Perhaps this will help someone: By far the most helpful Adventist book I ever read relating Justification, Sanctification, and a final pre-Advent judgment according to one’s works was written by — an Anglican!
I’ve reread N.T. Wright’s book Justification: Gods Plan & Paul’s Vision at least four times. (For those who haven’t heard of him, he is probably the world’s most influential N.T. scholar, is the name most associated with “The New Perspective(s) on Paul”, and when he wrote the book he was Bishop of Durham, which means he lived in a castle, was member of the House of Lords, and I think 3rd in the hierarchy of the Church of England. He is a brilliant scholar who shares the cheerful and courteous humility characteristic of Dr. Ford, and also like Dr. Ford has many detractors who are convinced he is a dangerous threat to “the church.” The book is a response to one of them.)
At any rate, to counter those who feel he is a threat to their version of the gospel, N.T. Wright uses the helpful analogy of the steering wheel and the car. Often when people use theological terms like “justification” (or “sanctification”) they load onto them a whole host of concepts that the Bible never gives them — even if the other concepts themselves might be a valid topic of discussion in themselves. So endless misunderstandings and arguments result, and people feel threatened if we point out that correctly naming the steering wheel does not mean we are denying the car or the process of driving.
Later in the book, he discusses the theological term (as opposed to the Biblical term) of “sanctification” and suggests the difficulty reconciling it with Paul’s gospel of justification is resolved when we understand union with Christ (which never comes without the added blessing of the Holy Spirit, just like the steering wheel is always attached to the car but is not the car), and suggests our theology is “not sufficiently Trinitarian.”
The stunning aspect of the book, though, is his insistence on the underlying themes in Paul of Covenant, Lawcourt, Messiah, and Eschatology, and his insistence that to understand the mind of Paul properly when you read him on Justification you really must read another book: the Book of Daniel!!
He explains the prophecy of the 70 weeks in Daniel 9, and the heavenly judgment scene of Daniel 7 (elsewhere he has pointed out it is a heavenly event and not Christ coming in the clouds to earth). (About the only thing left out is Daniel 8:14, of course.) His point is this: to be justified by faith is to know the verdict has already been given in your favor at the final judgment.
Imagine what might have been at Glacier View if Adventists always had understood and spoken of the judgment that way, instead of the monstrous faith-destroying baggage that eventually got attached to the IJ!
Sorry for the extreme length, but in deep gratitude to Dr. Ford and his legacy, here are two personal reminiscences on his legacy:
In the months after Glacier View, Desmond Ford came to Berrien Springs and spoke in town, since he was banned from campus. I walked to each meeting and took copious notes. A fellow student (we were just freshman undergraduates!) saw him in town and asked if he could privately come answer a few of our questions. Dr. Ford happily obliged, and took a few hours from his very busy schedule to come and answer some very elementary questions. I will never forget his humility! He was sincerely as happy having a Bible study and prayer and sharing words of encouragement with an audience of four or five teenagers as speaking to a thousand as he had just done the day before. Years later I would watch from Colorado in the middle of the night many of those Sabbath afternoon talks streamed from Peachester to bask from long distance in that same fruit of the Spirit that was in him.
Exactly thirty years to the week after Dr. Ford’s firing at Glacier View, during a local pastor’s conference in that very auditorium at Glacier View Ranch (I believe Martin Webber was leading the discussion), a small group of pastors reflected on the tragedy of that day and what opportunities the church had lost. In the care going back down out of the mountains, a younger pastor said to me he had never seen the Glacier View Manuscript. I lent him my marked-up copy from college days, falling apart. A month later he returned it with the comment “I really don’t understand what all the fuss was about. For the most part it looks like pretty much what we all learn at the seminary nowadays.”