The Case for Last Generation Theology, Part 10: Final Thoughts

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The Case for Last Generation Theology, Part 10: Final Thoughts

First, I want to thank the staff of Compass magazine for allowing the publication of this series on this all-important topic.  It is fair to say that not many opportunities of this nature, in a setting such as this, have been available to proponents of Last Generation Theology in recent decades within the church.  The reasons why may be interesting, even provocative, but would likely be distracting from the core issues if speculated upon in the context of this series.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Where Does Our Righteousness Come From?

 

I wish to close this series with some concluding thoughts, beginning with a summary of key points which the foregoing articles have sought to convey.

 

Summary of Key Points

 

The message of these articles relative to the construct known as Last Generation Theology can perhaps be summarized in the following twenty (20) points:

 

  1. The subject in question—like all doctrinal, ecclesiastical, and moral subjects—must be approached from the foundational premise that the written counsel of God—Scripture and the writings of Ellen G. White, often called the Spirit of Prophecy—hold supreme authority over the consciences and spiritual conclusions of God’s people—supreme over human opinion, human culture, human scholarship, and human experience (Isa. 8:20; Acts 17:11).[1]

 

  1. As in the Bible studies we hold with Christians considering our faith, the only path to unity for Seventh-day Adventists regarding Last Generation Theology or any other issues, is for the underlying harmony of the inspired evidence—both Scripture and the Spirit of Prophecy writings—to be demonstrated. For either side to ignore the inspired evidence presented by the opposing side will not work.  All the evidence must be considered and shown to be consistent with itself.

 

  1. The Bible was primarily designed for the common people (Matt. 11:25),[2] and is its own expositor (II Tim. 3:16; II Peter 1:20-21; I Cor. 2:12-14; Isa. 28:9-10).[3] The writings of Ellen White are likewise intended to explain themselves.[4]

 

  1. The belief of certain ones that Ellen White didn’t wish for her writings to be used to settle doctrinal controversy, is only true with regard to those circumstances where the Lord had not given her light on a particular issue, such as the “daily” controversy in the book of Daniel.[5] By contrast, Ellen White is very clear in a number of statements that an affirmative and corrective doctrinal role was very much a divinely-intended feature of her prophetic ministry.[6]

 

  1. The construct that has come to be known as Last Generation Theology, far from being the product of a few marginalized persons in Adventist history, is in fact deeply rooted in the doctrinal DNA of classic Seventh-day Adventism, having been the written and spoken conviction of numerous and notable Adventist scholars and administrators from the mid-nineteenth century to the present time.[7] It is not without cause that Anglican scholar Geoffrey Paxton, in his 1977 book The Shaking of Adventism, was constrained to observe that “the doctrine of the perfecting of the final generation stands near the heart of Adventist theology”.[8]

 

  1. Sin and the inherited sinful nature are not one and the same thing (James 1:14-15);[9] human beings become sinners through choice (Eze. 18:20; Rom. 5:12; James 4:17).[10] First John 3:4 (“Sin is the transgression of the law”)[11] is the only definition of sin acknowledged by the inspired pen.[12]

 

  1. The inherited sinful nature will remain with the Christian till Jesus comes[13] though—as in the life of Jesus—it will suffer uninterrupted defeat in the lives of the Last Generation saints during the final crisis.

 

  1. Jesus came to earth in humanity’s fallen, sinful nature (Rom. 1:3; 8:3; Heb. 2:14-17; 4:15),[14] taking human nature with the physical, mental, and moral deterioration of four thousand years of sin.[15] The apparent conflict between those Ellen White statements describing our Lord’s relationship to fallen passions and propensities to sin[16] is resolved when one understands the Bible/Spirit of Prophecy affirmation of lower and higher forces within human nature (Matt. 26:41; I Cor. 9:27),[17] thus helping us understand the difference between sinful urges resisted (which the incarnate Christ had)[18] and sinful urges exhibited (which He did not have).[19]

 

  1. Obedience to the divine law is the condition for receiving Biblical salvation (Matt. 7:21; 19:16-26; Luke 10:25-28; Rom. 2:6-10; 8:13; Heb. 5:9),[20] and this condition is met by God’s forgiveness (justification) covering past sins (Rom. 3:25)[21] and sins of ignorance (Acts 17:30; James 4:17),[22] and by the righteousness of regeneration and sanctification enabling us to obey the law we once violated (II Thess. 2:13; Titus 3:5).[23] The obedience thus rendered enables the Christian to be “accepted in the Beloved” (Eph. 1:6; see also Acts 10:35).[24]

 

  1. In the writings of Ellen White, the phrase “merits of Christ” is just another term for the righteousness of Christ, and refers both respectively and collectively (depending on context) to sanctifying as well as justifying righteousness. Ellen White’s oft-quoted statement that the merits of Christ must be applied to the words and deeds of true believers to make them acceptable to God,[25] employs language that elsewhere is used to describe practical purification,[26] not a legal verdict.

 

  1. When the Bible says we are not saved by works (Rom. 3:20,28; Gal. 2:16; Eph. 2:8-9), it is speaking of what humans seek to accomplish in their own strength to achieve acceptance with God, and is not a reference to humans placing trust in divinely-empowered regeneration and sanctification for salvation, a teaching both the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy clearly uphold (II Thess. 2:13; Titus 3:5).[27] This becomes especially clear when Paul supports his belief that “God imputeth righteousness without works” (Rom. 4:6) with an Old Testament passage which declares that those to whom the Lord does not impute iniquity are those “in whose spirit there is no guile” (Psalm 32:2).  “Without works,” in other words, doesn’t mean without the transforming work of the Holy Spirit.  Thus, when referring to “legal obedience,”[28] and “legal religion”,[29] Ellen White defines these phrases as referring to surface piety fabricated in our own strength, not to the believer placing salvational confidence in the work of Christ in and through the believer.

 

  1. Justification as taught in Scripture and the writings of Ellen White is both declarative and transformative (Titus 3:5-7),[30] and includes as prerequisites the entire surrender of the heart,[31] a guileless spirit (Psalm 32:2), confession and the forsaking of sin (II Chron. 7:14; Prov. 28:13; Isa. 55:7; I John 1:9), and a willingness to forgive others (Matt. 6:14-15).

 

  1. The claim by opponents of Last Generation Theology that to include regeneration and sanctification as part of saving righteousness is to concede to Roman Catholic theology, is completely false, as the error of Catholic salvation theology is not its focus on transforming grace as a part of salvation, but rather, its insistence on human mediation and man-made rituals as the means of receiving salvation.[32]

 

  1. Biblical atonement includes six (6) phases: (1) the laying on of hands by the sinner on the sacrificial victim (Lev. 4:4,15,24,29); (2) confession of sin (Lev. 5:5); (3) the slaying of the sacrificial victim (Lev. 4:4,15,24; 5:8; 7:2); (4) the mediation of sacrificial blood (Lev. 4:16-20; 25-26,30-31,34-35; 5:9-10; 7:1-7); (5) the afflicting of the soul and its cleansing from sin on the Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:30; 23:27-30); and (6) the exile and death of the scapegoat (Lev. 16:10). The New Testament word for atonement is reconciliation (Rom. 5:11), which describes the process by which the benefits of Christ’s death become reality in Christian lives through sanctification and the expulsion of sin (Col. 1:20-23).[33]

 

  1. As in the ancient Day of Atonement (Lev. 16:30; 23:28-30), the antitypical cleansing of the sanctuary in heaven is directly tied to the cleansing of the soul temple on earth (Rev. 3:5).[34]

 

  1. The possibility of sinless obedience through heaven’s power here on earth is taught throughout the Old and New Testaments (Psalm 4:4; 119:1-3,11; Zeph. 3:13; Rom. 8:4; I Cor. 15:34; II Cor. 7:1; 10:4-5; Eph. 5:27; Phil. 4:13; I Thess. 5:23; I Tim. 6:13-14; I Peter 2:21-22; 4:1; II Peter 3:10-14; I John 1:7,9; 3:2-3,7; Jude 24; Rev. 3:21; 14:5), as well as in the writings of Ellen White.[35] The attempt by opponents of Last Generation Theology to read our Lord’s command in Matthew 5:48 (“Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.”) as depicting “a relative state of growing maturity”[36] as opposed to sinlessness, cannot stand for the simple reason that no created being can be as spiritually mature as God the Father, not even the sinless angels.  Ellen White’s understanding of this passage as referring to perfect, sin-free obedience[37] stands in total harmony both with the collective message of Scripture and simple logic.

 

  1. The Biblical summons to sinless conduct applies in particular to the Last Generation of believers (Zeph. 3:13; I Thess. 5:23; I Tim. 6:11-14; II Peter 3:10-14; I John 3:2-3; Rev. 3:21; 12:17; 14:5,12), a summons echoed throughout the Ellen White consensus.[38] The Bible is clear that God’s character expectations of His people are based on the level of light and truth they have received (Prov. 4:18; Luke 12:48; Acts 17:30; James 4:17), a principle echoed by Ellen White when she describes the heavenly Mediator’s work as covering sins of ignorance.[39]  Elsewhere Ellen White is likewise clear as to the different levels of character accountability throughout the ages, relative to the knowledge individuals possess.[40]  The Last Generation of Christians is unique in that they must stand without a Mediator in the heavenly sanctuary, and must, therefore, experience in their lives the total revelation and conquest of sin before probation closes.[41]

 

  1. The 144,000 described in the book of Revelation represent those who pass through the great time of trouble without a Mediator following probation’s close, and who are subsequently translated to heaven without seeing death.[42] The present series takes no position as to whether this number is literal or symbolic, though the present writer holds that the weight of inspired evidence gravitates more in the symbolic direction.  Ultimately, what matters for those delivering God’s last message to the world is to “strive with all the power that God has given us to be among the 144,000”.[43]

 

  1. Contrary to the claims made by critics of Last Generation Theology,[44] the belief that Christ’s coming can be hastened as well as delayed by the spiritual condition of God’s people is not based merely on one Bible verse (II Peter 3:10-14) or one Ellen White statement.[45] The harvest principle of Advent timing is in fact based on a number of New Testament passages (Mark 4:26-29; James 5:7-8; Rev. 14:14-16), and the book of Revelation is clear that the “mystery of God”—“Christ in you, the hope of glory” (Col. 1:26)—will, in fact, be finished when the seventh angel sounds with his trumpet (Rev. 10:7).  Far from being based on a single Ellen White reference, the fact that Jesus’ return can be both hastened and delayed by the spiritual preparedness or lack thereof on the part of God’s people is based on a number of very substantial and concise statements from the Spirit of Prophecy writings.[46]

 

  1. Contrary to the claims across the decades from various opponents of Last Generation Theology,[47] Satan’s accusation in the controversy with Christ that God’s law cannot be kept was directed at both unfallen[48] and fallen beings.[49] While the victory of Christ in His doing and dying proved Satan wrong in this regard,[50] thus effecting the decisive turning point of the great controversy, the Last Generation saints—through the sanctifying power provided by Calvary (Heb. 10:29; 13:12,20-21)—will bruise Satan under their feet as did their Master (Gen. 3:15; Rom. 16:20) and will vindicate God in the face of Satan’s charges by a global demonstration of sinless obedience in the darkest hour of time and eternity.[51]

 

“Authenticity, Not Perfection”

 

In a university class I took not long ago, a professor claimed that postmodern people expect “authenticity, not perfection” from Christians.  But like so many ideas that circulate in the sterile citadels of academia, this one falls apart when tested by practical reality.

 

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Stop and think about it.  Which sins can I, as a Christian, be caught committing—even occasionally—which would not fundamentally compromise the credibility of my spiritual witness to others?

 

If a Christian parent is harsh and needlessly severe with a child?

 

If a Christian spouse is abusive or unfaithful?

 

If a Christian business executive is less than fair in the treatment of associates or subordinates?

 

If a Christian displays racial insensitivity or prejudice?

 

If a Christian demonstrates a callous, unfeeling spirit toward the poor and downtrodden?

 

If a Christian indulges the loss of temper, even in a private conversation?

 

What would the result of such behavior be for the Christian witness of such a person?  Can we really anticipate that if unbelievers find a Christian doing any of these things, even once in a while, that they will benignly write it off as just another example of unavoidable imperfection?

 

RELATED ARTICLE: How Can We Know If We Have Been Converted?

 

I remember a song many years ago with the words, “You’re the only Jesus some will ever see.  You’re the only words of life some will ever read.”

 

Social justice is becoming a popular theme in a number of contemporary Christian circles, including Adventism.  As it should be.  The Bible is full of admonitions of this kind.  But too many Adventist “social justice warriors” oppose Last Generation Theology, apparently not realizing that if imperfection of character is inevitable, such shortcomings will inevitably include social as well as personal defects.  The Christian who can’t tolerate racial diversity, who mistreats or neglects the materially disadvantaged, or who despises immigrants of a different skin color under the guise of enforcing “legality,” will be just as inclined to make allowance for sins of this sort as will those predisposed to gossiping, the loss of temper, overeating, or sexual immorality.

 

I often wonder whether those who hold the “no perfection in this life” doctrine have truly considered its practical implications.  One wishes to honor their integrity and good faith when they insist they believe as strongly as anyone that godly living and obedience to the divine requirements are essential to the Christian experience.  The problem arises when one considers what less-than-perfect obedience is supposed to look like.  The timeworn mantra of “tolerance” heard so often these days—that everyone’s spirituality is unique and that Christians should simply stop “judging” each other—is no help here.  Christians might conceivably learn to stop criticizing or judging one another, but that won’t stop the world from criticizing and judging Christians!   What moral credibility can Christians possibly maintain before humanity if the sins they so glibly condemn—whether in the church or society—are held by the same Christians to be inevitable, even for the most sanctified believers?

 

Giving a Bad Name to a Glorious Hope

 

I have long held that the concept of character perfection is one in which any genuine Christian, when pressed, would at least want to believe so far as earthly possibilities are concerned.  (After all, who among us wouldn’t wish to be the perfect boyfriend or girlfriend, the perfect husband or wife, the perfect father or mother?)  What true Christian, in the end, wouldn’t devoutly wish for the chance to cease wounding the heart of the Savior they love?

 

Where problems arise, at least for some, is when perfection theology is blended with assumptions and personality traits not in harmony with the collective testimony of God’s written counsel (Isa. 8:20; Acts 17:11).

 

Following the first installment of this series, one respondent in the Comments section wrote of her erstwhile fear of the close of probation supposedly being some arbitrary deadline.  The reality of this misconception in certain Adventist minds through the years would be difficult to dispute.  But a key component of Last Generation Theology as addressed in this series is God’s restraint on the winds of strife so that His servants can be sealed (Rev. 7:1-3)—in short, God’s delaying of the second advent (and thus the close of probation) so that all who sincerely strive through His grace for the promised victory can succeed.  It can’t be stated often enough that the God of Scripture is “not willing that any should perish, but that all should come to repentance” (II Peter 3:9).  He isn’t on a rampage to wash us out of His kingdom.  That’s the devil’s work, not the Lord’s.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Obedience vs. Legalism

 

Too many, I have come to believe, have nurtured a view of God not dissimilar to that of the naval academy drill instructor played by Lou Gossett Jr. in the 1980s film “An Officer and a Gentleman” (a movie I wouldn’t recommend, to be sure, but which some of our older readers might remember).  In his opening rant to the cadets, “Sargent Foley” vowed, “to use every means necessary, fair and unfair, to trip you up!”  The spiritual unease, even trauma, to which certain Adventists can attest relative to perfection theology and the investigative judgment can in many cases—at least from my observation—be traced to a tragically similar view of how God relates to the struggling Christian.

 

Unfortunately, as we noted in answering the question regarding sins of omission in our last article, many opponents of Last Generation Theology hold a similar view of God and His requirements, only with the caveat that Someone big and strong enough has stepped forward to meet God’s alleged demand for “infinite righteousness.”  (Our series has noted, for those who’ve been following it, that if indeed the standard for salvation were “infinite righteousness,” even the sinless angels wouldn’t qualify, as their understanding of God’s dealings with sin and Satan have not been perfect at various times during the great controversy.)[52]  It can’t be stated often enough that this view of the divine standard is both absurd and a blight on the loving character of our Lord, regardless of who holds it.  Whether proponents or opponents of Last Generation Theology hold such a perspective, the government of God is reduced to tyranny.

 

Slaying the Dark Beast of Fanaticism

 

Lifestyle extremism—defined here as the sort of piety which strays beyond the guard rails of the inspired writings into an unbalanced focus on certain issues to the neglect of others, often violating our Lord’s injunction against “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9)—is the dark beast often lurking in the minds of sincere Adventists when character perfection and Last Generation Theology are discussed.  More than a few, it seems (whether former or current Adventists), in the blogosphere and on the revival circuit, have a horror story to tell about such versions (really perversions) of the doctrinal construct this series has sought to defend.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: 5 Types of Adventist Extremists and How to Avoid Being One

 

Returning to the comment posted following the first article in this series, mention was made by the respondent in question of guilt feelings induced by such minor missteps as eating a cracker with baking soda or a muffin containing a bad egg.  The point here is not to dispute the wisdom of inspired counsel relative to even minor issues of conduct, but rather, to show how the inspired pen itself is sufficient to prevent hypersensitive consciences from the kind of gnat-straining of which this person speaks.

 

The issue of dietary reform—along with dress and dating, what I often call the “three d’s” in which lifestyle extremism is often manifested among the striving Adventist faithful—is frequently noted in both friendly and hostile critiques of Last Generation Theology.  Too many, tragically, tend to blame not only the call to character perfection but an allegedly excessive focus on the writings of Ellen White in particular for such aberrations.  In reality, those straying into such fanaticism are not guilty of too much emphasis on Ellen White, but rather, not enough.  I have often said that there is no such thing as an “Ellen White fanatic,” for the simple reason that if one faithfully adheres to the Ellen White (and the Biblical) consensus, fanaticism becomes impossible.  Conversely, if in fact, one has strayed into such extremism, this can only occur through violating the counsel of both Scripture and the writings of Ellen White.

 

I too have encountered overzealous reformers relative to the above issues.  I’ll never forget one occasion, early in my formal ministry, when one Saturday night I was in the company of some health zealots from a local congregation, who took great offense at my ordering a chocolate dessert as we ate together at a restaurant.  (From the way they complained about it—not to me, to be sure, but to others—I might as well have ordered pork chops and a glass of chardonnay!)  While it isn’t my purpose to distract the present conversation with a discussion of minor specifics relative to any behavioral issue, the fact remains that when we adhere strictly to inspired counsel regarding all issues, this kind of extreme zealotry will be avoided.

 

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To be sure, few flourishes of resentment at conservative Adventism bother me so much as the tirades of certain ones against the classic Adventist health message, particularly the vegetarian issue, as this is demonstrably no longer a question merely of physical health, but the health of the planet itself.  (I couldn’t help being fascinated how, during the September 4, 2019 town halls featuring the candidates for the 2020 Democratic presidential nomination in the United States, the issue of meat-eating and its impact on the environment was noted repeatedly by both candidates and questioners.[53] So much for the “irrelevance to society” argument often flung by non-conservative Adventists against our classic faith and lifestyle standards.)  But some of the more passionate health reformers among us tend to forget that the writings of Ellen White abound with warnings against dietary extremism[54] and man-made tests.[55]  A notable chapter in volume 3 of Selected Messages titled, “Proper Use of the Testimonies on Health Reform”,[56] is one that would, if followed, disallow just about any of the incidents of dietary fanaticism which I have encountered myself or been informed of by credible witnesses.

 

The following inspired counsel regarding reforms, in general, is also frequently ignored by those with inordinate zeal in their quest to change others’ behaviors, and even at times their own:

 

In reforms, we would better come one step short of the mark than to go one step beyond it.  And if there is error at all, let it be on the side next to the people.[57]

 

Regarding the “straining at gnats” noted in the online comment addressed earlier, relative to baking soda and bad eggs, I believe it can fairly be stated that had the respondent in question internalized the impact of the following Ellen White statement—in which she addresses the gnat-straining of the ancient Pharisees—that the guilt feelings recounted concerning baking soda and bad eggs would never have been a problem:

 

Other laws had been perverted by the rabbis in like manner. In the directions given to Moses it was forbidden to eat any unclean thing.  The use of swine’s flesh, and the flesh of certain other animals, was prohibited, as likely to fill the blood with impurities, and to shorten life.  But the Pharisees did not leave these restrictions as God had given them.  They went to unwarranted extremes.  Among other things the people were required to strain all the water used, lest it should contain the smallest insect, which might be classed with the unclean animals.  Jesus, contrasting these trivial exactions with the magnitude of their actual sins, said to the Pharisees, ‘Ye blind guides, which strain at a gnat, and swallow a camel.’[58]

 

If, as Ellen White recounts, the important Biblical issue of clean versus unclean meats—which in the Seventh-day Adventist Church is part of our Fundamental Beliefs[59]—could be taken to “unwarranted extremes,” in Ellen White’s words, wouldn’t similar rigidity and guilt-riddenness relative to much lesser issues like baking soda and eggs be likewise unwarranted?  (Despite what some allege, there is a definite hierarchy of dietary issues in the writings of Ellen White,[60] one often ignored by overzealous health reformers who tend to place all such issues on the same plane.)

 

In a recent lecture on Last Generation Theology, a reviewer with views of a more moderate nature on the subject spoke of the extremism that has tainted the reputation of this theology from time to time.  He mentioned a nameless self-supporting Adventist institution which, he reported, required its staff members to use no oil whatsoever in their diet.[61]  I have long been amazed at the popularity of this and similarly extreme practice in certain quarters of the church, especially as this particular practice has no support in either the Bible or the writings of Ellen White, and originated with the theories of a non-Adventist nutritional guru who later took his own life.[62]  While I don’t wish to pick sides among arguments between nutritionists, the bottom line is that a lifestyle agenda whose origin is human opinion rather than God’s written counsel should never be upheld as normative for Seventh-day Adventists.  The mingling of such man-made agendas with the summons to Christian perfection can only bring confusion and despair.

 

Another example of lifestyle extremism with non-Adventist origins is the “I Kissed Dating Good-bye” genre of social orthodoxy, which has lately sustained a major broadside through the renunciation of both Christianity and his marriage by the movement’s leading founder.[63]  Despite the passion with which some have embraced certain practices associated with this movement—such as the alleged preference for “courtship” over dating[64] and the tightly regimented, Talmudic-style restrictions on premarital physical contact[65]—the fact remains that these parameters are humanly fabricated, lacking support in either the Bible or the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy.  Perhaps those choosing to set such boundaries for themselves aren’t to be faulted; in our present-day, any striving for purity deserves praise, at least at the motivation level.  But when all is said and done, only God’s biddings are enablings,[66] and when Christians find themselves crossing these man-made lines, they must never mistake such choices for sin against God.

 

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Strict adherence to the inspired writings as a safeguard against extremism among conservative church members was recently demonstrated by two incidents in which the present writer was involved.  The first was an online article I wrote several years ago titled, “Christ and Christmas”,[67] which laid out the Spirit of Prophecy evidence for a balanced, Christ-focused approach to the celebration of this particular holiday.  As the responses flowed into the Comments section, it became increasingly clear that the adamantly negative “Christmas is pagan” crowd had been seriously blindsided by the positive Ellen White statements referenced by the article regarding Christmas in both the home and the church.[68]  Whether any minds were ultimately changed is hard if not impossible to determine, but what became apparent in the dialogue following the article is that those opposing Christmas celebration in any form had no coherent idea as to how to address the inspired statements which took a very different position from theirs.  Many of the respondents gave evidence that they had never seen these Ellen White statements before, merely assuming that because of the pagan origin of the holiday, Ellen White couldn’t possibly have anything good to say about it.

 

The second of these incidents occurred more recently when a large Adventist congregation in my community built a replica of the image of Daniel 2 to stand in front of their church in connection with a pending evangelistic effort.  A few took offense at the statue, denouncing it as “idolatry.”  But the protesters seemed to have little or nothing to say when, at my suggestion, a friend posted on social media Ellen White’s statement about the value of using paper-mache replicas of the beasts in Daniel and Revelation as evangelistic visual aids.[69]

 

It helps to remember that most Adventists who yield to the lure of conservative extremism tend to be strong believers in the writings of Ellen White.  While corrective counsel from her pen on the above points (and others) may not change determined opinions, I have found in my experience that such counsel—more often than not—tends to blunt and even reverse the momentum of such causes in the ranks of theologically conservative church members.  The general resistance by conservative Adventists in recent decades to such heresies as apocalyptic time-setting and anti-Trinitarianism bears notable witness to the pattern of which I speak.

 

From my many years of involvement in the Last Generation movement—going back at least four decades—I have found the popular horror stories told regarding believers in Last Generation Theology to be inflated far beyond their proportion within the movement’s ranks.  The journalistic truism that “bad news makes the best copy” can take much of the blame for this, not to mention the ability of the networked world to amplify voices both impassioned and isolated so far as any particular ideology or opinion is concerned.  The wisdom of Jonathan Swift is best remembered in this regard: “It is the folly of too many to mistake the echo of a London coffee house for the voice of the kingdom”.[70]

 

RELATED ARTICLE: A Great and Solemn Work of Preparation

 

Speaking as one who travels widely and preaches often on the cluster of topics comprising Last Generation Theology, I believe it is fair to say that the profile of the average believer in this doctrinal construct is one of deep devotion to Christ coupled with moral seriousness, yet passionate in the love of life and others and not at all derailed by the extreme proclivities described in this context.  Most assuredly there are exceptions to this rule, but in the ranks of those adhering to Last Generation Theology such exceptions do not—at least from my observation—constitute more than a small though often vocal minority.

 

In the end, the same inspired writings which uphold the tenets of Last Generation Theology disallow the kind of humanly-crafted extreme piety which some have illegitimately mingled with Last Generation Theology.  As in all things spiritual, the written counsel of God must remain our supreme authority when evaluating any theory or standard of conduct (Isa. 8:20; Acts 17:11).  That written counsel provides the same guard rails against fanaticism that it offers against self-indulgence.   That counsel alone, not man-made notions of balance or spiritual health, will succeed in slaying the dark beast of fanaticism. “What saith the Lord?” must be the question posed to every doctrinal and moral assertion faced by the Christian, be it accommodating or restrictive.

 

More on Uninspired Scholarly Analysis

 

A major problem in recent challenges to Last Generation Theology is the heavy reliance on uninspired scholarly opinion as a means of establishing key doctrinal points.[71]  Evidence suggests that many critics of Last Generation Theology approach the inspired writings with a doctrinal framework already in place, thus determining which inspired premises fit within the uninspired framework they have already established.  Jesus’ warning against “teaching for doctrines the commandments of men” (Matt. 15:9) applies to all Christians and all Seventh-day Adventists—irrespective of the ideas they cherish, the practices they pursue, or the places they occupy on the conservative/liberal theological spectrum.

 

A recent article attacking Last Generation Theology attempts to place this theology within just such a prearranged framework, dividing perceived versions of this construct into five (5) categories: (1) “Gateway” LGT; (2) “Layman’s” LGT; (3) “Historical” LGT; (4) “Die-Hard” LGT; and finally (5) “Emerging” LGT.[72]  Reading these various assessments, I couldn’t help thinking that similar “slicing and dicing” could be done to the Seventh-day Adventist faith in general, Christianity in the broadest sense—or just about any ideology, sacred or secular.

 

When once I faced perplexing questions regarding a possible relationship, a close friend warned me of the danger of “over-analysis.”  The same thoughts occurred to me when reading the above assessment of Last Generation Theology.  At the bottom line, the only authentic measure of any doctrine or practice for the Seventh-day Adventist Christian is whatever is taught in the written counsel of God (Isa. 8:20; Acts 17:11).  Let us again consider the following inspired admonitions regarding our supreme spiritual authority:

 

Thus saith the Lord: Cursed be the man that trusteth in man, and maketh flesh his arm, and whose heart departeth from the Lord (Jer. 17:5).

 

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.[73]

 

The Bible was not written for the scholar alone; on the contrary, it was designed for the common people.  The great truths necessary for salvation are made as clear as noonday; and none will mistake and lose their way except those who follow their own judgment instead of the plainly revealed will of God.

We should not take the testimony of any man as to what the Scriptures teach, but should study the words of God for ourselves.[74]

 

When errors arise and are taught as Bible truth, those who have a connection with Christ will not trust to what the minister says, but, like the noble Bereans, they will search the Scriptures daily to see if these things are so.[75]

 

One sentence of Scripture is of more value than ten thousand of man’s ideas or arguments.[76]

 

Meaningless Labels

 

Another conspicuous flaw in recent attacks on Last Generation Theology is the use of both meaningless and offensive labels.  Labeling, to be sure, is unavoidable in any exchange of ideas, despite the almost inevitable inadequacy of such markers in accurately identifying the thought patterns to which people may attach them.  Pious resistance by certain ones to labels in a spiritual or theological setting may be understandable, but no one has yet devised a workable means whereby such categorizing can be effectively sidestepped.

 

However, some of the negative labels recently flung at Last Generation Theology and its adherents can fairly be called meaningless and offensive, and in any case, unhelpful.

 

In the fourth installment of our series we addressed the “legalist” label, and compared its popular use in contemporary Adventism to the very different use of the phrases “legal obedience” and “legal religion” in the writings of Ellen White—phrases consistently used by the modern prophet to refer to human beings striving to be holy in their own strength apart from conversion.[77]  But a cluster of labels even less helpful, which can fairly be called meaningless, are those revolving around the alleged teachings of one Pelagius, a British monk in the fifth century A.D. whose theology of sin and salvation was condemned by the medieval church.[78]  Pelagius, for those who aren’t aware, opposed the doctrine of original sin as taught by Augustine.[79]  Labels associated with his name have long been a popular theological vulgarism attached to the teachings of those who believe Christians have a proactive role to play in the Biblical saving process.

 

Recent books attacking Last Generation Theology repeatedly use the “Pelagian” label with reference to salvation-related ideas with which they differ,[80] and apply this label to the teachings of Last Generation Theology.[81]  But in truth, this is one of the most meaningless labels in Christian theological discourse, as no one knows for sure what Pelagius actually taught.  One author, in one of the recent books opposing Last Generation Theology, actually admits this:

 

It must be noted at this point that very little is known about Pelagius and his life and none of his writings survive. … When using the name ‘Pelagius,’ therefore, I actually refer to a theologian position rather than to what the man Pelagius actually believed.[82]

 

What this author is effectively acknowledging is that this label is essentially useless, that it is a brush anyone can paint with, as no one knows what in fact this man’s teachings were.

 

Everything we know of him or his teachings is from his opponents.[83]  (Which of us would wish ourselves or our convictions to be remembered in this fashion?)  Pelagius’s writings appear to have been systematically obliterated—something medieval Catholicism was quite capable of doing.  As a result, any talk of his beliefs as represented either by alleged acolytes or adversaries is without merit, what in a court of law would be dismissed as hearsay.

 

So-called “Semi-Pelagian” theology is identified in the above book as follows:

 

By His grace, God joins in the process (of salvation) and helps the willing humans on their journey toward heaven.  Salvation was thus conceived as a result of synergistic . . . co-operation between God and humans.[84]

 

Elsewhere in this book, Semi-Pelagianism is defined as the belief that “humans can cooperate in the work of salvation”.[85]  The book goes on to allege that “there were many semi-Pelagians in the (early Adventist) ranks that needed the message that salvation is from God alone, not from cooperation with God”.[86]

 

How, may we ask, does the teaching tarred with this noxious label differ from such clear Bible passages as 2 Corinthians 7:1; Philippians 2:12-13; Colossians 1:28-29, and from the many Ellen White statements we have noted in this series which clearly speak of divine-human cooperation as the path to salvation?[87]

 

Offensive Labels

 

But much more offensive—and for several reasons, ridiculous—labels have been employed by one particular author among the recent books disputing Last Generation Theology.  I refer here to the repetitive use in one of these books of the words “dissent,” “dissenters,” and “dissidents” relative to those adhering to Last Generation Theology.[88]  The author’s definition of “dissident,” taken from the dictionary (“to differ or to disagree”),[89] is applied to his theological opponents in the following statement:

 

The plain fact is that the two last generation movements that arose in the 1950s differed, or dissented, from the position of the official denominational leadership.[90]

 

Another such author also implies that Last Generation Theology has been the emphasis primarily of “independent” and “self-supporting” ministries since M.L. Andreasen’s time[91]—ignoring in large measure the impact of conspicuous, modern, and mainstream Adventist thought leaders (including one recent as well as the current General Conference president) noted in the first article of this series.[92]

 

For anyone to speak of “the position of the official denominational leadership”[93] relative to the issues raised during the 1950s, is misleading for two crucial reasons.  First, the “official denominational leadership” has no authority in the Seventh-day Adventist Church to establish denominational beliefs apart from a vote by the General Conference in session.  The controversial views promoted in the book Questions on Doctrine relative to such issues as the human nature of Christ,[94] have never been endorsed by a General Conference session vote.

 

It is thus particularly misleading when the book quoted above seeks to draw a contrast between what the author calls “a General Conference party” and “several dissident bodies in the late 1950s and the decades following”.[95]  As the General Conference in session has never endorsed the theological changes introduced by the book Questions on Doctrine—or either position in the continuing debate over Christ’s humanity, for that matter—to describe QOD’s supporters as the “General Conference party” and their opponents as “dissidents” is to convey a completely erroneous impression.

 

The General Conference, in fact, has an official definition of divisive, disloyal movements and organizations.  It is found in the Church Manual:

 

Although all members have equal rights within the church, no individual member or group should start a movement or form an organization or seek to encourage a following for the attainment of any objective or for the teaching of any doctrine or message not in harmony with the fundamental religious objectives and teachings of the Church.[96]

 

Unless one is prepared to demonstrate how Last Generation Theology contradicts the Fundamental Beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as voted by the General Conference in session, such a one has absolutely no right to identify his or her theological camp as the “General Conference party” and those with differing perspectives as “dissidents.”

 

The second reason why it is misleading to describe the controversial theology in Questions on Doctrine as “official” Adventism is—as the author of the book in question himself repeatedly acknowledges[97]—because the doctrinal positions held by advocates of Last Generation Theology extend far into Adventism’s early years, all the way to the beginning.  It is fair to say that the evidence documented in this series demonstrates that if we look at the beliefs espoused by prominent Seventh-day Adventists through most of our history, a much stronger case can be made that persons opposing Last Generation Theology in today’s church more accurately qualify as “dissidents.”  Let’s not forget the words of Anglican scholar Geoffrey Paxton in 1977, written after having surveyed more than a century of Adventist literature and beliefs:

 

The doctrine of the perfecting of the final generation stands near the heart of Adventist theology.[98]

 

In light of the above, one is led to wonder if the repetitive use of the “dissident” label by the author in question is more an effort to marginalize the author’s theological opponents as alleged “fringe dwellers” so far as the denomination is concerned, as distinct from a straightforward effort to analyze the Biblical merits of the various contending positions or the credibility of their advocates as spokespersons for the church.

 

Other offensive and frankly useless terms employed by the same author are the words “sectarian” and “sectarianism”[99]—theological curse words with little value to those for whom the authority of God’s Word is supreme, irrespective of the nasty labels used by opponents to marginalize unwelcome beliefs and practices.  In case some have forgotten, the early Christians living under the Roman Empire were also derided as a “sect” and as “dissidents”.[100]

 

What is more, for a man to identify himself with what he styles the “General Conference party” in this particular theological dispute, and for him to use the “dissident” label so freely against those differing with him, becomes a most disturbing and even monstrous irony when one realizes that the author of the afore-quoted book has recently compared methods used by the current leadership of the General Conference with those employed by Nazi Germany and the medieval papacy,[101] and would later publicly compare the methods used by the current General Conference president with those of Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong.[102]

 

While not wishing to speak unkindly, one finds it mystifying, even appalling, that this individual is the same one claiming that the Last Generation Theology movement “consistently exhibits a critical attitude toward the church and its leadership,” allegedly unleashing “powerful forces in moving large numbers of Adventists into schismatic attitudes and activities”.[103]  One can’t help noting the truly glaring inconsistency demonstrated by this individual in speaking negatively of “schismatic attitudes and activities,” as he has publicly defended the right of certain territories within the global church body to defy duly voted General Conference policy.[104]

 

Misrepresenting Adventism

 

Others in the present theological dialogue have taken the name of their church in vain by declaring doctrinal positions opposite those taken by Last Generation Theology to represent “Adventism”.[105]  But in the absence of a General Conference session vote, no theological stance can rightly be identified as officially “Adventist.”  Those alleging opposition to Last Generation Theology to be synonymous with “Adventism” fail to offer an objective measure of their own by which “Adventist” beliefs are distinguished from other beliefs.  The fact is that neither a majority of church administrators, theology professors, even of the church’s grassroots, can represent the official position of the Seventh-day Adventist Church unless the General Conference at a duly called session endorses the doctrinal position in question.

 

To be sure, many of the positions adhered to by Last Generation Theology haven’t received the endorsement of the General Conference in session either.  But again, we see evidence that certain opponents of Last Generation Theology appear overly enthusiastic in their attempt to depict those with whom they differ on these issues as supposedly “marginal” and “out of the mainstream.”  They, and we all, would do better to focus on the collective witness of the inspired pen as the supreme authority in matters of faith and practice.

 

Demonstrating Inspired Harmony

 

As we near the close of this series, it can’t be stated often enough that only the demonstration of total harmony within the inspired writings—within the Bible, within the writings of Ellen White, and between the two—offers hope of bringing true unity to the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  Jesus declared His Father’s Word of truth to be the means whereby His followers are to become one (John 17:17-21).  When all is said and done, no other means will suffice.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Can God’s Church Survive without True Unity?

 

Any Seventh-day Adventist who has studied the Bible with Christians of other faiths knows that unless the complete unity of Scripture on any topic is shown, decisions on the part of such persons in favor of our faith become less likely.  When an evangelical Christian in such a context quotes Colossians 2:14-16 regarding the Sabbath, or Second Corinthians 5:8 regarding the state of the dead, Revelation 20:10 regarding the punishment of the wicked, or any number of other texts which seem on the surface to contradict various Adventist beliefs, we cannot ignore these verses and shift back to those more obviously favorable to our position.  Rather, we must demonstrate the meaning of the apparently problematic verses, in context and in light of the Biblical consensus. Only then can we expect to fully establish the faith of such inquirers in the Biblical faithfulness of the Advent message.

 

The same holds true for internal controversies in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.  While both camps in the Last Generation controversy have at times failed to demonstrate this internal inspired harmony, the principal flaw in recent attacks on Last Generation Theology as addressed in this series is the failure to consider the wide reaches of inspired evidence which undergird the case in favor of this theology.  The present writer has sought, by contrast, to demonstrate in the present series how the inspired evidence cited by critics of Last Generation Theology stands in full harmony with the evidence in favor of it.

 

Conclusion: The Remnant Church Theology Under a Different Name

 

Speaking of SDA Fundamental Beliefs, No. 13 is titled “The Remnant and Its Mission,” and reads as follows:

 

The universal church is composed of all who truly believe in Christ, but in the last days, a time of widespread apostasy, a remnant has been called out to keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.  The remnant announces the arrival of the judgment hour, proclaims salvation through Christ, and heralds the approach of His second advent.  This proclamation is symbolized by the three angels of Revelation 14; it coincides with the work of judgment in heaven and results in a work of repentance and reform on earth.  Every believer is called to have a personal part in this worldwide witness (Dan. 7:9-14; Isa. 1:9; 11:11; Jer. 23:3; Micah 2:12; II Cor. 5:10; I Peter 1:16-19; 4:17; II Peter 3:10-14; Jude 3,14; Rev. 12:17; 14:6-12; 18:1-4).[106]

 

Herein, simply stated, lies the heart of Last Generation Theology.  The reason for the existence of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is encapsulated in the following two verses—noted in the above belief statement—from the book of Revelation:

 

And the dragon was wroth with the woman, and went to make war with the remnant of her seed, which keep the commandments of God, and have the testimony of Jesus Christ (Rev. 12:17).

 

Here is the patience of the saints.  Here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus (Rev. 14:12).

 

The vision of a faithful, obedient, and victorious remnant among God’s professed people is first articulated in the prophetic writings of the Old Testament (e.g. Isa. 11:11; Joel 2:32; Micah 2:12; 4:7; 5:3,7-8; Zeph. 3:13).  A number of these verses explicitly foresee this remnant within the context of the Messiah’s first and second advents.  This is especially clear in the passage from Zephaniah, noted already in our series in connection with the prophecies of Revelation:

 

The remnant of Israel shall not do iniquity, nor speak lies, neither shall a deceitful tongue be found in their mouth; for they shall feed and lie down, and none shall make them afraid (Zeph. 3:13; see also Rev. 14:5).

 

Like the remnant described in the above verse, the remnant depicted in Revelation are also portrayed as faithful commandment-keepers, faultless through the power of God’s transforming grace (Rev. 12:17; 14:5,12).  Indeed, it is through the faith of Jesus, as described in Revelation 14:12, that this faultless commandment-keeping is produced.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Does God Forsake Us When We Fall?

 

A recent critic of Last Generation Theology insists that SDA Fundamental Belief No. 10, titled “The Experience of Salvation,” is supposedly “silent on perfection”.[107]  Yet this particular belief statement, as cited in this very book, speaks of being “delivered from the lordship of sin” through the experience of justification and sanctification.[108]

 

If one is still sinning, deliverance from sin has not yet occurred.  All it took was one sin to remove our first parents from Eden, and the apostle James is clear—speaking of the final judgment in light of God’s commandments—that “whosoever shall keep the whole law, and yet offend in one point, he is guilty of all” (James 2:10).

 

Senator Abraham Ribicoff of Connecticut, in his presidential nominating speech for Senator George McGovern at the 1968 Democratic National Convention, described his Senate colleague as “a man without guile”.[109]  More than likely, Senator McGovern—by nature unassuming and self-deprecating—was embarrassed by this accolade; not many in any line of work, politics especially, could be described in this fashion.  But according to Scripture, an entire generation of men and women will one day be declared guileless by the supreme Judge and Searcher of hearts (Zeph. 3:13; I Peter 2:21-22; Rev. 14:5).

 

Whenever I see that bumper sticker that reads, “Christians aren’t perfect, just forgiven,” I cringe!  Christians may take great comfort from this, but I doubt anyone else does!  For indeed, the past two millennia have witnessed an incessant, nauseating parade of Christian imperfection.  The litany is long and grotesque.  Racism.  Slavery.  Inquisition.  Industrial brutality.  Ethnic cleansing.  Monks beaming while heretics burn.  Business tycoons declaring it their Christian right to let workers starve.  Men in bedsheets setting fire to two sticks of wood, claiming to glorify Jesus.  Churchmen turning a blind eye as trainloads of a despised race chug endlessly toward the Final Solution.

 

RELATED ARTICLE: Hoping for a Better World Than John Lennon Ever Imagined

 

And the list goes on.  The record of Christian history both past and present gives painful meaning to Mahatma Gandhi’s statement, “I like your Christ.  I do not like your Christians.  Your Christians are so unlike your Christ”.[110]

 

The consummate task of the Seventh-day Adventist Church is to change all this, by hoisting her Lord’s transcendent standard, with a piety deeper and more comprehensive than that of any former generation of believers.  One recalls the words of the poet Edgar Guest: “I’d rather see a sermon than hear one any day,” or the lament of James Baldwin: “I can’t believe what you say because I see what you do.”  Those who encounter history’s final generation of believers will both see and hear God’s last message to humankind.  The majesty and splendor of this demonstration is forecast in such inspired statements as the following:

 

When trees without fruit are cut down as cumberers of the ground, when multitudes of false brethren are distinguished from the true, then the hidden ones will be revealed to view, and with hosannas range under the banner of Christ.  Those who have been timid and self-distrustful, will declare themselves openly for Christ and His truth.  The most weak and hesitating in the church, will be as David—willing to do and dare.  The deeper the night for God’s people, the more brilliant the stars.  Satan will surely harass the faithful, but, in the name of Jesus, they will come off more than conquerors.  Then will the church of Christ appear “fair as the moon, clear as the sun, and terrible as an army with banners”.[111]

 

Despite the claims of Last Generation Theology critics that Christ’s victory “need not be supplemented”,[112] that the “unique, complete, and nontransferable victory of Jesus cannot be perfected or supplemented by any group (like the last generation)”,[113] Ellen White speaks in words directly opposite to these in the following statement:

 

The church, being endowed with the righteousness of Christ, is His depository, in which the wealth of His mercy, His love, His grace, is to appear in full and final display. . . . The gift of His Holy Spirit, rich, full, and abundant, is to be to His church as an encompassing wall of fire, which the powers of hell shall not prevail against.  In their untainted purity and spotless perfection, Christ looks upon His people as the reward of all His suffering, His humiliation, and His love, and the supplement of His glory.[114]

 

And finally:

 

The Saviour is wounded afresh and put to open shame when His people pay no heed to His word.  He came to this world and lived a sinless life, that in His power His people might also live lives of sinlessness.  He desires them by practicing the principles of truth to show to the world that God’s grace has power to sanctify the heart.[115]

 

President John F. Kennedy once said, “We have the potential to be the best generation, or the last.”

 

“Through the grace of God and [our] own diligent effort”,[116] the people of God—and all who respond to His final call of grace—have the chance to be both.

 

Click here to read the rest of this series on Last Generation theology.

______

Notes.

[1] Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, p. 595; Steps to Christ, p. 89; Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 71;  Christ Triumphant, p. 331; From the Heart, p. 297; Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 71; Counsels on Health, pp. 108-109; Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 146.

[2] Steps to Christ, p. 89; Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 331.

[3] Fundamentals of Christian Education, pp. 187-188; Counsels to Teachers, p. 462; Our High Calling, p. 207; Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 171; vol. 8, p. 157; Manuscript Releases, vol. 21, p. 346; Loma Linda Messages, p. 55.

[4] Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 42.

[5] Ibid, p. 164.

[6] Early Writings, p. 78; Selected Messages, vol. 3, p. 32; Spiritual Gifts, vol. 2, pp. 98-99; Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 655-656,665; Colporteur Ministry, p. 126; Gospel Workers, p. 302.

[7] See James White, Review and Herald, Jan. 29, 1857; Life Sketches of James White and Ellen G. White, p. 431; Herbert E. Douglass, Why Jesus Waits: How the Sanctuary Doctrine Explains the Mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (Washington, D.C: Review and Herald Publishing Assn, 1976), pp. 47-49; A Fork in the Road: Questions on Doctrine: The Historic Adventist Divide of 1957 (Coldwater, MI: Remnant Publications, 2008), p. 19; W.H. Branson, Drama of the Ages (Washington, D.C: Review and Herald Publishing Assn, 1950), pp. 155-161; Douglass, “Men of Faith: The Showcase of God’s Grace,” Perfection: The Impossible Possibility (Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing Assn, 1975), pp. 13-56; Why Jesus Waits: How the Sanctuary Doctrine Explains the Mission of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (Washington, D.C: Review and Herald Publishing Assn, 1976); Jesus—The Benchmark of Humanity (With Leo Van Dolson) (Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing Assn, 1977); The End: Unique Voice of Adventists About the Return of Jesus (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Assn, 1979); The Heartbeat of Adventism: The Great Controversy Theme in the Writings of Ellen G. White (Boise, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Assn, 2010); C. Mervyn Maxwell, “Ready for His Appearing,” Perfection: The Impossible Possibility (Nashville, TN: Southern Publishing Assn, 1975), pp. 141-200; Dennis E. Priebe, Face to Face With the Real Gospel (Boise, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Assn, 1985); J.R. Zurcher, Touched With Our Feelings: A Historical Survey of Adventist Thought on the Human Nature of Christ (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald Publishing Assn, 1999); Ralph Larson, The Word Was Made Flesh: One Hundred Years of Seventh-day Adventist Christology, 1852-1952 (Cherry Valley, CA: The Cherrystone Press, 1986); Robert H. Pierson, on the back cover of W.D. Frazee, Ransom and Reunion Through the Sanctuary (Wildwood, GA: Pioneers Memorial, 1994).  See also Pierson, We Still Believe (Washington, D.C: Review and Herald Publishing Assn, 1975), p. 243; https://m.facebook.com/PastorTedWilson/photos/a.893482760707617.1073741827.221442104578356/924770757578817/?type=3&source=48; Malcolm Bull and Keith Lockhart, Seeking a Sanctuary: Seventh-day Adventists and the American Dream (Bloomington, IN: Indiana University Press, 2007), pp. 86-87.

[8] Geoffrey J. Paxton, The Shaking of Adventism (Wilmington, DE: Zenith Publishing Co, 1977), p. 114.

[9] White, That I May Know Him, p. 140.

[10] Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 421; Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 177a; From the Heart, p. 151; Signs of the Times, Dec. 18, 1893.

[11] Unless otherwise noted, all Bible texts are from the King James Version.

[12] SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 951; Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 320; The Great Controversy, p. 493; Faith and Works, p. 56; Our High Calling, p. 141; Review and Herald, July 15, 1890; Signs of the Times, Nov. 24, 1887; March 3, 1890; General Conference Bulletin, March 2, 1897; Sermons and Talks, vol. 1, p. 228.

[13] Acts of the Apostles, pp. 560-561; Prophets and Kings, p. 84; Counsels to Teachers, p. 20; Selected Messages, vol. 2, p. 33.

[14] The Desire of Ages, pp. 49,112; Medical Ministry, p. 181; Selected Messages, vol. 3, p. 134; Spirit of Prophecy, vol. 2, p. 39; Spiritual Gifts, vol. 1, p. 25; The Story of Redemption, p. 44; From the Heart, pp. 38,132; Ye Shall Receive Power, p. 368; Review and Herald, Dec. 15, 1896; July 17, 1900; Signs of the Times, Oct. 17, 1900.

[15] The Desire of Ages, p. 117.

[16] SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 5, p. 1128; Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 201-202,509; Testimonies, vol. 4, pp. 216,235; In Heavenly Places, p. 155; Signs of the Times, April 9, 1896; Christ Triumphant, p. 260.

[17] The Ministry of Healing, p. 130; Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 114,388; Messages to Young People, p. 237; Review and Herald, Aug. 11, 1887; The Adventist Home, p. 127; Counsels on Health, p. 42.

[18] In Heavenly Places, p. 155; Testimonies, vol. 4, pp. 216,235; The Desire of Ages, p. 329; Confrontation, p. 78; A Solemn Appeal, p. 78 (also in Our High Calling, p. 337); Signs of the Times, April 9, 1896; Bible Echo & Signs of the Times, Dec. 1, 1892; Christ Triumphant, p. 260.

[19] The Desire of Ages, p. 305; Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 171-172; Messages to Young People, p. 42; SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 943.

[20] The Desire of Ages, p. 523; Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 561,679,694; SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 920,972; Christian Service, p. 96; This Day With God, p. 72; From the Heart, p. 181; Bible Echo, Dec. 9, 1895; Review and Herald, July 22, 1890; Oct. 26, 1897; June 26, 1900; Signs of the Times, Nov. 24, 1887; Dec. 15, 1887; Nov. 15, 1899; Manuscript Releases, vol. 18, pp. 73-74.

[21] The Desire of Ages, p. 762; SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1092; Signs of the Times, Dec. 15, 1887.

[22] Early Writings, p. 254.

[23] Steps to Christ, pp. 62-63; Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 310,312; Messages to Young People, p. 35; The Desire of Ages, p. 300.

[24] Faith and Works, p. 118; SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 1, p. 1103; Sons and Daughters of God, p. 45; Counsels on Health, p. 51; Review and Herald, May 3, 1898; Signs of the Times, Dec. 15, 1887; Dec. 28, 1891.

[25] Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 344.

[26] This Day With God, p. 151; In Heavenly Places, p. 34; Sons and Daughters of God, pp. 50,227; Christian Service, p. 263; Acts of the Apostles, p. 532; SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 909; Manuscript Releases, vol. 2, p. 337; Review and Herald, Nov. 26, 1901.

[27] Steps to Christ, pp. 62-63.

[28] The Desire of Ages, p. 523.

[29] The Desire of Ages, p. 172; SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1077; Selected Messages, vol. 3, p. 189; Testimonies to Ministers, p. 94.

[30] Education, p. 254; Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 114; That I May Know Him, p. 336; SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1098; Sons and Daughters of God, p. 346; The Upward Look, p. 328; Ye Shall Receive Power, p. 96; Review and Herald, Aug. 19, 1890.

[31] Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 366.

[32] The Great Controversy, pp. 128-129.

[33] The Desire of Ages, p. 821; The Great Controversy, p. 467; Faith and Works, pp. 53-54; Sons and Daughters of God, p. 239; Signs of the Times, Jan. 20, 1881.

[34] The Great Controversy, p. 425; Maranatha, p. 249; Review and Herald, Jan. 21, 1890; Manuscript Releases, vol. 11, p. 55.

[35] The Desire of Ages, p. 311; Evangelism, p. 385; Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 83; Steps to Christ, p. 34; Christ’s Object Lessons, pp. 419-420; Selected Messages, vol. 3, p. 360; Review and Herald, Sept. 25, 1900; April 1, 1902; Sept. 27, 1906; Signs of the Times, June 10, 1903; June 17, 1903; Youth’s Instructor, April 16, 1903.

[36] Martin Weber, More Adventist Hot Potatoes (Boise, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Assn, 1992), p. 54.

[37] White, The Desire of Ages, p. 311; Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 76-77; Signs of the Times, July 17, 1901.

[38] The Great Controversy, pp. 425,623; Early Writings, p. 71; Testimonies, vol. 1, pp. 187,340,619; vol. 2, pp. 355,505; vol. 5, pp. 214,216; Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 506-507; SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, pp. 1055,1118; Evangelism, p. 702; Selected Messages, vol. 3, p. 427; From the Heart, p. 44; Review and Herald, May 30, 1882; Nov. 19, 1908; Signs of the Times, Oct. 22, 1885.

[39] Early Writings, p. 254.

[40] Testimonies, vol. 2, pp. 692-693.

[41] The Great Controversy, p. 425, Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 355; SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1118.

[42] The Great Controversy, pp. 648-649; Early Writings, pp. 16,19,37.

[43] SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, p. 970.

[44] Jiri Moskala and John C. Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Assn, 2018), p. 215; see also p. 261.

[45] White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 69.

[46] The Desire of Ages, pp. 633-634; Acts of the Apostles, pp. 600-601; Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, pp. 108-109; Selected Messages, vol. 1, pp. 67-69; Evangelism, p. 696.

[47] Desmond Ford, “The Relationship Between the Incarnation and Righteousness by Faith,” Documents from the Palmdale Conference on Righteousness by Faith (Goodlettsville, TN: Jack D. Walker, Publisher, 1976), p. 33 (emphasis original); Steve Marshall, What’s the Difference? (Arroyo Grande, CA: Concerned Communications, 1979), p. 12 (emphasis original); Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, pp. 213,276.

[48] White, The Desire of Ages, pp. 117,761; Selected Messages, vol. 1, p. 252; Signs of the Times, July 23, 1902.

[49] Patriarchs and Prophets, pp. 77,88; The Desire of Ages, pp. 24,29,309; The Great Controversy, p. 489; Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 314; Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing, p. 49; Education, p. 154; The Faith I Live By, p. 114; That I May Know Him, p. 292; Review and Herald, Jan. 18, 1909; Signs of the Times, Jan. 16, 1896; July 10, 1901; Manuscript Releases, vol. 1, p. 369.

[50] The Desire of Ages, p. 762; Signs of the Times, Sept. 24, 1901.

[51] The Desire of Ages, p. 671,763; Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 317,746; Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 18-19; Our High Calling, p. 168; Ye Shall Receive Power, p. 338; Christian Educator, Oct. 1, 1898; Signs of the Times, Nov. 25, 1897.

[52] The Desire of Ages, p. 758; Christ Triumphant, p. 11.

[53] Umair Irfan, David Roberts, Eliza Barclay, Ella Nilsen, and Tara Golsham, “6 Winners and 3 Losers from CNN’s Climate Town Hall,” Vox, Sept. 5, 2019.

[54] White, The Ministry of Healing, pp. 318-324; Counsels on Diet and Foods, pp. 195-213.

[55] Selected Messages, vol. 2, pp. 14-15.

[56] Ibid, vol. 3, pp. 283-288.

[57] Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 21.

[58] The Desire of Ages, p. 617.

[59] Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 2015 edition, p. 170.

[60] White, Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 135; Selected Messages, vol. 3, pp. 287-288.

[61] https://www.audioverse.org/english/sermons/recordings/20158/revelations-final-generation.html

[62] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Nathan_Pritikin

[63]Author Joshua Harris Kisses His Faith Goodbye: ‘I Am Not a Christian,’” CBN News, July 28, 2019.

[64] Joshua Harris, Boy Meets Girl: Say Hello to Courtship (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 2000).

[65] Ibid, pp. 141-143,157-158,161-162; see also I Kissed Dating Good-bye (Sisters, OR: Multnomah Publishers, 1997), p. 219.

[66] White, Christ’s Object Lessons, p. 333.

[67] Kevin Paulson, “Christ and Christmas,” ADvindicate.com, Dec. 18, 2016.

[68] White, The Adventist Home, pp. 478-479,482-483; Review and Herald, Dec. 26, 1883; Dec. 17, 1888.

[69] Evangelism, p. 204.

[70] Jonathan Swift, quoted by Rick Perlstein, Before the Storm: Barry Goldwater and the Unmaking of the American Consensus (New York: Hill and Wang, 2001), p. vii.

[71] Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, pp. 37,51-57,58-62,63-64,80,81,82,84,87-98,106,108,110,114-115,117,119-121,151,154,157,159,165-166,169-173,180,182,188-189,190,197,206,209-215,218,232-235,251,262,282.

[72] Marcos Torres, “The Unbearable Failure of Last Generation Theology, Part 1: The Spectrum,” Compass, July 5, 2019.

[73] White, The Great Controversy, p. 595.

[74] Steps to Christ, p. 89.

[75] From the Heart, p. 297.

[76] Testimonies, vol. 7, p. 71.

[77] The Desire of Ages, pp. 172,523; Testimonies to Ministers, p. 94; Selected Messages, vol. 3, p. 189; SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 6, p. 1077; Review and Herald, April 30, 1895; Youth’s Instructor, May 27, 1897.

[78]Pelagius.”

[79] Ibid.

[80] Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, p. 118; George R. Knight, End-Time Events and the Last Generation: The Explosive 1950s (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press Publishing Assn, 2018), pp. 109,117; Martin F. Hanna, Darius W. Jankewicz, and John W. Reeve (eds.), Salvation: Contours of Adventist Soteriology (Berrien Springs, MIA: Andrews University Press, 2018), pp. pp. x,4,5,166-170,182,184,262,268-275,283-285,297.

[81] Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, p. 105.

[82] Hanna, Jankewicz, and Reeve (eds.), Salvation: Contours of Adventist Soteriology, p. 100.

[83]Pelagius.”

[84] Hanna, Jankewicz, and Reeve (eds.), Salvation: Contours of Adventist Soteriology, p. 103.

[85] Ibid, p. 271.

[86] Ibid, p. 285.

[87] White, Acts of the Apostles, p. 482; Testimonies, vol. 2, p. 694; vol. 6, p. 147; Christian Service, p. 96; SDA Bible Commentary, vol. 7, pp. 920,972; This Day With God, p. 72; From the Heart, p. 181; Review and Herald, July 22, 1890; Oct. 26, 1897; June 26, 1900; Signs of the Times, Nov. 24, 1887; Dec. 15, 1887; Nov. 15, 1899; Manuscript Releases, vol. 18, p. 74.

[88] Knight, End-Time Events and the Last Generation, pp. 9,14,16,19,24,25,35,36,55,59,72,75,81,82,93,102

[89] Ibid, p. 9.

[90] Ibid.

[91] Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, p. 38.

[92] See “A Brief History” in “The Case for Last Generation Theology, Part 1: First Principles,” Compass, Aug. 22, 2019.

[93] Knight, End-Time Events and the Last Generation, p. 9.

[94] Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine (Washington, D.C: Review and Herald Publishing Assn, 1957), pp. 50-65.

[95] Knight, End-Time Events and the Last Generation, p. 35.

[96] Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 2015 edition, p. 59; see also p. 62.

[97] Knight, End-Time Events and the Last Generation, pp. 15,24,26-27,29,31,42,103,107-108.

[98] Geoffrey J. Paxton, The Shaking of Adventism (Wilmington, DE: Zenith Publishing Co, 1977), p. 114.

[99] Knight, End-Time Events and the Last Generation, pp. 33,72.

[100] .  See Michael Grant, The Roman Emperors: A Biographical Guide to the Rulers of Imperial Rome, 31 B.C. to A.D. 476 (New York: Charles Scribner’s Sons, 1985), p. 38; Miriam Griffin, Nero: The End of a Dynasty (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1984), p. 133; Stephen Williams, Diocletian and the Roman Recovery (New York: Methuen, Inc, 1985), p. 163; H.H. Scullard, From the Gracchi to Nero: A History of Rome from 133 B.C. to A.D. 68 (New York: Routledge, 2003, fifth edition), pp. 362-363,366.

[101] Knight, “Catholic or Adventist: The Ongoing Struggle Over Authority + 9.5. Theses,” Unity 2017 Conference, June 12, 2017.

[102]Adventism’s Shocking Fulfillment of Prophecy,” Spectrum, Aug. 28, 2018.

[103] Knight, End-Time Events and the Last Generation, p. 78.

[104] —-“The Role of Union Conferences in Relation to Higher Authorities,” Spectrum, Oct. 7, 2016.

[105] Adelina Alexe, “Last Generation Theology, Part 7: Biblical Perspectives: Justification,” June 7, 2019; “Last Generation Theology, Part 8: Biblical Perspectives: Sanctification,” June 13, 2019; “Last Generation Theology, Part 13: Final Thoughts,” July 19, 2019.  See also Mike M’s comment following Kevin Paulson, “The Case for Last Generation Theology, Part 3: The Human Nature of Christ,” Sept. 4, 2019, in which he identifies opposition to Last Generation Theology as constituting the “Adventist” position.

[106] Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 2015 edition, pp. 166-167.

[107] Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, p. 104.

[108] Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, 2015 edition, p. 165; quoted by Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, p. 103.

[109] Thomas J. Knock, The Life and Times of George McGovern: The Rise of a Prairie Statesman (Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2016), p. 409.

[110] Mahatma Gandhi, quoted by Bill Wilson, Christianity in the Crosshairs (Shippensburg, PA: Destiny Image Publishers, 2004), p. 74.

[111] White, Testimonies, vol. 5, pp. 81-82.

[112] Angel Manuel Rodriguez, “Theology of the Last Generation,” Adventist Review, Oct. 10, 2013, p. 42.

[113] Moskala and Peckham (eds.), God’s Character and the Last Generation, p. 197.

[114] White, Testimonies to Ministers, pp. 18-19.

[115] Review and Herald, April 1, 1902.

[116] The Great Controversy, p. 425.

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About the author

Kevin Paulson

Pastor Kevin Paulson holds a Bachelor’s degree in theology from Pacific Union College, a Master of Arts in systematic theology from Loma Linda University, and a Master of Divinity from the SDA Theological Seminary at Andrews University. He served the Greater New York Conference of Seventh-day Adventists for ten years as a Bible instructor, evangelist, and local pastor. He writes regularly for Liberty magazine and serves as a script writer for the It Is Written television ministry and other media ministries within the church. He also serves as the leading webmaster of ADvindicate.com, where many articles by him and others can be found which address a variety of denominational issues. He continues to hold evangelistic and revival meetings throughout the North American Division and beyond, and is a sought-after seminar speaker relative to current issues in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. He presently resides in Berrien Springs, Michigan.