@Bill Sorensen: If we applied your rule in its final …

Comment on Ravi Zacharias: Should Church Members be Held to a Higher Standard? by Sean Pitman.

@Bill Sorensen:

If we applied your rule in its final application, you will have to abandon the idea that the church should fire anyone who disagrees with the church’s position on any level. After all, we don’t know if they are “honestly” teaching evolution or not.

We judge if an action is or is not in line with “present truth”. We do not judge the heart when it comes to doctrinal issues that are not intuitively knowable – i.e., such as the doctrine of a literal 6-day creation week. This particular doctrine was not part of the Law that was “written on the heart” of all mankind. – Romans 2:15 NIV

The Royal Law of Love was in fact written on the hearts of all mankind and is more easily judged when it is broken in certain obvious cases – like murder, rape, child molestation, etc. This is not the case with an incorrect understanding of the literal 6-day creation week. Moral judgments along these lines should be reserved for God and God alone.

The fact is that you do not know the heart or true motives of a person who believes in evolution – who doubts the validity of the literal 6-day creation week. You simply cannot judge such a person on a moral basis. The very best you can say is that this person is confused or mistaken and for that reason cannot represent the SDA Church as a paid employee. However, being confused or honestly mistaken is not the same thing as being morally corrupt.

And, let me tell you, it is far far easier to be honestly mistaken about the truth of the literal 6-day creation week than it is to be honestly mistaken about murder or rape or child molestation. It is completely nuts to compare a lack of doctrinal understanding of the literal 6-day creation week with murder or rape. That’s an unconscionable comparison and will not be supported by this forum. You can argue that those who oppose a literal 6-day creation week are mistaken, but you cannot argue that they are automatically evil for believing in evolution. That’s simply not true. We can afford to be much more charitable in our disagreement with mainstream evolutionists here.

Now, there may be a case made for a fairly clear moral problem for those opposing the clearly stated SDA positions on the Church’s dime. That is a form of stealing from the Church which has more obvious moral implications since stealing is inherently known to be wrong. Stealing from one’s neighbor violates the Law of Love which has been written on the hearts of all…

Sean Pitman
www.DetectingDesign.com

Sean Pitman Also Commented

Ravi Zacharias: Should Church Members be Held to a Higher Standard?
@Professor Kent:

Just to clarify: I’m not saying the flood could not have been universal, covering every single piece of land and killing every single living organism outside of the ark. I’m just saying that the Bible’s language does not require these. Dogmatic belief in these ideas goes beyond a simple “thus saith the Lord.”

That may be your opinion, but it is not the opinion of the SDA Church nor is it the opinion of many mainstream Hebrew scholars – such as James Barr.

Probably, so far as I know, there is no professor of Hebrew or Old Testament at any world-class university who does not believe that the writer(s) of Genesis 1-11 intended to convey to their readers the ideas that (a) creation took place in a series of six days which were the same as the days of 24 hours we now experience (b) the figures contained in the Genesis genealogies provided by simple addition a chronology from the beginning of the world up to later stages in the biblical story (c) Noah’s flood was understood to be world-wide and extinguish all human and animal life except for those in the ark. Or, to put it negatively, the apologetic arguments which suppose the `days’ of creation to be long eras of time, the figures of years not to be chronological, and the flood to be a merely local Mesopotamian flood, are not taken seriously by any such professors, as far as I know.

– James Barr, Oxford University

Beyond this, the SDA Church, in particular, has the testimony of Mrs. White who is very explicit in her claim to have been shown the world-wide extent and effects of the Noachian Flood.

Sean Pitman
www.DetectingDesign.com


Ravi Zacharias: Should Church Members be Held to a Higher Standard?
@BobRyan:

That is a very different thing from the convicting of the lost done by the Holy Spirit that “convicts the WORLD”. Never is “Convicting the world” said to be “writing the law of God on the heart of all people in the world” in scripture.

Paul is very clear (Romans 2:14-15 NIV) that one can be convicted by the Holy Spirit to do what is right and to love one’s neighbor without actually knowing where the conviction is coming from; without having access to the written Word; without having knowledge of God from the written Word; and without having knowledge of the life and death of Jesus. Mrs. White also confirms this in the Desire of Ages when she writes:

When the Son of man shall come in His glory, and all the holy angels with Him, then shall He sit upon the throne of His glory: and before Him shall be gathered all nations: and He shall separate them one from another.” Thus Christ on the Mount of Olives pictured to His disciples the scene of the great judgment day. And He represented its decision as turning upon one point. When the nations are gathered before Him, there will be but two classes, and their eternal destiny will be determined by what they have done or have neglected to do for Him in the person of the poor and the suffering…

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!

– Ellen White, Desire of Ages, p. 637-638

Sean Pitman
www.DetectingDesign.com


Ravi Zacharias: Should Church Members be Held to a Higher Standard?
@Rich Constantinescu:

Sean: “This is because morality is not dependent upon accurate knowledge, but upon living according to the very best knowledge that is currently known in a loving manner toward one’s neighbors that is heart-felt…”

GC88 597.2 says, “The truth and the glory of God are inseparable; it is impossible for us, with the Bible within our reach, to honor God by erroneous opinions. Many claim that it matters not what one believes, if his life is only right. But the life is moulded by the faith. If light and truth are within our reach, and we neglect to improve the privilege of hearing and seeing it, we virtually reject it; we are choosing darkness rather than light.”

A deliberate neglect to learn the truth that we could have learned is not honest ignorance. Such is the basis of a moral downfall as Mrs. White points out here. I’m not talking about deliberate avoidance of what one suspects might be true. I’m talking about truly honest ignorance or a truly honest lack of comprehension. Such a person cannot be accused of a moral wrong any more than an amoral animal, like a dog, can be accused of a moral wrong. A moral fall is dependent upon a conscious deliberate rejection of what one knows is true or suspects might be true if further investigation were carried out.

For example, if God had not told Adam and Eve not to eat of the Tree of Knowledge of Good and Evil, they would not have been guilty if they ate the fruit of the tree. It is only because they knew that this fruit was not theirs to take, that they became guilty of stealing when the ate it – guilty of breaking the Royal Law.

LP 87.2 says, “But the Lord, who sent out his ambassadors with a message to the world, will hold the people responsible for the manner in which they treat the words of his servants. God will judge all according to the light which has been presented to them, whether it is plain to them or not. It is their duty to investigate as did the Bereans. The Lord says through the prophet Hosea: “My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge; because thou hast rejected knowledge, I will also reject thee.” Hosea 4:6

Again, I’m not talking about a deliberate rejection of knowledge. I’m talking about an honest misunderstanding of knowledge. This very popular text in Hosea is talking about a deliberate rejection of knowledge – not an honest misunderstanding or non-comprehension of the truth. God would never reject someone who honestly didn’t know any better; who had never deliberately rejected suspected truth…

And, in order to accurately make such a judgment, regarding truths that are not intuitively knowable, one must know the heart of another person – which is impossible for all except God.

Sean Pitman
www.DetectingDesign.com


Recent Comments by Sean Pitman

The Sabbath and the Covenants (Old vs. New)
Response to a comment of a friend of mine posted in another forum:

    “Before the way of FAITH IN CHRIST was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, UNTIL the way of faith was revealed. The law was our guardian UNTIL Christ came; it protected us UNTIL we could be made right with God through FAITH. And now that the way of FAITH has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. For you are all children of God through FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS.” Gal3:23-26

Faith is certainly what saves. This has always been true since the very beginning. Even those righteous persons who lived before Jesus was born into this world as a human being, even Moses or David for instance, were not saved by the works of the Law, but by Faith. The purpose of the Law was never to save, but to convict the sinner of a need of a Savior – since all have sinned against the “Royal Law.” It is faith in the Savior that saves. The work of the Law, carefully considered, is to lead us to know that our only hope of salvation is faith in what Jesus, our Savior, did for us and is doing for us. Yet, this faith does not nullify the Law or make the Law pointless when it comes to its job to constantly remind us of our need of a Savior – a saving Power outside of ourselves. Rather, the Power realized through this faith actually enables us to keep the Spirit of the Law as it was originally intended to be kept – through selfless love for God and for our neighbors.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, makes this point particularly clear:

Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. – Romans 3:31

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but it is the doers of the law who will be declared righteous. Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts… If a man who is not circumcised keeps the requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? – Romans 2:13-15, 26

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! – Romans 6:15

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” … So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good… For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. – Romans 7:7, 11, 22-25

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit… The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. – Romans 8:3-4, 7

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. – Romans 13:8-10


Christians and the Sabbath
Response to a comment of a friend of mine posted in another forum:

    “Before the way of FAITH IN CHRIST was available to us, we were placed under guard by the law. We were kept in protective custody, so to speak, UNTIL the way of faith was revealed. The law was our guardian UNTIL Christ came; it protected us UNTIL we could be made right with God through FAITH. And now that the way of FAITH has come, we no longer need the law as our guardian. For you are all children of God through FAITH IN CHRIST JESUS.” Gal3:23-26

Faith is certainly what saves. This has always been true since the very beginning. Even those righteous persons who lived before Jesus was born into this world as a human being, even Moses or David for instance, were not saved by the works of the Law, but by Faith. The purpose of the Law was never to save, but to convict the sinner of a need of a Savior – since all have sinned against the “Royal Law.” It is faith in the Savior that saves. The work of the Law, carefully considered, is to lead us to know that our only hope of salvation is faith in what Jesus, our Savior, did for us and is doing for us. Yet, this faith does not nullify the Law or make the Law pointless when it comes to its job to constantly remind us of our need of a Savior – a saving Power outside of ourselves. Rather, the Power realized through this faith actually enables us to keep the Spirit of the Law as it was originally intended to be kept – through selfless love for God and for our neighbors.

Paul, in his letter to the Romans, makes this point particularly clear:

Do we, then, nullify the law by this faith? Not at all! Rather, we uphold the law. – Romans 3:31

For it is not the hearers of the law who are righteous before God, but it is the doers of the law who will be declared righteous. Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature what the law requires, they are a law to themselves, even though they do not have the law, since they show that the work of the law is written on their hearts… If a man who is not circumcised keeps the requirements of the law, will not his uncircumcision be regarded as circumcision? – Romans 2:13-15, 26

What then? Shall we sin because we are not under the law but under grace? By no means! – Romans 6:15

What shall we say, then? Is the law sinful? Certainly not! Nevertheless, I would not have known what sin was had it not been for the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, “You shall not covet.” … So then, the law is holy, and the commandment is holy, righteous and good… For in my inner being I delight in God’s law; but I see another law at work in me, waging war against the law of my mind and making me a prisoner of the law of sin at work within me. What a wretched man I am! Who will rescue me from this body that is subject to death? Thanks be to God, who delivers me through Jesus Christ our Lord! So then, I myself in my mind am a slave to God’s law, but in my sinful nature a slave to the law of sin. – Romans 7:7, 11, 22-25

For what the law was powerless to do because it was weakened by the flesh, God did by sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh to be a sin offering. And so he condemned sin in the flesh, in order that the righteous requirement of the law might be fully met in us, who do not live according to the flesh but according to the Spirit… The mind governed by the flesh is hostile to God; it does not submit to God’s law, nor can it do so. – Romans 8:3-4, 7

Let no debt remain outstanding, except the continuing debt to love one another, for whoever loves others has fulfilled the law. The commandments, “You shall not commit adultery,” “You shall not murder,” “You shall not steal,” “You shall not covet,” and whatever other command there may be, are summed up in this one command: “Love your neighbor as yourself.” Love does no harm to a neighbor. Therefore love is the fulfillment of the law. – Romans 13:8-10


Updating the SDA Position on Abortion
Again, most people, including most non-Christians, consider late-term abortions (abortions within the third trimester of otherwise healthy viable babies) to be murder. There is relatively little argument about this. One doesn’t have to know the “precise point” to know that, after a certain point, abortion is clearly murder. The argument that a baby isn’t alive or really human until the moment that it is born is nonsense in my opinion.

Of course, before the third trimester, things start to get a bit more grey and unclear. Some define the beginnings of human life with the full activity of the brain’s cortex. Others define it with the earliest activity of the brain stem. Others define it as the beginnings of fetal movement or the fetal heartbeat. I might have my own opinions here, but the question I ask myself is at what point would I be willing to convict someone else of murder? – and be willing to put them in prison for it? For me, I wouldn’t be willing to do this until things are overwhelmingly clear that the baby is functioning as a full human being and is viable (which would include full brain activity).

As far as rape or incest is concerned, the resulting pregnancy should be terminated as soon as possible within the first trimester. Waiting for the third trimester is simply not an option because, at this point, it would still be murder to kill a fully-formed baby regardless of its origin…


Updating the SDA Position on Abortion
I agree with you up until your last sentence. It seems very very clear to me that a baby becomes human before it takes its first breath. A baby born at 40 weeks gestation is not somehow inherently “more human” than a baby that is still inside its mother at 39 weeks gestation. At 39 weeks, such a baby is indistinguishable from a baby that has already been born. The location inside or outside of the mother makes absolutely no difference at this point in time and development.

I think, therefore, that we as Christians should avoid both obvious extremes here in this discussion. There are two very clear ditches on both sides of the road here. We should avoid claiming that a baby is not really human until it is actually born at full term, and, at the same time, we should also avoid claiming that full humanity and moral worth is instantly realized at the moment of conception…


Updating the SDA Position on Abortion
Most would agree with you that the baby John the Baptist, before he was born, was, at some point, a real human being who could “leap for joy” (Luke 1:44). Even most non-Christians would agree that a third-trimester abortion is murder. However, this isn’t the real problem here. We are talking about if a single cell or a simple ball of cells is fully “human” and if ending a pregnancy at such an early stage of development is truly a “murder” of a real human being. After all, when conception first takes place a single cell cannot “leap for joy” – or for any other reason. It’s just a single fertilized cell that cannot think or feel or move and has no brain or mind or intelligence of any kind. The same is true of an embryo that consists of no more than an unformed ball of cells for quite some time. Upon what basis, then, is it “murder” to end a pregnancy at this early point in embryological development?