Faith, Salvation, and Adventist Identity: Part 3

William C. DeMary shares the third part of his three-part series, “Faith, Salvation, and Adventist Identity.” You can access the second part here.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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Everyone who reads Spectrum’s comments knows this is not gonna happen, right?

I mean, it’s pretty obvious that EGW-ism is all about doing “The White Thing” and misappropriation of “The White Stuff”, isn’t it?


I’ve read some Tillich, including a couple of critical reviews, though I’m still not sure I understood him. This study is worth some thoughtful responses from better minds on this site. I imagine myself in a lecture hall or classroom for a graduate seminar.

Here’s where I need some help in putting the following statements together. Please, anyone?

Good evening,

I believe the confusion may be due to my heavy reliance on Tillich’s jargon, as well as my own grammar in some places. Hopefully I can clarify what I meant in these paragraphs.

Tillich’s eschatology is constructed on the idea that history, like God, follows a trinitarian structure. History has this structure because of the Holy Spirit’s activity, which makes God’s creative power an existential or historical reality. This activity involves making God’s power or creativity, represented by the Father, accessible to the human mind through the Logos, represented by the Son. In other words, it is the Holy Spirit that makes it possible for the finite human mind, limited by the structures of rational thought, to have a relationship with an infinite God.

In the first quoted paragraph, my argument is that because of the sanctuary doctrine, Adventism has not correctly understood its place in history. The church fails to see itself as existing in a continuity with the rest of the Christian tradition. It fails to recognize the activity of the Holy Spirit in the span of history between Christ’s death and resurrection and 1844. Because the sanctuary doctrine maintains that the benefits of the atonement were not fully applied to us until the investigative judgment, the Adventist church effectively maintains that the power of God did not become a meaningful historical reality until 1844—it denies that the Holy Spirit was active or efficacious until 1844.

Moreover, as I suggest in the second quoted paragraph, because of the incorrect relationship that the Adventist church has with Christian history, it has failed to understand its mission, which is to participate in the Holy Spirit’s activity of making God’s power intelligible or meaningful to others—in other words, to imitate Christ, who, by embodying God’s power, made it intelligible to the world. For Tillich, the task of apologetic theology is to interpret the Christian message for those in our contemporary situation, so that it continues to be a dynamic truth rather than a static, obsolete set of doctrines. (I discuss this in Part 1 of this series and in more depth in my article “Inspiration and Humanism,” published in May.)

The Last Generation Theology is concerned with arguing that we have a responsibility to participate in vindicating God against Satan’s charges that his law is unjust. However, I do not believe that we are saved for the purpose of keeping God’s law, as this doctrine seems to claim. Paul states that the law was added because of transgressions (Gal. 3:19). The law was intended to show the inadequacy of mere obedience in securing our salvation; rather, we only experience salvation when we have faith in God’s grace. God vindicates himself through his grace towards us; we can only participate in vindicating God by proclaiming his grace to others, which is the task of apologetic theology.

In the third quoted paragraph, I indicate that the Adventist church tends to be more concerned with behavior (which is a consequence of its excessive emphasis on obedience) than with action—that is, with actively promoting the Christian message as a solution to the challenges facing contemporary society. (I discuss the distinction between behavior and action in Part 1.) Tillich’s theology advocates meaningful action by engaging in the task of apologetic theology; in fact, I believe that Tillich’s theology itself is an attempt to make the Christian message intelligible to those in his generation who were attracted to existentialist philosophy. I think it still holds promise for Adventism, in that it offers an alternative to the hollow fundamentalism that dominates church teachings.

Hopefully this helps to clarify these points.

I’m guessing majority of Adventists belong to the LGT camp. This is true especially among our ethnic congregations. Your 3-part series, using Tillich’s existentialist theology as a platform covered all the bases, raising the conversation to a much higher level where it ought to be Thank you! I’m not sure how much Tillich our seminary students are exposed to if his name is even mentioned.

I don’t get the idea that the sanctuary doctrine basically denies the work of the Holy Spirit from the resurrection to 1844. Adventists like most Christian’s believe Pentecost initiated the era of the Spirit’s full power bring poured out, the early rain. 1844 initiated the investigative judgement, the latter rain will be poured out just before probation ends. I don’t see how the sanctuary denies the Spirit until 1844.

Oh my: the early rain, the investigative judgement, probation ends… it’s a long time since I’ve heard those phrases - maybe because it’s a long time since I’ve been in an SDA church that uses them. And here’s me hoping those phrases would gradually fade away…

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