The End of Time: How Brave Are We?

This week’s lesson focuses on the end of time. My initial intention was to address the differences between the Old Testament and New Testament perspectives. In short, the Old Testament envisions a gradual end to evil, as in Isaiah 65:21, rather than a sudden and more thorough eradication of evil and suffering, as depicted in Revelation 21:3–4:

Isa. 65:21: No more shall there be in it an infant that lives but a few days, or an old person who does not live out a lifetime; for one who dies at a hundred years will be considered a youth, and one who falls short of a hundred will be considered accursed.

Rev. 21:34: “See, the home of God is among mortals. He will dwell with them; they will be his peoples, and God himself will be with them; he will wipe every tear from their eyes. Death will be no more; mourning and crying and pain will be no more, for the first things have passed away” (NRSV).

For those who want to pursue that topic further, read the significant but generally overlooked article from the SDA Bible Commentary, “The Role of Israel in Old Testament Prophecy.”[1]

For this online commentary, however, I have decided to take a step back and address the prior question of how we can “safely” deal with change between the testaments and between the Bible and our day. “Safe” is probably a vain dream. From my experience with devout conservatives, “change” and “diversity” are  the most difficult issues to address, and when the topic is “eschatology” we have jumped from the pot into the fire. Eschatology is the most divisive of all biblical topics. For the first edition of Inspiration: Hard Question, Honest Answers (1991),[2] the chapters on diversity and eschatology were quickly dropped from the proposed manuscript. Even my friends said those chapters were “too much” for that book and they are not included in the 2nd edition (2016) either.[3] You can check out both topics, however, in my book, Beyond Common Ground: Why Liberals and Conservatives Need Each Other (2009).[4]

After tussling a fair bit with the question of how to deal with all that in a single article, I’ve gotten cold feet and decided to deal with the crucial prior question. A major factor in my decision is the memory of how two bright and thoughtful students reacted to my question on eschatology in a 1985 version of my “Inspiration and Revelation” class at Walla Walla College (now University).

I tell part of that story in chapter 21 of Inspiration, “It’s All So Very Plain.”[5] Gratefully, it was “plain” in the end, but began on a much scarier note: scary at least for a teacher who wants to strengthen faith and for the two students who discovered that their faith was being tested.

In any event, here is the question I posed as a homework assignment. Their responses follow: “Compare the Old Testament eschatological passages, Isaiah 65, 66 and Zechariah 14, with the New Testament passages, Revelation 21, 22, and comment on how one determines which elements from the Old Testament have permanent value.”

Their responses were included in a stack of papers which I first read in bed before breakfast on a Sunday morning after a very encouraging weekend seminar on “Inspiration.”[6]  With the expressed gratitude of the members still ringing in my ears, I cracked open the stack of papers. The first few responses were unexceptional. But all of a sudden, I was wide awake, jarred by this response:

In Zechariah it seems like the day of the Lord is an establishing of an earthly kingdom, not a heavenly one so much and it also seems like the people of that time looked for its soon fulfillment in their day. The question I have is why Adventists have taken some texts and left others to suit their own interpretation. It is the same in Isaiah, too. Can you be justified in taking some and leaving the rest?  How do you really tell if there is a permanent or lasting value in them? I’m really mixed up and my faith in Adventism dwindles a bit here, because it seems we have misused the Scriptures or have greatly misunderstood them and used them in the wrong way. So many things have been uprooted that I need some stable evidence that I can trust. What do we have to stand on?

Then came a break in the handwritten copy; a question mark and a single word cried out from the middle of the page: 

HELP

The text resumed:

If we can’t trust in a prophet’s words because they aren’t direct or directed word-for-word inspired and we can’t tell whether something has lasting value for us today, how do we personally apply the Bible to us if we don’t know? Are the promises for others, with no thought of today? Has the Adventist tradition simply pulled texts out of context so that we have a totally made-up theology? Please bring back our confidence or explain why.

Hardly a ringing confirmation of my course objectives! I picked up the next paper. More of the same (the students were roommates):

As I read the passages listed I was almost shocked to find those texts that our church has always believed to be about the kingdom/heaven. . . . Somehow over these past weeks of this quarter, I’ve come up with the idea that the Holy Bible isn’t all that I had it cracked up to be. Ideas have been presented in this class that have made me wonder – is there any validity in what “the inspired men of old” have written? And yet this is probably not what I was supposed to learn from this class (hopefully).

Continuing, the student admitted to being “frightened” at some of her thoughts.  “Maybe I’m not the kind who can handle the real truth,” she wrote. But then came a postscript with a ray of hope:

After reading what I had written above, I noticed quite a sharp note to it, maybe too sharp. This class has been a real strength to my overall view of the Bible, helping me to realize that the men of the Scripture were humans like we are and not so infallible. This may seem a contradiction to what I just wrote above. I guess I’m just a little confused. I have enjoyed this class immensely and would hope that the views stated above would not necessarily reflect any fault on the teacher.”

Taking the two assignments to breakfast, I read them to my hosts. The contrast between Saturday night gratitude and Sunday morning panic was almost more than I could handle. We discussed the challenge of educating the church. And we prayed. How can we build a faith that endures? I knew the two young women who had expressed their alarm. They were committed Christians and a positive influence on campus. Why was their house of faith in trouble?

Gratefully, by the time I got home and read their next assignment, their ship of faith was again on course—helped mightily by some encouraging words from Ellen White.[7]

But rather than risk another experience like that, I’ve decided to step back and address the urgent “prior issue” of how God meets people where they are. And we can go back to square one: 1) How did God reach Israel where they were?  2) How did God reach Ellen White where she was? 3) How can I use all that to meet the needs of my students and Spectrum readers?

At least four polysyllabic words can be used to describe the issue: adaptation, accommodation, contextualization, and condescension. And those are scary words, too. When my little book, Who’s Afraid of the Old Testament God? was on the verge of being published by Paternoster in the UK and Zondervan in the US, David Wright, the left-of-center professor of church history at the University of Edinburgh (who helped get the book published) told me candidly that InterVarsity Britain would never touch the book because the “note of accommodation in the book is far too strong.”[8]

Why such fear? Because “accommodation” scatters our favorite key texts all over the hillside. If the Bible does not give us pure, unadapted truth, how can it be trusted?

So what I am going to do here is first to work through the “violent” Old Testament custom of blood vengeance, and show how God “adapted” to the people’s understanding in  the Old Testament context.[9]

I should also note that the custom of “blood vengeance” is not just an ancient phenomenon. It is with us still. Three vivid memories are rooted in my soul. A paramedic serving in an American inner city once told me that in certain ethnic enclaves, one killing often triggers another, then another. Before the night is over, the toll can be sobering. A missionary in Papua New Guinea told me that during tribal feuds he has seen Adventist elders wait until after sundown on Sabbath, then slip away to join the mayhem.

But by far the most vivid memory is from a scholarly convention where I heard Professor James Robinson tell how the gnostic scrolls of Nag Hammadi were discovered in Egypt in 1945.[10] The cemetery where the scrolls had been discovered lay between two feuding villages, making it unwise for the scholars to attempt further work. This is Robinson’s version of how it happened:

A night watchman guarding irrigation equipment in the fields had killed an intruder; by mid-morning, in turn, he had been murdered by blood vengeance. A neighbor told the son of the murdered man that the one who had killed his father had fallen asleep by the side of the road. The son hurried home, returning with his mother and seven brothers, each with a sharpened mattock. They dismembered the man bit by bit, and cut out his heart, eating it raw on the spot, the ultimate in blood vengeance.

The turmoil between the villages lasted for a decade, until the youngest son of the murdered man, now a teenager, secretly slipped into the other village during a funeral procession at dusk. With an automatic weapon, he mowed down the participants, killing or injuring twenty people.

How can God reverse such deeply rooted hatred and violence?

Gradually. Only gradually. Numbers 35 tells how it happened in ancient Israel.

God commanded Moses to designate six cities as “Cities of Refuge,” so that anyone who had killed someone could flee to the city of refuge and be safe until the congregation determined guilt or innocence. But he had to run faster than the avenger. Otherwise the avenger could kill him without penalty. If the congregation found the refugee guilty of premeditated murder, they  would hand him over to the kinsman-avenger who would carry out the execution. But if judged innocent by the community, the killer would be safe from the avenger, but only if he stayed inside the city of refuge. If he ventured outside the city walls before the death of the high priest, the avenger could confront him and kill him without penalty.

How does such an approach to “justice” compare with ours? Our short list could start with the following: 1) family members are excluded from the entire legal process; 2) the accused does not have to run faster than the avenger in order to find refuge; 3) if granted bail, the accused is granted some freedom and is not at risk while waiting trial; 4) those judged innocent are free; they don’t have to wait for the death of a holy man.

But the specter of the 1950s Nag Hammadi dismemberment by eight members of one family (including the mother), and eating of a man’s heart raw, on the spot, is a horrific reminder of how great the gulf can be, even in recent decades of our era.

Now the second step: Ellen White and blood vengeance. Inter-Varsity Britain would not allow accommodation in the 1980s, but Ellen White did in the 1890s. But it did not come easily, quickly, or cleanly. Note her 1890 comment on blood vengeance in Patriarch’s and Prophets:

The appointment of these cities had been commanded by Moses, “that the slayer may flee thither, which killeth any person at unawares.  And they shall be unto you cities for refuge,” he said, “that the manslayer die not, until he stand before the congregation in judgment.” [Num. 35:11–12]  This merciful provision was rendered necessary by the ancient custom of private vengeance, by which the punishment of the murderer devolved on the nearest relative or the next heir of the deceased.  In cases where guilt was clearly evident, it was not necessary to wait for a trial by the magistrates.  The avenger might pursue the criminal anywhere, and put him to death wherever he should be found.  The Lord did not see fit to abolish this custom at that time; but he made provision to insure the safety of those who should take life unintentionally.[11]

I have kept my eye open for traces of an accommodationist approach in Ellen White’s writings, especially in connection with violent passages. This is the only explicit one I have found in her published works. She says nothing about the worst ones: bloodguilt for Saul in 2 Samuel 21, the dismembered concubine in Judges 19–21. But she does tackle the custom of blood vengeance. What is particularly interesting in this case is that she interpreted the same passage in 1881, taking quite a different approach than the one in 1890.[12]

A comparison of the two passages reveals her struggles with the story. Her concern that murder be properly punished, prominent in 1881, disappears in 1890. The importance of protecting the innocent is affirmed in both.

In 1890 she focuses exclusively on safety for the accused and refers to the appointment of these cities as a “merciful provision” that was “rendered necessary by the ancient custom of private vengeance.” Her conclusion: “The Lord did not see fit to abolish this custom at that time.” But neither account is a clean accommodation. In 1881, the avenger may act “in extreme cases”; in 1890, “where guilt was clearly evident.” But Scripture offers no such qualifications. If the accused could not outrun his pursuer, the avenger was free to kill him without penalty.

In the end, however, the crucial point is clear: Ellen White has adopted the position that God was not directly responsible for the ancient custom, but chose to work within the framework of what was considered to be just at that time.

While a comparison of the 1881 and the 1890 quotes allows us to glimpse her inner struggle with the issue, an astonishing quote from 1872 articulates the accommodation process with remarkable clarity, even though she was still struggling with the issue up to and including her 1890 “resolution.”  In 1872, she is addressing the issue of health reform:

We must go no faster than we can take those with us whose consciences and intellects are convinced of the truths we advocate.  We must meet the people where they are.  Some of us have been many years in arriving at our present position in health reform.  It is slow work to obtain a reform in diet.  We have powerful appetites to meet; for the world is given to gluttony. If we should allow the people as much time as we have required to come up to the present advanced state in reform, we would be very patient with them, and allow them to advance step by step, as we have done, until their feet are firmly established upon the health reform platform.  But we should be very cautious not to advance too fast, lest we be obliged to retrace our steps.  In reforms we would better come one step short of the mark than to go one step beyond it.  And if there is error at all, let it be on the side next to the people.[13]

I now return to the question of how far and how fast we should press the eschatology question now. How might we apply Ellen White’s statement:  “If there is error at all, let it be on the side next to the people?”

If a secular person—a person without a religious axe to grind—were to pick up the Bible and the writings of Ellen White, they would be puzzled by two things: 1) the prediction of a worldwide Sunday law that includes the death penalty; 2) the claim that the Bible is without error.  I will comment on both:

1. A universal Sunday law carrying the death penalty.  Where did Adventists find that idea in the Bible?  From Revelation 13 and 14.  But it is not stated explicitly in the Bible itself. It is an interpretation and application of those chapters within the context of nineteenth century American culture.  These are the key factors that contributed to the Adventist perspective.

A. A strident anti-Roman Catholic impulse, inherited from the Protestant era. Identifying the first beast of Revelation 13 as the papacy was thus almost automatic. Adventists believed the scary Catholic rhetoric that Rome never changes. Here is Ellen White’s observation from 1881:

This is the religion which Protestants are beginning to look upon with so much favor, and which will eventually be united with Protestantism. This union will not, however, be effected by a change in Catholicism; for Rome never changes. She claims infallibility. It is Protestantism that will change. The adoption of liberal ideas on its part will bring it where it can clasp the hand of Catholicism.[14]

Thus, a recurrence of the persecution which Protestants suffered under Catholicism during the Reformation was quite believable. Indeed, The Great Controversy itself quotes a nineteenth-century pope as saying: “The absurd and erroneous doctrines or ravings in defense of liberty of conscience are a most pestilential error”[15]

B. A wave of Sunday legislation in the 1880s and 1890s. In the 1890s, a small window opened (briefly!) for American Adventists to address eschatological issues. It happened when  anti-Roman Catholic billboards sprang up in several locations in America, particularly in Florida and in the states of Washington and Oregon. My NPUC Gleaner series, “Beast Bashing Has to Stop,” was published in several union papers. Here is a crucial paragraph from that series:

In 1870 the First Vatican Council declared papal infallibility. The national Sunday law movement was born in 1879; Congress debated Sunday laws in 1888 and 1889.  Senator Blair, author of the 1888 bill declared, “Only a homogeneous people can be great.  No nation can exist with more than one religion.”  Between 1885 and 1896 Adventists spent a total of 1438 days in jail and 455 days on chain gangs for working on Sunday.[16]

I should also note here that right in the 1890s, Ellen White began to soften her anti-Catholic stance. In 1896, right in the middle of the Sunday law agitation, she wrote to Dr. John Harvey Kellogg, gently shifting the focus away from end-time worries. I have italicized the key sentence:

There is need of a much closer study of the Word of God. Especially should Daniel and the Revelation have attention as never before in the history of our work. We may have less to say in some lines, in regard to the Roman power and the papacy, but we should call attention to what the prophets and the apostles have written under the inspiration of the Spirit of God. The Holy Spirit has so shaped matters, both in the giving of the prophecy, and in the events portrayed, as to teach that the human agent is to be kept out of sight, hid in Christ, and the Lord God of heaven and His law are to be exalted.[17]

2. The claim that the Bible is without error. As we turn to the second issue, that of “inerrancy,” to use the technical term, we could again ask our secularist friends to assess that claim. Again, if they have no axe to grind, they will notice immediately that the four Gospels differ in many ways, both large and small. Matthew 4 and Luke 4 don’t even follow the same order in telling the story of Jesus’s wilderness temptations.

The problem is that in the mind of many devout believers, God must do everything exactly right. If he doesn’t, he is not worthy to be called God. If I attempt to set the record straight, I may be scorned for talking about “all the errors in the Bible.”

The recourse is to back way up, and go way down, to the rock-solid foundation that Jesus gives us in Matthew 7:12.  We can follow his  teaching and example:  “In everything do to others as you would have them do to you; for this is the law and the prophets” (NRSV).

That’s what I have attempted to do in this commentary on the end of time. But it’s scary stuff—almost as scary as the end of the world itself. . . .

**Notes & References:**

[1]. “The Role of Israel in Old Testament Prophecy,” in Francis D. Nichol, ed., Seventh-day Adventist Commentary, Vol. 4 (Washington, D. C.: Review and Herald, 1955), 25–38.

[2]. Alden Thompson, Inspiration: Hard Question, Honest Answers (Hagerstown, MD: Review and Herald, 1991).

[3]. Thompson, Inspiration, 2nd ed. (Gonzalez, FL: Energion, 2016).

[4]. Alden Thompson, Beyond Common Ground: Why Liberals and Conservatives Need Each Other (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2009).

[5]. “It’s All So Very Plain,” chapter 21 of Inspiration in both the 1991 and 2016 editions.

[6]. The seminar was held at the Adventist Church in Bellevue, Washington in February 1985.

[7]. “Introduction” to The Great Controversy, v–xii; Selected Messages, Bk. 1, 15–23. I have called these two passages, “Adventism’s Classic Statements on Inspiration.” After the experience described above, I revamped my approach and moved the reading of those passages to the beginning of the course. They are included in both editions of Inspiration and in Escape from the Flames: How Ellen White Grew from Fear to Joy and Helped Me Do It Too (Nampa, ID: Pacific Press, 2005).

[8]. The title of chapter 2 gives a little of the flavor: “Behold it was very good—and then it all turned sour.”

[9]. For believers, the alternative explanation for Old Testament violence is the “theocracy” argument, i.e., a sovereign and holy God was directly in control and had the right to be violent.

I find that approach highly problematic, for when God became man, it was a non-violent God that he revealed: Jesus never killed anyone, never even struck anyone. As Reynolds Price notes, when Jesus cleansed the temple, he attacked the furniture, not the people. Reynolds Price, Three Gospels (New York: Simon and Schuster/Touchstone, 1996), 44–45. If we can find a way to support an accommodations approach that is both biblical and believable, we should be much better able to sleep nights.

[10]. See James M. Robinson, ed., The Nag Hammadi Library (San Francisco: Harper and Row, 1977), 21–25. At the time the book was published, Robinson was director of the Institute for Antiquity and Christianity at Claremont Graduate School in California.

[11]. Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets (Mt. View, CA: Pacific Press, 1890), 515.

[12]. Ellen White, Signs of the Times, Jan. 20, 1881.

[13]. Ellen White, Testimonies for the Church 3 (1872), 20–21.

[14]. Ellen White, Review and Herald, June 1, 1886.

[15]. Ellen White, The Great Controversy, 564, citing Pope Pius IX, in his Encyclical Letter of August 15, 1854.

[16]. NPUC Gleaner, August 2, 1993. See Dennis Pettibone, “The Sunday Law Movement,” in The World of Ellen G. White, Gary Land, ed. (Washington DC: Review and Herald, 1987), 113–28.

[17]. Ellen White, Letter to John Harvey Kellogg, May 27, 1896.

 

Alden Thompson is professor of biblical studies at Walla Walla University.

Photo by nikko macaspac on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/10943
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on a small, completely inconsequential note, this text is actually drawn from Isa. 65:20…

i think the questions posed by these students are completely normal and healthy…they indicate independent thinking about what they were reading…it’s good that the atmosphere of the class was such that students felt comfortable expressing their opinions…

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Why should it be so scary? Because “faith” is often based on the very human fallacy that faith equals quantifiable observable facts. This is a naive view of the complex grandeur of the divine. Sometimes we may have to go through the “scary” process of getting our so-called faith destroyed, so we can humbly accept God’s greatness which often transcends our comprehension. Then when viewed through a re-built true faith, we are lifted up in awe and humility to the divine, instead of pulling God down to our human simplicity. A mindset, where one little doubt or inconsistency can topple our entire house built on sand.

Faith requires uncertainty to exist. Faith requires incomplete knowledge to exist. And that is the nature of the God/man relationship. When we first accept that, faith can thrive, as in the mind of a child that spontaneously accepts and trusts his parents.

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Clinging to faith in the face of uncertainty is like going down with the ship rather than climbing into a life boat.

Faith, in and of itself, is no more necessarily virtuous than is hope if what one is hoping for, or has faith in, is fantastic, futile or logically impossible.

Therefore, and given as you say that the essence of faith is doubt, the most reasonable path towards certainty would seem to lie in the direction of renouncing faith, doubting everything and hoping for nothing.

In the case of the Bible, EGW, or any other collection of books and words for that matter, it is as irrational to hope for, or have faith in, the notion that the ineffable can be expressed in linguistic terms as it is unthinkable to believe that one can put out a forest fire with a book of matches (unless one’s intent is to destroy the entire forest, thus eliminating the possibility or further flames.)

Regarding end time prophecies, it is by now a cliche to see irony in the fact that most SDA’s overarching emotion when discussing eschatology—myself included back when I believed that words about our creators could somehow be “true” and was certain that our prophetess’ predictions would undoubtedly be manifest before I turned 30 (I just turned 66)—seems to be more typically fear, and this of the time in which the prospect that everything in which we’d put our faith and had purportedly hoped—not the least of which hopes being that our faith would finally be vindicated and we could say, once and for all, “We told you so!”—would at last become real.

Now in my dotage, inevitably worn down and unimpressed by prognosticators of doom and their dire warnings about impending disasters, the possibility that an SDA or any others of god’s “faithful” could or should be in any manner intimidated or scared by the thought of the second coming makes no more sense to me than the idea that a Mouseketeer could, or ever would, dread a trip to The Magic Kingdom,

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For me, faith is not an escape from the problems and tribulations of life, nor a guarantee from being “saved” from eternal perdition. Instead I see it as a simple way to get peace in my soul, today. To sleep without worry, to be free from the “worry” of being saved.

Call me naïve or whatever, but I don’t believe the prophets of doom who try to scare the hell out of me or scare me into “the fold”. I believe there is a God, and he, as a loving parent, will help me live life without fear or guilt.

And yes, I can’t explain God, and after over 70 years of life, am at peace with that. I actually find it quite liberating!

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I enjoyed reading this article. Mainly because it resonates with thoughts I continue to have.

I think the mistake we have done throughout the years is to reduce God to fit the Bible texts and EGW writings. God is bigger than what has been blogged by men fallible as we are.

I agree with your students, as a student of life and the Bible, there are many inconsistencies in the Bible. Last week I tried looking at the conditions that contributed to King James allowing it going into print. There was an agenda. And apparently the reasons why there was no print approved before that one was because it was believed that the versions before that were “corrupt.” And besides that, we know the history before the reformation not one that inspired confidence in the church. The cabal has always been there making sure they stay ahead of everyone who poses a threat to the world systems. But at the risk of being called a conspiracy theorist let me move on to my point…

I think we need to apply ourselves intellectually if we are to understand what is in the “sacred texts” People think just because we ask God to send us the Holy Spirit to give us wisdom in interpreting scripture means we are to switch our brains off. God created us as intellectual beings. Divinity needs to work hand in glove with humanity.

And lastly, I say this with tongue in cheek… was it really necessary to put the word “Holy” in front of the word Bible?

It’s unfortunate that in these last days the precious commodity called truth is rare, and those who find it end up paying for it with their lives.

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I must vigorously disagree that uncertainty and faith are bound together. Faith, derived from Greek “pistis”, is grounded in persuasiveness of evidence. I refer you to David Hay’s 1989 article in the Journal of Biblical Literature entitled Pistis as" ground for faith" in hellenized Judaism and Paul . Dr. Hay presents research on the ancient usage of “pistis” and will likely change your understanding of faith. God doesn’t expect humanity to believe His promises without evidence. God desires us to believe because of the evidence already provided.

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In sincerity and with respect for you and faith in God: What evidence has already been provided that allows you to be persuaded to faith? What grounds your faith?
Amy

Thank you for your vigorous disagreement. It can be stimulating to work to understand each other. I see lots of evidence, both for and against believing. Little of this evidence can be scientifically demonstrated, as far as I can see. Which is what makes faith so fantastic. It reaches across the chasm of doubt and chooses to believe. So I cherry pick my evidence: The wonders of creation inspire me to believe in a Creator. But I can’t prove it, and I don’t want to prove it. The words and life of Jesus give me faith in a God seen through him. It clears up a lot of false perceptions of God, both before and after the time of Jesus. Finally, that faith, from a functional standpoint, works in my life.

Thus I view faith as ultimately a deeply personal choice. I am influenced by my environment, by the writings of thoughts of wise individuals through the times and through an inner voice. But I deeply believe that I have to make by personal choice. And sincerely hope that we can enjoy our fellowship on parts of our journey, even as we may follow different paths.

I appreciate what you’re saying, Hans, and find little with which to quibble in your thoughtful response.
However—and while I did not and do not want to call you “naive”—I don’t think anyone can argue with the assertion that faith, hope and belief are not virtues, in and of themselves. People believed in Hitler, had faith in Chairman Mao and hoped that David Koresh was Christ incarnate.
The only real issues of importance then, are what one knows and what one does with that knowledge.
So I don’t just believe that god is real, or only hope to one day be considered worthy of being called his child. I know both of these facts to be the case and have a universe full of evidence to substantiate my understanding of humanity’s utterly unique and infinitely fascinating place in the cosmos.
Can I prove my conclusions to be correct? Given a finite mind and an incomplete set it facts, obviously not. But just as no right-minded human insists that he doesn’t have absolute proof that the next time he throws into the air it won’t float forever in space, I consider any doubts about the “realness” of our creator to be unreasonable.
Further, based on what I’ve observed in those who primarily “fear god” in a literal sense and only believe scary hearsay about his supposed vindictiveness or essential jealousy, I’m not tempted to hope that what they’re saying is true, be persuaded to believe the stories they tell or put blind faith in their “logic “!
Most importantly, and while I don’t want to turn this into a competition, I also sleep very well knowing what I learned in these regards and having drawn my conclusions in these matters, as unsanctioned as they may be by anyone other than myself.
In other words, and perhaps somewhat like yourself, I’ve spent the better part of seven decades, “working out my own salvation”.

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Amy – Much evidence indeed. Most compelling is DNA, which, I believe, supports the theory of intelligent design. I’ve been heavily influenced by Anthony Flew who allowed facts to support conclusions. His book There is a God is instructional for those who desire evidence-based convictions. I strive to do the same as Dr. Flew.

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I would include mathematics.

An excellent article. Doubt is part of the faith journey. But is asking questions the same as doubt? In my senior years I still ask questions, speculate, pray for answers (and sometimes get them, or so it seems to me). However, I can’t remember being fearful about the end-times as many SDA claim to be. I view it with hope, knowing (though wanting to live to see them) I shall probably not be around to experience those adventurous times.
I also believe, as another post says, that there is plenty of evidence for God. It is impossible for me to study science, nature, theology or a myriad of other fields without finding God. I find even in the atheistic Scientific American so much evidence for God as they describe the wonders of the cosmos and earth. Math, physics are pathways to God if one has even a small faith. Faith is also a gift that grows over the years.

Newer studies have found that pistis, while including the ideas of faith and trust in someone, also has a wider range of meaning, including faithfulness, loyalty, and allegiance. This aspect is often present in the Pauline texts, indicating that he was speaking of salvation by allegiance to Jesus as messiah and lord, as opposed to adherence to and performing the deeds of the Torah.

Matthew Bates’ book, Salvation By Allegiance Alone, is a ground breaking volume along these lines.

Thanks…

Frank

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Asking questions is a matter of intelligence (functioning brains). It has nothing to do with faith or lack thereof.
Children ask questions all the time and yet Jesus speaks of a childlike faith.
I think for the sake of our children we need to say this simple truth, that “we don’t know the entire truth, not about God, the scriptures and God.” I think that will show how incredible our faith is: not being able to see the entire stairway but still climbing.
Think about it, did David really know that he would defeat Goliath? The Hebrew “boys” didn’t know if they would be rescued from the fire, but they knew God is able to save them.

Just because we don’t have answers to certain questions doesn’t mean our faith is little or that we are borderline atheists.

Having said that, you can quote me on this. My definition of faith, “Moving through uncertainty with surety.”

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Frank - I’m quite familiar with this line of thinking. However, I contend that the notion of salvation merited on one’s allegiance to God eventually wends its way to a destination similar to that of performing the deeds of the Torah.

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It’s not a question of meriting anything. God gave the gift of grace in Christ to elicit a response. That’s how covenants work. That’s how the NT writers viewed grace. It is not a gift with no strings attached, as we think in the modern west. It was a gift to initiate relationship, and to bring about response. That response was to put ones trust in and give ones allegiance to Jesus as lord, the gospel proclamation as seen all over the NT.

This matches up with what Jesus said, not to go and save people for heaven, but to go and make disciples. Disciples are learning and loyal followers. Forgiven, accepted, yet called to live the new life, the life together of the family of faith, to which we are called. The life of faith that expresses itself in love, that shows we belong to Jesus. As he also said, “They will know you are my disciples by your love for one another.”

Thanks…

Frank

I’d recommend Dr. David Berlinski’s book “The Devil’s Delusion”.
In it, Berlinski deals directly with Richard Dawkins book “The God Delusion” and what Berlinski refers to as “evolution’s scientific pretensions” when, in fact, the entire theory is a house of cards whose foundation is a collection of Rudyard Kipling-esque “just so” stories.
Berlinski, a non-practicing Jew, goes out of his way to remain noncommittal and does not claim to have proved the existence of god nor insist that he has a conclusive explanation for the diversity of life witnessed in the fossil record as well as extant in the world today.
But he puts to rest the notion that evolution theory has all of the answers to the question “How are all these miracles possible?”

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Yes! Berlinski is brilliant.

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