Comment on Summary of 60th General Conference Session (2015) by Sean Pitman.
I’m confused. On the one hand you seem to be willing to allow for at least some “heathen” who’ve never heard of the story of Jesus to be saved while on the other hand you seem to be arguing against this concept? You do realize that all those untold millions throughout history who have never heard the story of Jesus will either be practicing some form of “alien spirituality” or be atheistic in their thinking? There simply is no other option for those who are honestly ignorant of the Bible and the story of Jesus. Yet, Paul specifically says, in no uncertain terms, that the Law (the Royal Law in particular) has been written on their hearts and that some of these honest heathen will strive to follow this Divine light and will be saved accordingly… regardless of their other misconceptions about the actual identity of God and other aspects of His true nature.
In short, there will only be one question asked in the judgement: Did you love your neighbor or not? Did you strive to follow the Royal Law that was written on your heart?
Jesus specifically says that He personally identifies with the “least of these” and that how you loved and treated the “least of these” within your own sphere of influence is how you loved and treated Him. On this, therefore, hangs your eternal destiny, and mine, and the destiny of everyone who has ever lived – regardless of any knowledge of the story of Jesus. The most humble neighbors stands in the place of Jesus in this world. And, upon one’s love toward these most humble of neighbors weighs one’s eternal destiny – heathen or otherwise (Matthew 25:40).
You quoted John 1:9 “If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness.” This is precisely the point. Atheists refuse to confess their sins. They do not see themselves as being sinful. Furthermore, they do not believe in a Creator God, let alone a Redeemer in Jesus. If they did confess their sins to Jesus, the promise of God’s redemption is every ready to wipe their sins clean. Thus, their sins will be judged after the 2nd resurrection.
First off, you are quoting 1 John 1:9 here while I was quoting John 1:9 which reads, “For That One was The Light of Truth, which enlightens every person that comes into the world.” In other words, God has given every single person a measure of light by which each one will be judged. Those who love the light that they’ve received and strive to live accordingly, will be saved. Those who reject the light received, will be lost.
As far as atheists are concerned, some atheists have been taught false ideas about God that are hateful – such as the idea that God will torture people for eternity in Hell fire. I would also reject such a God if this was the picture I was given. However, some of these same people still hear the call of the Holy Spirit to selflessly love their neighbors as themselves – according to the Royal Law (James 2:8). Paul goes on to clarify this point arguing that, “whoever loves others has fulfilled the law” (Romans 13:8). If this is true, then how can those who truly love their neighbors as themselves, selflessly, be unsavable? – if they are honestly ignorant of the true identity of God? If they love what God loves, are they not following His Spirit’s leading? – and therefore in line with the voice of God speaking to their hearts? If one is following the voice of God to the best of his/her ability, what more can be asked of anyone as far as fitness for heaven?
As far as the claims of Ellen White to have been Divinely inspired on occasion, it is quite clear to me now that you don’t believe that Ellen White was actually Divinely inspired at all – because not everything she did or said was inspired. You do understand, however, that this is true of every prophet? – to include every single one of the Biblical prophets? All were erring humans like the rest of us. They all made mistakes and had limited knowledge about many things. Yet, God did talk to these erring humans to give them privileged information on occasion. That doesn’t mean that He made them error free in everything else they did or said or believed. You have to be able to separate the Divine from the human when reading the Bible and/or Ellen White.
Beyond this, Ellen White specifically spoke against phrenology and mesmerism as being “seized upon by Satan as his most powerful agents to deceive and destroy souls” (Testimonies, vol. 1, p. 296). And, regarding “witching for water”, Ellen White never recommended it. What she did do is recommend a well digger, Salem Hamilton, to dig the well on the property close to San Diego that she was shown (by God according to her) to purchase for the church. The idea of using a “wizard water stick” to find the best place to dig the well was not her idea or recommendation at all, but was actually thought to be an empirical “scientific” practice by many in her day and throughout much of history even into modern times (not necessarily considered to be a spiritualistic practice at the time; Link). I myself grew up working for various contractors who swore by the practice as an empirical scientific way of detecting water lines – and they were by no means spiritualistic in their thinking. They were Godly men.
Sean Pitman Also Commented
Jesus replaced the Old Covenant Mosaic Law with the Royal Law, also known as the Law of Liberty.
Not quite. Jesus fulfilled the Mosaic Laws, but did not do away with them or replace them with something truly new as if there was something wrong the laws that God Himself originally set in place (Matthew 5:17). God made no mistake in setting up the Mosaic Laws. Also, the “Royal Law” or “Law of Liberty” has always existed and has always been the fundamental basis of the Ten Commandments. The Royal Law brings liberty to all when it is kept – and can in this way be “The Law of Liberty”. Bondage, on the other hand, comes when we do not keep it. To walk in the “Law of Liberty” and fulfill all the Law is to walk in love – for love fulfills the whole Law (Romans 13:8 and Galatians 5:14). Love as the fulfillment of the entire Law is not something “new” created after the cross. The Royal Law of Love is and has always been the basis of all morality for all time – even in Heaven. It is for this reason that no moral code can be kept by fallen humans without the help of God – not the Ten Commandments; not the Mosaic Laws; not the Royal Law itself (Matthew 22:37-40). The problem is that we are inherently selfish creatures who cannot, in and of ourselves alone, be selfless and truly loving toward our neighbors. It takes a miraculous act of God to implant the Royal Law within our hearts and another miraculous act of God to give us the moral power to actually live by this Law. We may resist God’s power in our lives, or we may accept it. That’s our part to play in our own salvation. And, in this way, even the heathen who have never heard the name of Jesus may be saved – according to Paul who argues that “the requirements of the law are written on their hearts.” It goes against the Bible to say otherwise.
In short, everyone knows, as an internal truth, that the “Golden Rule” is good. Those who do not resist the call of the Holy Spirit to strive to live according to this Law will be credited, by God and through his Grace alone, with righteousness. Even your atheist friend, if honestly confused, can therefore be saved through the blood of Jesus if he is honestly listening to the call of the Holy Spirit regarding the Royal Law and is therefore striving to live according to all the light that he understands. If he honestly lives according to the Royal Law, he will not “die without a Savior”. God’s grace will be extended to Him through Jesus because he chose to follow the call of the Spirit. There simply is no additional requirement that the name and life of Jesus be known or understood before a person becomes savable (James 2:8). So, leave the destiny of your friend in the hands of a God who loves him much much more than you do and will do everything in His power to save him. God will save him if he would be safe in heaven once he knows the Truth and is able to recognize all of the lies of Satan that have blinded him all these years (Luke 23:34). No honest person is going to be tricked out of heaven. The lost will be lost because they love the lies that they know to be lies… i.e., they hate the Truth that they’ve been given to know and understand (Psalm 52:3). They perish because they refused to love the truth that they were given to know, be it ever so small, and so be saved (2 Thessalonians 2:10).
Pellagius was a contemporary of Augustine, and argued that Jesus did not come to die a substitutionary death, but rather, to show us how to live a perfect life. Augustine opposed this teaching, which has subsequently been labeled the Pellagian Heresy. Sadly, you and I were taught a heretical salvation doctrine which was based on the writings of Ellen White, who taught that we could never be certain of our salvation, and that even those living at the end of time will be uncertain of their eternal destiny, as they would have to live sinless lives for a period when their Intercessor was unavailable to them.
None of this is true regarding Mrs. White. Again, many times Mrs. White wrote that we can indeed have an assurance of salvation on a day-by-day basis. What she argued against was the concept of “once saved always saved” (as I’ve already explained above). Mrs. White never promoted the Pelagian Heresies such as the notion that we humans can in any way earn our way to heaven or that salvation is based on anything other than God’s grace alone. Beyond this, it was Graham Maxwell, not Ellen White, who fairy recently argued within the Adventist Church that Jesus did not die a substitutionary death. Mrs. White did not promote this notion either, but strongly argued in favor of substitutionary atonement.
Beyond this, I think we are going around in circles at this point…
Summary of 60th General Conference Session (2015)
It all has to do with motive (not the “works” themselves)… according to the Royal Law of selfless love for one’s neighbor (James 2:8) which is written on the heart of every human being – as Paul explains below:
“For it is not the hearers of the Law who are just before God, but the doers of the Law will be justified. For when Gentiles who do not have the Law do instinctively the things of the Law, these, not having the Law, are a law to themselves, in that they show the work of the Law written in their hearts, their conscience bearing witness and their thoughts alternately accusing or else defending them, on the day when, according to my gospel, God will judge the secrets of men through Christ Jesus.”
Those whom Christ commends in the judgment may have known little of theology, but they have cherished His principles. Through the influence of the divine Spirit they have been a blessing to those about them. Even among the heathen are those who have cherished the spirit of kindness; before the words of life had fallen upon their ears, they have befriended the missionaries, even ministering to them at the peril of their own lives. Among the heathen are those who worship God ignorantly, those to whom the light is never brought by human instrumentality, yet they will not perish. Though ignorant of the written law of God, they have heard His voice speaking to them in nature, and have done the things that the law required. Their works are evidence that the Holy Spirit has touched their hearts, and they are recognized as the children of God.
How surprised and gladdened will be the lowly among the nations, and among the heathen, to hear from the lips of the Saviour, “Inasmuch as ye have done it unto one of the least of these My brethren, ye have done it unto Me”! How glad will be the heart of Infinite Love as His followers look up with surprise and joy at His words of approval!
But not to any class is Christ’s love restricted. He identifies Himself with every child of humanity. That we might become members of the heavenly family, He became a member of the earthly family. He is the Son of man, and thus a brother to every son and daughter of Adam. His followers are not to feel themselves detached from the perishing world around them. They are a part of the great web of humanity; and Heaven looks upon them as brothers to sinners as well as to saints. The fallen, the erring, and the sinful, Christ’s love embraces; and every deed of kindness done to uplift a fallen soul, every act of mercy, is accepted as done to Him.
Ellen White, DA p. 638
Summary of 60th General Conference Session (2015)
Again, you fail to deal with those Biblical passages that deal specifically with those who have never had opportunity to hear the name of Jesus. You say you have no idea why the fate of the honest heathen might be a source of concern for anyone? – which is very strange coming from a Christian. The fate of the honest heathen reflects upon the character of God and the very basis for your own salvation – the reason why you are savable. And no, salvation is not based on mere lip service that Jesus is our savior. Not everyone who says “Lord Lord” will be saved (Matthew 7:21). It is based on a love of the truth, all truth, that is given to us to understand – however little it may be. In a word, salvation is based on motive – the motive of selfless love.
Also, even though I believe that it is indeed possible for the honest evolutionist to be saved by living according to the Royal Law, I also believe that a correct understanding of doctrinal knowledge provides hope in this life and is able to help one better deal with the struggles in this world and makes it easier for one to be saved through the hope that these doctrines provide. That is why I strive so hard to spread the good news of the Gospel message of hope (which includes the good news of God’s creative power).
Regarding more of your arguments against Ellen White:
Ellen White, on the other hand, taught in the 1890 Review and Herald that no sanctified tongue will ever say, “I am saved”, prior to the 2nd coming of Christ. She also taught that no man can say, “I am saved,” until he has endured test and trial, until he has shown that he can overcome tempation.” The Kress Collection, p. 120.
You evidently haven’t read the context of these statements. While Ellen White often talked about having the “assurance of salvation”, in these particular passages Ellen White is speaking against the concept of “once saved always saved”. She is speaking against the idea that one can say “I am saved and therefore I don’t have to worry about trying to keep God commands or laws.” Here is what she said in context:
We are never to rest in a satisfied condition, and cease to make advancement, saying, “I am saved.” When this idea is entertained, the motives for watchfulness, for prayer, for earnest endeavor to press onward to higher attainments, cease to exist. No sanctified tongue will be found uttering these words till Christ shall come, and we enter in through the gates into the city of God. Then, with the utmost propriety, we may give glory to God and to the Lamb for eternal deliverance. As long as man is full of weakness,—for of himself he cannot save his soul,—he should never dare to say, “I am saved.” It is not he that putteth on the armor that can boast of the victory; for he has the battle to fight and the victory to win. It is he that endureth unto the end that shall be saved. The Lord says, “If any man draw back, my soul shall have no pleasure in him.” If we do not go forward from victory to victory, the soul will draw back to perdition. We should raise no human standard whereby to measure character. We have seen enough of what men call perfection here below. God’s holy law is the only thing by which we can determine whether we are keeping his way or not. If we are disobedient, our characters are out of harmony with God’s moral rule of government, and it is stating a falsehood to say, “I am saved.” No one is saved who is a transgressor of the law of God, which is the foundation of his government in heaven and in earth. – EGW, RH June 17, 1890, par. 8
See also: Link
As far as “departing from clear instruction”, not everything that seems “clear” to you today was just as clear to someone else in some other time and place – not even to a prophet of God. Another example of this same sort of thing is the fact that Ellen White continued to eat meat for a while after writing against it. It seems like it was hard for her to change some of her own habits to bring them in line with what God had told her to write – a very human shortcoming which actually lends credibility to the claim that she wasn’t making up the “revaluations” she was given out of her own head. Again, prophets of God remain human, subject to error and mistakes of various kinds – even open rebellion on occasion. Yet, it is still clear that God still speaks through them. Consider the stories of Jonah and Balaam as particularly clear examples of this. Therefore, your arguments that God clearly did not speak through Ellen White because of various errors she made is not a reasonable argument or else you’d have to throw out the entire Bible. You have to look specifically at what she claimed God actually said to her.
As far as your claim that God would never deliberately allow for His people to make mistakes or reveal truth in stages in order to test the hearts of His people, you haven’t read the Bible very carefully. Remember how Nathan the prophet told David a story about a rich man taking a poor man’s sheep to feed his guests? – and how this story was deliberately calculated to trick David into judging himself? (2 Samuel 12:6-7). Only in this way would God be able to bring David into a clear realization of his own guilt and cause him to repent. The fact is that God does indeed use such tactics on occasion…
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
Science and Methodological Naturalism
Very interesting passage. After all, if scientists are honest with themselves, scientific methodologies are well-able to detect the existence of intelligent design behind various artifacts found in nature. It’s just the personal philosophy of scientists that makes them put living things and the origin of the fine-tuned universe “out of bounds” when it comes to the detection of intelligent design. This conclusion simply isn’t dictated by science itself, but by a philosophical position, a type of religion actually, that strives to block the Divine Foot from getting into the door…
Why is it that creationists are afraid to acknowledge the validity of Darwinism in these settings? I don’t see that these threaten a belief in God in any way whatsoever.
The threat is when you see no limitations to natural mindless mechanisms – where you attribute everything to the creative power of nature instead of to the God of nature.
God has created natural laws that can do some pretty amazing things. However, these natural laws are not infinite in creative potential. Their abilities are finite while only God is truly infinite.
The detection of these limitations allows us to recognize the need for the input of higher-level intelligence and creative power that goes well beyond what nature alone can achieve. It is here that the Signature of God is detectable.
For those who only hold a naturalistic view of the universe, everything is attributed to the mindless laws of nature… so that the Signature of God is obscured. Nothing is left that tells them, “Only God or some God-like intelligent mind could have done this.”
That’s the problem when you do not recognize any specific limitations to the tools that God has created – when you do not recognize the limits of nature and what natural laws can achieve all by themselves.
Since the fall of Adam, Sean, all babies are born in sin and they are sinners. God created them. Even if it was by way of cooperation of natural law as human beings also participated in the creation process.
God did not create the broken condition of any human baby – neither the physical or moral brokenness of any human being. God is responsible for every good thing, to include the spark or breath of life within each one of us. However, He did not and does not create those things within us that are broken or bad.
“The owner’s servants came to him and said, ‘Sir, didn’t you sow good seed in your field? Where then did the weeds come from?’ ‘An enemy did this,’ he replied. “The servants asked him, ‘Do you want us to go and pull them up?'” Matthew 13:27-28
Of course, all humans are indeed born broken and are in a natural state of rebellion against God. However, God is not the one who created this condition nor is God responsible for any baby being born with any kind of defect in character, personality, moral tendency, or physical or genetic abnormality. God did not create anyone with such brokenness. Such were the natural result of rebellion against God and heading the temptations of the “enemy”… the natural result of a separation from God with the inevitable decay in physical, mental, and moral strength.
Of course, the ones who are born broken are not responsible for their broken condition either. However, all of us are morally responsible for choosing to reject the gift of Divine Grace once it is appreciated… and for choosing to go against what we all have been given to know, internally, of moral truth. In other words, we are responsible for rebelling against the Royal Law written on the hearts of all mankind.
This is because God has maintained in us the power to be truly free moral agents in that we maintain the Power to choose, as a gift of God (Genesis 3:15). We can choose to accept or reject the call of the Royal Law, as the Holy Spirit speaks to all of our hearts…
Remember the statement by Mrs. White that God is in no wise responsible for sin in anyone at any time. God is working to fix our broken condition. He did not and does not create our broken condition. Just as He does not cause Babies to be born with painful and lethal genetic defects, such as those that result in childhood leukemia, He does not cause Babies to be born with defects of moral character either. God is only directly responsible for the good, never the evil, of this life.
Again, your all-or-nothing approach to the claims of scientists isn’t very scientific. Even the best and most famous of scientists has had numerous hair-brained ideas that were completely off base. This fact does not undermine the good discoveries and inventions that were produced.
Scientific credibility isn’t based on the person making the argument, but upon the merits of the argument itself – the ability of the hypothesis to gain predictive value when tested. That’s it.
Gary Gilbert, Spectrum, and Pseudogenes
Don’t be so obtuse here. We’re not talking about publishing just anything in mainstream journals. I’ve published several articles myself. We’re talking about publishing the conclusion that intelligent design was clearly involved with the origin of various artifactual features of living things on this planet. Try getting a paper that mentions such a conclusion published…