both the tent and all the vessels used in worship.
    22 Indeed, under the law almost everything is purified with blood, and without the shedding of blood there is no forgiveness of sins.
    (Heb 9:18-22 ESV)

    Thus it was necessary for the copies of the heavenly things to be purified with these rites, but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these.
    24 For Christ has entered, not into holy places made with hands, which are copies of the true things, but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God on our behalf.
    25 Nor was it to offer himself repeatedly, as the high priest enters the holy places every year with blood not his own,
    26 for then he would have had to suffer repeatedly since the foundation of the world. But as it is, he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to put away sin by the sacrifice of himself.
    (Heb 9:23-26 ESV)

    • Scott Bennett

      Questions:
      Did God require the blood of bulls and goat to appease His wrath or were they a symbolic prophecy of Jesus?

      Was God requiring Israel to kill the animals as a payment for redemption or as a symbol of Jesus?

      Did God require Jesus to shed His blood to appease His wrath or to demonstrate His love?

      Was Christ blood a payment to satisfy God’s wrath or was it the payment God gave to satisfy the lies about His character to win our trust?

      Could I say that the animals were symbols of one who would come down from heaven and demonstrate His love through his death?

      • Michael Younker

        Tim can share his own take, but my answers:
        Both, God took the blood in the Most Holy place very seriously.
        Both,
        Both,
        Both,
        Yes.
        🙂
        Please check out Richard Davidson’s work on typology, and Roy Gane’s work on Leviticus. Two of our top scholars on these issues at the Andrews SDA Seminary.

        • Timothy Arena

          Yes, indeed. My thoughts exactly.

          • Brad Cole

            I am surprised that you would both agree with the word “appease”. EGW says that appeasement was the false understanding of the OT sacrificial system. Appeasement is a hallmark of paganism. Am I reading your answers correctly here?

          • Michael Younker

            Depends on how the word appease is used: for our works, or Christ’s work. EGW says both, using the word in different ways. We cannot appease God, as we are guilty. Christ could appease God with his offering, because he was not guilty:

            So yes, EGW says “Such a conception of God was never given to the world by any religion but that of the Bible. Heathenism teaches men to look upon the Supreme Being as an object of fear rather than of love–a malign deity to be appeased by sacrifices, rather than a Father pouring upon His children the gift of His love. . . .”

            However, in EW (1882) p51, she also wrote of the wicked “I heard an angel ask, “Who of the family of Adam have passed the flaming sword and have partaken of the tree of life?” I heard another angel answer, “Not one of Adam’s family has passed that flaming sword and partaken of that tree; therefore there is not an immortal sinner. The soul that sinneth it shall die an everlasting death–a death that will last forever, from which there will be no hope of a resurrection; and then the wrath of God will be appeased.”

            Lastly “Adam gladly received the welcome assurance of deliverance, and diligently instructed his children in the way of the Lord. This promise was presented in close connection with the altar of sacrificial offerings. The altar and the promise stand side by side, and one casts clear beams of light upon the other, showing that the justice of an offended God could be appeased only by the death of his beloved Son. The bleeding victim consuming on the altar illustrated Adam’s teachings, and thus the sight of the eyes deepened the impression made by the hearing of the ear.” ST Dec 23, 1886

            Christ suffered the “wrath of God” for us in the latter sense.

          • Brad Cole

            God appeased himself? It sounds that God was furious with me and vented this on another member of the God-head.

          • Timothy Arena

            God Himself in Christ paid the penalty which He had established The Lawgiver suffered for His own broken Law. All of the Trinity felt the pain of the propitiation. “God Himself was crucified with Christ; for Christ was one with the Father” 5BC 1108. “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 Cor. 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” 7ABC 472. Often the caricatures presented of penal substitution involve a lack of taking into account these Trinitarian realities. Also, God’s wrath and ours are not exactly the same. Again, there must be some correspondence, otherwise the words used would be meaningless. But God’s wrath is not irrational, uncontrolled rage as our human wrath often is.

          • Timothy Arena

            She usually uses “appeasement” in a negative sense (excepting the above quote), but often uses “propitiation” (a biblical term) frequently and positively. The idea is one of God’s just wrath being satisfied by means an atoning sacrifice.

            E.g. “He planted the cross between earth and heaven, and between divinity and
            humanity; and as the Father beheld the cross, He was satisfied. He said,
            “It is enough, the offering is complete.” God and man may be
            reconciled. Those who have lived in rebellion against God, may become
            reconciled, if as they see the cross, they become repentant, and accept
            the great propitiation that Christ has
            made for their sins. In the cross they see that “mercy and truth have
            met together; righteousness and peace have kissed each other” (The Signs of the Times, September 30, 1889

          • Timothy R. Jennings

            This has been so helpful in distinguishing the roots of the two views and it really comes down to:

            “The last great conflict between truth and error is but the final struggle of the long-standing controversy concerning the LAW of God. Upon this battle we are now entering–a battle between the LAWS of MEN and the precepts of Jehovah, between the religion of the Bible and the religion of fable and tradition. {GC 582.2}

            How do we see God’s law, and thus the lawgiver – as we represent God as Creator and Designer and His law the protocols for life

            OR

            Do we see God’s law as a mixture of Design law and laws made by created beings.

            Penal views present God’s moral law operationally and functionally has no different than created beings make, “arbitrary” rules by the one in charge.

            We present God’s moral law as the protocols for life.

            As one views the appeasement comments by EGW the conclusion one draws is completely dictated by how one views God’s law and therefore God.

            If one views it through worldly law then one concludes God is mad at sinners and will lash and destroy them unless a payment of significant proportion is done to mollify is anger.

            In the Design view we realize the only thing that appeases God is fixing what got broken. What would truly appease the parents of the tragic Newtown shooting – punishing the shooter, or resurrecting and restoring their children? Take just a moment and consider the anger, rage, heartache of those parents as they saw their precious little ones murdered – and then considered their reaction had Jesus shown up and resurrected and restored their children?

            Why is the precious blood of Jesus the only thing that appeases God? Because, as I demonstrated from inspired sources, the blood is SYMBOLIC of His perfect life and the truth. In Christ the truth about God was perfectly revealed and God is satisfied and humanity was RESTORED back to perfection in Jesus and God is “satisfied” to have His creation cleansed and renewed in Jesus!

            But, if one accepts the lie about God’s law then one misrepresents the true meaning of these passages, perpetuates the long struggle between the laws of man and God.

          • Michael Younker

            Herein is the crux of the matter, yes. EGW refers to different “laws adapted to their natures,” meaning the different “beings” of reality. (humans, trees). I fear your designer-ism makes men like trees. Can trees disobey? So it is true that “God has ordained laws for the government not only of all living beings, but of all the operations of nature. Everything, whether great or small, animate or inanimate, is under fixed laws which cannot be disregarded.” But are living beings and inanimate beings subjected to the same “kinds” of laws? No. Moral law is not natural law, even though, God, in His wisdom, subjugates mankind to both for his well-being. We are dirt, after all! But dirt with a miracle; for the “mind in action is like the miracle-working power of God.”

            I see your opening quote from GC in a very different way. This is setting up the Sabbath – Sunday conflict; man’s will against God’s will. It is not the difference in the manner of the law, but in what the content of the law is. Satan has inspired man to “change” God’s law, not modify the nature of a moral law for higher intelligences itself (insects are exempt). IF Satan had the power to do this, he would be right to punish Sabbath-keepers, just as under the Jewish theocracy in which God ruled, God punished non-Sabbath keepers.

            The primary, and most troubling, aspect of living in sin is that it is not that we are simply 1) ‘naturally-consequentially’ spiraling toward death, but that 2) we, outside of the Spirit of God, have no real freedom (2 Cor 3:17) although we do have derivative freedom, and thus 3) we as humans are under Satan’s power and whim, ultimately unable to resist his will, and thus, seek to punish those that obey God.

            This point is important: Sin is not simply self-destructive, but active in its desire to work against God’s will, not merely directly (power vs power), but in its desire to drag down others (misery loves company). Those in a state of sin have ‘desires.’ This is a human-personality driven concept that appears outside of your description. Satan, too, is a personality, sin is never disembodied or de-personalized. That may be another weakness of how I see your view. The study of nature alone will not reveal this; only a study of humans and personalities will.

            God Himself, while not “human,” nevertheless created mankind in His “image.” Thus, I’m uncomfortable with the suggestion that God is not a personality, and that His laws do not serve as the origin of the laws He inspired on earth–“human laws”. Of course there are subtle differences, but the overwhelming picture Scripture/SoP paints is of their parallelism, not difference. Just read some of EGW’s articles as a whole: God is presented as very much “person-like.” God is a Person. His laws are for people, not simply deterministic natural-laws that evidence design ‘because of’ their interwoven harmony.

            This is the most troubling part of viewing nature’s “deterministic” design as the paradigm for moral law. We are tempted to offer “fixes” to people, because we “know better.” You’re suffering from xyz ailment? Here’s the medicine that will fix the “imbalance.” You made a startling statement in your other post, that violating moral laws has neuroscientific results. For some, yes (like murdering lots of people), but for the Sabbath? I would enjoy seeing this evidence! What if someone believes in Sunday as the Sabbath?

            Were there unavoidable ‘natural’ consequences to Adam & Eve’s fall? Depends on how you compare natural and moral law! And what do you mean by arbitrary? The fruit was not poisonous.

            “A compassionate God gave no severe test, no strong temptation that would tax human endurance beyond the power to resist. The fruit itself was harmless. If God had not forbidden Adam and Eve to partake of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, their action in taking it would not have been sinful. Up to the moment of God’s prohibition, Adam might have eaten of the fruit of that tree without realizing any harm. But after God had said, ‘Thou shalt not eat,’ the act became a crime of great magnitude. Adam had disobeyed God. In this was his sin. The very fact that Adam’s trial was small, made his sin exceeding great. God tested him in that which was least, to prove him; and with the prohibition he stated that the punishment consequent upon his disobedience would be death. If Adam could not bear this smallest of tests to prove his loyalty, he surely could not have endured a stronger trial had he been taken into closer relationship with God, to bear higher responsibilities. He evidenced that God could not trust him; should he be exposed to Satan’s more determined attacks, he would signally fail.” {ST, January 23, 1879 par. 14}

            The entire great controversy theme, and the personalized nature of it, as well as the multi-level nature of it (Angelic realm, earthly realm), testifies to a more complex picture that simply designer-ism that is inspired by nature.

            So, no, I disagree. Justice for victims of crime requires punishment of the one who did the crime. Remember, sin is not universal in its reign; only here on earth. The rest of the universe is watching, wondering if God will honor His Law. It’s not just for God’s honor, but the safety of the unfallen beings. What got “broken” was not just that Adam began a spiral toward death (see the EGW quotes in this post) but that God couldn’t trust Adam. God couldn’t trust his creation! Trust is a multi-way relationship. God, saints, fallen.

            Why doesn’t God just “resurrect” those that die? As I’ve seen friends play computer games in which this can happen, I’ve realized something that works against your thesis. God could have just said, whenever someone dies, I’ll just resurrect them a few days later in another part of the galaxy (like in some popular computer games) at a “resurrection point.” But this is not the way God and personhood works. It’s not the way justice works, it’s not the way law works. Remember, it is not just restoration, but reconciliation, that is important here.

            It is not wrong for someone that has been the victim of a crime to expect the criminal “punished fairly.” You see, the problem of it all is that what happens when you lose a friend that you know was ‘not’ right with God? Their chance is lost forever to become ‘right’ with God. Someone must pay for this tragic loss. Importantly, victims are not always innocent on earth. We don’t know, so we have to implement justice in a “less than perfect” way. But God’s patience is working it out so that justice will be perfect.

            EGW:
            “Adam and Eve were informed that they must lose their Eden home. They had yielded to Satan’s deception, and believed that God would lie. By their transgression they had opened a way for Satan to gain access to them more readily, and it was not safe for them to remain in the garden of Eden, lest in their state of sin they gain access to the tree of life, and perpetuate a life of sin. They entreated to be permitted to remain, although they acknowledged that they had forfeited all right to blissful Eden. They promised that they would in the future yield implicit obedience to God. They were informed that in their fall from innocence to guilt, they had gained no strength, but great weakness. They had not preserved their integrity while they were in a state of holy, happy innocence, and they would have far less strength to remain true and loyal in a state of conscious guilt. At these words the unhappy pair were filled with keenest anguish and remorse. They now realized that the penalty of sin was death. {ST, January 23, 1879 par. 12}

            “It was Satan’s studied plan that Adam and Eve should disobey God, receive his frown, and then partake of the tree of life, that they might perpetuate a life of sin. But holy angels were immediately commissioned to guard the way to the tree of life. Around these angels flashed beams of light on every side, which had the appearance of glittering swords. {ST, January 23, 1879 par. 13}

            “Many regard the punishment of Adam’s transgression as too severe a penalty for so small a sin. The enemy of all righteousness has blinded the eyes of sinners, so that sin does not appear sinful. Their standard of what constitutes sin is vastly different from God’s standard. Should those who regard Adam’s sin as a matter of very small consequence look a little deeper, they would see the great mercy of God in giving Adam the smallest possible test.” EGW

          • Michael Younker

            EGW:
            “Adam and Eve were informed that they must lose their Eden home. They had yielded to Satan’s deception, and believed that God would lie. By their transgression they had opened a way for Satan to gain access to them more readily, and it was not safe for them to remain in the garden of Eden, lest in their state of sin they gain access to the tree of life, and perpetuate a life of sin. They entreated to be permitted to remain, although they acknowledged that they had forfeited all right to blissful Eden. They promised that they would in the future yield implicit obedience to God. They were informed that in their fall from innocence to guilt, they had gained no strength, but great weakness. They had not preserved their integrity while they were in a state of holy, happy innocence, and they would have far less strength to remain true and loyal in a state of conscious guilt. At these words the unhappy pair were filled with keenest anguish and remorse. They now realized that the penalty of sin was death. {ST, January 23, 1879 par. 12}

            “It was Satan’s studied plan that Adam and Eve should disobey God, receive his frown, and then partake of the tree of life, that they might perpetuate a life of sin. But holy angels were immediately commissioned to guard the way to the tree of life. Around these angels flashed beams of light on every side, which had the appearance of glittering swords. {ST, January 23, 1879 par. 13}

            “Many regard the punishment of Adam’s transgression as too severe a penalty for so small a sin. The enemy of all righteousness has blinded the eyes of sinners, so that sin does not appear sinful. Their standard of what constitutes sin is vastly different from God’s standard. Should those who regard Adam’s sin as a matter of very small consequence look a little deeper, they would see the great mercy of God in giving Adam the smallest possible test.” EGW

          • Timothy R. Jennings

            Michael, thank you for the discussion, but this response is evidence that what I am saying is not being heard – so I find it fruitless to continue. Specifically, if you understood even the least of what I teach you would know that I teach sin has evil desires that pervert our being and fight against God and His plans and methods. You would know that I am a strong Trinitarian and absolutely teach that God has His own individuality/identity/personality etc.

            So, what I have learned from this blog experience, is that you and Timothy Arena have issues in your understanding of my view – but yet do not comprehend my view. In other words, you attribute many ideas to me that do not exist but worse, seem incapable or unwilling to actually give real understanding to what I am saying. Truly sad for someone in higher education of our church.

          • Michael Younker

            Thanks Tim, likewise, thanks for your very patient explanations! I’m comfortable with leaving unresolved misunderstandings. I have tried to grasp not only your views, but also to jump ahead to what I see as its implications.

            I trust the bare minimum of your view I have grasped correctly is that God never actively punishes; sin has its own consequences.

            On the one hand, this sounds good. But it doesn’t match what I see as a very complex body of inspired evidence. As one that is studying higher education (in the areas of systematics and philosophy), I do see some logical trouble spots. For the sake of the corporate body, and the minds of those outside, I try fairly to weigh the benefits and pitfalls of any idea. I’m seeking to be faithful to both Scripture/SoP in full. I take that commitment seriously.

            I do fully accept you offer them as a perceived aid to your fellow Christians (SDA and non alike) and a framework that you see as offering some evangelistic help to other nonbelievers.

            Blessings!

          • Michael Younker

            I edited out the comments on sinful desires prior to seeing your reply. It was leading down an alternate logical pathway that I didn’t complete in that post. I have no doubt of your views on this. But how they intersect in your views was raising another question in my mind. Blessings! 🙂

        • Scott Bennett

          So you teach:
          Because man transgressed God’s law He require the blood of bulls and goat to appease His wrath and required Israel to kill the animals as a payment for redemption as a prophecy of a time when Jesus would come to shed blood as a payment to God to appease His wrath. And if you don’t accept His love He’ll kill you.

          But you agree with:
          Man sinned because he believed Satan’s lies about God’s character so God promised to send a Savior who would set men right by teaching the truth of His character and demonstrate it with His life and even give His life to demonstrate His love. He taught us about this promised gift through a system of symbols and types that pointed out the consequences of sin and the trustworthiness, forgiveness, mercy, and love of God through Jesus’ life and death that would dispel all the lies and win much of humanity trust. What more could God do, but some still believe the lies even at the warning that God will not forever protect them from their choices.

          So why do you teach the former when the only people in the world who care are theologians, attorneys, priests, and those who would strain a gnat out of their soup so as not to eat unclean foods. Maybe that is exactly why Jesus came because the religious leaders had stolen the good new from them and hid the very simplicity of God’s love from them shrouded in many lofty words.

        • Scott Bennett

          I’ve read some of Roy Gane’s work on the sanctuary, but not Davidson.

  • Michael Younker

    No posts (to my knowledge) have been removed. We have recently discovered apparent glitches relating to what service people are using to post their messages, with some being stuck in the “pending” message box, but we’ve approved all posts when we’ve seen them.

    I have noticed that some messages seem to get buried, or not appear unless the page is refreshed, etc.

    Concerning your comment, how do you deal with Uzzah? Ananias and Sapphira? Even EGW elaborates on on David’s shock at God’s behavior, recorded in Scripture. She doesn’t “interpret it away,” but leaves it plain. She does say, however, that an “angel who attended the ark struck” did it, not God directly.

    I’m not sure about the “war in heaven.” EGW indicates there was an angelic “struggle.” The English is not well translated there in Jude 1:6. They “kept not their first estate” KJV is better. They were “cast out.”

    EGW refers several times to good angels “fighting” against bad angels/people. “The Father decides the case of Satan, and declares that he must be turned out of heaven for his daring rebellion, and that all those who united with him in his rebellion should be turned out with him. Then there was war in heaven. Christ and His angels fought against Satan and his angels, for they were determined to remain in heaven with all their rebellion. But they prevailed not. Christ and loyal angels triumphed, and drove Satan and his rebel sympathizers from heaven.” (3SG 38).

    Afterwards, moping in defeat, we read Interestingly, “if they [Satan and his fallen angels] could gain access to the tree of life in the midst of the garden, their strength would, they thought, be equal to that of the holy angels, and even God Himself could not expel them.” 1SP31

    So I’m not sure about the whole issue of “physics and angels.” Satan has certainly “thought” he had a chance… because God is so restrained in displaying his absolute power!

    • Kevin Straub

      I do not believe angels destroy in any way other than God destroys. God stands down, hides His face. The chain of command is for angels to stand aside and let the forces of chaos and destruction bear sway, whether angels, humans, or nature. The role of angels is ever to protect and sustain. The language of wrath also depicts the activity of angels. The “destroying angel,” therefore would be the angel that gives the command for the sentinel angels to release their hold on the winds. However, sometimes the destroying angel is literally the destroyer. I do not believe a holy angel takes lives. Again, we find instance where angels are said to do a thing, but we know what happened. We are told that in the destruction of the temple in A.D 70 that “angels of God” razed the building so that one stone was not left upon another. We know that it was the rage of the Roman soldiers under Titus that did this. In the immediate context of this statement, she is talking about the big buildings of modern times that will come down, in direct comparison with the temple. By the same token, then, we can with exegetical correctness declare that the twin towers were thrown down by angels of God.

  • Larry Ashcraft

    (having problems with Disqus; please disregard if this post appears twice)

    Gentlemen,

    If we all take a few steps backward from this conversation about at-one-ment with God, and God’s wrath, realizing that the quotes and passages we’re sharing have all been seen and pondered considerably by each, it’s a little presumptuous to think that one’s articulation of how they see it all fitting together will somehow give the others a light bulb moment, allowing them to consider something that they’ve never entertained before. We all have reviewed the evidence. We all have sided with a viewpoint that we see makes the most sense when considering the evidence. We all should realize that there is evidence that can be interpreted to support the other person’s view.

    I’ve been actively rolling this specific issue over in my thoughts for over three decades. Some have been doing it for much, much longer. To be quoting something, as if to say, “The most casual observer should be able to figure this out,” is less than becoming to any of us.

    I assume that Timothy Arena is going to tell us all in the next installment, why any deviation from his perspective is a terminal condition for one’s relationship with God. And if a deviation isn’t terminal, then I’m sure he’s going to justify his concern about all this. Most certainly, it has to be a little more than, “See-I’m right and you’re wrong,” else why create all the unrest? James White and Uriah Smith both sided with Arius on the non-divinity of Christ until their deaths, yet EGW didn’t go ballistic over the matter. Her Christ-like restraint sets an example for us all.

    One thing definitely needs to be acknowledged: precious few are ever going to read articles like these, and even fewer are going to scroll down, reading dozens of pages of remarks like I’m contributing to right now. With that realization, let’s temper our zeal just a little as we imagine ourselves championing God’s cause like a watchman on the wall, lest we snub the Still, Small Voice that speaks within each of us. Let’s also humbly acknowledge that the primary person that each is aiming to convince is ones self.

  • Brad Cole

    Hi Tim,

    It seems to me that the most unique and treasured view of Ellen White is the cosmic conflict story. She was first and foremost given a story, not a list of doctrinal truths. As I read Ellen White, the primary story that I hear is about a war in heaven and an Adversary whose
    primary motive is to malign God’s character, and about how God in human form came to defeat the cosmic opponent and to rescue all of us who have been deceived. I hear you and others say “we affirm what you affirm…” but yet, is this the primary storyline as you understand it or merely one of many points of truth?

    This article by Ellen White is not an isolated quote but a concise description of what I see as her dominant theme. I’d love it if you would read it:

    http://tinyurl.com/n7qyxve

    I think that it is a mistake to dismiss all of this talk as a Graham Maxwell heresy. Many of the individuals are who most eloquent on this view have never heard of Graham Maxwell. Others have shown that this cosmic conflict story with an emphasis on God’s character was the dominant theme of the early Christian church prior to Constantine. Outside the SDA church, individuals like Greg Boyd and Brian Zahnd espouse the same basic message yet with new and growing insights. N.T. Wright also writes beautifully on the larger picture of the atonement that Paul describes. I view this as a work of the Spirit, but that is just my opinion. I would suggest to read widely and to consider what these individuals have to say. For me personally, these people outside the SDA church have helped me to appreciate the core message of EGW and the distinctive story that she has to tell.

    Finally, I think that our primary method of evangelism is to speak (and especially to live
    out) the truth in love and to allow others to freely make up their own minds. Love and Truth does the cutting, not calling out names and pointing out the heretics. Write articles and preach on God’s wrath, justice, punishment, penal substitutionary atonement, and the importance of understanding these things correctly. My suggestion is to spread what you see as the good news and continue to understand these things more deeply.

    Blessings on your journey, Tim.

  • Brad Cole

    Hi Tim and Michael,

    I posted this in the thread on appeasement but for some reason it doesn’t show up. So, I’m putting it here. Sorry if this is a duplication.

    To my knowledge, Ellen White never spoke of the wrath of God as being appeased in her later writings. I know that this opens the door for some maturity with regards to Ellen White, but I think a good case can be made for this. Below is a quote from an excellent series by Alden Thompson called, “From Sinai to Golgotha”. I would be happy to share the entire series in electronic format if anyone is interested:

    “5. The love of the Father for sinners.

    In the first two accounts, Christ is clearly the friend of sinners, but the wrath of the Father still burns. Thus Jesus explains that He is willing to “stand between the wrath of His Father and guilty man” (Spiritual Gifts, Vol. I, 23; The Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. I, 46; italics supplied). Only in Patriarchs and Prophets does Ellen White integrate John 3:16 into the story, thus emphasizing the love not only of the Son but of the Father, as well. Accordingly, instead of describing Christ’s role as shielding the sinner from the wrath of His Father, Patriarchs and Prophets states that Christ was willing to “stand between the sinner and the penalty of sin” (p. 64; italics supplied). Sin loses none of its offensiveness, however, for it must still “separate the Father and His Son” (p. 63.). But the important thing is that the sinner can now see the friendly face of God not only in the Son but also in the Father.”

    My conviction is that it is not God who demands a price, but rather this is the demand of sin-sick humanity which can be traced back to pagan conceptions of God. Rebellion against God has warped the human mind such that an angry image is projected onto the One who is love and forgiveness personified. But, God has graciously met those who hold to this view and meets them where they are.

    Perhaps the greatest action we can take as humans is to receive offense and yet still forgive with no demands for painful penalties to be imposed on those who have wronged us. This is what we see at the Cross. Jesus forgave his tormentors. Many of those I would assume will not be in the here-after yet, from a “legal” perspective, they were forgiven. We see this also just before the 40 years wandering where God said in Numbers that “I forgive them” but that didn’t change their rebellious hearts. They were forgiven rebels in good legal standing – – if forgiveness were the thing that stands in the way. But it isn’t! God forgives lavishly – that is not the issue. Rather, the question is this: has the forgiveness/kindness of God led us to repentence?

    • Michael Younker

      White’s evolution in her style and themes (and minor factual errors) is a field of study with which we must indeed be careful and thoughtful. I’m not sure if ~1886 is part of her “earlier” or “later” writings; she uses appease in this year, and uses the phrase “wrath of God” in the 1911 GC. I still see a greater unity in her writings than some. Truth and history should not be separated too much. I’m not sure those statements are incompatible, but complementary.

      Yes, the Cross demonstrates the tension perfectly; Christ suffered the penalty of sin while forgiving His tormentors. However, no, they were not “legally” forgiven at all, I would suggest, if they are not in heaven, to follow your flow (there is a temporary forgiveness and a permanent one; if I forgive my friend for stealing yesterday, that doesn’t mean I don’t have to forgive him again if he steals tomorrow; this is why EGW talks about justification being something that we must re-do everytime we sin! Justification and sanctification are both the “work of a lifetime” in this sense). God cannot forgive without obeying the law, that’s why He was on that Cross!

      The wrath of god and forgiveness go hand-in-hand. God could not forgive “freely” without paying the price for sin; this is what gives Christ the power to forgive. “… [Christ has] offered in man’s behalf a complete sacrifice to God. By virtue of this atonement, He has power to offer to man perfect righteousness and full salvation.” (RH April 18, 1893).

      • Brad Cole

        Hi Michael,

        Of course the “wrath of God” is Biblical and thus it’s not surprising that EGW spoke much of this. The question we are discussing is what this looks like in action.

        I have much to say about your post, but I am going to bow out of the discussion at least for a while. I would say that the “Servant God” book goes into all of this in so much detail and I don’t feel that a few sentences in reply will satisfy. I’ll just add this in closing.

        The pagans thought that the gods needed to be appeased by the death of the first born. This would suggest to me that the intuition of paganism is correct, but that doesn’t sound right.

        Although I advised against lobbying bomb quotes, I can’t help but sharing this one that I love:

        “Heathenism teaches men to look upon the Supreme Being as an object of fear rather than of love—a malign deity to be appeased by sacrifices, rather than a Father pouring upon His children the gift of His love. Even the people of Israel had become so blinded to the precious teaching of the prophets concerning God that this
        revelation of His paternal love was as an original subject, a new gift to the world.{MB 74.1} The Jews held
        that God loved those who served Him,—according to their view, those who fulfilled the requirements of the rabbis,—and that all the rest of the world lay under His frown and curse. Not so, said Jesus; the whole world, the evil and the good, lies in the sunshine of His love. This truth you should have learned from nature itself; for God “maketh His sun to rise on the evil and on
        the good, and sendeth rain on the just and on the unjust.”{MB 74.2}

        And, if you would be interested in hearing how much this message about God is spreading – – outside the SDA church, here is one small example (I see this as an action of the Spirit, not a spreading heresy):

        https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=8pV1BDP9IXM

        • Michael Younker

          Thanks Brad. I appreciate your comments: I used that quote elsewhere on this forum as well! 🙂 Blessings to you as well, thanks for participating; I hope we’ve all benefited from the discussion!

          In closing, if I may re-post another comment I just made, I’m not aware of anyone else addressing the issues in it.

          Big picture: Satan deserved instant death once he showed himself deserving of being kicked out of heaven. God didn’t do it for several reasons.

          I think the trick in our discussion is this: God did NOT have to die to
          simply establish trust. He also had to do it to show himself Just IF he
          chose to forgive Adam and Eve, which he chose to do because he is
          Loving. These are not incompatible ideas. But some seem to think they
          are.

          Let me explain. What if Adam and Eve had not been created or
          had not fallen? EGW reveals that Satan, for reasons unknown, had
          violated angelic laws that prohibited any forgiveness or reconciliation. How could God punish Satan?

          The other good angels wondered what was going on… would God allow Satan to live indefinitely? How would Satan manifest his rebellion?

          Without man, how would God have reestablished “trust” in such a situation? I don’t know, this is a mystery. By submitting to die at Satan’s hand?

          Rather, have any of us considered the idea that God HAD to create man to be able to die and thus prove before men and good angels that He was trustworthy? (I don’t believe He did, but it is a mystery that it was the creation of man that caused Satan to become jealous: “But when God said to His Son, “Let us make man in our image,” Satan was jealous of Jesus. He wished to be consulted concerning the formation of man, and because he was not, he was filled with envy” EW145).

          We don’t know the answers to such speculations. But I mention them to make a point. Mankind’s sin, and its peculiar nature, did allow forgiveness, granted that the price for the violation of law was paid, to honor His law before the universe (God hates sin). God also used the situation to the maximum, to reestablish trust, to demonstrate his loving nature, etc. by offering forgiveness to mankind. So God has “used” mankind as the battlefield upon which Satan would fully reveal himself, in killing our redeemer. Without man, God wouldn’t have been able to prove Satan a murderer, because Satan could never kill God in his heavenly form. But this doesn’t mean that God didn’t also require Christ’s death for the justice of His Law Adam violated. Only God can see so many angles simultaneously. These multiple purposes are not incompatible.

          • Brad Cole

            Thanks for those thoughts, Michael. I appreciate the conversational nature and willingness to explore. I like your emphasis on the need to restore trust which was done through the evidence of Planet Earth.
            In several places EGW says that Satan would have died as the result of his sin/rebellion, but that some of the other angels would have assumed that God was involved and then served him from fear. Revealing the horrible natural consequences of sin is something that (amazingly!) God chose to reveal himself (in the person of Jesus).
            It is also interesting to consider that God offered Lucifer his position back – without any demand for sacrifice:

            “God in His great mercy bore long with Lucifer. He was not immediately degraded from his exalted station when he first indulged the spirit of discontent, nor even when he began to present his false claims before the loyal angels. Long was he retained in heaven. Again and again he was offered pardon on condition of repentance and submission. Such efforts as only infinite love and wisdom could devise were made to convince him of his error. The spirit of discontent had never before been known in heaven. Lucifer himself did not at first see whither he was drifting; he did not understand the real nature of his feelings. But as his dissatisfaction was proved to be without cause, Lucifer was convinced that he was in the wrong, that the divine claims were just, and that he ought to acknowledge them as such before all heaven. Had he done this, he might have saved himself and many angels. He had not at this time fully cast off his allegiance to God. Though he had forsaken his position as covering cherub, yet if he had been willing to return to God, acknowledging the Creator’s wisdom, and satisfied to fill the place appointed him in God’s great plan, he would have been reinstated in his office. But pride forbade him to submit. He persistently defended his own course, maintained that he had no need of repentance, and fully committed himself, in the great controversy, against his Maker.” (GC 495-496)
            Take care!

          • Kevin Straub

            Brad, I wish you wouldn’t leave just yet.

  • Timothy Arena

    “God’s love is represented in our day as being of such a
    character as would forbid His destroying the sinner. Men reason from
    their own low standard of right and justice. “Thou thoughtest that I was
    altogether such an one as thyself” (Psalm 50:21).
    They measure God by themselves. They reason as to how they would act
    under the circumstances and decide God would do as they imagine they
    would do…. {LDE 240.5}
    In
    no kingdom or government is it left to the lawbreakers to say what
    punishment is to be executed against those who have broken the law. All
    we have, all the bounties of His grace which we possess, we owe to God.
    The aggravating character of sin against such a God cannot be estimated
    any more than the heavens can be measured with a span. God is a moral
    governor as well as a Father. He is the Lawgiver. He makes and executes
    His laws. Law that has no penalty is of no force.{LDE 241.1}
    The
    plea may be made that a loving Father would not see His children
    suffering the punishment of God by fire while He had the power to
    relieve them. But God would, for the good of His subjects and for their
    safety, punish the transgressor. God does not work on the plan of man.
    He can do infinite justice that man has no right to do before his fellow
    man. Noah would have displeased God to have drowned one of the scoffers
    and mockers that harassed him, but God drowned the vast world. Lot
    would have had no right to inflict punishment on his sons-in-law, but
    God would do it in strict justice.{LDE 241.2}Who will say God will not do what He says He will do?—Manuscript Releases 12:207-209; Manuscript Releases 10:265 (1876

    • Kevin Straub

      Ellen is using the same language, the “God-did/does-it” language, in the context of a human governance and human legal paradigm. The time is here to read it according to the keys given in inspiration itself–both in the Scriptures and in her writings. Dr. Jean Sheldon, Ph.D. in OT theology at PUC, speaks of these keys as the “minor voice” of Scripture. I think, seriously, Timothy, that you would do well to take in her work on wrath.

      “GOD” drowned the vast world? Yes, the Bible says He did and we accept that. But how? He let go of the powers of the sun and moon which sustained the water mantle above and gave way to the integrity of the crust of the earth that the fountains of the deep gushed forth. To give up His role over creation meant it started to return to that state of chaos which was when it was formless and void. He “caused” it by letting it go, as per the choice of the antediluvians. His ACTIVE role was to save Noah and his family.

      Isa. 54:8 In a little wrath I hid my face from thee for a moment; but with everlasting kindness will I have mercy on thee, saith the LORD thy Redeemer.
      54:9 For this [is as] the waters of Noah unto me: for [as] I have sworn that the waters of Noah should no more go over the earth; so have I sworn that I would not be wroth with thee, nor rebuke thee.

      1 Pet. 3:20 Which sometime were disobedient, when once the longsuffering of God waited in the days of Noah, while the ark was a preparing, wherein few, that is, eight souls were saved by water.

      2 Pet. 3:5 For this they willingly are ignorant of, that by the word of God the heavens were of old, and the earth standing out of the water and in the water:
      3:6 Whereby the world that then was, being overflowed with water, perished:
      3:7 But the heavens and the earth, which are now, by the same word are kept in store, reserved unto fire against the day of judgment and perdition of ungodly men.

      • Timothy Arena

        Hello Kevin,

        See my other posts below. Even if Dr. Sheldon is right (for the sake of argument), God still caused the Flood. If the Sustainer and Protector removes His hand, it is still His action–God is not “forced” to do these things. He is the One Who decides which manner of punishment to use–allowing or causing.This Flood was His own sovereign choice as the Ruler of the Universe to actively destroy the inhabitants of the entire world except 8 people because of the great wickedness. ” For behold, I will bring a flood of waters upon the earth to destroy all flesh in which is the breath of life under heaven. Everything that is on the earth shall die” (Gen 6:17 ESV).

        • Kevin Straub

          I don’t believe this. Again, it is language. God’s choice, then, is to bring delusion, (Isa 66:4; 2 Thes. 2:11); evil spirits (1 Sam. 16:14; Ps. 78:49); rapists (2 Sam. 12:11), etc. God “brings” the flood how? By hiding His face–Divine recession (Isa. 54:8, 9).

          What you are missing is that it is not His action. Let’s put the onus where it belongs. Yes we can say that God is responsible. But He is not culpable. It is the action of the free will choice of the free moral agent. God is a gentleman and does not force His way in where He is not wanted. But will by no means clear the guilty. He will not sustain unrighteousness when there is no longer any way of saving and restoring. He gives over. God is forced to remove His hand by the choices of individuals, cities, nations, and even the world. Then, whatever is poised for destruction bears down in its chaotic way. To have it any other way is arbitrary. For God to go down His list of “ways to destroy” and settle upon a plague today, a giant sinkhole tomorrow, and molten sulfur from the sky the next day is nothing but arbitrary.

          • Michael Younker

            Then why did Satan fear for his own life during the flood?

            “The violence of the storm increased, and there were mingled with the warring of the elements, the wailings of the people who had despised the authority of God. Trees, buildings, rocks, and earth, were hurled in every direction. The terror of man and beast was beyond description. And even Satan himself, who was compelled to be amid the warring elements, feared for his own existence. He had delighted to control so powerful a race, and wished them to live to practice their abominations, and increase their rebellion against the God of Heaven. He uttered imprecations against God, charging him with injustice and cruelty. Many of the people, like Satan, blasphemed God, and if they could have carried out their rebellion, would have torn him from the throne of justice.” EGW, 1SP74

            “The mighty waves, in their terrible commotion, restrained within limits appointed by an invisible hand, spoke of the control of an infinite Power. And in contrast he realized the weakness and folly of mortals, who, though but worms of the dust, glory in their supposed wisdom and strength, and set their hearts against the Ruler of the universe, as if God were altogether such a one as themselves.” AA572.

          • Kevin Straub

            Perhaps you missed my saying in other responses that God does not always destroy by giving over to direct demonic activity. God gives over to nature itself. God’s wisdom applied to nature enables it to function correctly. Should God cease from His role in upholding
            nature and ensuring that it functions within its normal parameters (for we do not have a Deist view of nature) then all manner of entropy and destruction is the result. Please see my book “As He Is” for the discussion of the Flood.

            Divine cessation occurs when God gives over in one of four areas:

            1. Wicked self
            2. Wicked others, human
            3. Wicked others, demonic
            4. Nature
            These can and do occur along a continuum of duration and severity, with the ultimate, of course, being second death. There is also overlap and combinations of the effects of the rejection of God; it is not necessarily an either/or situation.

          • Michael Younker

            I’m open to further insights on divine activity. Though, I can’t help but wonder if such metaphysical speculations should remain just that: metaphysics. EGW affirms there are “nonessential” areas of intellectual pursuit. Just how fruitful such topics are, or how understandable they would be, for broad audiences remains a matter of some question.

          • Kevin Straub

            The broad audience is VERY interested in the truth about God and comes as a great relief to many, opening the way for them to accept and love Him. The belief in a torturing God is a primary catalyst for the the type of atheism that spews repugnance toward God.
            I am committed to this message as my life work, so long as I remain breathing and have a tongue to speak and fingers to type. As such, I would be very disappointed to learn that my persecutors would remove my tongue and fingers for nonessentials. Many of us believe that this message is the advance of the light of the righteousness of God which began in 1888. Fourth angel comes in with the glory of God to lighten the earth and this is the subject matter. Those who adhere to a God who seeks retribution as man seeks it, who would wage His war through violence as man wages it, will themselves be violent still. For by beholding we become changed into that image. The great controversy cannot close until God has a people to give and to live the message of His righteous character. The glory of the Lord will be risen upon them. See Rev. 14:7, 18:1; Isa. 60:1-3; Rev. Rev. 14:1 cf. Rev. 17:5; Mal. 3:16-18.

          • Michael Younker

            Kevin, by the way, again thanks for your contributions here. Part 2 of Tim Arena’s article is published. If you have further comments, I’d like to direct folks there, and also to the issues he raises in part 2. Of course all are welcome to comment on specific questions here, but the threads are getting rather long and hard to follow.

            And, pardon any contraryness of my sharing challenging EGW quotes. I realize the issues are complex! Sometimes impasses of understandings can arise. I respect that possibility, while being open, as time allows, to dialoguing further as we may.
            Blessings!

  • Michael Younker

    You obviously mentioned a lot there that I can’t reply to concisely. Yes, humans by their nature are inclined to misinterpret God and His character, as well as His actions. This has always been true, and will remain so until after His 2nd return. I’m uncomfortable with your suggestion that White herself viewed (or described in her inspired writings) things simply as did the “ancients.”

    Put briefly, some of those tensions you described are part and parcel of why I think retaining a few mysteries is wise. It’s best not to bring Scripture down to our level, by imposing an external “idea” of how we want God to be, either. Scripture/SoP assures us that God will punish iniquity, in as plain language as possible. This does not mean that God enjoys it, nor, more importantly, that God uses all available means to turn people away from their sins. Christ also is a warrior; don’t forget the Song of Moses and the Lamb (Rev 15 and Ex 15).

    The endpoint of the discussion, however, is that I’m not so equally convinced as you that the idea you promote is some elixir for Christianity. We must remain non-coercive both in acts and ideas. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, it’s not so much in what you are simply affirming per se, but in what you deny; the consequences of it for one’s broader philosophy and approach to inspired writings. To make one less confident in God’s messengers is no light undertaking. I find it casts more doubt upon God and His abilities, including simply the ability to communicate with us clearly. Although it is a solemn truth, the “wrath of God” is a consistent message given to us by God’s messengers from the beginning to the end. That outweighs the conclusions of a relative few, whose ideas also bring along other questionable/disputable philosophical conclusions.

    Yet, thanks for reminding us of that troubling history of Christianity, as it is all too true!
    Blessings!

    • Kevin Straub

      Okay. If you knew me and the brethren I minister with, you would never say that our work and tendency is ever to make one less confident in inspiration. We are very much anchored to the Word.

      • Michael Younker

        Glad to hear it, I appreciate that! Amen. We wish to be stumbling blocks to no one.

  • Mike

    The Bible and Steps to Christ in a simple way presents the matter of salvation very clearly. Some people want to find the cat´s fifth leg, but it only has four….!

  • Marc Maldonado

    It’s so sad you are passionate about Seventh-day Adventist theology and history…..but not passionate about Jesus Christ and His love for us!!!!