The Unbearable Rightness of Being

One of the oddest, most entrenched and even perverse characteristics of humans is our deep-felt need to be right. Perhaps it starts in early childhood when we first recognize, albeit dimly, the huge gap between our size, freedom, but most of all – competence, compared to our parents. I see this, for example, in my 10-year-old grandson, who gloats when he wins a board game and makes statements (that make adults smile) like “I’m really good at this”. And you know he’s not. Sometimes, when playing with little kids, adults throw the game. Being wrong can equate to being a loser. And we want our kids to grow up with healthy self-esteem.

Hopefully most of us do grow up and have a reasonably realistic self-esteem. But it seems to me, from life experience, that the need to be right lingers and pops up continually and unexpectedly, like a personal, mental game of whack-a-mole. Except that too often we not only don’t want to “whack” our hubris down, we don’t recognize it at all. Can you even remember the last time you knew you were wrong about something? Because, if you knew you were wrong, you would change your belief. So you might have a long nagging worry that a belief was questionable, but to actually hold a known error is difficult to resolve with our internal morality. We would have the self-image of a liar. Which, for most, would be intolerable.

But, quite ironically, we quickly and easily admit that we’ve been wrong many times. Just not presently, and no longer. It’s odd that we would somehow realize how many mistakes we overcame in the past, but struggle to admit that there might be a whole lot more of them in the future. Do we think we’ve “arrived” at an all-correct belief system? And the “unbearable” word in my title has two parts. First is the unbearability of holding tight to such a counter-factual perspective. This takes denial and cognitive dissonance. But second is the (potentially insufferable) ripple effect of our rightness on others, if it morphs into smug self-delusional pride in how factually and morally justified we really are. We’ve all experienced people who seem to so qualify. But, can we ever detect it in ourselves? Well, maybe a bit when we were young and naïve. But these days we’re usually right. Right?

To the extent that this apparently universal blind spot has social implications its negativity is magnified within a religious subculture. With some religions structured – both doctrinally and socially – in ways that are particularly problematic. And Adventism so qualifies, I assert. Ironic for a group that was founded on a mistake.

Historically Adventism grew in the 19th century within a broader Christian culture. And one of the features of SDA evangelism in those days included trying to demonstrate doctrinal positions that were righter than the alternative denominations. In today’s world I think there is a much greater emphasis within Adventism on grace and recognizing that salvation is an unmerited gift. But a continuing strain of “rightness” in SDA culture remains solidly present and has been a social and doctrinal focus, visible and usually active, in every Adventist context I’ve witnessed. I might even speculate that people who have a greater-than-average affinity for being right get attracted to Adventism in disproportionate numbers. That’s harsh and unprovable. Maybe it’s just the “unbearable” part of people who project how much they enjoy having the high moral ground. But I’m guilty too, we all are. I suspect it’s a foundational component to our humanness.

The problem also shows up sometimes when people leave the church. If SDAism is the “truth” then it’s not hard to feel lied to if you change your view and conclude that it’s not. And the anger might be significant. People can even feel like they were made fools of. Chumps. As if there was some institutional conspiracy to con them. Perhaps the seminary has a class exegeting P.T. Barnum, titled: “Adventist Evangelism: there’s a sucker born every minute”.

Obviously not. Leadership is not populated with con-artists, but true believers. Yet, for someone who leaves, the psychological reaction can be out-of-proportion. Why? I think it is in part because we have been culturally conditioned – as humans – to be deeply embarrassed at our errors. And if you have invested years in a position, like many lifelong SDA Christians have, seeing flaws of any kind risks loss of face, as well as fear of a slippery slope. See, if this is wrong, then what else about my beliefs might also be wrong? It’s scary. We not only don’t want to get close to that slope, but we can even shoot the messengers who suggest the possibility of error.

One significant step in mitigating this inclination is to consider two different models[1]of dealing with our errors: pessimistic and optimistic. I’m suggesting we tend to naturally gravitate to a pessimistic model, where our screw-ups are damaging. Situationally perhaps, but more fundamentally to our self-esteem. Conversely, an optimistic model first recognizes that we all make mistakes, continually. But without mistakes there would be no learning and no growth. We have been so deeply acculturated to hide, deny, minimize and ultimately learn nothing from our mistakes that it can be very difficult to reframe this lifelong inevitability as something positive. But the benefits of doing so are plentiful and freeing. It becomes easier and easier to jettison unwarranted ideas. We become more curious about our world (what else don’t I see right?). And, not least, we might set down a load of guilt.

One of the ongoing struggles in the Adventist doctrinal universe is the idea of human perfectibility. And one unfortunate misunderstanding – all too frequent – is when we conflate being wrong generally, with being morally wrong. Have you ever been concerned that, if you were wrong about some doctrine, then you were at risk for salvation? Or at risk for growing into perfection? Many have, I contend. But if, foundationally, we abandon a pessimistic model of being wrong, we also can (finally) realize that we will always carry some wrong ideas. It’s a consequence of not having a God’s-Eye View. And we can let go of a distorted perception of perfectibility that produces self-deception, denial, and entrenchment into positions.

[1]Kathryn Schultz, Being Wrong (New York, HarperCollins, 2010), Chapter 2.

Rich Hannon, a retired software engineer, is Columns Editor for SpectrumMagazine.org.

Previous Spectrum columns by Rich Hannon can be found at: https://spectrummagazine.org/authors/rich-hannon

Image Credit: Unsplash.com

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/8657
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I see in the first recorded human words this very thing, fear of being wrong (in deed or doctrine).
What if we realized that the strength of God’s knot, chord of three, is not in those two friable cords, but in the identity, just in the merely “being”, completely separate from belief or behavior?

I sense there is a rightness more righteous than in those other two.
Do we trust Abba to be that gracious? Is that why we are less so?

Thanks for sharing your thoughts Rich.

Let us face it, we see through a glass darkly. Dogma is out. The Cross was lifted up so all could see. let us rejoice in that reality. It is there for each and all. The end time is in his hands not ours. Wait upon the Lord.

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About admitting being wrong … The pope just declared there is no HELL! Now there’s a turnabout. There’s hope yet. I wonder how Adventist would feel if, in the end, the Catholic church were to embrace SDA teachings - happy :grinning:—confused - :thinking:—disappointed - :smirk:?

Has anyone done a study on whether first generation SDA’s are more inclined to accepting “being wrong”? It seems that if you’re born into a belief system, it would be more difficult to admit error. On the other hand, having chosen the SDA church by my own free will (as opposed to my husband who thought you had to get baptized in order to get out of sixth grade), I’m always prone to proving everything to my satisfaction. It seems like I’m getting pickier as I get older.

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Yeah…not so sure that no hell thing is accurate. "* In a statement released on Mar. 29, after Scalfari’s report garnered worldwide attention, the Vatican said:

“The Holy Father Francis recently received the founder of the newspaper La Repubblica in a private meeting on the occasion of Easter, without however giving him any interviews. What is reported by the author in today’s article [in La Repubblica] is the result of his reconstruction, in which the textual words pronounced by the Pope are not quoted. No quotation of the aforementioned article must therefore be considered as a faithful transcription of the words of the Holy Father.”" https://www.cnsnews.com/blog/michael-w-chapman/pope-francis-there-no-hell

Though I think the doctrine of purgatory is close enough to hell that maybe they can do without hell, we will see.

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I Believe that Author Rich has “missed” it. Sorry!
There is a sense of “being right, and having the absolute Truth” among SDAs.
But beyond “Right” there is “PERFECTION”.
And THIS is what is promoted, ACTUALLY, Preached.
Almost everyone can repeat from memory Ellen’s statement that THE REASON
WHY Christ has not come, is BECAUSE the members of the SDA church are
NOT Sinless, ARE NOT Perfect.
Have NOT Perfectly Reproduced the Character of Christ.
So it is OUR FAULT [MY FAULT] Christ has NOT come.

This is THE Rightness as seen by SDAs. That is a HUGE Burden to bear.
THIS is a Lot of FEAR, And maybe, instead of like the disciples on Maundy
Thursday, WE SAY, “Is IT you???” that is keeping Christ from coming!!

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Ron – the Doctrine of Purgatory by the Roman Pontiff was one of the doctrines that
that the Eastern Catholic church refused to accept and began part of the separation.

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This is a great perspective, thank you for sharing it. I think there’s also sometimes a tendency among Adventists to shrug and stop investigating to find out truth when they become less certain of their beliefs. For instance, when confronted with evidence that might lead a believer to question the dogma of a 6,000 year-old earth, I often have encountered a response of “well, I certainly don’t know everything,” followed by a shrug. While that statement is true, none of us know everything, we can arrive at reasonable conclusions based on evidence. I wish people would honestly engage with these big questions rather than sticking their heads in the sand.

The issue lurking behind everything you write in this essay, Rich, is epistemology. We not only have to admit that we can certainly be wrong about many of our beliefs, we must attempt to determine what methods are best for forming and testing our beliefs. This seems basic, but in my experience most people don’t give this much thought. Christianity, and certainly Adventism, is fundamentally rooted in authoritarian approaches to knowledge. We are taught to trust the words in the Bible, and the “revealed truth” of our church fathers (and EGW) without any systematic way to correct errors. In such a scenario, how would we ever hope to identify and correct errors, even in principle? I think we can easily see the faults in this method when we analyze the discussion around important doctrinal issues such as women’s ordination. Honest people using the same Bible come to opposing views. And as far as I can see there is no method to test these views and debate them in any non-subjective way.

I’d suggest that empiricism is a much more reliable method of coming to knowledge. As you point out, there is no such thing as perfect knowledge (at least for humans), so we should always grade our beliefs on a spectrum of confidence, never reaching 100% certainty. However, empiricism enjoys a number of advantages when it comes to forming and testing beliefs, and getting closer to truth. This method relies on evidence, rational self-criticism, and testing–and there’s a reason that it’s the core of the scientific method. It has accurately shown us many true things about the world we live in, and allowed us to grow and expand as a species in an incredibly rapid time frame. Looking at the history of science we can see a pattern. Beliefs based in authority (flat earth, geocentrism, theories of disease, young earth, and so many more) have fallen by the wayside one by one as they’ve been tested through empirical methods. We all intuitively understand this on a certain level, yet when it comes to religion the traditional and authoritarian methods are so deeply rooted that we sometimes fail to see them for what they are.

So test your beliefs! Search for evidence and reasons to support them. In fact, seek to falsify them! If you find that your beliefs can’t be falsified, then it means there isn’t good empirical reasons to maintain that belief. It might be true or it might be false, but unless there is, at least in principle, a way to falsify a belief and show it to be incorrect, then that belief should be downgraded or dropped.

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Speculation can be a dangerous thing. We are asked to consider what if the Catholic Church embraces SDA teachings - well more accurately put, the biblical teachings. I take it the author is suggesting the whole Catholic church in an official manner.

The author of this thought give us three options on how we would feel, but doesn’t include the only relevant one.

Would we be happy for them? No, because the Bible does not lie. If the Church APPEARS to accept the Bible truths we hold dear, it would be the same as king Saul did several times (1 SAM 19:23, 24 one example). So happy cannot be suitable.

Then we contemplate the next suggestion. Does this one have any possibility of being accurate? Again we must answer no because the Bible has clearly told us that the Devil and his agents will use any means to deceive if possible, the very elect. And did not Satan appear as an angel of light at Jesus’ temptations first declare himself as a messenger from heaven, and Jesus must be the fallen angel spoken of in Scripture. Our trust is to be in the “it is written” so no matter what Satan or the Papacy throw our way, we will not be confused.

The last suggestion is disappointed. While at the surface this is actually self-defeating it is somewhat complex in the more serious possibilities. Disappointed in what? If only it were genuine, why would we be disappointed. But again we find the problem with speculation when it comes to biblical truth. Speculation, or if you like, the “what ifs” rarely works in real life, and is nowhere found in Scripture. God never engages in it. The apostles and Bible writers never engaged in it. The SOP writer never engaged in it. So why does this writer, and for what purpose?

To this suggestion we must reply. Disappointed, never, because it would only confirm the Bible claims that Satan and his henchmen will do exactly as the Bible says. Remember how Satan appeared to Jesus in the temptation? As an angel of light. Now in the SOP we find some fine detail regarding Satan’s personating Christ in the final events before the second coming. He is again to appear as an angel of light giving the impression that he has been converted.

“As spiritualism more closely imitates the nominal Christianity of the [our] day, it has greater power to deceive and ensnare. Satan himself is converted, after the modern order of things. He will appear in the character of an angel of light. Through the agency of spiritualism, miracles will be wrought, the sick will be healed, and many undeniable wonders will be performed. And as the spirits will profess faith in the Bible, and manifest respect for the institutions of the church, their work will be accepted as a manifestation of divine power.” GC 588.

Instead of being disappointed, the careful Bible student will know that his salvation is near, for this manifestation will be just before the final events of earth’s history. And this brings us to the final point the author did not offer us.

It is the careful Bible student who will know the Bible predictions are being fulfilled. He does not have to wait for their future fulfillment, the time of the end is here and now. He will understand more clearer than ever before the words of 2 PET 1:19:

“We have also a more sure word of prophecy; whereunto ye do well that ye take heed, as unto a light that shineth in a dark place, until the day dawn, and the day star arise in your hearts:”

And the words of Isaiah will be finally fulfilled; “And it shall be said in that day, Lo, this is our God; we have waited for him, and he will save us: this is the LORD; we have waited for him, we will be glad and rejoice in his salvation.” ISA 25:9. No speculation here. Just a short time left.

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My point is, IF the Catholic Church were to accept everything the SDA teaches, we would stick to our traditions and look for subversive motives - BECAUSE - otherwise, we would then have to go back into the Bible and re-read it. I’m sure it would never enter your mind that maybe we need to rethink our traditions, and quit assigning labels on other churches.

We are continually dismissing the HS when we refuse to keep an open dialogue. When most of us “study” the Bible, no one expects to actually find new information - the HS has nothing to reveal because we know it all. The Vatican now denies the statement by the pope, indicating that it was overheard in a casual conversation, and not from any official declaration, (as from their version of the GC :wink:).

The book of Revelation is highly symbolic; and it is we who assign meaning to all the beasts and battles. Like EW stated, we make a mistake if we think we have nothing new to learn, or “unlearn”.

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I couldn’t agree more with this author. I have been an Adventist for 72 years and I have found it very disturbing how we portray our beliefs to others. We present ourselves as having the “TRUTH”. If you’re on the receiving end, it essentially is saying your beliefs are a lie. In evangelistic meetings, we spend lesson after lesson “proving” we are right. Our whole approach is making sure our religion is more provable than any of the others. We seem to ignore the fact that none of us are “right” with God. That is why we need Jesus, the only one who saves our fallible, pathetic life. How many more people would we bring into God’s fold if we witnessed to people that “they are already saved, but they simply don’t realize it yet”? And if they never come to the understanding that our 27 or 28 beliefs are not their beliefs, it has little bearing on their salvation. We need to present that Christ’s salvation has already been provide for them, not a bunch of “proof texts”. Let the Holy Spirit do the rest.

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Taking the Bible as my text book, I would like to see one instance in that infallible book, that starts off the story or prophecy with the word or words, “what if” and then we can go on from there. It is speculators and theologians who delve into this miasma of uncertainty.

Regarding the Pope’s statement, I have read some of the info on this, and agree it may not be an official “ex Cathedra” declaration, but don’t be surprised if this, or something else, lands him on the same list as John Paul 1. I don’t wish this on him. Official denials are not new, nor are they necessarily true as history can attest, and may not indicate that it was in fact “overheard in an casual conversion.” To seek the truth, sometimes one has to be patient and wait, because time often brings new revelations on such issues.

Regarding your view of Revelation, I cannot comment with so little information (see my thought above about jumping to conclusions) except I get the impression that you do not align the symbols in this book with Daniel which are very clear, and do not believe the SOP in giving the same meanings to the text as we do. Let me know if I am wrong and how. Otherwise I see your comments inspire further doubting of our Scriptural messages as seen in the comments by Lindy regarding the article. It is sad that someone so long as an Adventist feels we (none of us) are “right with God.”

The writer continues to reveal some serious constructs that are far removed from Scripture: “How many more people would we bring into God’s fold if we witnessed to people that 'they are already saved, but they simply don’t realize it yet?” How deceptive is that concept? How many will this concept lead to what we used to call, “sloppy agape?” We are indeed not already saved and all we have to do is to realize it. Salvation is and always been conditional on our taking the steps of repentance, confession, and consecrating our lives to Jesus in a walk with Him daily. It is then that we can be saved. A half of a gospel will not do it, Nor will a distorted gospel, or another gospel (2 Cor 11:4).

The comment continues with: “And if they never come to the understanding that our 27 or 28 beliefs are not their beliefs, it has little bearing on their salvation. We need to present that Christ’s salvation has already been provide[d] for them, not a bunch of “proof texts”. Let the Holy Spirit do the rest.”

The writer appears again to not understand that it is not an either/or situation, but we should be like that great evangelist, Paul and follow his lead: “For I have not shunned to declare unto you all the counsel of God.” Like Paul we should declare ALL the counsel of God. We ask no less in a court of law of the land. Nor should we neglect the mighty truths of the book of Hebrews in declaring with such clarity the high priestly ministry of Jesus in the sanctuary in heaven.

Present truth are not some pleasing platitudes that we mumble with no real and life-saving meaning. They are vital for our preparation for the second coming. If only we understood that all of the biblical doctrines are but an expansion of the gospel: a expanding of the milk of the word into the meat. They never should be two separate entities somewhat divorced from each other. In real life we don’t that the position that someone does not need to be taught that they should not kill someone, or steal from another, we’ll just let the Holy Spirit do it. But when it comes a little closer to home, say in the wearing of jewelry or living together unmarried, or the wearing of indecent clothing, and we somehow think we should change the rules to suit our fear of offending.

“At this time, when the enemy is working as never before to engross the minds of men and women and turn them from the truth, we should be laboring with increasing activity in the highways and also in the byways. Diligently, interestedly, we are to proclaim the last message of mercy in the cities–the highways–and the work is not to end there, but is to extend into the surrounding settlements and in the country districts–into the byways and the hedges. All classes are to be reached. As we labor we shall meet with various nationalities. None are to be passed by, unwarned.” 10MR 231.

When spiritual manifestations are predicted to break forth as Satan sees his time is up, what will people who could have been warned do? They could have understood the biblical state of the dead. Then what would we say to Jesus when He warned us in Matthew 24 that this final contest is going to be so close, so deceptive, that even the very elect must watch and be wary.

How will we witness to relatives of these incredible times ahead if we have no special message for them? They would reply that they are quite happy where they are. They would say "I can stay in my own church just as well and be saved - you have given me no reason to change. If we just present the popular view of the salvation that Christ has provided, they can hear that where they are. Unfortunately, the truth is that this salvation is not as some claim. The claim is that Jesus has already saved us, we just have to accept it. This is part of the doctrine of Universalism. This is a deceptive untruth.

He did accomplish the right to claim all those who put their trust in Him. He did win back the right to be king of this earth that Adam lost. He did pay the price for our salvation. But that price paid is not ours unless we recognize our need, our sinfulness. Then come to him in repentance and claim His life instead of ours. The Bible tells us that this includes us being willing to give Him our will so that He works through us to do His pleasure in us. All His work in us and with our choosing. This is what the Bible calls our justification and sanctification. James in his epistle gives this some practical thought in chapter 2:1-26.

Our faith is solidly placed in and on the Bible. And if we won’t give the three angels message of warning which encompasses the everlasting gospel, then who will? Just to be sure we both understand what this everlasting gospel is. It is the gospel that was preached in Old Testament times, and in the New, but with an increased emphasis relating to the end times. Just as the old covenant and the new covenant are similar, but with an emphasis based on the work of Christ our righteousness working in us. The everlasting gospel and the new/everlasting covenant are now to be our song and triumph through the ceaseless ages.

Why God chooses weak frail sinful man to accomplish this final message which includes His warning, we will never fully understand until He teaches us in the kingdom. But let us move forward in faith without wavering in His promises.

“Keep yourselves in the love of God, looking for the mercy of our Lord Jesus Christ unto eternal life. And of some have compassion, making a difference: And others save with fear, pulling them out of the fire; hating even the garment spotted by the flesh. Now unto him that is able to keep you from falling, and to present you faultless before the presence of his glory with exceeding joy, To the only wise God our Saviour, be glory and majesty, dominion and power, both now and ever. Amen.” Jude 21-25.

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The second coming of Christ is not a 19th century construct. The disciples believed Jesus was returning in their day. The Bible prophesies are often conditional, and reach far beyond any particular age or time. The “signs” of Christ’s return cycle through every generation, always finding various characters and situations to play the parts assigned by prophesy. Ultimately, the end comes to all with or without the signs we focus on. Instead of counting down the days and assigning kingdoms and powers prescribed Biblical identities which have so far been wrong, why can’t we focus on our own part in this drama - as we learn to “love mercy and walk humbly with our God”?

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the title of this article reminds me of the movie, The Unbearable Lightness of Being, starring juliette binoche as tereza, from around 20yrs ago, whom i totally identified with…while this movie attempts a counterpunch to nietzsche’s eternal recurrence (which is the bible’s view, Eccles 1:9), i have to say that, at the time, i saw it as a comment about the inevitable exospective futility that steals over the meaning of the lives of individuals even while they’re engrossed in the details of their lives, all the while either averse to that futility, or using those details to erase its recognition…to me, it seemed to confirm that a life apart from an eternal god was by definition hopelessly ephemeral and meaningless…

i think the optimistic model of dealing with error, urged in this article, is probably the more mature approach…but of course, if we’re using it to joyfully throw out everything we believe just because someone has a problem with it, we’re probably only fooling ourselves…it seems to me that real substance in our inner core is related to conviction that doesn’t wither when confronted…

Are you a Seventh-day Adventist? I agree with the very last part of your sentence, but so many have misused that claim, because the don’t want to hear of the justice of God, that by itself it can be misleading. Still others use that terminology to say they believe in the beginning of the gospel we term justification, yet when it comes to God’s claims upon us as His servants which also includes sanctification, they shrink back at that part of the gospel. “All I need is the gospel” is the claim, but it is only a half-baked gospel akin to that of the Nicolaitanes.

Regarding your assertion that we have mistakenly “assigning kingdoms and powers prescribed Biblical identities which have so far been wrong” statement, I find it troubling. Even the church founders of Protestant denominations from Luther to Wesley and others did the same in their day to a similar extent - not as in depth as we do, yet we firmly believe they were right in their interpretation. It was only when we came under the spell of the Jesuits and their re-interpretation, that we began to do the same in a myriad of ways. I think the Bible calls this confusion.

As I review our doctrinal beliefs in these areas, I cannot but join in with Peter when he declared, “… we have not followed cunningly devised fables, when we made known unto you the power and coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, but were eyewitnesses of his majesty.” 2 PET 1:16.

I cannot see that a half-baked gospel that ignores all the biblical counsel, nor can the re-interpreting of biblical prophecy do us any good at all, but will only serve to bring in more and more confusion than we already now have thanks to those who would alter our faith.

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Are you?

And you should. Christians have been preaching the soon return of Christ since Paul. They have all been wrong. It is likely that will continue.

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That’s what I’m trying to figure out since I came across the Gospel.

And, yes, all anyone needs is the GOSPEL. The literal meaning of the word is, of course, “good news”. The “good news” Jesus proclaimed was the “good news of the coming of God’s kingdom”. We mistakenly call a whole bunch of stuff the “gospel” that has nothing to do with “good news”. Anyone looking forward to that kingdom, must also be looking for the will of God in his/her life. That part of the Christian experience has been called sanctification, and is the PRODUCT of the Holy Spirit working in our lives and on our hearts. You are right, both, justification and sanctification are part of the Christian experience. Anyone looking for justification, has by definition, acknowledged their need for sanctification; but there is no minimum standard of sanctification that must be attained before God will accept you.

I believe the original discussion was about interpreting the Scriptures. Assigning meaning to Biblical symbols is a tricky job. Every generation has been sure they can identify all the participating characters operating in “the last days”. We have the responsibility to search the scriptures for ourselves and not be “mere reflectors of other men’s opinions”. I take that seriously.

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When are we ever going to learn that “The Gospel” is not our beliefs, and it isn’t our proving we’re right. It is the saving blood of Jesus Christ. That is the gospel in verity.

All our rule keeping and our quest to figure out prophetic texts isn’t going to get us one more inch through the heavenly gates. Only Christ’s righteousness saves us. What rules we keep and the things we do or don’t do, are simply our reflection of gratitude for the fact that Jesus already saved us. Why is this so hard?

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I spent ALL my school years at the same SDA school, from first grade until finishing college (Theology) in 1972. I knew it all…

Then, in 1979/1980 I learned that there were tons of data about SDAism that I was never told of. No Theology student was told, neither pastors, much less lay members.

Talk about feeling betrayed! It led me to re-study my whole set of beliefs. Then I discovered that the Church was not only hiding information, they were (at least in the South American Division) on a crusade to block the flow of information. I was not a worker at that time, I was just a “mere lay member” studying all about Ford, Rea, Numbers, etc. Then, guess what? I received a visit of the Division’s Secretary in my home, to make a “deal” - a proposal to make sure I wouldn’t spread what I knew.

Of course, for me, it was not hard to feel that I’ve been lied to… because I was!

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I am puzzled as to what gave you the opinion it is about “proving we’re right” rather than being about the only saving gospel, and every other thought that is intrinsically woven into our beliefs? If every gospel story in the Bible, and every Bible doctrine is interwoven with every aspect of the gospel, then why the fuss about the whole gospel? I am disheartened that you appear to believe that “gratuitous rule keeping” is the end game of our obedience experience, instead of a truly sanctifying experience with Jesus in an intense desire to be more like Him every day. I recommend the book The Faith I Live By to you for the truly beautiful gospel experience we can have if we give our all to Jesus. In its pages you will find such gems as:

"The part man has to act in the salvation of the soul is to believe on Jesus Christ as a perfect Redeemer, not for some other man, but for his own self.
"Christ imputes His perfection and righteousness to the believing sinner when he does not continue in sin, but turns from transgression to obedience of the commandments.
"While God can be just, and yet justify the sinner through the merits of Christ, no man can cover his soul with the garments of Christ’s righteousness while practicing known sins, or neglecting known duties.
"The apostle James saw that dangers would arise in presenting the subject of justification by faith, and he labored to show that genuine faith cannot exist without corresponding works. The experience of Abraham is presented. “Seest thou,” he says, “how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect?” James 2:22. Thus genuine faith does a genuine work in the believer. Faith and obedience bring a solid, valuable experience.
"Faith and works are two oars which we must use equally if we [would] press our way up the stream against the current of unbelief.
“The so-called faith that does not work by love and purify the soul will not justify any man. “Ye see,” says the apostle, “how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only.” James 2:24. Abraham believed God. How do we know that he believed? His works testified to the character of his faith, and his faith was accounted to him for righteousness.” FLB 115.

It is sad reflection on our poor understanding of the gospel if we regard anything outside of the justifying blood of Jesus as not the gospel, and a mere set of proof texts and rule keeping.

That kind of sloppy agape gospel can be found in most Protestant and Pentecostal churches today, and among the Ford Venden followers. It should not be so misunderstood among God’s people. and is far deeper than a simple reflection of our gratitude for Jesus’ saving us.

Again I wonder when you use the expression “Jesus already saved us” that you may have been caught up in the Ford in particular type of gospel misconception. Both the Bible and SOP are clear that we were not saved at the cross. Jesus won the right to redeem us when we come to Him. He passed over the test against Satan that Adam failed. He paid the price for our sins, and in the statement from The Faith I Live By here quoted, I draw your attention to a sentence which tells us when His salvation is given in our behalf. Note the timing and the condition of that salvation. The statement gives us a clue in using the term “when.”

"Christ imputes His perfection and righteousness to the believing sinner when he does not continue in sin, but turns from transgression to obedience of the commandments. FLB 115.

This is not at the cross when this promise is alluding to; but WHEN we come to Him in penitent faith, WHEN we are willing to turn from transgression to obedience. When are we going to learn that God is not some doddery old fool up there in heaven that we can claim salvation without complying with His every injunction to search the word for His plan for our life, and be willing to obey Him, rather than the popular view that He will just wink at our self-help gospel that leaves us on a works trip all the while claiming how Jesus has already saved us.

Again I must concur with this statement that shouts a different kind of gospel that you promote. This gospel is in fact a saving gospel, and not another:

"God’s ideal for His children is higher than the highest human thought can reach. ‘Be ye therefore perfect, even as your Father which is in heaven is perfect.’ This command is a promise. The plan of redemption contemplates our complete recovery from the power of Satan. Christ always separates the contrite soul from sin. He came to destroy the works of the devil, and He has made provision that the Holy Spirit shall be imparted to every repentant soul, to keep him from sinning.
"The tempter’s agency is not to be accounted an excuse for one wrong act. Satan is jubilant when he hears the professed followers of Christ making excuses for their deformity of character. It is these excuses that lead to sin. There is no excuse for sinning. A holy temper, a Christlike life, is accessible to every repenting, believing child of God.
"The ideal of Christian character is Christlikeness. As the Son of man was perfect in His life, so His followers are to be perfect in their life. Jesus was in all things made like unto His brethren. He became flesh, even as we are. He was hungry and thirsty and weary. He was sustained by food and refreshed by sleep. He shared the lot of man; yet He was the blameless Son of God. He was God in the flesh. His character is to be ours. The Lord says of those who believe in Him, “I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be My people.” 2 Corinthians 6:16. DA 311.

I want that kind of gospel here spoken of. It is the true and everlasting gospel. This kind of gospel “contemplates our complete recovery from the power of Satan.”

It most definitely is not that style of Fordian gospel that says, “now I’ve justified you, you are on your own to stumble and fall and fail repeatedly until the second coming.” That’s it, you can simply “do things to reflect your gratitude” if you like, but you are doomed to a merry-go-round of failure.

Now at some point some person with a modern Bible version is going to produce EPH 2 verse 5 and verse 8 in support of the “have been saved” theory. However, it is more correctly translated in the KJV as the original is in the present continual tense. “By grace are ye saved” gives just that present ongoing tense. And HEB 7:25 backs up that setting with: “Wherefore he is able also to save them *to the uttermost that come unto God by him, seeing he ever liveth to make intercession for them.” One could not in the least give this text the saved at the cross and all we have to do is to accept it" kind of meaning.

So in summary I see the gospel in a far deeper light than you do. It is the same gospel of the Bible and the SOP. It is in fact the only true saving gospel that contemplates our complete recovery from sin. This gospel encompasses both justification and sanctification and in the true power of God unto salvation.

I commend for you thoughts the words of Hebrews 7:25 again. This is the God who can and will defeat Satan. In the letters to the seven churches we find the promises are to the overcomers, and this theme is reiterated in the closing chapter of that book. In verse 14 of chapter 22 we read, “Blessed are they that do his commandments, that they may have right to the tree of life, and may enter in through the gates into the city.”

This, I put to you, is the everlasting gospel with its shirt sleeves rolled up.

I will close with one thought so that I will not be misconstrued so as to claim I believe we can be saved by works.

Many years ago in the church where I attended, the question was asked from the pulpit: "what is our reward? The answer came back from an elder who believed the New Theology, “eternal life.” Now I did not correct him at that time, but he was in fact wrong. Eternal life will always and ever be a gift. We cannot earn it, nor can it be a reward. Our salvation is always a gift from our wonderful Savior.- - we can never earn it. Our reward can be seen in the crown and stars we receive. Our reward can be seen in the place in heaven prepared for us. But never confuse the two - eternal life a gift, and our reward in the things mentioned.

This isn’t so hard when we understand the real gospel.

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