Adventism is Protestant.
And yet there is something about us that makes us weird.
Hardly anything Adventism believes is uniquely Adventist. So it’s not our “doctrines” that make us weird. Even the ones that we have developed and call our own are built upon foundations that are entirely non-Adventist. We did not just drop out of the sky. We did not re-invent or develop a faith in isolation from all other faith traditions. Rather, we evolved and blossomed from the stories that came before us. When we peel back all the layers of arrogant pride, sectarian ideology and holier-than-thou attitudes we arrive at a faith that is remarkably indebted to historic Christian thought. And yet, there’s something eccentric about us. We are Protestants yes. But we are also weird.
In order to explain what I mean I need to step out of Adventism a bit and take a brief view at the Protestant movement. The first inclination of Protestantism is what some refer to as the proto-Protestants (Waldensians, Lollards, and Hussites).1 These were the movements that protested the errors of the Medieval Church before the actual Protestant movement began. Then came Luther and the Protestant Reformation was born.2 From the Protestant Reformation there emerged two primary camps: first, the Calvinists, who taught God had predetermined all things including the fall of man, who would be redeemed and, in some circles, who would be lost,3 and, second, the Arminians who taught God had granted humanity freedom to decide between being saved or lost without Him having to “predetermine” their choices.4 The Calvinist camp was primarily concerned with the “sovereignty” of God which led it to place great emphasis on His power. It gave birth to denominations like the Presbyterians, Congregationalists and Episcopalians. The Arminian camp was primarily concerned with the love of God and saw the “determinism” of Calvinists as antithetical to that love. It gave birth to denominations like the Methodists, Pentecostals and Wesleyans. Adventism, as seen in the previous post, emerged mostly from the Arminian camp.
…the idea that “there would be no Seventh-day Adventist Church without the doctrine of the investigative judgment” doesn’t work.
So what is it that makes Adventism weird? The only answer I have ever encountered in my years as an Adventist is that our weirdness lies in our doctrine of the 1844 pre-advent judgment. However, the idea that “there would be no Seventh-day Adventist Church without the doctrine of the investigative judgment”5 doesn’t work. While this doctrine certainly plays a role in our uniqueness, it ultimately has as its foundation Arminian-Wesleyan soteriology6 which originated before Adventism was ever thought of. And the peculiar date 1844 doesn’t cut it either due to the fact that it does not function as a foundation of Adventist thought in any sense.7 So if there is something that makes us weird, it’s not our doctrine of the judgment.
Allow me to suggest that what makes Adventism unique is no particular doctrine. Rather, what makes us unique lies in the reason why we embrace the doctrines we do to begin with. Put simply, while all of our doctrines exist outside of our faith in one degree or another, they do so sporadically—here and there and everywhere. However, Adventism is the only denomination on the planet in which each of these beliefs come together under a singular narrative. In a sense, that is one of the phenomena that make us unique. But our weirdness goes deeper. Why is it that Adventist thought has attracted all of these beliefs, almost like a magnet, toward itself? Why are we the only denomination who embraces all of these beliefs at the same time?
How Theology Develops
In order to answer this question it is important to understand how theology develops. Contrary to popular belief, theology does not develop by simply reading the Bible. Rather, theology is the result of the following process:
Here is a simple illustration. Suppose I place a white paper on a table and asked you to look at it. What would you see? The answer is: a white paper. But what if you took a pair of red-tinted glasses and put them on? What would you then see? A red-tinted paper.
This is exactly how theological reflection works.8 We all come to the Bible with glasses on and nine times out of ten we don’t actually know it. Those glasses have a certain tint to them. That tint is developed by philosophy, culture and various experiences. This is what I refer to as our “presupposition.” Over time we become committed to the tint we see (often unconsciously) and we define everything we see according to this tint. This is what I referred to above as “interpretation.” So when we come to the Bible we already have these glasses on. When we open to a text that says “the paper is white,” our glasses provide us with a tint to interpreting that text as saying “the paper is red.” And the result of our presupposition and interpretation is that the “church of the red paper theology” is born.
Here is how it works again:
(Defining what I see by the red glasses)
(The paper is red, not white)
This is why saying “Adventism is unique because of 1844” is such an understatement. 1844 is part of our theology. It belongs at the bottom of the process. It is not a presupposition. It is not an interpretive framework. As a result, it and all our other beliefs come in at the end of the theological process, not at the beginning. So the question that will help us identify our weirdness is “what is our presupposition”? In other words, what glasses are we wearing when we come to the texts that have led us to embrace the doctrines we hold? The answer to that question reveals what it is that truly makes us weird.
Calvinism, Arminianism and the Big Story
In order to fully answer that question, we have to continue our overview of history. Historically speaking, Christians have always viewed Scripture as a story. From beginning to end, the Bible, we believe, is telling a grand story that we are invited to know, understand, and enter into. This grand story can be separated into two headings–the Big Story and the Little Story.
The Big Story is defined as the most transcendent part of Scripture’s story and deals almost exclusively with who God is and what He is like, apart from creation. The Little Story is related to our local planet. How does the God of the Big Story interact with us in space and time on our local planet? That’s the Little Story.
Historically speaking, Christians have always viewed Scripture as a story.
Now that we have ironed that out, let’s spend a little while on the Big Story. The most popular understandings of the Big Story within Protestant Christianity are the two groups I mentioned above: Calvinism and Arminianism. Both of these Big Stories tell different stories of who God is and what he is like.
How exactly does this play out? Let’s begin with Calvinism. The Calvinist worldview holds to a particular presupposition. That presupposition is the timelessness of God. Now of course, all Christians believe God exists outside of time. There is no dispute there. But the Calvinist defines timelessness by using a certain philosophical reasoning. This reasoning goes something like this:
God is Timeless→Timeless means He cannot experience before and after (because before and after implies time)→If He cannot experience before and after then He cannot know the future by learning it as that implies before and after→Therefore, God knows the future because He has predetermined it→All of angelic and human history has been predetermined by God’s sovereign will including who goes to heaven.
Granted, this is oversimplified but nevertheless, accurate. And logical as the flow of thought may be, “Arminians [argue] that the Calvinist view owes more to Greek philosophy…than to the Bible’s portrait of God.”9 The Bible never defines timelessness so using this speculative definition—which is derived from Parmenides and Plato—as the key to interpreting the Bible is allowing human reasoning to color the text.10
So here is how the Calvinist system breaks down:
(God’s timeless nature)
(God is sovereign and has determined all things)
(Salvation is only for the few God has chosen)11
The Arminians, on the other hand, disagree with this worldview. These “concepts,” they argue, force a dictatorial and disturbing picture of a God who is anything but love. Thus, Arminianism responds to Calvinism by focusing on the love of God and consequently introduces free will. This is done in order to preserve the loving nature of God.
(God’s loving nature)
(Love demands freedom of will)
(Salvation is for all mankind)
When John Wesley entered the picture, he took Arminianism to the next level. He was concerned with the character of God and began to extrapolate this battle between good and evil in the Bible in order to better understand who God is in light of His love. Wesley, like most other Arminians, found Calvinism disturbing and “felt that the idea of absolute unconditional predestination by divine decree was inconsistent with God’s justice, as well as His love and goodness.”12 For Arminians, therefore, the Reformation is about returning to the God of love of Scripture which Calvinism failed to do.
The Little Story
Now that we have introduced the Big Stories of the Protestant faith let’s turn our focus over to the Little Story. In the Little Story the question of how this God from the Big Story relates to, interacts with, and operates with His creation is answered. While the Big Story focuses on who God is and what He is like, the Little Story focuses on Planet Earth. In theology this encompasses Creation, the Fall, the Flood, the nation of Israel, the Church, end-time events, and the covenants God makes with man. For Calvinists, this Little Story is understood through the “glasses” of God’s sovereignty. For Arminians, it’s best understood through the “glasses” of His love. Calvinism developed systematic ways of approaching the Big and Little Story known as Covenantalism.13 This systematic is best understood as a “whole story” approach to the Bible in that it seeks to make sense of all of Scripture’s themes—from Genesis to Revelation—through the Calvinist glasses.
However, before we discuss Arminianism’s “whole Bible” approach, we need to highlight another contribution it brings to the table. While we have thus far explored the Big Story and the Little Story, Arminianism introduced another element to help make sense of the Bible’s narrative and the oddness of Adventism. I call it the Middle Story.
The Middle Story
Put simply, the Middle Story is the story that lies between the Big and Little Story. This Middle Story was developed and expounded upon by Reformers such as Hugo Grotius, Albert Barnes and, most effectively, John Wesley in what he referred to as Scripture’s “aesthetic theme.”14, 15 According to Wesley, God was not responsible for evil. Using his love-of-God glasses, Wesley revisited Scripture to discover what the origin of evil entailed. There he discovered a war between good and evil that originated with Satan who used his freewill to rebel against God and consequently lead humanity into rebellion. So while the Big Story reveals who God is and what He is like, the Middle Story explains how sin originated in light of God’s “goodness.”
But why exactly is this important? The answer is simple. Calvinists don’t need a Middle Story that explains the presence of sin and evil because their “glasses” are deterministic (everything that happens in creation has been predetermined by God). So at the end of the day, there is no need to explain the battle between good and evil. A Calvinist either accepts it as a mystery or presents that battle as part of God’s predetermined will for creation in order to bring about the glorification of His Son.
For Arminians, on the other hand, the most important attribute of God is the attribute of love. Everything is an outflow of God’s love, including His sovereignty. Therefore, all of God’s creation was designed to operate under the law of love—a law which harmonizes only with freedom because love cannot be coerced, manipulated, or determined. This other-centered paradigm was to be the basis for temporal reality and eternity. However, the concept of God as love is challenged by the presence of evil. How could a loving God allow such things? Such questions lead men to doubt the Big Story and demand an explanation. That explanation is found in the Middle Story.
The Failure of the Arminian Movement
However, as concerned as Arminianism was with the love, justice and character of God and His government, the movement failed in one key area. Unlike the Calvinists who managed to interpret the entire Bible through the Calvinist lens and develop a cohesive “whole-Bible” story based on their worldview (Covenantalism), the Arminians never did. As Joseph Dongell pointed out,
[T]here really is no such thing as Arminian theology, if by that we mean an entire system of thought. Arminian theology, more properly and narrowly defined, pertains only to how one interprets the Bible’s teaching about predestination.16
While there do exist Arminian approaches that are “whole-Bible” stories based on the Arminian worldview, they are here, there, and everywhere.17 In fact, in 2015, Society of Evangelical Arminians contributor Brian Abasciano noted that “there are not a lot of good options for a contemporary comprehensive Arminian systematic theology text”18 (emphasis supplied). In other words, there is not one central system of thought that brought Arminians together to proclaim their theology of God’s love to the world. Instead, Arminianism became more of an approach to understanding God as it relates to individual salvation. Some Arminian groups highlight justification and assurance of salvation (Arminian Baptists, and Methodists) while others emphasize holiness and the Holy Spirit (the Pentecostal, Nazarene and Wesleyan holiness/Charismatic movements).19
For Arminians, on the other hand, the most important attribute of God is the attribute of love.
Therefore, apart from a few key thinkers here and there, Arminianism never applied its biblical “love-of-God” presupposition to the entirety of Scripture. As a result, they never developed cohesive views that enabled them to approach every theme of Scripture—including the law of God, the nation of Israel, the covenants, the Church, prophecy, end-time events, final judgment, etc. from this love-of-God worldview. Thus, in his article “Why I am Not an Arminian,” Tim Challies—former Arminian turned Calvinist—wrote,
Reformed theology (Calvinism) depends not only on key verses but on the warp and woof of the entire Bible. It offers a far more compelling explanation of Scripture than Arminianism, both in its broad outlines and in its fine details.20
This absence of a “whole Bible” approach meant that the same movement that began by passionately seeking to redeem the character of God from what they felt was the foul picture of the Calvinist worldview never developed a system of thought that could interpret the entire Bible from that view. As a result, this God-is-love movement never advanced cohesive answers to questions related to the covenants, the law of God, the prophetic timeline, end-time events, the Israel/Church relationship, the judgment of the wicked, etc. Consequently, the movement splintered with some tending to either adopt already accepted views in those areas, others refusing to answer certain questions and many more caught in endless nuances in-between. For example, while Arminians rejected the deterministic Calvinist conclusions (God determines everything that happens), they never rejected the timeless view of God which led to that conclusion. This resulted in a system of thought that was internally incoherent. In addition, while Arminians rejected some of the philosophical speculations that Calvinism embraced, they never identified the philosophical speculations they themselves continued to adhere to such as Platonic dualism which gave entry to the doctrine of the immortal soul in Christianity.21 As a result, to this day Arminianism continues to embrace the self-contradictory view that God is love and has granted freedom of will to His creatures yet torments sinners in hell for all eternity simply because they rejected Christ by exercising the freewill He so lovingly gave them. Likewise, how God performs His judgment over humanity was left as a blank area with no real answer—an odd posture for a movement that claimed to defend the justice of God’s moral government and His dealings with men.
Like the Arminian-Wesleyan world, it was this concern and passion for a renewed understanding of the heart of God and His government that gave birth, though the study of Scripture, to the “great controversy” theme—Adventism’s Middle Story. This theme not only answers questions related to the origin of sin and suffering in the universe but also vindicates God’s character from the charges made against him by Satan. And it is in this theme—which emphasizes the loving character of God over and against the presence of evil and suffering—that Adventist theology finds its heartbeat. Adventism took these “love-of-God” glasses and embarked on a journey of rediscovering the love and character of God in every single theme of Scripture.22
But how? How did Adventism do that which the rest of the Arminian world had not successfully done? While tracing the history of this is out of the scope of this article, the key that made the difference was the sanctuary. In the sanctuary the early Adventists discovered the key to applying the love-of-God theme to the entirety of Scripture, not just the parts associated with individual justification or holiness. In addition, the sanctuary was foundational in moving Adventist thought from the “timeless God” concept present in both Calvinism and Arminianism to a “God-in-time” view that radically impacted the way in which Adventists think of and relate to God and His relationship with man.23 As a result Adventism began to revolve around one central theme in Scripture: God’s desire to be with people—which is the essence of the sanctuary.
Seventh-day Adventist co-founder Ellen White wrote,
The sanctuary in heaven is the very center of Christ’s work in behalf of men. It concerns every soul living upon the earth. It opens to view the plan of redemption, bringing us down to the very close of time, and revealing the triumphant issue of the contest between righteousness and sin.24
This statement alone reveals the depth of Adventist thought in relation to the sanctuary. God’s love and desire to be with people was their presupposition. Through the sanctuary they discovered the “plan of redemption” from before the foundation of the world to the “very close of time.” The focus of this story, however, was not man’s salvation but the glory of God. The sanctuary unveiled the battle between good and evil (Middle Story) and God’s eventual triumph over sin—not through coercion or sheer power, but through the “revelation of His character of love.”25 Thus Ellen White could also write,
The subject of the sanctuary…opened to view a complete system of truth, connected and harmonious…26(emphasis supplied).
For Adventism, the sanctuary reveals the love of God in a way that transcends our own local world and forms a part, in some mysterious way, of the heavenly realm. A sanctuary, which can be best defined as “God’s meeting place with man” because He wants to “dwell among them” (Exodus 25:8) in heaven, meant that before the foundation of the world the plan of redemption (which is revealed in the sanctuary) was made and through it God has communicated His eternal desire to dwell with us. For Adventists, this means that His love and grace did not just appear in our space-time realm at the cross. They have been with us all along and continue with us even now. And it is only through this eternal ever-present love that Scripture can be properly understood.27
In other words, the sanctuary became to Adventists the key by which the Arminian worldview could finally be harmonized into one “whole story” approach to Scripture that connected all of its parts in a page by page revelation of the matchless love of God. And it is this single phenomenon that makes Adventism weird. Not only did it embark on the journey to develop a “whole Bible” story centered on the love of God, it did it in a way that maintained harmony with the Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation: the Bible alone, Christ alone, grace alone, faith alone, to His glory alone—all remained.
Thus creation takes on a whole new meaning. It is an act of space-time love. Even the very creation of time itself is an act of love, an idea foreign to the classical theism that undergirds Calvinist thought and continues to impact Arminian thought. Time, to Adventists, was created by God in a specific way—to facilitate both our development and relationship with Him. Under this view, the Sabbath becomes more than a mere moral command. It is the day where God’s love and our temporal realm collide in a special way. The law of God, in this view, is a reflection of His character of love. It is not arbitrary, but is the love parameters upon which life was designed in order for love to flourish. It cannot be abolished as though it was somehow problematic. Rather, He writes it in our hearts under the new covenant as part of the process of restoring us to the image of love in which He created us. The covenants, the history of Israel and the Church, the gospel, the gifts of the Spirit including the gift of prophecy, the health message, the 1260/2300 days of Daniel, the pre-advent judgment, the three angels’ messages, the mark of the beast, the call to come out of Babylon, the Remnant Church, the Second Coming, the millennium, the great white throne judgment, the New Jerusalem, the annihilation of the wicked—all of it forms part of this “whole Bible” story that reveals the unutterable love of God. Thus, the gospel for Adventists doesn’t begin in Bethlehem. It begins in Eden and it flows through history into the final consummation of all things. While many appeal to the cross as the central place where the love of God is revealed, Adventists appeal to all of Scripture. All of it is “God with us.” It affirms His eternal love in every theme—including Daniel and Revelation. And of course, the Adventist view of non-eternal hell and complete eradication of sin is yet another outflow of this sanctuary God-is-love narrative.
…for Adventists one thing is clear: God is love—not only in Calvary but in every part of Scripture.
The investigative judgement, which has been the subject of much criticism and debate, is all about one thing: God’s transparency. God doesn’t judge based on His own “all-knowing-ness.” Rather, He judges out of love. His judgment is crystal clear. All can observe His decisions. All can see that God is fair and just and loving. This doctrine, in turn, answers questions about God’s judgment and the fairness of His government that other Arminian movements failed to answer.28 And unlike those who have abandoned historicism (the historical Protestant method of interpreting prophecy), Adventists have hung on. Because God longs to dwell with us and is always intimately involved with humanity in time, preterism and futurism are out. There is just no way that God would leave His people in the dark for that long. Historicism embraces a view of God as present and active in the entirety of human history. Preterism and futurism unwittingly deny that by positing most of the prophetic timeline to either the distant past or the distant future.29
Time and space do not permit a continued analysis of this (for more see “The Hole in Adventism: Identifying our Place in the Continuum of Protestant Covenantal Thought“). However, for Adventists one thing is clear: God is love—not only in Calvary but in every part of Scripture. Thus, Adventism did what the Arminian world never did. It defined the entirety of Scripture from the love of God into one cohesive system of thought and then took that story to the world with missions, schools, hospitals, medical and literature ministries, churches, humanitarian aid, publishing houses, and more. This is the reason why Adventism has a worldwide ecclesiological system. A congregational system means we can only tell our story sporadically without harmony of thought. A worldwide system means we can tell our story, in a harmonious way, to the entire globe. This is also the reason why the concept of “Remnant Church” is so central to Adventist thought. It encapsulates the uniqueness of Adventism’s narrative in the Christian world.30
Of course, none if this means that Adventist theology is perfect. We have not discovered everything the Bible has to say on the love of God. We still have questions we can’t answer and concepts we find difficult to explain. We continue to grow and learn not only from Scripture but from our brothers and sisters in different Protestant traditions. And our picture of God’s love and the great controversy continues to expand and evolve.31 But this is OK for Adventists. Our sanctuary view of God sets the foundation for the Adventist concept of “present truth” which means that God is always revealing more truth as time goes by. Thus Ellen White could say,
Much has been lost because our ministers and people have concluded that we have had all the truth essential for us as a people; but such a conclusion is erroneous and in harmony with the deceptions of Satan, for truth will be constantly unfolding.32
For this reason, Adventists have refused to embrace “creeds.” Philosophically speaking, a creed is only compatible with a timeless God who is not progressively revealing more truth as human time advances. But a God who willingly enters into time in order to have relationship with us will continue to reveal Himself until the end of time. Thus, everything that makes Adventism weird can be traced back to this sanctuary picture of an intimate and loving God who reveals Himself to us always within the framework of His love. And while other Protestant traditions may embrace and proclaim the love of God with great passion, Adventism has more than just proclamations about the love of God: it has a robust story that reveals His love in every theme of Scripture—Big, Middle and Little Story.
As a result, Adventism has, almost like a magnet, attracted all doctrines to itself that celebrate the love of God, and in turn, has built on them and discovered truths for this day that had not been discovered before. This sanctuary God who dwells among us, interacts with us, and condescends to us in every step of the story is the God we find, not only in the cross, but all throughout Scripture. In every theme, teaching and mystery—including the law, judgment, prophecy, and the war between good and evil—there Adventism sees a beautiful being, with a character of love unlike anything man could ever imagine.
So yes, Adventism does have an eccentric theological narrative. But that alone does not make it unique. Rather its presuppositions derived from Sola Scriptura set the foundation that enables the denomination to embrace the narrative it has. Here is our system using the above process.
(The sanctuary—God is love/in time)33
(God’s love is the interpretive lens for all of Scripture)
(God’s law, gospel, prophecies, etc. all reveal His love)
Perhaps no one has summarized the purpose and mission of Adventism as well as Ellen White did when she wrote,
It is the darkness of misapprehension of God that is enshrouding the world. Men are losing their knowledge of His character. It has been misunderstood and misinterpreted. At this time a message from God is to be proclaimed, a message illuminating in its influence and saving in its power. His character is to be made known. Into the darkness of the world is to be shed the light of His glory, the light of His goodness, mercy, and truth. The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love.34
The similarities explored in this post demonstrate Adventism’s strong Reformation roots. The differences explored above demonstrate its departure from classic Protestant thought. It is, in my estimation, Protestant in every way but holding to alternate foundations that enable it to evolve in alternate directions without sacrificing the Five Solas of the Protestant Reformation, and in some ways celebrating them even more. This historic connection, coupled with our alternate direction, is what makes Adventism weird. We are not entirely Protestant in the historic sense of the word (though we are entirely Protestant in the ideological sense). We are not anti/counter-Protestants or sectarians such as the Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness, or Mormon churches. This leaves us with a faith that both celebrates the Five Solas of the Reformation and continues to hold much in common with the Protestant world while embracing an alternate presupposition that leads us to a weird and beautiful “whole Bible” narrative of the love of God.
Sadly, many Adventists today assume we are simply another faith community among the many. When asked what makes us different, the answers are usually not very compelling. The sad truth is that we have drifted from our narrative. We have forgotten what makes us weird, radical and counter-cultural. We have lost our story.
It’s time we found it again.
So, here’s to being weird.
- Bishop, Paul A., “Martin Luther and the Protestant Reformation,” https://www.hccfl.edu/media/173616/ee2luther.pdf.
- Appel, Dan, “7 Important Questions About 1844,” https://atoday.org/7-important-questions-about-1844.
- Manea, Mike C. & Marcos D. Torres, “Why the Critics of the Investigative Judgment Have Failed,” http://www.pomopastor.com/2016/01/why-critics-of-investigative-judgment.html.
- In other words, no doctrine of the church would have failed to develop if we did not have this date. Our judgment narrative would simply have different chronology. But the narrative itself would remain intact.
- Castro, Diane, “Presuppositions and Interpretations: How Our Assumptions Affect Our Understanding of the Bible, Part 1 of 3,” http://blogs.christianpost.com/ambassador-of-reconciliation/presuppositions-and-interpretations-how-our-assumptions-affect-our-understanding-of-the-bible-part-1-of-2-7212/.
- Dongell, Joseph, “10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Arminianism,” https://www.onfaith.co/discussion/10-things-i-wish-everyone-knew-about-arminianism.
- Canale, Fernando, “Toward a Criticism of Theological Reason: Time and Timelessness as Primordial Presuppositions,” 1983, Dissertations, 22. See also, Roger E. Olson, “An Example of Unwarranted Theological Speculation: Divine Timelessness,” http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2015/02/an-example-of-unwarranted-theological-speculation-divine-timelessness,http://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/dissertations/22.
- Not all Calvinists agree that God decreed who goes to hell. Arminians, on the other hand, argue that predestination is unjust and unloving in all of its forms. For more information on the different views in the Calvinist camp see https://www.gotquestions.org/lapsarianism.html.
- Pedlar, James, “John Wesley on Predestination,” https://jamespedlar.wordpress.com/2012/02/16/john-wesley-on-predestination.
- This does not mean that all Calvinists agree on all things. Covenantalism is divided into differing camps such as the Westminster Confession, the Asbury Declaration, and 1689 Federalism. However, the disagreements in these views are often minor. They all present a very unified approach to understanding the whole Bible through the Calvinist lens.
- For more on the history of the Middle Story see Miller, Nicholas, “God’s Moral Government of Love: The Theology that Helped Shape the Movement for Abolition and Civil Rights,” https://law.pepperdine.edu/nootbaar-institute/annual-conference/loveandlaw/presentations/miller-paper.pdf.
- For more on Wesley’s “Aesthetic Theme,” see Bryant, Barry E., “John Wesley On the Origins of Evil,” http://evangelicalarminians.org/john-wesley-on-the-origins-of-evil.
- Dongell, Joseph, “10 Things I Wish Everyone Knew About Arminianism,” https://www.onfaith.co/discussion/10-things-i-wish-everyone-knew-about-arminianism.
- See for example: http://evangelicalarminians.org/a-short-partially-annotated-list-of-arminian-systematic-theologies.
- See for example: Markey, Dell, “Wesleyan Church vs. Methodist Church,” http://classroom.synonym.com/wesleyan-church-vs-methodist-church-7572.html.
- Challies, Tim, “Why I Am Not an Arminian,” https://www.challies.com/articles/why-i-am-not-arminian.
- See Fudge, Edward, “Immortality is Conditional,” http://edwardfudge.com/2012/03/immortality-is-conditional.
- This does not mean that Adventism succeeded in this approach without much struggle. The history of Adventism shows that developing this “whole Bible” view of God’s love took decades and, in fact, continues to this day. Throughout the years the Church has had to confront numerous issues from false doctrines and teachers to administrative and ecclesiological challenges. All of this has slowed the process of the Stories development and, at times, distorted it, requiring the Church to backtrack, and after the dust settled, to continue its task. Therefore, this statement needs to be understood, not as a literal rendition of the development of Adventist thought, but as a summation of its historical trajectory and future potential. For more on the historical development of Adventist thought see: Knight, George R., “A Search for Identity: The Development of Seventh-Day Adventist Beliefs” and Miller, Nicholas, “The Reformation and the Remnant: The Reformers Speak to Today’s Church.”
- As mentioned earlier in the article, the timeless God foundation resulted in an incoherent system of thought for Arminians and is, quite possibly, the underlying reason why the movement never developed a cohesive “whole Bible” view. For more see: Blanco, Marcos, “Adventist theology and the new anthropology: Challenges and opportunities,”https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2015/05/adventist-theology-and-the-new-anthropology, and Canale, Fernando, “Toward a Criticism of Theological Reason : Time and Timelessness as Primordial Presuppositions,” 1983,, Dissertations, 22.
- White, Ellen G., “Great Controversy,” p. 488.
- White, Ellen G., “Christ Object Lessons,” p. 415.
- White, Ellen G., “Evangelism,” p. 22.
- Adrian Zahid summarized it well when he quoted various Adventist thinkers on the matter: Canale suggests that, “The sanctuary doctrine is the most comprehensive doctrine or motif in Scripture and therefore plays a decisive role in guiding biblical interpretation and the construction of Adventist theology.” James White saw that “the present truth is harmonious in all its parts; its links are all connected; the bearings of all its portions upon each other are like clockwork,” LeRoy Froom wrote of early Adventist theology as the “base of a coordinated system of truth.” George Knight, writes that “Sabbatarian Adventists produced an integrated theology rather than a list of discrete doctrines, and Alberto Timm states that these beliefs were an integrated system related to the attributes of God.” (Zahid, Adrian, “The One Project: The ‘Jesus. All.’ Paradox (Part 3),” https://thecompassmagazine.com/blog/the-one-project-the-jesus-all-paradox).
- For more on the investigative judgment as it relates to the Middle Story and God’s moral government of love see Torres, Marcos, “The Pre-Advent Judgment,” (I can’t find this book on this site) https://www.scribd.com/document/110113700/The-Pre-Advent-Judgment
- For more on historicism as understood through the love of God see Light Bearers series: “Covenant Kingdom” by David Asscherick, Fred Bischoff, James Rafferty, Jeffrey Rosario and Ty Gibson, http://www.lightbearers.org/resource/covenant-kingdom-01-the-covenant-lens. For more on the necessity of historicism over/against other systems see Manea, Mike, “Bible Prophecy for Atheists,” (part 1-3), https://thecompassmagazine.com/author/mikemanea.
- For more on Adventism and the doctrine of “Remnant Church” see Pastor Marcos, “The Remnant Church: Denominational Arrogance or Conviction?,” http://www.pomopastor.com/2014/02/the-remnant-church-denominational.html.
- In addition, the statement does not imply that the Seventh-day Adventist Church is perfect from an administrative perspective. The church is still under the administration of erring mortals and as such, problems remain that slow—and at times—reverse the progress of building God’s kingdom. This is to be expected in any organization.
- White, Ellen G, “Candid Investigation Necessary to an Understanding of the Truth,” https://m.egwwritings.org/en/book/820.10079.
- At this juncture it is important for the reader to understand 3 points:
- Adventism’s “Sanctuary/God-in-time” motif does not imply that God is somehow bound by time—a view held in panentheistic and pandeistic thought and which also forms a part of open theism/process theology. Adventism accepts the clear biblical teaching that God is not bound by time and is completely separate from his creation (2 Pet. 3:8, Psa. 90:4, Isa. 57:15, John 4:24, Heb. 11:3). Rather, because the Bible never defines timelessness (what it looks like), Adventism refuses to use philosophical speculations about timelessness as a presupposition by which to interpret the Bible. Therefore, Adventism seeks to interpret Scripture solely on what Scripture reveals. This is a God who, while certainly separate from His creation (including time) voluntarily condescends into time and space in order to interact with His creation in intimacy. The sanctuary in Scripture, which God commanded the Israelites to build so that He could “dwell among them” is also a revelation of the entire plan of salvation and was patterned after the sanctuary in heaven (Exodus 25:8-9; Hebrews 8:1-2, 5). This sanctuary in heaven thus reveals God’s desire to “dwell among us” despite his transcendence and forms a biblical interpretive framework for understanding the love and immanence of God in all of Scripture. This love and immanence are revealed in the plan of salvation, the lamb slain from the foundation of the world (Jesus who is Emanuel—God with us), the high priestly ministry, the law, the judgment, etc.
- Adventism is not alone in the “God-in-time” motif. Other Christian theologians and philosophers such as Roger E. Olson (Arminian), Richard Watson (Methodist), I. A. Dorner (Lutheran-Reformed), Karl Barth (Reformed), John Polkinghorne (Anglican), and William L. Craig (Molinist) have also popularized and argued for this view (for more see: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2015/02/an-example-of-unwarranted-theological-speculation-divine-timelessness/). Thus, even the God-in-time motif is not original to Adventism. What is original is that Adventism has pressed this view through the love of God and developed a way to understand Scripture’s themes through it—not via philosophy, but via Scripture’s internal “God-with-us” (sanctuary) hermeneutic.
- It is also important for the reader to recognize that the sanctuary view in no way replaces the centrality of Jesus. Jesus is the center of the sanctuary narrative. The sanctuary, rather than replacing the Jesus-only paradigm, reveals how the centrality of Jesus impacts every facet of the Big, Middle and Little Story which in turn gives birth to a cohesive “whole-Bible” story of the love of God.
- White, Ellen G., “Christ Object Lessons,” p. 415.
This post is chapter three of a four-chapter eBook titled “Why is Adventism so Weird?”
Note: Certain portions of this post are edited excerpts of the series: “The Hole in Adventism: Identifying our Place in the Continuum of Protestant Covenantal Thought.” The original source of these excerpts has not been cited in order to maximize reader experience.
Marcos is a millennial Adventist pastor with a passion for Jesus, the narrative of Adventism and the relevancy of the local Adventist church. He pastors in Western Australia where he lives with his wife and children.