The Church Triumphant: Author Interview with Mark Finley


(Spectrumbot) #1

Pastor Mark Finley discusses his new book, The Church Triumphant: Called to a Prophetic Destiny with Dale Galusha, president of Pacific Press Publishing Association.

Question: Pastor Finley, over the years you have had the privilege of seeing the Seventh-day Adventist Church from many different positions and in locations all around the world — as a public evangelist, director/speaker of It Is Written for a number of years, as a Vice President of the General Conference, and now as Assistant to the General Conference President. You have a unique perspective on God’s church.

You’ve seen the church “at its best,” and you’ve seen it face challenges. In today’s world, do you believe that God’s people, coming as they do from various cultures and perspectives, can come together and find solutions to some of the pressing issues facing the church today? If so, how do you envision that happening most effectively?

Answer: Dale, I have great confidence in the ultimate triumph of God’s church. I believe in the church because Christ believes in the church. He has declared, “The gates of hell will not prevail against it” (Matthew 16:18). The church has always faced issues that have had the potential to divide it, and it has come through every crisis. The question that needs to be asked is not, “What divides us?” but “What unites us?” We are united as a worldwide body through the ministry of the Holy Spirit in a common commitment to Christ, the teachings of scripture, a passion for mission, and church organization.

Question: Given that we can't expect that church entities or church members are always going to agree on all topics, how should the church best handle disagreements on certain issues? Should differences between church entities be handled in a different way than differences between individual members?

It really depends on what those issues are. If the issues are biblical in nature or serious doctrinal departures, church leadership on all levels is responsible for preserving the biblical foundations of Adventism. To erode these foundations is to erode our identity. As a denomination, we will always be growing and discovering new ways to express truth, but truth is truth and spans the ages. So-called new truth never does away with old truth.

If the issue is organizational, voted by the General Conference in session, and is an integral part of church policy, leaders have the responsibility to abide by that policy. Policies are not doctrines. They can be changed. Policies are mutual agreements between responsible leaders. They do not dictate our conscience, but they do guide our actions as administrators.

Question: How can we determine which issues are “non-negotiable” and which issues may allow for those holding differing views to “agree to disagree”?

Each one of us has our own personal opinions and are personally accountable to God. Here are a few areas in my mind that are “non-negotiable.” Our commitment to Christ. Our belief that salvation is by grace and grace alone. The beliefs that have identified us and distinguished this movement as outlined in the three angels’ messages and our Fundamental Beliefs. The mission of the church to proclaim the everlasting gospel to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people. If we downplay our mission or lose our sense of identity as a prophetic movement, Adventism will rapidly become a movement with little or no purpose to exist. The last thing that comes to mind is the unity of the church or church organization. Anything that undercuts church organization will ultimately lead to fragmentation and congregationalism.

There is plenty of room in the church for latitude and expression of our individuality, but the areas I have mentioned are non-negotiables to preserve, through the ministry of the Spirit, God’s last day movement.

Question: Should we handle policy disagreements differently than theological ones? What happens when some members see the two collide — i.e., when they believe a policy involves a doctrinal or theological issue?

As I previously mentioned, policy is not doctrine. It is an expression of a group of responsible leaders, their best judgment on a given issue. Here is the problem. If the General Conference, Union, or local Conference votes a particular action and individuals go contrary to that action because of individual convictions, it will lead to organizational chaos. Every organization has policies. Educational institutions, hospitals, publishing houses, and denominational entities of all sorts have policies. Once these policies are openly disregarded, the unity of the whole institution is threatened. If a policy needs changing, it can be changed by bringing it back to the body that voted it.

In the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the General Conference in session with its international representatives meets every five years to review some of our core policies. These policies are not determined by a small group in Silver Spring, Maryland, but by representative leaders from around the globe.

Although policies are not doctrine, church unity and organization are a fundamental teaching of the New Testament. It is possible for honest people to believe their position is theologically sound and be on opposite sides of the issue. When that happens the only safe alternative is to dialogue, counsel together, and work through the issue together. Sometimes issues require more study, and other times more patience, to resolve. There are also times that God calls us to surrender cherished positions for the good of the entire body of Christ.

Question: What suggestions does your book give to help church members with firm, differing convictions regarding the issues our church is facing?

In my book, I constantly point the reader to Christ as the Lord of the church. Jesus holds this church in His hands and will see it through any crisis. I also emphasize that it is the three angels’ messages that focus us away from our problems and debates to reach a lost world for Christ.

Question: Pastor Finley, you mention in your book that you are optimistic about the future of the church in spite of the many difficult issues it faces today? Why is that so? What fuels your optimism?

I am optimistic about the church because Christ is optimistic about the church. I am optimistic about the church because as I travel the world I have met thousands of Adventists who are committed to Christ, the biblical beliefs of this worldwide movement, and our mission to the world. Their enthusiasm and commitment encourages me to know God will see His church through. I am optimistic because I have read the final chapters of Revelation and know that one day soon, “The earth will be filled with the glory of God” (Revelation 18:1).

Question: What is your greatest concern about the future of the Seventh-day Adventist Church?

My greatest concerns are spiritual complacency, apathy, a loss of identity, and a lethargic response to the mission of the church.

Question: What can the average church member in the pew do to advance God’s mission?

The average church member has been called by God to share His love with a lonely, lost planet longing for hope. What an opportunity we have to use the gifts God has given us in service for Christ, lovingly meeting the needs of those around us! What a great opportunity we have to do something as simple as distributing Christ-centered literature by the tens of thousands to the people in our communities.

Question: What can be done to restore trust and respect among church members — as they relate with each other, and as they relate with the various levels of church organization?

The church is in God’s hands. Trust is restored when we take our eyes off the problems and focus them on Jesus and His mission to this lost world. The world is longing to see a body of believers who in spite of their differences embrace one another and touch the world with the grace of God. The disciples were brought together when they united to reach a lost world with the message of the resurrected Christ.

Question: What is your hope and prayer for your new book, The Church Triumphant: Called to a Prophetic Destiny?

My prayer for my book is that it will accomplish three objectives. First, I pray that it will restore confidence that Christ is the Lord of the church and He will take it through the coming days triumphantly. Second, I pray that it will re-enforce our understanding of the uniqueness of Adventism as a prophetic end-time movement. Thirdly, I pray that this volume will reignite a passion for mission and inspire our members to use their gifts to witness for Jesus. If the book moves the church forward in this direction my prayers will be answered.

CLICK HERE to read the first chapter online!

The Church Triumphant: Called to a Prophetic Destiny is available from the Adventist Book Center and Amazon.com in paperback. Call the ABC (1-800-765-6955) or visit their website to order. The ebook is available from Amazon.com for Kindle, Barnes & Noble for Nook, and Apple for iBook.

Dale E. Galusha is president of the Pacific Press Publishing Association. This interview was provided by Pacific Press.

Image courtesy of Pacific Press Publishing Association.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9562

(Thomas J Zwemer) #2

An excellent interview which does not jib with the heavy hand of the President, To which he is an enabler.


(Harry Elliott) #3

If we think that Jesus is talking about the SDA church, we are consumed with narcissism!

In the vocabulary of the Bible, a church is a congregation on the one hand, and the sum total of all Jesus’ followers on the other. We are not a church, we are a denomination–something that the Bible does not even acknowledge.


(Frankmer7) #4

This statement is so problematic on so many levels. First, it assumes that everything the Adventist church has believed up to this point is timeless truth. It assumes that there could never be any error in any of the denomination’s stated beliefs. It leaves no room for change, for reversing position on anything, should new evidence come to light. There is an unstated arrogance to such a view.

Secondly, it doesn’t jibe with the biblical narrative. Gentiles not having to be circumcised to enter the New Covenant people of God did away with the OT covenant mandate that all males who would belong to Israel must be. New views of truth and of God’s activity in this world did away with the old. This is just one example of such in the scriptures. We must always leave room for this. We are limited in our understanding of God, and of the bible, and God can work totally outside of, and even contrary to, our views at any time. This again speaks to a sense of humility in our declarations of having “the truth.”

Third, it doesn’t square with church history, or even Adventist history. The Reformation should never have happened according to this mindset. Galileo should have been rightly declared a heretic if this thinking is correct. Closer to Adventist home, the shut door should never have been abandoned by the early Adventists, and 1888 should never have happened, since Jones and Waggoner were essentially toppling the previous belief system that held sway in the denomination, by what they were preaching.

I’m sure there’s plenty more to come in this article.

Thanks…

Frank


(Robert Lindbeck) #5

Biggest problem with reading the interview is there are no terms defined - What is meant by “Church”? When you talk about “God’s Church” is that the body of believers in Christ or the Adventist Church? If it is the later Pr Finley’s quote about the “gates of Hell” does not necessarily apply.


(Phillip Brantley) #7

Mark Finley states, “There are also times that God calls us to surrender cherished positions for the good of the entire body of Christ.” What cherished positions should the Seventh-day Adventist Church surrender for the good of the entire body of Christ? We do not know Finley’s answer to this question.

I read his book’s first chapter that is posted online. The pungent odor of his authoritarianism and intolerance is repellent and offensive. Rather than gag and feel my insides lurch, I shall not read the rest of his book.

Finley is obviously not a scholar and there is nothing wrong with non-scholars writing books, but somebody should have gently counseled him to refrain from writing a book that can be and is refuted by three little words: “Here I stand” (Martin Luther).


(jeremy) #8

i feel bad for mark finley…in my mind, he’s a bit like bill barr…he has no credibility left…


(George Tichy) #9

This may be the main reason why I did NOT read this interview. I have no interest in what those people from the GC say or write. I feel that their anti-women position, a true crusade, invalidates any beautiful words they may say or write.

I rather read the comments on the article/interview. But reading what those who discriminate against women have to say…, no more! No credibility.


(Carsten Thomsen) #10

The title says it all.

Should have been “Christ Triumphant”.

Carsten


(Steve Mga) #11

“Surrender cherished positions”.
Is that 1. Calling us to CONTINUE to discriminate against 65% of the
church membership [women and girls?]
2. Calling us to CONTINUE to REFUSE to be All Welcoming to any
persons who love God and wish to worship, and be part of the “family
of God”? GLT children of Seventh day Adventists and GLT friends of
Seventh day Adventists?
3. Are there others that he does not want to mention?


(Thomas J Zwemer) #12

Unity is the big word. The question is on whose terms. What if the number of votes were decided on the net amount of tithe sent tothe General Conference rather than alleged baptized members.


(Lincoln Dunstan) #13

I was able to give all the answers before Finlay was even out of the blocks!!!

10 out of 10 for giving Finlay another chance to show what a "rabbit he is!!


(Thomas J Zwemer) #14

The title is much like the first temptation—Ye shall be as gods.

The Glory is found in the Manger, The Cross,The Empty Tomb. And the installation at the right hand of the Father. Paul writes it so well in Phil 2: 5-11


(Phillip Brantley) #15

The book he should have written would be titled The Church in the Wilderness. The Seventh-day Adventist Church is not ready to cross the Jordan River and enter into the Promised Land. But we are getting there. Look at the massive Trinitarian backlash to the San Antonio vote regarding women’s ordination. Angel Rodriguez is beginning to look like a prophet, a lone voice crying in the wilderness, because his warning before the vote occurred about the anti-Trinitarian theology that undergirds opposition to women’s ordination is becoming more understood. I am so thankful that I have belatedly learned and so proud to be a participant in this post-San Antonio uplifting of our precious Lord and Savior.

But Finley argues that the San Antonio vote, this humiliating expression of anti-Trinitarianism, must be obeyed.

Finley very much reminds me of Emperor Theodosius, who confronted Athanasius in the same manner as Finley confronts us. Athanasius suffered five exiles totaling seventeen years as a result of his fidelity to the Trinity. Emperor Theodosius demanded that Athanasius cease opposing Arius and pointedly asked, “Do you not realize that the world is against you?” Athanasius quickly answered, “Then I am against the world.” And he has been honored with the name Athanasius Contra Mundum ever since.


(Thomas J Zwemer) #16

The games church men play. Years ago my brother Jack was a faculty member at Loma Linds. He was an Ellen White Addict, similar to Walter Rea. One day it was announced that two young men would give a talk at Hughes Mortuary.The Vice President called Jack in and asked him to attend and report back to him.Jack went And reported back. He said that the talk was main stream for the most part but had a rather unique final generation resolution.the Vice President suggested that Jack invite the two over for dinner… Jack agreed. unknown to Jack the Vice President callled a number of devote Adventist’s and told them that Jack was holding a meeting with the Brinsmeads in his home at such a time. Jack was surprised at the crowd that came to the house. The next day the President and Vice President called Jack in and fired him for supporting the Brinsmeads. Jack was left without employment not even severance pay although tenured.A few days later he go a call from the president inviting jack back on a part time position in order to full fill a large federal grant Jack had been awarded. Much later Drs Ford and Heppenstall turned Bob and Jack back to the Gospel. Jack went on to a tenured position at the Medical College Of Georgia. but that is another story.


#17

. . . and automobiles make sense without gasoline ?

I used to commute past a gas station that had a load of diesel fuel pumped into the wrong underground tank by the delivery person. It was not long before many people painfully understood just how intimately their vehicles’ engines were intertwined with the unique characteristics of very specific petroleum products.

No, ‘policies are not doctrine’, but neither do they come to exist or to work in the absence of very specific doctrines.

Please stop using word magic that only exists and works in language, but not in real life !


#18

How many of these stories exist? Guilt by conversation with? Dinner with? Guilty by association, even if fake? This is beyond dishonest–it is deeply evil. Blatant breakage and crushing of the commandment not to “bear false witness.” The wreckage still continues from that sad era. Thanks for sharing this report.


(Gregory Matthews) #19
  • Who does God hold responsible for preserving the biblical foundations of Adventism? Mark Finley’s answer that it is the denominational leadership is limited in my thinking. Responsibilitiy for doctrinal purity rests with the members as a whole, which also includes the leadership, but does not limit to them.

In addition, his there may be foundations of this denomination that are not Biblical and should not be preserved. I wish that Marak Finley had more clearly stated this.

  • I come from a military background. There is no organization that has more policies than does the military. Just about every situation that a commander might get into, has been previously studied and a recommended course of action developed.; However, the mission comes first, not the policy. The Commander is expected to accomplish the mission, and may deviate from policy in order to do so. From this background, I consider policy to be a recommendation. I believe that the answer Mark Finley gave below, at least on the surface, seem to be to rigid and is not effective in accomplishing the mission that we as a denomination has been given.

(Andreas Bochmann) #20

Indeed, it is not and never should have been. Alas, in recent statements and GC decisions they were raised to essentially the same level in terms of consequence. Both are seen as prerequisite for “unity” and threats are held against those who don’t agree and or live by either…


(Elmer Cupino) #21

This should be true for our leaders as well. Talk is cheap. I’d rather see action than words.