Comment on Creeds and Fundamental Beliefs by Ron.
BobRyan: Is it your claim that if we reject atheism, Catholicism, Hinduism, Mormonism, etc and insist that our own voted body of doctrines be promoted “instead” that we have a “creed”?
Bob, The short answer is yes. The longer answer is that we should not reject Catholicism, Hinduism, Mormonism or any other “ism” out right. Certainly not on the basis of an extra-Biblical creed, but we should always listen to everyone with courtesy and respect remembering that Jesus was the light that lights “every man” who comes into the world, and Jesus has sheep who are “not of this fold”. So we should approach every “ism” with an open mind to find the truth that Jesus has especially revealed to the that community. We don’t have to accept everything they say, and we certainly don’t have to give up what we believe without reason, but we need to be open to what God might be trying to teach us through his other children. Light shines in both directions.
Ron Also Commented
BobRyan: When the power of God testifies as to what is truth, that truth is to stand forever as the truth.
Bob, that is part of the point. God has shown that He is a lover of diversity, that love, growth and development are all parts of his character. Certainly you remember Mrs. White’s description of heaven and how we will continually be growing, developing, and discovering new things. Would you agree with me so far? I think you would.
Then please come with me just a little bit more and notice that there is more than one way to characterize evolution. In your oft repeated quote, Mrs White isn’t saying evolution is bad. She is saying that using science to disparage belief in God is bad. The understanding of evolution was very limited in Mrs. White’s day and the discussion was framed in such a way that people were confused.
Today we understand evolution differently. We recognize now that evolution is really the physical manifestation of God’s character as described in my first paragraph. God is the creator, and evolution is only a word we use to describe his ongoing creative activity.
Evolution is God creating more diversity, and adapting biology to better fit an ever changing environment. I say biology because that is the topic here, but if you look around, everything, even inorganic matter and human spirituality evolve. They do it because that is a revelation of God’s nature as surely as is the 10 commandments.
@ Bob: “former Adventist”? Hmmm. . . What kind of a spirit would prompt a comment like that? You may wish it was that easy. No, I am still an Adventist in good standing.
@ O Nelson:
Actually, I don’t have any trouble with the “Fundamental Beliefs” as they are currently articulated. I think they are Biblical. They just, aren’t Scientific. As an accurate description of how Adventists interpret the Divine story, they are great. As a description of modern genetics, they are not.
The problem is when you insist that the “Fundamental Beliefs” are the ONLY way to interpret scripture, then you cut yourself off from the power and mystery of the Divine Story which reinterprets itself to every human heart in every unique situation. You also cut yourself off from the further revelation of Present Truth.
As long as the “Fundamental Beliefs” remain beliefs, i.e. a position statement from the theology department, I am OK with them. It is when they become a creed trying to pose as science in the science department, enforced by sanctions, that we have a problem.
The other problem is that there are some in the church who want to reformulate the “Fundamental Beliefs”, to tighten them up so to speak. They want to introduce an extra biblical interpretation into them. The Bible says God is the creator. It says nothing about evolution. To say that God could not, and did not, create animals with the capacity to evolve is to add something extra Biblical to the creed which might not stand the test of time. In fact, as I read Genesis, it STRONGLY implies post creation evolution, even though it doesn’t spell it out explicitly.
With all due respect to Usher, the Bible also doesn’t give a time frame. All Adventist theologians that I know of think that Genesis 1 is ambiguous. The ancient Hebrew cosmology is so different from our modern cosmology, that it is hard to say exactly how much of the Universe is encompassed by the term “In the beginning . . .” So, to say that creation happened in exactly 6 literal days, 6000 years ago is to add something extra Biblical to the Fundamental Beliefs. It isn’t really what the Bible says, it is what some of us think the Bible says. In my mind there is an infinite difference between the two.
Now, to say that something is extra Biblical is not to say that it isn’t true, or that there isn’t a good reason to make the statement, certainly Mrs. White thought the earth was created about 6,000 years ago, but I think we are on thin ice to put something into our “Fundamental Belief” statement based on Mrs. White. She always deferred to scripture, and she never claimed to be infallible, and at least as I read her, she had great respect for science. In fact in one place she said that the reason to teach science in our schools is to correct errors in theology. To me, that just raises a caution flag. This is an area where I think we need to not be dogmatic. Just because Bob can’t see how evolution and Genesis are compatible doesn’t mean that I can’t. And if I can see it, then maybe, over time, others will see it too. I guess it really comes down to what are you afraid of. Bob seems to be afraid that God isn’t big enough to save evolutionists, I am afraid of being too small, and trying to make God stay in my box.
Recent Comments by Ron
Revisiting God, Sky & Land by Fritz Guy and Brian Bull
I think what you say could only be true if God were not a loving God.
Revisiting God, Sky & Land by Fritz Guy and Brian Bull
Can you think of any metafore for God in the Bible where God would not in some way be responsible for our actions? The ones that come to mind for me are: sovereign, Lord, father, shepherd, a male lover. In all of these metafores God is responsible for either instigating the relationship as in the Song of Songs, or being an advocate, protector, or supervisor. I can’t think of anywhere in the Bible where God denies responsibility. I can think of lots of places where he claims responsibility and oundard explanation is, “Oh, he didn’t really mean that, He really just allowed some one else to do it,” Satan, Pharaoh, evil king etc.
“I’m not sure how many more times I have to explain this concept to you? Natural laws, created by God, work independent of God’s need for direct deliberate action.”
Sean, where do you get this idea that there is a natural law apart from God’s action? I don’t see that being taught in the Bible anywhere.
I think it comes down to semantics and perspective.
I think that you are still looking at the problem from a human perspective rather than God’s perspective. Move your point of reference up one level.
It is not God’s will that we sin, but the fact that we sin is not outside God’s will.
It is much like when my teenagers started driving. It was not my will that they have an accident, but I knew that it was almost certain that they eventually would, so I got them an older SUV to drive instead of my Lexus, and I bought insurance, sent them to driver’s school, and did my best to make them defensive drivers. My will and desire that they learn to drive, included the possibility that they would have an accident, so when they had an accident, it was not outside my will, or you might say, planning. I was prepared for it.
I think, this is an important perspective to have, because it takes a huge burden off of people when they sin. They know that they are still within God’s will, that he has a plan and can take care of it, that he still loves them, and that it is OK. They don’t have to go away and hide from God, because it is OK. God still loves them. They are still OK with God. He has a plan. He can take care of it. They are still within His will.
I don’t want my kids to run away and stop talking to me when they have an accident, because they are afraid of me. In fact, when they have their accident is exactly when I want them to talk to me the most. There isn’t any kind of accident that they can have, that I can’t deal with.
And I don’t want them to be afraid of driving, just because there is a risk of death, either. Yes, if they were killed, that would be tragic, but to be afraid of dying would be even more tragic. So, yes, I warn them, and I nag them about their defensive driving, and if they are killed, I will grieve terribly, but even their death is within my will. I would rather them live life to the fullest, and take the risk of death, than to not live, or to live fearful, timid, “safe” lives.
In the same way, the problem in the Garden of Eden wan’t so much eating the apple, God already had an insurance plan in place. Christ was the “Lamb That Was Slain From The Foundation Of The World”. God could fix it. They were still within His will.
Notice in the quote you quoted above about Satan. God could have restored Satan to his ORIGINAL position if, when he understood the nature of his action, he had been just willing to accept God’s forgiveness and take his position back again. There was no death penalty at that point, and Christ would NOT have had to die. It wasn’t until Satan completely understood the true consequences of his action and STILL refused to return to his original position, that his position was finally removed from him.
So, applying the same principles to Adam and Eve’s case shows us that it wasn’t the eating of the apple, or sin, per se’ that necessitated Christ’s death, it was their fear that caused them to run away and to try to justify themselves that necessitated Christ’s death.
Just like with Satan, the only reason God couldn’t restore them to their original position is the fear that made them run away from Him. It was their FEAR of His judgement. That is what made it impossible for God to fix it. That is what truly resulted in the death penalty. It was just as if my kid’s had runaway from home after their first accident. I would not have been able to help them.
Truthfully, when my kid’s had their accidents, I wasn’t even that upset. I pretty much expected it, and I was prepared. In the same way, I believe God pretty much expected it and was prepared.
God knew the fear that Satan had raised in the minds of the universe. He knew that the fear is the primary motivator for rebellion, and that it would eventually bear fruit in rebellion. But what could He do? This isn’t something you can resolve with words, and coercion or punishment would only make things worse. (Back to the main topic, Coercion is EVIL). Only a demonstration of God’s loving self sacrifice in response to sin could resolve the fear. (It is really hard to rebel against someone you believe truly has your best interest at heart. Think about it.)
So what did He do? He put the trees on all of the worlds and waited. He gave a warning of the consequences of eating of the tree, which is really the consequence of the fear that generated the rebellious act.
He was right to give the warning, but it was impossible for the warning to be effective. The word “death” has no meaning to someone who has never seen it. It would be like naming colors to a person born blind.
So was it God’s will that Adam and Eve be afraid of Him? No, of course not. But, being afraid, because of Satan’s deception, was it God’s will that they live forever in fear and doubt? No, of course not. So, what alternative is there?
The ONLY alternative that affirms a full and vibrant life without fear, is to confront the fear itself. At some point, someone in the Universe has to have the courage (remember courage can not exist without fear) to act on, or in spite of, their fear. And at some point God has to demonstrate that even in the face of rebellion, He loves us, forgives us, and invites us back to His heart and home. The only way for Him to abolish fear is to demonstrate that He has OUR best interest at heart, even above His own. “For God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten son.” That is the true healing power of the cross. It abolishes fear.
So that is why I affirm Eve’s action. It confronts the fear, and affirms that life is worth living in spite of the risk and pain of death, in the same way that I affirm my child’s learning to drive in spite of the risk of pain and death. I affirm it because a full life, free from fear is worth it. It was through Eve’s action that God was able to remove fear from the heart of the Universe forever. It was also through Eve’s action, that God came to dwell within the heart of man. 2 Peter 1:3,4. A far more exalted position, and intimate relationship than is possible for any other being in the Universe.
It is only when we remain afraid of God, after all He has sacrificed for us that we are outside His will. What more can He do?
It is only when we are afraid to embrace life for fear of pain and death that we are outside his will. What more can He do?
So it is for these reasons that being punitive toward member’s and employee’s who are embracing all of the challenges of a vigorous, lively discussion of religion and science, especially evolution is wrong. The punitive action arises out of fear, and misrepresents God to the Universe as a God of fear and coercion.
“This mindless evolutionary mechanism gives an advantage to the individual that sustains a reproductive advantage regardless of what this advantage might do to the overall system or environment within which the individual lives. In other words, this evolutionary mechanism is what is responsible for various forms of cancer which end up destabilizing the higher level environment,”
This statement seems illogical to me. Evolution doesn’t cause cancer, things like radiation damage cause cancer. I don’t see how a population that gets cancer has a selection bias over a population that does not get cancer. It seems to me that the population that doesn’t get cancer will very soon out perform the population that gets cancer and those with cancer will very shortly become a small percentage of the overall population.
PS. I know the phrase “Survival of the fittest” has a bad connotation and I don’t like it, but here is a good example of it in a positive context. Let’s say we have an environment that is subject to high radiation exposure. The off spring of those individuals that are more resistant to getting cancer from radiation are going to survive better than those who are more susceptible to radiation damage. To me this represents a positive adaptive response that a loving creator would be likely to build into his creation.