Faith, the topic of faith and works came up because …

Comment on Supreme Court Decision on Church Employment Case by David Read.

Faith, the topic of faith and works came up because Bill quoted something I said at Spectrum on a thread following a video of a sermon on substitutionary atonement that Dan Jackson preached at the LSU Church the Sabbath before last.

Not everyone in the SDA Church believes in substitutionary atonement, largely because of the efforts of Loma Linda theologian Graham Maxwell. He died not long ago, but his followers are still full of vim and vigor, and still peddling his theory of the atonement that denies substitution. I thought Elder Jackson showed tremendous spine in going into the heart of Maxwell country and preaching a sermon on substitution. (I only wish he could have shown similar spine when he and Larry Blackmer met with the La Sierra faculty last year.)

But instead of praising Elder Jackson, someone named Jim Roberts immediately attacked him for not emphasizing works. Now, Elder Jackson did not say anything to contradict the Bible, or the book of James, or the Ellen White statements that you and Bill have quoted above. He apparently just assumed that, because Elder Jackson preached on the substitutionary atonement, Jackson must believe in cheap grace, or that the law of God has been made of null effect.

Of course, those of who believe in the biblical doctrine of substitution do not believe the law has been made void, because if the law could have been changed, Christ would not have had to die for us to be saved. But He DID have to die, precisely because the law can never be changed or set aside. Transgression of the law must be punished, and our transgression was punished in Christ on the cross. This is forensic justification, and it is the farthest thing possible from cheap grace, or antinomianism.

Those of us who believe in the substitutionary atonement know that the law cannot be made void, else Christ would not have had to die. Far from believing in cheap grace, we know that the grace afforded to us by Christ’s death on the cross was bought at a terrible price, and hence we can never presume to tread upon it by willfully breaking the law.

So I don’t accept, not even for an instant, that preaching the doctrine of substitutionary atonement leads to presuming on grace, or making void the law of God. It does not. Just the opposite is true. It is those who don’t believe that Christ really bore our sins on Calvary, nor that it was OUR sin that made His atoning death necessary, who are led to view sin as a trifling matter, and thus presume on grace.

David Read Also Commented

Supreme Court Decision on Church Employment Case
Bill says, “By the way, The Moral Influence Theory is not wrong in what it affirms, it is only wrong in what it denies.”

That is exactly right, Bill. The problem with Maxwell’s atonement is not that it affirms moral influence but that it denies substitution. If you have substitution, then you also have moral influence, but if you don’t have substitution, then you don’t have moral influence either.

There’s nothing admirable about a person who throws himself in front of a bus and dies, but there is something very admirable about a man who pushes a child out of the way of bus, but is hit and killed himself. The former is just a suicide, but the latter is self-sacrificing love. The former is not morally influential, the latter is.

If Jesus did not have to die to accomplish the atonement, then it isn’t morally edifying that He allowed himself to be killed. But if Jesus did have to die to accomplish the atonement, then the fact that he allowed himself to die the death of the cross is tremendously moving and morally edifying.

Bill, the thing that worries me about you, Jim Roberts, and Kevin Paulson is that your faith plus works model of salvation seems to end by denying the substitutionary atonement. Evidence of this is in how Jim Roberts reacted to Elder Jackson’s sermon on substitutionary atonement. Instead of praising Jackson for going into the heart of Maxwell country and preaching on substitutionary atonement, Roberts immediately attacked Jackson for, apparently, failing to emphasize regeneration and obedience.

You guys are so hung up on works that you cannot recognize the astonishingly good news of the substitutionary death of Christ. You hear a sermon like Jackson’s and instead of saying “Amen!” you immediately start in attacking him for not addressing sanctification.

Everyone who reads “Educate Truth” knows that I don’t carry water for Dan Jackson. I was critical of him when he met with the La Sierra facility and apologized to them–and said that David Asscherick needed to be “spanked”—when what they needed to hear was that the church has doctrines that they are expected not to attack and undermine, and that when they do, there will be legitimate, justified concern about what they’re doing.

But there was nothing wrong with what Dan Jackson preached at La Sierra the other day. It was biblical truth, and truth that had been denied by an influential local theologian. He deserves praise for that sermon, not nitpicking.

Supreme Court Decision on Church Employment Case
“So, you say to people, ‘We can’t be justified by fulfilling what the ceremonial law typifies, namely, the death of Jesus and His merits in our behalf’ and then say,’and this applies to the moral law as well.'”

Bill, I didn’t say that, but it raises an opportunity to discuss the ceremonial law vs. the moral law. The ceremonial law pointed forward to Christ. The ceremonial law was in the place of Christ, before Christ. Confessing your sins on the head of a lamb without blemish and then sacrificing the lamb was intended to convey the truth that without the shedding of blood, there is no remission of sins, and was intended to point forward to Christ, the spotless Lamb of God, who would bear our sins and shed his blood on our behalf.

But now we have Christ and his death on the cross, so the ceremonial law, with its system of types and symbols, is no longer necessary. We don’t need the shadow because we have the thing itself, we don’t need a type or symbol, because we have the anti-type or anti-symbol.

Unlike the ceremonial law, the moral law is eternal and unchangeable, because it reflects aspects of God’s character and government. It is as much a sin for Christians today to murder, commit adultery and break the Sabbath as it was for Jews in the Old Testament to murder, commit adultery and break the Sabbath. So in no sense am I trying to set aside or do away with the moral law. As I have now said several times, if it were possible to do away with the moral law, Christ would not have had to die, and we know He DID have to die for us on Calvary.

But today as in Old Testament times, we are not saved by keeping the moral law. We are not justified by keeping the moral law, because keeping the moral law doesn’t make up for breaking the moral law. (Again, think about my illustration of the man on trial for murder; it isn’t helpful for him say, “hey, your honor, even though I’ve been out on bond, I haven’t murdered anyone in the last 9 months”). In OT Times, the atonement, the pardon for breaking the moral law, was accomplished by the sacrificial system, which pointed forward to Christ’s atoning death, and in NT times, we look back with faith toward Christ’s atoning death.

“Is sin mingled with a believer’s works? Yes. But Jesus in the heavenly sanctuary removes the sin, and all that is left is perfect obedience to the law of God. Absolute pure undefiled works and obedience. And these works justify the believer.”

Bill, why doesn’t Jesus remove the sins from the UNbeliever’s life record? Isn’t it exactly because the unbeliever is not a believer? So in fact it is faith, and only faith, that saves, because Christ’s merits cover the transgressions only of believers, not unbelievers.

Supreme Court Decision on Church Employment Case
“The bible doctrine of justification by works is conspicuous by its absence in the SDA church today.”

Bill, I repudiate such language in the strongest possible terms. There is no Bible doctrine of justification by works, so its absence from the SDA Church, or any other Christian Church, is not surprising. To speak of the “bible doctrine of justification by works” is to repudiate the Bible.

I just want to make clear to anyone reading this thread, Bill, that your faith is not my faith. I am not giving up the gospel just because you hold yourself out as a conservative, and claim that salvation by faith is a liberal doctrine. I believe in salvation by faith in Christ alone, not by works.

The Bible is clear enough on this point, so clear that any man using language like “justification by works” ought to tremble in fear of Almighty God. Eph. 2:8-9; Rom. 3:20-28; 4:1-5; 10:9-13; Gal. 2:15-16.

And don’t think Ellen White subscribed to such a heresy as “justification by works”, either:

“Let the subject be made distinct and plain that it is not possible to effect anything in our standing before God or in the gift of God to us through creature merit. Should faith and works purchase the gift of salvation for anyone, then the Creator is under obligation to the creature. Here is an opportunity for falsehood to be accepted as truth. If any man can merit salvation by anything he may do, then he is in the same position as the Catholic to do penance for his sins. Salvation, then, is partly of debt, that may be earned as wages. If man cannot, by any of his good works, merit salvation, then it must be wholly of grace, received by man as a sinner because he receives and believes in Jesus. It is wholly a free gift. Justification by faith is placed beyond controversy. And all this controversy is ended, as soon as the matter is settled that the merits of fallen man in his good works can never procure eternal life for him.” “Through Faith Alone” MS, 1890.

“God saves man through the blood of Christ alone, and man’s belief in, and allegiance to, Christ is salvation.” Signs, Dec. 30, 1889.

“All religious service, however attractive and costly, that endeavors to merit the favor of God, all mortification of the flesh, all penance and laborious work to procure the forgiveness of sin and the divine favor,–whatever prevents us from making Christ our entire dependence, is abomination in the sight of God. There is no hope for man but to cease his rebellion, his resistance of God’s will, and own himself a sinner ready to perish, and cast himself upon the mercy of God. We can be saved only through Christ. Not by any good works which we may do, can we find salvation. There is no mercy for the fallen race except that which comes as the free gift of God. There is no blessing we receive but that which comes through the mediation of Christ. It is ever to be borne in mind that ‘God so loved the world, that he gave his only-begotten Son, that whosoever believeth on him’ as his personal Saviour, able to save to the uttermost all who come unto him, ‘should not perish, but have everlasting life.’ The Father gave his well-beloved Son, that through this divine channel his love might reach to man. The Father loves those who believe on Christ, even as he loves the Son, for they are made one with Christ.” Signs, August 24, 1891

Recent Comments by David Read

The God of the Gaps
“What if one does not start off with any starting assumptions as to a God or not but just uses empirical knowledge to look for explanations as to why things occur? Isn’t this a more objective approach?”

What you’ve just said, Ken, is “why don’t we assume that if God exists, to exist is all that God has ever done, and look for naturalistic explanations for things.”

The pretense of scientists to objectivity is by far the most annoying thing about scientists. As currently defined by the high priesthood of science, the job of science is to find naturalistic explanations for things, “no matter how counter-intuitive, no matter how mystifying to the uninitiated. Moreover, that materialism is an absolute, for we cannot allow a Divine Foot in the door.” If there’s another profession that has such an iron-clad philosophical commitment of any kind, I don’t know what it is.

I deny that anyone is unbiased and objective, least of all anyone with even the most superficial interest in the origins controversy. Believers are biased because we are believers in God, and the power of God to speak the creation into being. Scientists are biased because naturalism is the sine qua non of mainstream science. Even those scientists who privately believe cannot put that belief into practice in their professional careers, or said careers would come to a very abrupt and nasty conclusion.

NCSE Report: Adventist Education in the Midst of a Sea of Science
@Shayne: Shayne, that’s a good question. And the answer is, WASC is really on very thin ice demanding that a sectarian school teach against the beliefs of its denominational sponsor. And I think they understand that. La Sierra would be a very sympathetic plaintiff if it filed a lawsuit against WASC on First Amendment freedom of religion grounds, complaining to the court, “hey, WASC is abridging our freedom of religion and freedom of association rights.”

So WASC is not trying to directly dictate on the level of teaching. The approach WASC is taking is a more oblique, indirect approach of “institutional autonomy,” meaning that they are saying that university must have certain freedom to operate regardless of denominational affiliation. So they are demanding changes in the make up of the Board of Trustees. The goal is the same: to allow the college, with the complete support of Randal Wisbey, to continue to teach Darwinism without having to answer to a Board of Trustees that might be sympathetic to traditional Adventist beliefs.

Our colleges (with a few exceptions) are affiliated with the denomination at the union level, and the union conference presidents are ex-officio chairmen of the boards of the colleges. (So Ricardo Graham, by virtue of being president of the Pacific Union, is chairman of the Board of Trustees of La Sierra.) The conference presidents of the constituent conferences of a union are also on the board of a union’s college. Thus, church employees form the core of the boards of all our colleges, effectively giving control of the institutions to the church.

Now, this is what WASC is saying is inappropriate; they want to change the structure of the board to have fewer church employees and more independent directors, which they are arguing will give the University more operational autonomy. (Unfortunately, Ricardo Graham made something of a misstep by directly forcing the “LSU Four” to resign. He should have gone through proper channels, and insisted that Wisbey do that. If Wisbey would not fire the four, Graham should have used his political skills to get a majority on the Board of Trustees to agree to fire Wisbey. The way Graham did it, going around Wisbey, just gave a nice lever to Wisbey and WASC to make the charge that La Sierra does not have enough autonomy, and the board must be changed.)

Now, think about what happens if Wisbey and WASC are successful in forcing a change to the composition of La Sierra’s Board of Trustees: a precedent has been set, a blueprint has been drawn up for how to separate all of the Adventist colleges from denominational control. This is a very high stakes game; it is winner take all, all of SDA post-secondary education. I wonder if people realize how high the stakes really are.

Now, I do not want to be too hard on our church leaders. The situation that we’re facing at La Sierra (and will face again and again and again in coming years) is greatly complicated by the fact that the Adventist church is now composed of constituencies at cross purposes. There’s a large constituency of non-believing, cultural Adventists who WANT Darwinism taught at La Sierra. That’s what they believe, and they claim to be Adventists, so why shouldn’t it be taught at an Adventist university? This constituency probably preponderates in the Pacific Union, which is why we have the situation we do at La Sierra. On the other hand, the larger church is still literal-week creationist, and we probably still preponderate in North America, and we don’t want Darwinism taught as truth in Adventist institution. So the leadership is being torn apart from two directions. I pity them.

Strumming the Attached Strings
@Richard Myers:

“God wants all of the classes taught in our schools to be centered in Scripture. God does not want religion to be ‘incidental’ to the subject. That includes biology.”

Beautifully stated, Richard. It really is appalling that La Sierra embraces the notion that its own “secular” curriculum is religiously neutral, when the whole point of Adventist education is that there are no “secular” subjects. I’ve just written an article on this very theme for Advindicate (it hasn’t posted yet). The greatest irony is that the best statement of the Adventist philosophy of education is from a legal brief, a friend-of-the-court brief in Mitchell v. Helms, co-authored by Alan Reinach, director of religious liberty for the Pacific Union Conference:

“Since the goal of math class is to connect the student’s mind with the mind of God, and to develop both the mind and the character in the twin pursuits of both education and redemption, then any aid given to the ‘secular’ pursuit of ‘mere’ arithmetic also aids ‘Religious Instruction.’ The entire premise of religious education is that it is entirely sacred, not secular. It is holistic, not dualistic. Religion is part of the warp and woof woven into the fabric of life in a religious school. There are no secular subjects.”

The End of “Junk DNA”?

“Did god directly create biological species? You seem to indicate a belief in creation of kinds and then evolution of species by natural mechanisms ie macroevolution this is at least a belief of progressive creationism and is denied by YEC.”

Pauluc, the idea that God created basic kinds of animals that then diversified, giving us the large number of “species” that we have today, is a young-earth creationist (YEC) model. It has not been denied by knowledgeable young earth creationists for a century. Kurt Wise writes, “In perhaps as few as three centuries, scores of new species arose within most mammal baramins, and thousands of species arose within many of the insect and plant baramins.” Leonard Brand writes, “According to the theory presented here, much of our current taxonomic diversity has been the result of limited evolutionary change after a worldwide catastrophe. The original groups of plants and animals have diversified into multitudes of species as they adapted to fill specific niches in the changed conditions after the catastrophe.” These scientists are both young earth creationists. So this concept has been YEC orthodoxy for a very long time.

“Of course you do know that people like David Read, Bill Sorenson or Kevin Paulsen might consider you a heretic since you do depart from the YEC of GMP.”

I assume GMP is George McCready Price. Price did not deny a rapid post-Flood speciation. To the contrary, he promoted this concept in his writings. He wrote:

“If the Seventh-day Adventist people will all get behind these two ideas, Flood geology and plenty of species-making since the Flood, . . . I believe it would not be long before the scientific world would sit up and take notice.”

The main area where modern YEC theorists disagree with Price is that Price denied order in the fossil record, whereas modern exponents of YEC typically explain the order in the fossil record as the result of ecological zonation or biome succession. I disagree with Price in his insistence that there is no order in the fossil record. His examples were all from orogenous zones and reflected post-Flood (or at least post-original deposition) mountain-building activity. Another area where modern YECers disagree with Price is that Price denied the post-Flood glaciation, whereas most modern YECers acknowledge that there was a relatively short post-Flood Ice Age.

But these geological issues have little connection to the biological issues you are debating with Sean. The astonishing complexity of life at the cellular and molecular level was unknown in Price’s day, so I’m not sure that there would be any disagreement between Price and Pitman.

Southern Adventist University opens Origins Exhibit
@Professor Kent: Jeff, see my response to Eddie, above. It is clear that the modern world is not a reliable guide regarding conditions that existed before the Flood. Inspired history tells us that there were no bare, jagged mountain tops, no dismal swamps and no arctic wastes; the world was very different, and the conditions that prevailed then are not the conditions that prevail now.

The fossil record confirms inspired history; warm-weather flora and fauna are found in abundance in arctic and antarctic zones, and this fact cannot remotely be explained by continental drift. How were the arctic climes ever able to support these life forms? The fossils tell us that conditions differed radically, but they don’t tell us why. Inspired history tells us that conditions were very different before the Flood

These types of mysteries are at least as prevalent in the mainstream model as in the the creationist model.