Penultimate Generation Theology

All this quarter, the Adult Bible Study Guide focuses on the metal-forming process of a fire-heated crucible. This is its metaphorical way to describe the concept of trials as painful experiences that believers can use to refine their character. It also makes for brutal reading. Trigger warning! 

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

“I feel bad for those who will read this week’s lesson and find their Christian-crucible pain encouraged. It seems to say that the more miserable a person is, the better they are going to be. Some might be inspired, but this sort of crucible Christianity has left a legacy of misery. Caveat lector! It’s not ultra-Last Generation Theology, but the language of the lesson offers its readers a potentially painful penultimate theological gateway.”

Exactly!! If it walks like duck, quacks like a duck…

(Why are SDA’s so enthralled with being miserable?)


The whole lesson practically deifies the will, making it central and first…not Christ, not the Spirit, and certainly not connection with one another where we find and give support, help, encouragement, feedback. IOW, there is nothing relational at all about this lesson. It makes living the Christian life into a solo job. Contrast this with the overtly hortatory portions of Paul’s letters, where “one another” is a key phrase, and the difference can’t be more stark.

The lesson also practically discounts our emotions, as if they are bad. Instead, our emotions can be used as a radar system to tell us what needs to be addressed in our lives. While we need more than just our emotional responses in order to make sound decisions, and while we need to take a step back from them at times, it is not wise to discount them from our decision making process. Our emotions can give us valuable information that our intellects and rational minds can’t. We need both.

No wonder so many wear masks, are miserable, develop addictive behaviors, feel isolated in their problems, and fall away under this model of Christianity. It’s totally distorted.



Just by virtue of logic, this entire exercise of perfectionism stands in opposition to the Gospel of Christ. The basis of our relationship to Christ is our sinfulness which we are unable to erase. Once we “reflect perfectly the character of Christ” we no longer stand in need of the grace offered by Christ’s atonement - we are then equal to Christ in holiness. Anybody ready to claim that?

I can already hear the objection that we need forgiveness for our past sins. That doesn’t wash either - “as far as east is from the west…” (Ps 103) would refute that.

Beyond that, what would it take for every living being on earth to have heard the SDA version of the gospel, either by some version of the Revelation Seminar or, by a pamphlet or book in the mailbox… as if that counts for anything. That’s logistically impossible. Millions have died without that special message; and since “God is no respecter of persons,” able to reach any and all as He has through the ages, the whole premise of having to be perfect for the last minute of earth’s history, is meaningless . In the meantime, death is the great equalizer.


Suffering for Christians appears to be either incidental or a consequence of their witness in a hostile environment. We strive, nonetheless, with all the strength we can muster.

Life is a crucible for everyone. There will, inevitably, come a time when we are hit with that fact. The Christian has both, an advantage in that situation, but also a “crucible experience,” unique to Christians. If we are matured in faith, to the point we know our life is lived with “Christ in you”, we have “that hope,” when the world comes crashing down around us. The difficulty with it is that we might expect special protection if we still hang on to our childhood Bible promises; and when we suffer like everyone else, we have to dig deep to maintain the faith. That is our Gethsemane.


If one preacher tells you to expect troubles/persecution because you follow God’s plan (Satan will try to sway you) and another tells you if you stray from God’s plan you you can expect trouble (no protection, Satan has you), who are we to believe? Are we doomed to trouble either way…“dxxxed if we do, dxxxed if we don’t.”


My mom used to tell me there are good angels and bad angels around me all the time, both trying to listen to them, so I would physically punch out the bad angels - but then I would worry that I punched out the wrong one since I didn’t see them. Your question reminds me of it - but I was under five.

If that’s too subtle, let me just say, as adults we should have a more nuanced understanding of all this.


The lesson is asking the wrong questions. Where is the role of Justification by faith, the role of God’s grace, the role of the Holy Spirit living within us, the role of the Holy Spirit in fighting our flesh, the role of the Holy Spirit “pouring the love of God” into our hearts (Rom 5).

“Therefore, there is now no condemnation for those who are in Christ Jesus [by faith]” Rom 8:1

“God’s love has been poured out into our hearts through the Holy Spirit, who has been given to us.” Rom 5:5

2:15 “We who are Jews by birth and not sinful Gentiles [who don’t know] 2:16 [We Jews ourselves] know that a person [everyone] is not justified by the works [commands] of the law, but [only] by faith in Jesus Christ . So, we too, have put our faith in Christ Jesus that we may be justified by faith in Christ and not by the works of the law , because by the works [commandments] of the law no one [every living person] will be justified [declared right with God]. Gal.


I’d argue it doesn’t even do that. After all, Friday’s question was “To what extent do you think that we actually recognize that our wills were “at the Fall given into the control of Satan”?”

No, this is the same perfection theology I grew up surrounded by. You can’t trust your will, your emotion, your friends, your senses, anything. You are literally incapable of doing anything right. If you try to make any choice, you will invariably choose sin. If you try to do anything, you will invariably do something sinful.

The only thing you can do is ask God to control your every single action, essentially turning you into a marionette. Even when EGW says “,…He has given them power to do for themselves," it just the power to choose to give over our will to God, because we can’t be trusted. It is very, very discouraging to hear week after week, to say the least.


You know, if I knew a parent who never told the kids they loved them and constantly beat them, I wouldn’t think they were a loving parent. I’d think they were an abusive monster.

Why does this quarterly insist on portraying God as an abusive monster, and gosh golly, doesn’t that show how lucky and loved we are? It’s insane.

Sorry if that’s a little too blunt, but this is the worst quarterly I’ve ever seen. And it’s a reprint from 2007! Why couldn’t they have reprinted literally anything else?


LOL, I was remembering the type of nonsense we used to get told by preachers as we were growing up. Looking back they must have thought we were lacking in intelligence, or have short memories.


This series of lessons is reflecting the concept of character development which Ellen White inherited from Methodism. It is a Biblical concept - maturing in our walk with Christ. But it’s a fine line between this and perfectionism and Last Generation Theology. And despite the author’s emphasis, one wonders how much suffering in our lives is intentionally sent or allowed by God to grow our characters. I suspect this would be in the minority of cases for most people, even though all suffering can lead to some sort of personal growth, if only in endurance and faith.


I don’t doubt that growth is one of the possible outcomes of trouble/suffering. I think where the contention lies is what is the source? It gets into those philosophical ideas of omnipotence. Cause or allow? Is it God’s responsibility or our own? This moves into the Jewish idea of illness being the result of our (or our parents) sin.

Rather than spending time on the origin of our suffering, are we not better off adopting a Buddhist view and ignore the origin? Does it benefit us if we know the origin?

I haven’t looked at a quarterly in decades but I scanned the headings for each day, just out of curiosity.

I forget which day it was under but the author, for whatever reason, grudgingly allows that feelings are not necessarily bad.

In other words, emotions are probably pretty bad, or at least suspicious, so it’s best to make every effort to suppress or simply deny them.

I’m not a shrink, but I suspect there is no better recipe if one trying to induce mental illness in another.


It’s typical cultish sophistry. Proclaim an unfalsifiable, untestable propostion, and declare anyone opposed to it as working for the devil.


Reality is created by our brains just like feelings - both come from perspective. Feelings are the first indication we are alive. As infants that’s all we had. We can’t make a blanket statement that we can’t trust our feelings. What does that even mean? When your gut tells you to be wary or that you need to overlook a wrong, that may be all you have to go on. - a look - a phrase - nothing written or pledged, just a feeling often tells you more than a measured statement.

Feelings are also created in our brains; and they encompass past experience and a totality of life events that end up telling you something about who, or what is standing before you.


Yes… I’m wondering though: Is maturing in or through suffering uniquely Christian? For believers only, or because we know Jesus suffered for our sins?

– Timothy Keller, Walking with God through Pain and Suffering

It is not a coincidence that the root of the word “emotions” is the same as the word “motivation”.

In other words-and rather than being anathema to all that is good and holy-feelings and emotions are what drive us forward.

Yes, logic can and should be used in order to guide us along the way. But for better or worse, the essential factors in all human endeavors is feelings and emotional.

Computers are the most logical machines known to man but left alone and without any wants, desires or feelings, a computer won’t do anything until an emotional creature comes along and puts its logical prowess to work.

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The lessons from suffering come retrospectively. At the time you can’t philosophize, I find.

My daughter had an ovarian cyst discovered during an ultrasound for the baby she was carrying. It had a 50/50 chance of being a cancer. I was preparing to fly across country to be with her for the surgery. I went for a long walk to steady myself for the journey, and all it was to hold for us. I was talking with God about it when suddenly a black cat ran across the road. I was pleased to see that God has a sense of humour. I started laughing in the middle of the road, and I knew she would be alright. In hindsight, that crucible moment could have been more painful, but for that joke.

Just to be clear, my perception of God is what spoke to me, not necessarily a biblical concept. The messages God sends to us each, can’t be generalized.

Not sure that was answer to your comment.