Timeout: “The Smoke of Their Torment”

Indeed all interpretations are not equal. But, words and notes do have meaning and that is a necessary part of reponsible exegesis. Taking the liberty to make a bflat a csharp is a violation of the composer no matter the talent of the player/orchastra.

1 Like

Of course Kim! You don’t forget 60 yrs. All of it isn’t wrong. There are many overlaps with Protestantism.
It’s the parts that are not that are troubling. :kissing_heart:

1 Like

Seventh-day Adventists have always struggled in their understanding of God’s law, because they do not understand hermeneutics. They do not possess what the hermeneutics literature refers to as historical consciousness. It is a silly question to ask whether God’s law is “arbitrary,” because God’s law is historically conditioned. God’s law is not arbitrary, precisely because He is a proximate cause rather than the sole cause of His law. Another proximate cause of His law is the historical context in which He has situated Himself. As the historical context changes, His law correspondingly changes.

An excellent illustration is Jesus’ change of the law of divorce. Because of the change in historical context–(hearts were not as hardened as before)–Jesus decreed that a man can no longer divorce his wife at will but only if adultery occurs. It is important to understand that Jesus is not the teleological endpoint of God’s law. Jesus’ teachings are just as historically conditioned as the teachings of Moses, who as an agent of God spoke for God. God’s law of divorce for us today is different than what Moses or Jesus taught, because our historical context is different than their historical context. And we should be cautious in assuming that there is necessarily teleological progress in the course of time. Indeed, there are no doubt post-NT societies that are so primitive and backward that they are, or would have been, better served by Moses’ law of divorce than by Jesus’ law of divorce.

The fourth commandment is obviously historically conditioned by God’s hallowing of the seventh day of the Creation. We don’t even need the fourth commandment. Keeping the Sabbath day holy is a natural and obvious response to God’s hallowing of the seventh day.

Many Seventh-day Adventists, in their ignorance, have undertaken various formalistic schemes to differentiate seemingly desirable laws, such as the fourth commandment, from seemingly undesirable laws, such as Moses’ law of divorce. The most common approach has been to trichotomize God’s law into moral law, ceremonial law, and civil law. This hilarious formalistic approach to God’s law does not work. All law is moral law per se. All law given to the Israelites is civil law per se. And the ceremonial law, like all other subsets of God’s law given to the Israelites, is moral law and civil law. Most important, the attempt to categorize part of God’s law as “moral law” for the purpose of expressing that such “moral law” is universal, transcendent, eternal, and absolute is an absurdity, because God’s law is historically conditioned and therefore not universal, transcendent, eternal and absolute. We do not worship a Platonist deity but a personal God who situates Himself in our time and space. Accordingly, His law for us does not float in the ether of the heavens but has been shaped and molded to meet our spiritual needs.

Thank you for this interesting essay. At some point, I would like to explain why we should not shy away from the biblical teaching that God will destroy the wicked with the awesome ferocity they so richly deserve.



I am sure of that! :slight_smile:

Thank-you for so eloquently stating what I believe/know as well, Philip.

We, too often, believe God to be in our own personal image…in a way, He is, but as you have so aptly stated: "His law for us does not float in the ether of the heavens but has been shaped and molded to meet our spiritual needs."

He is, indeed, a merciful Savior.


It is the practical implication of any interpretation that counts. By their fruits you shall know them. So one way that really works well in finding out if something is worth believing in is asking " what kind of person is God then if this is true?" second is “what kind of person would I be if I did that”. Everyman must choose their GOD and transformation is after that inevitable. How we treat our enemies reveals the best or the worst in us, the same applies to God


Your point about Christ being worthy is an interesting one. Can we truly say that at any time Christ was not worthy? That would seem to be the implication of the reasoning you shared about the passage you are referring to. This seems to be a vailidation of Sigve’s concept of our judging God. But it calls into question whether that judgment is actual or perceptual based on our limited perpective. In other words, while we may consider Jesus finally worthy to open the seals, would God have ever considered Jesus unworthy were it not for our inability to understand otherwise?

1 Like

I am a little troubled by the statement, “We do not worship a Platonist deity but a personal God who situates Himself in our time and space.” In order to situate himself in such a manner is to imply that he exists outside that time and space and chooses to do so. There may be elements of God that exist both within and without Platonism, other wise have we not drawn upon our own tendency to package him according to our perspective, a “god in a box” as it were? Perhaps we are better served to say that I perceive this or that about God, just as the blind men perceived this or that about the elephant, while allowing that our sensory and intellectual tools are inadequate to fully realize God either relationally or perceptually. In the end, perhaps the only “truth” per se is to be found in the words of Job. “Naked I came from my mother’s womb, and naked I will depart. The Lord gave and the Lord has taken away;
may the name of the Lord be praised.” Such a response does not require understanding as much as it does humility in the face of the inscrutable.


Unless you play jazz! Lol!


1 Like

Then , like early Barth, you may get a different result every day…because parts aren’t scripted. :wink:

1 Like

After about the third or fourth reading of the article; and after my one and only cup of coffee, I’m not so much responding, as thinking out loud. You don’t need to care, but help me, if you can.

I haven’t opened Habakkuk since Dr. Lesher’s room in college. I was surprised to see “Revelation” there with wrath and mayhem all over the place. There was also some of Job there in the end, and the classic Hebrew hope for vindication - a lot to take in and put in order. To think that Paul picks up where Habakkuk left off needs some effort - I’m trying.

So, its all about the "faithfulness OF Jesus, and not faithfulness IN Jesus. Somebody thought it was IN:

14;12 - Here is the perseverance of the saints who keep the commandments of God and their faith IN Jesus.

I do suppose it can be both, as the “good news” the angel brings is EVERLASTING. Back then, the good news was restoration, and the good news later, is also about restoration, but at a much larger and deeper level.

Overall, the article flies in the stratosphere, compared to the SS explanations; so high, in fact, it’s hard to breathe it all in. But, I’m still having a problem picturing God needing to justify Himself to anybody. At ground level, God can be accused of turning our cheeks for us, when we survey our landscape, so the larger picture must be considered. The larger picture, is said to be proving that God is not arbitrary. But don’t we already know that - look at nature - read Job.

I think my angst with all this is that I fear we’re still looking at Christ and the mess in Revelation, with a jump off place in the OT, as if what was started there, is finishing with “Revelation”. Yes, we can’t read anything in the NT without a long glance into the Old; but, Jesus pretty much admonished us not to get lost in the OT, since 'it was all about Him"; and we have Him standing right before us. The reminder is repeated in the book of Hebrews (Heb. 1:1,2). When it comes to that, the point of loyalty can’t live in the OT either. The Sabbath was clearly “holy”, not because we stop cleaning the house, or going to the office/factory/store/coal mine, but because it points to the holiness of the ONE who gives the REST promised. We can’t encapsulate our favorite things in the OT, and transfer them into the NEW, in tact. The OLD was there, because there was the NEW, waiting to be realized.


The only force behind evil is our own mental world deemed by our conscience to be unacceptable either through life experience or brain abnormalities. Having said that, Jesus came to show the spiritual way out of sin and work with our limitations, not to correct our factual misperceptions of the world. There is no record that he corrected false perceptions such as the earth being flat as was believed then. He allowed us to work within our own cognitive limitations, demons among others. We now know that our feelings, thoughts, behaviors and cognitive functions are a product of our own brain. Nothing else.


Yes, Elmer, we are products of our genetics, our upbringing, our culture…nature and nurture. So were the biblical authors. Human beings like us who operated from within their framework.

But, this introduces an assumption, that our modern, scientific, and naturalistic perspective is the only way of measuring reality and truth. It discounts the idea that there are phenomena that can fall outside of observable reality… that fall outside the limits of the scientific method. The Bible deals with this. It speaks of God, gods, demons, angels, entities that are not materialistically observable, but that have influence over this terra firma and its inhabitants. Science discounts this because it really doesn’t deal with it in its methodology. It can’t.

When you come down to it, it can’t deal with the reality of Jesus’s literal resurrection from the dead, either. Would we say that this is nothing more than the human expression of longing for and faith in the divine, and life beyond…IOW, just an expression of cognitive function by the biblical writers? Or was it really an historical happening? That Jesus rose from the dead, something beyond human explanation and reasoning of any age. Even the ancients knew that nobody came back from the dead.

And, if we take seriously the NT claim that Jesus is risen indeed, something beyond our naturalistic presuppositions, then why can’t we take seriously the idea that there are spiritual forces at work on all sides, of both life and death, good and evil, that are continually seeking to influence and impact human society, culture, and even cognitive function.

This does not discount that we are still responsible agents, called to think, reason, and act within our time and place. It does say that there is a reality beyond us. After all, Christian faith says that Jesus came from beyond our observable world and was incarnated into it, to redeem it.




Well said, Frank. I agree that there is a realm outside of the material, naturalistic world that science operates within.


There are a number of ways to take this phenomenon seriously. If the intent of the narrative is to validate demons and spiritual forces, then i don’t have any good explanation. However, if the intent of the narrative is the resolution of the symptoms as represented by demons and spiritual forces, then the explanation is demons and forces were a creation to explain what we now know in neuroscience. Again, Jesus came to work with the “present” knowledge of his time. We should not prisoners of our past knowledge.


Carol, you do have a very rich repertoire of imagination.

Why does this have to be a mutually exclusive proposition, Elmer? Why can’t it be seen that Jesus came to resolve the symptoms not only represented by spiritual forces, but caused ultimately by what the bible calls sin…a condition that distorts natural human function, and that has also inserted the dominance of a malignant spiritual power in the world?

Again, all science can measure observable conditions and their natural causes. But, it cannot measure what is beyond its own limitations. In skirting around science’s limits, what is often resorted to is the argument that the ancients were primitive compared to us. In much scientific knowledge, yes. In spiritual matters, I’m not so sure. I wouldn’t go as far as comparing the belief in a flat earth with the belief in the existence and activity of unseen spiritual forces. The former is demonstrably disproven by the scientific method. It is observable reality. The latter can’t be, because it isn’t.

It gets down to epistemology, I guess. How do we know what we know, and how do we determine what is truth?

Thanks, Elmer…




Somehow I feel a tiny bit insulted by your comment, but I’m sure that wasn’t your intent. Probably just my imagination. :wink:

It’s funny, I’ve never thought of myself as much imagination at all.

Does Frank have a “very rich repertoire of imagination” too? :thinking:


Looking at the books of Exodus, Leviticus, Deuteronomy
it is IMPORTANT to recall that the Israelites have only been a
couple of months away from Slavery. In Slavery they were always
told what to do and when to do it by their Masters.
Now, on their own, they have to learn HOW to live in Community.
HOW to love their Redeemer [God, and WHICH God?] HOW
to love their Neighbors and HOW to live in harmony with each other.

So things had to be written down. And had to be quite specific. All of
these had to be PRACTICED before they could become automatic
and “Natural” behaviors.
Recall that when the Jewish survivors returned home from Babylon, and
were there with those who were allowed to stay, by the Babylonians, that
the “words of the Law” were read to them by Ezra and Nehemiah.
Because they needed to be reminded of the HOW TOs of living.


I have followed this line of reasoning since I left formal training and note that complaints of demons from patients have diminished as more objective complaints are available and offered… Besides, if there were “real” physical demons, the incidence would still be as prevalent as in ancient times but that is not the case. Besides, we now know more about brain anatomy and physiology that we can stop those demonic “thoughts and beliefs” on its tract and reverse them rapidly by use of pharmacotherapy interventions.

Carol, please don’t feel insulted. That was not my intent and it was made in jest having interacted with you for a period of time here in Spectrum.