@Ron Stone M.D.: So, Sean the moral values in the …

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

@Ron Stone M.D.:

So, Sean the moral values in the Bible (such as the Ten Commandments)are NOT “doctrinal?” But, the Creation and how it occurred is? I’ve never heard that one before…

The Sabbath and murder are both “doctrinal.” Aren’t they? Why is one not a “moral” issue and the other is?

I didn’t say that an understanding of the Ten Commandments as “true” isn’t doctrinal. It is. However, there are certain elements to the Ten Commandments that are inherently known by all mankind. These elements are based on the Royal Law of Love. Beyond this, however, there are elements to the Ten Commandments that are not inherently known – such as the literal 6-day creation week or the Holiness of the 7th day of the week, the Sabbath day. This information is not intuitive. It has not been written on the hearts of all mankind.

Therefore, it is possible to have an honest and sincere misunderstanding of certain elements of the Ten Commandments and be morally upright at the same time – having honestly lived according to the Royal Law of Love as best as one knew how to do. – Romans 2:15 NIV

There will be a lot of people who never knew about the true Sabbath or the literal 6-day creation week who will be in heaven someday. There will be many more who knew about it, but who honestly did not understand it as truth who will be there as well.

This is not the case for those who raped or murdered their neighbors and who never sought forgiveness for these crimes against the Royal Law which was written on their hearts and for which there is absolutely no honest excuse before God.

Sean Pitman

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

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

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

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

Recent Comments by Sean Pitman

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?

Updating the SDA Position on Abortion
Then you have several different questions to explain. 1) How can a 6 month developed (but dead?), non-human being (from a human mother and father?) , being carried in it’s human mother’s womb, leap for joy because he (it?) recognized the mother of the World’s Savior? ”The dead know nothing, neither have they any more knowledge under the sun.” 2) How can anything dead even move? The opposite of alive is dead. Everything alive has life from God. Dead things don’t grow and they don’t move. Every SDA should know this. The Laws of God are not altered in order to justify killing unborn human beings that He has given life to.

Updating the SDA Position on Abortion
That’s just it. You say that, “The unborn think and feel”. However, an embryo in the earliest stages of development is just a single cell or an unformed ball of cells – with no apparent functional difference than a cluster of cells in my appendix. Such an embryo cannot think or feel or understand anything. There is no mind or intelligence at this point. If it isn’t murder to take out someone’s appendix, how then call it be truly “murder” to end a pregnancy at this point in time? How can you be so sure of yourself here? Based on what moral principle?

Also, people who are clearly “brain dead” need not be maintained indefinitely on life support. They’re just a shell of a body at this point and it is not “murder” to simply take them off the mechanical support of the empty shell of their body. This happens all the time in hospitals – and it is not considered to be “murder” at all… by most medical professionals (even most Christian ones).