Penultimate Generation Theology

In the 2014 article referenced in this one, COL 69 is mentioned as central, or at least, often cited as evidence of this need to be sinless to allow Christ to come and take His people home. I mention this because I think it helps to expand on the context of this oft repeated phrase among SDA’s who see our perfection as necessary for God’s returning, and how it relates to the SS lesson under comment here by Mr. Carpenter.

The context of COL 69 doesn’t even mention “sinlessness.” It is an exposition on the parable found in Mark 4:2-29 that says, “first the blade, the the ear,” the title of the chapter, in fact. This parable is remarked upon as the illustration of Christian development of the graces of Christ in the believer’s life. Core to this development is the exercise of turning from self and thinking of others and being of help to others as those times present themselves. The quote utilized so often in LGT is not speaking of sinless perfection, but of maturing of the graces of love in the life and practice.

Later in the same book, all the way back on page 384, in the chapter entitled “Who Is My Neighbor?” EGW writes, “Love is the basis of godliness. Whatever the profession, no man has pure love to God unless he has unselfish love for his brother. But we can never come into possession of this spirit by TRYING to love others. What is needed is the love of Christ in the heart. When self is merged in Christ, love springs forth spontaneously. The completeness of Christian character is attained when the impulse to help and bless others springs constantly from within—when the sunshine of heaven fills the heart and is revealed in the countenance.” Note: not one statement of sinlessness, or sinless perfection. Not one iota of “we can do it.” It is our growth in Christ dwelling in us that brings about “character” which is not to be equated with sinlessness.

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While I agree with much of what you’ve shared, I would take issue with the meaning of the parable in Mark. The growth of the grain in the parable is Jesus’s comparison of it with the growth of the kingdom of God throughout the world and through time…it starts as a kernel and takes time to come to full fruition. EGW takes this to mean individual character maturity, making kingdom growth into an individualized, interior spiritual experience. While it can include this, I don’t think that this was the point of the parable. It was about the overall spread and progress of the gospel and the kingdom from the vantage point of Jesus’s movement with his disciples, followed by its continued spread and growth throughout the known world…the full grain in the ear.

Frank

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Your point is well taken, Frank. I really appreciate it. Thank you for the comment. You are correct that the parable describes the growth of the kingdom. That is the immediate context. Yet, I don’t think EGW is far off with the individual application as the kingdom is made up of individuals, and Christ earlier has spoken to the point of character development in the parables of the Sower and the Lamp. Of course, my point, as you gathered, was that the comments EGW makes are not about “perfectionism” or achieving some level of “sinlessness,” as it is character maturity into Christ’s likeness. I just found the coupling of comments on pg 69 with that on page 384 as instructive and reinforcing. It would have served my comments better had I brought out the point you make.

A friend of mine from academy days was diagnosed with breast cancer. She had recently left a difficult job with a lawsuit attached, moved halfway across the country, had no job, few friends and was diagnosed just as Covid hit. A person couldn’t be more alone. Chemo, radiation, missed diagnosis’s and a double mastectomy. Now almost two years since the original diagnosis she can look back and find times of joy, blessings, growth and victory in her cancer journey.

She’s also not a practicing Christian even though she grew up SDA (maybe because she grew up SDA). So does that negate both the trials she has endured, the outcome, or the blessings? She produced a podcast of her experiences from which thousands of women in similar situations have benefitted, are the “fruits” of those experiences good? Or is her lack of allegiance to SDA-ism mean they are evil?

Sometimes we Christians and especially we Adventists chose dogma over love.

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I am not surprised by the SS lesson. How often do you hear positive sermons in church? Even before Covid they seemed to dwell on “woe is me.” Now they are worse. Maybe I want to feel good and hopeful after church. I would like to hear thankfulness and praise for God’s goodness. Maybe the pastors hear too many sad stories, but they too frequently seem to be preaching to those grieving or hopeless (which never helped me in a time of crisis). Even many hymns sound like dirges. I’m not against high church or beautiful classics, just more joy in church.

Maybe too much happy emotion in church can be like a drug and perhaps superficial; however, I can understand those who like a more charismatic service or even a contemplative one. And Christ always needs to be the center and His salvation and righteousness for us.

I am also puzzled by the attempt to downplay the Second Coming and those who criticize the delay as if it really was delayed. This belief is joyous, hope-filled, and something to look forward to; yet too many dwell on the “time of trouble.” Why not live as though it were soon; God’s people always have.

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We tend to forget that no ."…ism" is the end goal. They are only vehicles that are supposed to take us to a faith in God’s love or us, which is the object of the whole thing called religion, also called the Gospel. If we can get there by any other means, we have still arrived. Too often we substitute religious ideology and those who produce it, for God. Jesus demonstrated that God is interested in the person, not his ideology, as He blessed those who recognized God at work in Him.

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You are so right…having to teach the lessons this quarter has been a nightmare because the lesson author presumes all trials and suffering come from from God…whatever the reason…because we need to adjust our attitudes, because we messed up, because we have not conquered our sinful feelings…whatever…even in contradiction of scripture.

On page 32, as an example, the quarterly says, “Perhaps, as with Job, the heat of God seems unexplainable.”. Anybody who reads the story can see that whether you believe it literally or figuratively, the suffering is delivered by Satan, not God.

This is baked into our SDA culture. I remember Fordyce Detamore preaching in tent meetings, saying ‘if God wasn’t sending you trials and suffering, you should be worried’.

There seems to be no consideration of the fact that we live in a sinful world and bad things happen. Period.

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There is no acknowledgement of the possibility that we live in a world where random things happen. It works from the premise that God controls every single thing that happens to everyone. That makes him into the celestial puppeteer. It also makes him responsible for real atrocities, like the Holocaust, etc. Even saying God allowed it to happen makes him at best negligent if he could have stopped it.

There is a lot we don’t understand about suffering and God’s role in all of it. The book of Job makes this point. Job never gets any answers as to why. I think that’s the point. Faith holds onto God even if we don’t understand.

What we can understand is that Jesus knows the depth of our human suffering, and can empathize with us and give us strength to make it through…the Spirit helps us in our weaknesses. He also gives us each other to help, support, and strengthen us. The rest is hard to figure out.

Frank

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Amen to that, Frank. In Job 40, God says to him, ‘All right then, put on your robes of state, your majesty and splendor. Give vent to your anger. Let it overflow against the proud. Humiliate the proud with a glance; walk on the wicked where they stand. Bury them in the dust. Imprison them in the world of the dead. Then even I would praise you, for your own strength would save you.’ (vss. 10-14) In other words…‘if you think you know so much about how to fix evil, do it yourself, and I will give you credit.’ It was an inadequate answer for Job and it is for us, as well.

And I like your comment about Jesus…in Hebrews 2, where it says Jesus was made perfect through suffering…my NIV says that ‘made perfect’ means ‘to become qualified’ thereby being able understand and relate to our trials.

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Yes, Linda. It should tell us that God has and is having a hard time trying to fix evil, as well. The cross gives us an idea of how difficult it is.

Frank

I saw a suggestion somewhere that “demon possession” is the result of repressing parts of ourselves we don’t approve of, parts we’ve been taught to disapprove of, to fear. Sounds like this quarterly’s lesson advocates ignoring most emotions. What a mess!

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My mother broke on that. She suffered with depression and through this kind of teaching felt she had to overcome depression, and without medication because if she could show God that she had enough faith, He would heal her directly. He didn’t … My brother has attempted to end his emotional/spiritual pain three times and each time survived “miraculously.” It is especially sad because our parents “sacrificed” their career, recovered, were threatened with prison for refusing to send their children to school on Sabbath, and were determined to be ‘over-comers’ to be good enough. Alas, …
When is it ok to say enough is enough?

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