Why The Critics of the Investigative Judgment Have Failed

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On October 22, 2015, the 171st Anniversary of the Great Disappointment of 1844, Spectrum Magazine published an article entitled, “1844 – Pillar of Faith or Mortal Wound.”

According to the author, “…the viability of 1844 as a prophetic marker continues to depend heavily on isolated proof-texts. It seems Adventist scholars who defend 1844 as an unmovable rock are satisfied with finding tiny hooks in a few chosen verses that appear to (albeit remotely) support our position.” Moreover, “…we have been given in to the temptation to hold on to tradition instead of continuing to study Scripture. We have overstated our case and stretched the evidence in order to confirm our “prophetic identity.” And frankly, that is all 1844 really is, it only massages our corporate ego, it does little for the individual believer. I can believe that Jesus has been my perfect intercessor since the ascension without jeopardizing my standing with God.” Therefore, “We should have the humility to accept that we may have been wrong all along about the nature and timeline of Christ’s priestly ministry in heaven.”[i]

This article is just one of hundreds that have been written over the years by non-Adventists, former Adventists and, church members alike, questioning the validity of this unique Adventist doctrine. Objections have been raised that:

-The Investigative Judgment (IJ) is nothing more than a feeble face-saving attempt to address the mistake of 1844.
-It is an extra-Biblical doctrine invented entirely by Ellen White.
-It cheapens the Reformation gospel of Salvation by grace through faith.
-It robs Adventists of the assurance of salvation and causes them to live in constant fear.
-No other denomination has seen any value in this doctrine and hence all have rejected it.
-A good number of Adventist ministers and theologians secretly know the doctrine to be false but are afraid to admit it.

Adventists have repeatedly refuted each of these claims. Nevertheless, the critics do not relent. If we respond with a humble and open mind on these issues, we are interpreted as being uncertain. If we reply with perfect confidence, we are accused of being dogmatic and intransigent. It seems no matter what answers Adventists can come up with they appear to always be interpreted as reactionary inventions cooked up to keep ourselves from having to bury a dead concept; one that depends on the KJV translation for its veracity, on isolated and dubious texts such as Daniel 8:14, on the day/year principle, or on the translation of some uncertain Greek or Hebrew terms.

In light of these attacks, one would think the debate was over. Nevertheless, as we will now demonstrate, the debate is far from over. While critics may pride themselves in their long list of seemingly conclusive arguments, the truth is they have no argument. But if they have no argument then why do they continue to press the matter?

The answer is simple. Over the decades, Adventists have allowed the critics to portray the IJ as a sort of theoretical concoction that is entirely dependent on the veracity of a long series of prerequisite assumptions (such as day/year, Daniel 8:14, etc.). And if there is any doubt regarding any of these assumptions, the entire theological structure collapses like a house of cards.

However, the IJ cannot be refuted this way (as the author of the Spectrum article and other critics have gone about it). Their approach, in essence, has been a futile attempt to kill a tree by plucking off the leaves. This doctrine is not dependent on the day/year principle, Dan. 8:14, Leviticus or some passage in Hebrews – that is only the route by which Adventists came to discover it. In reality, the IJ is much broader and rests first of all on an Arminian understanding of the Protestant gospel.

Classical Arminianism and Free Will

During the Protestant Reformation, two distinct camps emerged under the banner of Sola Scriptura, Sola Fide and Sola Gratia with conflicting views regarding the human will. The first, Calvinism, rejected the idea of free will in favor of predestination.[ii] This perspective was later articulated as five distinct points using the mnemonic T.U.L.I.P. (see chart below for more info).

(T)otal Depravity

(U)nconditional Election

(L)imited Atonement

(I)rresistible Grace

(P)erseverance of the Saints

In contrast, the second camp, Arminianism, fully supported the concept of human free will and therefore rejected each one of the five points above. Please take a look at the following chart for a more detailed explanation of the differences, paying special attention to point number five:

Copyright © 2016 CRI/Voice, Institute by Dennis Bratcher [iii]
Now here comes the tricky part and, incidentally, the most important part:

Over time, a third camp emerged that took something of a hybrid approach. They adopted the first four points from the Arminian side and the fifth point from the Calvinist side giving rise to what is popularly referred to as the concept of Once Saved Always Saved (hereafter O.S.A.S). What’s tricky about this is that they still call themselves Arminian even though, in discussions about the IJ, how they feel about point number five of the TULIP formula is the single, most important factor. (For the remainder of this paper I will be using the labels “Classical Arminianism” vs. “O.S.A.S. Arminianism”)

Therefore, in any discussion about the IJ, before any mention is made of Hebrew terms in Daniel or Greek terms in Hebrews or the validity of the day-year principle, two questions should be asked of any critic:

1) Are you a Calvinist?

2) If not, do you believe in Once Saved Always Saved?

Why does this matter? Because all Classical Arminians reject the idea of Once Saved Always Saved, they all believe that a person who has experienced a genuine new birth can still be lost, and therefore, all believe in some form of IJ differentiating between believers, even though they don’t call it that.[iv] However, most Arminians also believe that when a person dies, they are carried directly into the presence of God for judgment. At this moment, it is determined if they were faithful or not and the sentence is pronounced for either reward or punishment.[v] Adventists, on the other hand, believe that people rest in their graves until the resurrection. Thus, there is no longer a necessity to force-fit the IJ immediately after death; we don’t need to rationalize away all the Biblical passages that speak of the judgment as being in the future. Since we believe Jesus will bring His reward with Him at His coming, the judgment needs only to take place shortly prior to that.

In essence, the Adventist doctrine of the IJ is the natural outgrowth of Arminianism and Soul Sleep. All the other elements (1844, the Hebrews passages, the day-year principle) are useful in understanding the judgment and its relevance, but they are not essential.[vi] In other words, the IJ does not stand or fall on any of those issues. Its necessity stands or falls on the validity of Classical Arminianism and its eventuality stands or falls on the validity of Soul Sleep theology. Since Adventists correctly affirm both of these foundations to be true, we are therefore correct about the nature of the IJ. At this juncture, the likelihood that we are also correct about all these other elements, including the timing, is extremely high before the conversation even starts.

In summary, if a person believes that:

1) Salvation can be lost,

2) That God judges,

3) That the souls of men sleep until the resurrection

4) And, that this reward/punishment is not received until the resurrection,

Such a person will very likely come to believe in an Adventist-like pre-advent IJ irrespective of any other factors. If salvation can be lost, this matter must be objectively decided before the church goes to heaven. If God judges, then part of his judgment work would be to determine the faithful from the apostate (the nature of the IJ).[vii] At this point, we have the basic building blocks for the IJ. And while 3rd and 4th propositions do not lead us to 1844 (the timing of the IJ) they leave the door comfortably open for such a possibility.[viii] And, this is why those who attack this doctrine on peripheral issues like Greek or Hebrew terminology are, quite honestly, wasting their time. If critics would like to tear the IJ down as a theological concept the only way to do it would be to deny its Classical Arminian foundation and the Mortal Soul concept which naturally gives birth to the IJ as Adventists understand it (Appendix A). However, the critics have not and cannot do this which is why, after many decades of effort, they have failed in their attempts to refute this doctrine.

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Johnny, Jim, and Bob

For the sake of clarity, let’s take a brief look at how each of the three theological traditions views salvation.

Calvinism

Before the foundations of the world, God decreed that Johnny would be lost, and Jim saved for reasons having nothing to do with them. So, for example, Johnny might be a relatively good person and Jim a criminal. Nonetheless, because God ordained it, Johnny would never come to recognize his need of a Savior or repent of his sins. Jim, on the other hand, at some point in his life, will come to repent and experience a genuine new birth.

Moreover, even if Jim falls away after being born again, some time before his death, he will come back to Christ and die having made peace with God. Again, all this for no other reason than that God has decreed it to be so; neither Johnny nor Jim chose any of it or could change their fate if they wanted to. Therefore, an IJ in such a case would be pointless.

O.S.A.S. Arminianism

Under this paradigm, both Johnny and Jim are offered the gospel invitation. They are both free to accept or reject that invitation, and God does not interfere with this choice. Johnny, of his own free will, chooses to reject it and Jim to accept it. However, having accepted the invitation and having experienced a genuine new birth, his salvation is secure and can no longer be lost. It does not matter if after being born again he turns away from God, becomes more evil than Hitler himself, or longs with all his heart to undo his former decision to come to Christ. His salvation is sealed; he no longer has free will in this respect. So a pre-Advent IJ in this situation would be pointless since there is, in a technical sense, no such thing as an apostate.

Classical Arminianism

To understand this perspective, we need to introduce Bob. As before, the gospel invitation is still being extended freely to all. Johnny, as usual, rejects it. Both Jim and Bob accept it. They both open their hearts to Christ; they are both born again, sealed with the Holy Spirit of promise, pardoned of their sins, declared to be the sons of God, and there is rejoicing in the presence of the angels on behalf of both. However, only Jim makes it to heaven while Bob ends up lost in the end.[ix] So it is evident that an IJ, in this case, is far more complex a process than simply whether a person has accepted Christ or not.[x]

Again, Arminian Protestants would argue that this IJ of sorts takes place when Jim and Bob die. Both would be ushered into the presence of God where their case would be reviewed either for heaven or hell. Jim would make it to heaven by virtue of his faith in Christ. Bob, on the other hand, having decided to turn his back on Christ, would be turned away. Since, as Adventists, we do not believe in the immortality of the soul and therefore that God has to have a place ready for the soul immediately after death, there is no need to enter into this judgment then and there. In fact, there are even some Christians who, recognizing that the judgment takes place in the future, attempt to harmonize this by proposing some type of “holding cell” where people don’t immediately get their reward but only await their day in court. To support this, they make reference to Peter’s “spirits in prison” (1 Pet. 3:19 KJV) and to the example of the fallen angels whom “he has reserved in everlasting chains under darkness unto the judgment of the great day” (Jude 1:6). All these being workarounds Adventists don’t need because we don’t believe the dead are conscious. Nor does God need to judge each person one at a time but instead “has appointed a day, in the which he will judge the world” (Acts 17:31).

For over a century and a half, the Adventist church has been challenged by critics from inside and outside the denomination, insisting that the doctrine of the IJ is unbiblical at best and cultic at worst. These voices have called us to discard this teaching if we wish to remain orthodox. Nevertheless, we remain unconvinced by the many peripheral attacks made against this doctrine for we see it, not as dependent on a long list of small exegetical presuppositions, but as the natural outgrowth of Classical Arminianism and Soul Sleep. In light of this foundation we concur that many critics of the IJ are, quite possibly, either:

1) Concerned with Classical Arminianism, a debate that was raging centuries before Adventism came around.

2) Concerned with non-essentials (day/year principle, Daniel 8:14, 1844, the meaning of chatak in Daniel 9, the connection between Daniel 8 and 9, Leviticus, the book of Hebrews, etc.) in which case, we are free to disagree without having to discard the entire doctrine.

3) Concerned with a pseudo IJ in which case they are really attacking a straw man.

4) Unaware of the real theological issues at hand such as the differences between Calvinism and Arminianism, and their development throughout the centuries.

In conclusion, the Adventist church will not discard the IJ because we have no need to do so and critics have failed in providing us with one. Therefore, our message to the critics of the IJ is as follows:

1)    If you are a Calvinist/ OSAS Arminian, you need to be upfront about this. At this juncture, the debate is not so much about the IJ peripherals as much as the IJ foundation – Classical Arminianism. So rather than expending valuable time debating non-essentials let’s get to the core of it.[xi]

2)    If you are a Classical Arminian, then we invite you to re-explore the topic with an open mind. There are countless resources that conclusively demonstrate that the IJ doctrine is scripturally sound.

3)    If, regardless of anything the Adventist church does, you maintain that the IJ is heretical and false then we have no burden to enter into controversy with you. The church cannot consume valuable time and energy in attempting to satisfy the accusations of those whose minds are made up beyond reason.

Moreover, we have a message to the Adventist church as well. As a church, we need to be more proactive in confronting people of influence (counter-cult apologists, Christian leaders, etc.) who continue to either misunderstand or misrepresent our views.  There is no reason to keep struggling against the current when taking our message to the general public because a few key people continue to incite prejudice and superstition. We have a solid foundation for the IJ and we can stand firm on it as we continue to explore and perfect our understanding of the details that make this doctrine so unique in the Christian world.

Appendix A: Possible Objections

The Classical Arminianism/ Soul Sleep combination gives Adventism a strong philosophical basis for believing in an IJ. However, some may continue to argue that while this combination may leave the door open to an IJ as the church understands it, it does not necessarily demand that such a conclusion be reached. In light of this objection, this appendix will explore each of the alternative views of judgment that are logically possible under the Arminian/ Soul Sleep combination and demonstrate how the official SDA understanding on the matter continues to be the most satisfactory conclusion.

The IJ Cannot possibly be true because it is anti-gospel/ perfectionistic in nature.

Little needs to be said regarding this attack. While we wholeheartedly agree that this doctrine has been abused to promote legalism and perfectionism, Adventist theologians and scholars have repeatedly demonstrated that this is a perversion of the doctrine, not its essence. The fact that critics continue to make this claim demonstrates that they are either Calvinists who think Classical Arminianism is anti-gospel, OSAS Arminians who think the doctrine of eternal security is a test of gospel orthodoxy, or they remain ignorant of Adventism’s soteriological heritage. Needless to say, any student concerned with the implications that the IJ has for a proper understanding of the gospel can find numerous resources that answer this question to the satisfaction of anyone who acknowledges the legitimacy of Classical Arminian soteriology. We recommend some in our resource page below.

God knows who is saved without a judgment

One might argue that while Classical Arminians reject once saved always saved it does not necessarily follow that a judgment is necessary for “God knows those who are his”. In this argument then, the need for any judgment of any sort remains unnecessary due to the omniscience of God. While the Arminian/ Soul Sleep combination may, in fact, leave the door open for a concept such as the IJ, it does not necessarily mandate such a conclusion. Because God knows who has turned their back on Christ, there is no need for him to perform a work of judgment to determine who has been faithful and who has not. God can simply allow the faithful in and reject the apostate on the basis of his own perfect knowledge.

Such a conclusion, while certainly permitted within the Arminian/ Soul Sleep framework, is nevertheless lacking in various aspects. The most obvious would be that such a position is more in keeping with Calvinism than Classical Arminianism. Part of Classical Arminianism’s meta-narrative is that God is benevolent. This benevolence of God opens the door for a fairness, transparency, and general other-centered concern that is not self-evident in Calvinism. Because Christians acknowledged that the sin-drama has affected the entire universe, including angels, it is only fair and transparent for God to allow the finite creation into his all-knowing judgments. However, the idea that God would judge everyone based solely on his omniscience denies this other-centered concern and does not fit the Arminian framework. Again, such a position is more logically consistent with Calvinism, which elevates the sovereignty of God to such a height that God becomes, in the estimation of all Arminians, arbitrary and aloof. In Calvinism, God acts according to his desires with no input or apparent concern for the thoughts of others. This makes perfect sense for Calvinism denies the freedom of the will. Thus, within this framework, a God who acts according to his omniscience without any benevolent concern for the thoughts of his created beings is perfectly in keeping. However, Arminianism is a denial of Calvinism, which, while maintaining the sovereignty of God does so by paradoxically balancing this with the freedom of man thus resulting in a much different picture of God. The picture that emerges from the Arminian concept of God is that of a God is certainly omniscient but likewise benevolent. Thus, to suggest that God would judge the world based on his omniscience alone is to deny his benevolence toward the angels who have been involved in the same drama over humanity’s salvation and the sin problem. Sadly, many Classical Arminians, in their desire to refute the IJ doctrine switch their God-picture from Arminianism to Calvinism in order to raise this objection without even realizing it. Thus, while it is true that God does know who is saved without a judgment, it is equally true that the judgment is not intended to be based solely on Gods omniscience but on his benevolence as well. As a result, it makes much more sense to see God as participating in a work of judgment that is transparent for the benefit of all creation.

Thus, while it is certainly permitted to argue against a judgment on the basis of God’s omniscience in the Arminian/ Soul Sleep framework Adventist theologians are under no obligation to do so and in fact, are more internally consistent by not switching their view of God from Arminian to Calvinist for the sake of arguing against a particular doctrine.

God judges through unconscious soul sleep.

One might likewise argue that while Adventists reject the immortal soul doctrine, it does not necessarily follow that the judgment must be a corporate event that begins at some point in human history. God could just as easily judge each person while they are unconsciously asleep. According to this view, the only difference between Adventists and other Arminians is that the human is not consciously present at their judgment but is nevertheless judged at the moment of their death.

This is certainly a viable position to take. However, those who take this position are still affirming that believers must be judged and that Christ’s ministry did not end at the cross. In addition, they still have to explain why God would have to judge if he is omniscient, what benefit the judgment has for creation, why the judgment has gone for so long, what the judgment actually means for believers, the relationship of that judgment to assurance, the relevance/ importance of such a judgment and the relationship of the day of atonement to the judgment (since every believer would face their own “day of atonement” where the faithful were separated from the apostates after death so to speak).

In other words, if a person affirms the need for an IJ they may continue to deny the validity of 1844 by suggesting that the judgment takes place at each individual person’s death. However, at this point, they would have to embrace all of the concepts of the IJ doctrine with the exception of its structure or timing. If a person decides to go this route, the entire debate has shifted from two fronts (soteriological and eschatological) to just one – the eschatological. By affirming the need for an IJ under the Arminian / Soul Sleep framework, we eliminate the soteriological debate and find ourselves in need of an IJ of some sort. At this point, the only question that remains is: How does God choose to perform the judgment? Does he do it individually? Or, has he ordained a day in history in which he will begin a judgment process? (We will address this question in more detail in a future article. Appendix B briefly explores this.)

Because Adventists do not believe in the immortal soul, we are under no obligation to force the judgment onto each individual at the moment of death. Such a judgment would be unnecessary since the person would rest in the grave until the second coming anyways. Thus, there would be no need for the judgment to take place at each individual death. As a result, Adventist theologians are free to take the Biblical texts pointing to a judgment day future of the cross but prior to the second coming as literally pointing to a judgment process that begins at a certain point in human history.

God may in fact judge, but has not revealed how.

Finally, one may attempt to argue that while the Classical Arminian + Soul Sleep combination may lead to an IJ of some sort the Bible does not reveal any details on how. In other words, the foundation for the IJ may be solid but everything else we believe about the IJ is false because scripture simply does not reveal the details of the IJ as much as Adventists claim it does. With this argument in mind, a critic may insist that the best we can do is affirm that all will be judged but will still have to discard all of the peripheral details which Adventists believe about the IJ leaving us with a similar pre-advent judgment theology to that of the United Methodists who, – in reference to the judgment – refuse to enter into specifics. Adventism’s IJ is, therefore, still false because it claims to understand more about God’s judgment than scripture actually reveals. To borrow the words of Andre Reis (the above cited article), “We have overstated our case and stretched the evidence…” A critic who raises this argument may, in fact, go on to say that the foundation for the IJ does not help the SDA case at all because all it does is give us the basics – but it’s not the basics that are the problem it’s the details that we foolishly claim to have ironed out.

However, this argument also fails. For starters, it’s really not that different to the previous “God judges through unconscious soul sleep” argument. And because it’s not that different it leads to the same conclusions. If we are agreeing to an IJ of some sort logic alone would lead us to the same questions as if we were talking about Adventism’s detailed IJ. Questions such as, “Why does God need to judge?” “Does this judgment deny assurance of salvation?” and “When does this judgment begin?” With these, and many other questions, Adventist theologians would have two options: 1) Opt for a “We don’t know and the Bible doesn’t say” or, 2) In typical Adventist fashion, go back to the scriptures and search for answers. It would be ridiculous to assert that the most noble course would be to evade the question and Adventist theologians and scholars are under no Biblical obligation to ignore the many texts that clearly answer the natural questions that would arise from a basic IJ motif. And it is by answering those naturally arising questions that we arrive at Adventism’s IJ doctrine. In addition, Adventist theologians and scholars have repeatedly demonstrated that the way in which we comprehend the details of the judgment are exegetically and theologically sound. Critics are free to disagree but our challenge would be that they not simply disagree but come up with a better IJ doctrine than what Adventism has discovered. And the truth is, they cannot do this. The best they can do is evade the question by claiming that scripture does not reveal these things.

Summary

In summary, there are four primary objections that can be raised against the philosophical foundation of the IJ doctrine within the Arminian/ Soul Sleep framework. Those four arguments, while permissible, nevertheless fail to account for the meta-narrative of both Arminianism and Soul Sleep. And while other arguments can be raised we are convinced that these four constitute the most plausible alternatives. Thus, we conclude that to believe in both Classical Arminianism and Soul Sleep heavily demands a judgment narrative that begins at some point in human history between the cross and the second coming. The only way to deny such a powerful foundation is to deny Classical Arminianism. However, at this point, a person is no longer debating the IJ but the age old Calvinism, Arminian, OSAS debate that has raged from centuries past until this very day. In addition, if a person takes this position they are certainly free to label Adventists as heretics so long as they are ready to label all Classical Arminians heretics alongside us. And if that is the case, I speak on behalf of many Adventists that I know when I say we will gladly accept the label.

The IJ stands strong, not based on little verses here and there, but on the logical outworking of the Arminian and Soul Sleep meta-narratives coming together into one cohesive theological system. While this certainly does not settle all of the questions it gives the SDA church a foundation for believing in the IJ from which we can confidently debate, discuss, and explore the sanctuary, Hebrews, and the eschatological ramifications of Daniel 8-9. It is to some of these themes that we now turn.

Appendix B: Common Objections

We will now briefly explore some of the more common objections raised regarding the details of the IJ doctrine. Keep in mind that all of the following arguments are incapable of refuting the IJ for they deal with details, not foundation. In addition, none of the thoughts included here are exhaustive. They are not intended to be the final word on the matter. These are simply some brief thoughts on the common objections that we feel can aid the conversation regarding the details of the judgment that often come under attack.

The Sanctuary

The fact that there is an IJ that takes place shortly prior to the second coming brings the yearly Hebrew festivals into perspective:

In the spring, the Israelites celebrated the Passover, the feast of Unleavened Bread, the First Fruits and Pentecost. In the fall, they celebrated the feast of Trumpets, the Day of Atonement and the Feast of Tabernacles. Our critics insist that the Day of Atonement was fulfilled at the cross. Does that mean that all the other feasts were also fulfilled at the cross? The Adventist perspective where the spring festivals represented Christ’s death, resurrection, and Pentecost while the fall festivals events at the end of the world (Pre-Advent Judgment, the second coming, etc.) is a far more sensible interpretation than anything our critics have been able to produce. The Adventist understanding of the pre-Advent Judgment makes for a perfect fit.

The Book of Hebrews

Some Bible translations say that Jesus went straight into the Most Holy place immediately after His ascension. How does this line up with the Adventist understanding?

Thousands of hours have been spent by scholars debating whether the Greek terms translated “Holy Place” in the King James should have been more accurately translated “Most Holy Place” or rather “Holy Places.”

However, why would we assume that the point of the Earthly Sanctuary was to teach us about heavenly geography? Was the ‘pattern’ given to Moses really intended as an exact architectural blueprint of heavenly real-estate?

Consider for a second what the sanctuary service would have looked like if every minor aspect was intended to be an exact representation of the real thing:

– there should have been just one sacrifice instead of many

– the ceremonies should have been conducted just once instead of year after year

– the altar should have been a cross

– and, since the high priest represented Christ, he should have offered himself instead of a lamb as the sacrifice, etc., etc.

It is never a good idea to take a model and expect it to reflect the real thing perfectly in every specific.

In the Old Testament, the priests were sinful human beings. As they ministered daily in the Holy Place, they needed a veil to shield them from the Shekinah Glory in the Most Holy place. Jesus, however, doesn’t have that problem; He is holy, undefiled, separate from sinners. As such, He could enter directly into God’s presence and even sit down at His right hand. None of this in any way detracts from the fact that there was a ‘daily’ ministry and a ‘yearly ministry’ (Day of Atonement) and that the anti-type of the yearly ministry more sensibly starts in the recent past rather than immediately at the ascension.

The Timing

What about the 1844 date itself?

There is much that has been written on this already that will carry far more weight now that the reader understands the solid foundation of the Investigative Judgement. I will just share a few thoughts here:

The Day-Year Principle

If there is one idea that really doesn’t need defending is the day-year principle, as much as the critics might disagree.

The fact that there is a passage that says,

‘from the going forth of the commandment to restore and to build Jerusalem unto the Messiah the Prince’ Dan. 9:25

And that there is a decree in Ezra 7 given in the seventh year of King Artaxerxes (the dates of whose reign I can quickly pull up on Google), and that if I add the specified time to this date I get to the time of Jesus, is overwhelming evidence that these are not meant to be taken as literal days but as years. There are very few things in Scripture that can be demonstrated as persuasively as this.

For a more thorough exploration of this topic (Historicism) and of the challenges posed by Futurism, Preterism, and Idealism we invite the reader to avail themselves of the numerous resources published by SDA scholars and theologians.

1844

The Spectrum article we started this discussion with mentioned that ‘when in doubt, it is best to let the prophetic text lie in its original, unadulterated state without trying to impose an interpretation on it’ and that there’s a place ‘where questioning takes preeminence over believing. It is most of all, a place where humility replaces interpretative assertiveness.’

In the Bible, there is one time period that appears seven different times:

– Daniel 7:25 He shall speak great words against the most high, and shall wear out the saints of the most high, and think to change times and laws — and they shall be given into his hands until a time and times and the dividing of a time.

– Daniel 12:7 It shall be for a time, times, and half a time that he can scatter the power of the holy people.

– Revelation 11:2 The holy city they tread under foot forty and two months.

– Revelation 11:3 And I will give power unto my two witnesses, and they shall prophecy a thousand two hundred and sixty days, clothed in sackcloth.

– Revelation 12:6 And the woman fled into the wilderness, where she hath a place prepared by God, that they should feed her there a thousand two hundred and sixty days.

– Revelation 12:14 And the woman was given wings of a great eagle, that she might fly into the wilderness, where she is nourished for a time, and times, and half a time, from the face of the serpent.

– Revelation 13:5 And there was given to the beast a mouth speaking great things and blasphemies, and power was given to him to continue fourty and two months.

It seems to me that if God is going to hammer us over the head seven times with a time period, then it probably means that at least in this one instance, God does want us to exercise “interpretative assertiveness.” So even if nothing else, we can, at least, be certain about the prophetic significance of 1260 years somewhere between 500 and 1800 A.D.

According to the apostle Paul,

…we beseech you, brethren, by the coming of our Lord Jesus Christ, and by our gathering together unto him, that ye be not soon shaken in mind, or be troubled… as that the day of Christ is at hand. Let no man deceive you by any means: for that day shall not come, except there come a falling away first, and that man of sin be revealed, the son of perdition. 2 Thess. 2:1-3 KJV

Thus, according to Paul, there was something that needed to happen before the second coming, which, according to the book of Daniel lasted until about the 1800s. We already expected the judgment to start a short time prior to the second coming, but Daniel tells us specifically that it would start after the 1260 years. Therefore, even if for some reason Adventists are mistaken about 1844, they are only off by a few years or decades.

Appendix C: Why it Matters

Another question that was raised by the Spectrum article is why the individual Christian should care about doctrines like the Investigative Judgement, the Sanctuary, 1844, etc. Here are some of those reasons:

1) An understanding the Old Testament sanctuary service provides strong confirmation that the Classical Arminian perspective is, in fact, the correct one.

2) The sanctuary also confirms the Adventist view that Sanctification plays an important role in the Christian’s life.

3) The sanctuary reinforces our view of the prominent role of the Ten Commandments since they were placed right underneath the Mercy Seat representing God’s throne.

4) The prominent role of the Ten Commandments in the sanctuary becomes an additional confirmation of the importance of the Sabbath.

5) The sanctuary perspective, although thought to rob Adventists of security, actually provides a firm basis for the assurance of salvation. Although Calvinists believe in predestination and the perseverance of the saints, if they happen to fall into serious sin, they often question whether they were elected to begin with. O.S.A.S. Arminians, theoretically do have a firmer basis for security than Calvinists. However, they stiff face the same conundrum as Calvinists. In addition, the psychological instinct for guilt tends to overwrite in most cases whatever theological assurance there might be. And, Classical Arminians always did struggle with assurance.

Adventists, however, saw in the sanctuary that Jesus participated in two distinct ministries, that of intercessor and that of judge. And, that these two ministries were separated in time. What this meant was that Jesus did not need to judge the sinner every time he sinned since there would be plenty of time for that during the IJ at the end of time. Throughout the person’s life, therefore, Jesus could focus His entire attention towards extending the sinner love, mercy, and grace; whatever necessary to save them if at all possible. So while the Calvinist or O.S.A.S. Arminian, having committed some grievous sin, might wrestle with doubt, the Adventist could still come boldly to the throne of grace knowing that, while there will be a judgment in the future, at this point there is no condemnation and Jesus is ready to receive with open arms. In addition, Adventists saw in the judgment the continued presence of Jesus intercessory ministry and his desire, not to condemn, but to vindicate. Therefore, the picture of a God who ever lives to vindicate his people, never to condemn, gives the IJ believer a stronger sense of assurance without erroneously leading them to the brinks of antinomianism or universalism. See this article for a more detailed explanation:

How Adventism Ended the Gospel Wars

6) The doctrine of the IJ anchors us in time. Today, most evangelical Christians believe that we are very close to the second coming. However, they have no idea why they believe this. If you ask them why it is that Jesus promised the disciples to go prepare a place and come back to for them but then didn’t show up for 2000 years, the most they can say is that God does everything in own His time.

Through this doctrine, and through our understanding of the Great Controversy, Adventists came to understand that God allowed sin to continue on this earth for several thousand years because He wanted to ensure the security of the universe throughout the rest of eternity. He wanted to collect enough evidence regarding the destructive nature of sin such that no one would ever dream of taking that path again. Because of this, God had set a date in history prior to which it would be premature for the Great Controversy to end. Once that time was fulfilled, however, the IJ would start, and preparation would begin for the second coming.

Because of this understanding, Adventists could preach the soon return of Christ with a level of certainty that no other denomination has.

7) This doctrine clarifies our mission.

Throughout history, the average individual has had a lifetime of opportunities to come to Christ. When Jesus returns, however, there will be a generation of people whose probation will be cut short. If they happen to be 10 or 20 or 50 when Jesus comes, that is all the time they will get to make their decision. And, to offset the fact that an entire planet full of people will soon have their opportunities cut short, God has sent out a message of warning, a gospel invitation coupled with the additional sense of urgency. He has called us to help prepare the world for the close of probation so that Christ could return at last.

8) And finally, the IJ doctrine gives us the most powerful tool to prepare the world to reject the man-centered religion (Babylon) of the beast of Revelation 13. A brief explanation follows:

1) There is a little horn who will oppose God (Daniel 7-9).

2) This little horn is a religiopolitical power who will blaspheme God (claim to forgive sins/ alternate system of salvation).

3) This little horn would war against God by attacking his people.

4) This little horn would war against God by taking away the daily sacrifice (an OT type of Jesus sacrifice since at this point in history no cultic sacrifices were being made).

5) This little horn would trample the sanctuary (an OT type of the Gospel-narrative since no literal temple would exist during the time of this horn).

6) According to the angel, the little horn would get away with this for 2300 days and then the sanctuary would be restored (Daniel 8:14).

In other words, the predicted work of this little horn would be to establish an alternative system of salvation that would counter the gospel and sacrifice of Jesus. The horn would get away with this but 2300 days from the time of Daniels vision the sanctuary would be restored meaning the process of judgment would begin, and the horn would be condemned.

A study of history demonstrates that this is precisely what the little horn – the Roman church – did. Ultimately, the church developed its own system of salvation which replaced the true gospel (sanctuary was cast down). The restoration of the sanctuary is judgment against the horn. However, this judgment is not simply a reply to the horn but the predetermined time in which God would commence judgment. Nevertheless, this judgment has direct implications for the work of the little horn. The simplest demonstration of this is in the preciseness of the judgment. According to both Scripture and EGW, this judgment is so precise that no one can escape it, and nothing can be hidden from it. This reality proves beyond a shadow of a doubt that the system of salvation the little-horn implemented (man-centered) would not be enough to attain salvation. Thus, the IJ doctrine is the strongest refutation of Romes legalism and priestly gospel abuse/ indulgences, etc. The only way to face this judgment with assurance of salvation is to trust only in the merits of Christ. Man-centered religion (Babylon) falls in light of the proclamation of this message.

In short, the IJ is such a strict and precise process that it forever undoes Rome’s alternative method of salvation and indeed – all alternative methods of salvation – by calling us to trust in the blood of Jesus alone as our only hope for time and eternity. He alone can satisfy the requirements of the law and thus, covered by him alone can we be declared innocent during the judgment. In light of the fact that the final crisis will see a resurgence of this religiopolitical power with its man-centered system of salvation, this message could not be any more urgent.

The relevance of the IJ could not be any clearer. With the second coming of Jesus so near and the final assault of Satan’s deception upon the world, Adventists have been called to take the torch of the Reformation to its ultimate conclusion – there is no salvation in any other method of salvation save Jesus-only. This is an urgent message that needs to be proclaimed especially now as the beast prepares to engulf the world once more in its false counter-narrative gospel.

Resources

The Case for the Investigative Judgment by Marvin Moore: http://www.amazon.com/Case-Investigative-Judgment-Marvin-Moore/dp/0816323852

The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism by George R. Knight: http://www.amazon.com/The-Apocalyptic-Vision-Neutering-Adventism/dp/0828023859

The Judgment and Assurance by W.W. Whidden: http://www.amazon.com.au/The-Judgment-Assurance-Woodrow-Whidden-ebook/dp/B0088HJJEA

The Pre-Advent Judgment by Marcos Torres: http://www.pomopastor.com/p/books.html

Facing Life’s Record (An Analysis of the Great Controversy’s Scariest Chapter) by Marcos Torres: http://www.pomopastor.com/2013/08/facing-lifes-record-analysis-of-great.html

Website: www.1844madesimple.org

Footnotes

[i] http://spectrummagazine.org/article/2015/10/22/perspective-1844-pillar-faith-or-mortal-wound

[ii] While technically Lutheranism classifies as the first camp to emerge during the protestant reformation it failed to answer certain questions which then gave birth to Calvinism and Arminianism. It is these two camps that are most relevant to our discussion.

[iii] http://www.crivoice.org/tulip.html

[iv] Some may argue that if all Arminians believed in a type of IJ differentiating between believers that they would A) have produced a parallel theology to the IJ by now or, B) have embraced Adventism’s IJ. However, these propositions can be rejected for the following reasons. A) Just because an IJ is logical within a Classical Arminian framework does not mean the theologians will willingly go that route. For example, in regards to the question of what happens at death (judgment, holding cell, etc.) United Methodists refuse to take a stance even exhibiting a level of uncertainty regarding their own immortal soul theology and using this as the basis for refusing to answer the question of the judgments eventuality. [http://www.umc.org/what-we-believe/what-happens-after-a-person-dies] In addition, their rejection of Adventism’s IJ is most likely due to the way in which we as a church have failed to properly present this doctrine to the world. We elaborate on this in Appendix C which explores the relevance of the IJ but will elaborate in more detail in future articles.

[v] There are a variety of views in the protestant world regarding judgment. Some believe that the dead are judged right away. Others believe in a “holding cell theology” in which the dead are placed on hold until the return of Jesus at which point they receive their reward. With regard to the living some believe that they are judged just prior to the secret rapture.

[vi] Some might argue that Arminianism and Soul Sleep are not enough but that we also need the Great Controversy theme in order to arrive at the IJ. However, we would counter by saying that without Classical Arminianism the Great Controversy theme would not exist. While the Great Controversy theme is instrumental in making more sense of the IJ it is not essential for its foundation and is, in reality, yet another outgrowth of Classical Arminianism.

[vii] Some are entirely at variance with the idea of God having to engage in a judgment process that would determine the faithful from the apostate by virtue of his omniscience. However, such a judgment must necessarily take place. It is of no consequence if this judgment takes place in God’s mind, at death, a judgement prior to second coming or a judgement at or after second coming, or even if the knowledge of the faithful and the apostate has eternally existed in God’s foreknowledge. These are nonessentials. The point is, God necessarily engages in a judgment process that separates the faithful from the apostate. The timing of this judgment is a separate, non-essential (albeit relevant) issue.

[viii] By saying that the door is left comfortably open for the possibility of 1844 we do not intend to portray 1844 as an uncertain teaching. A future article will deal with the philosophical and exegetical foundations of the timing of the IJ and demonstrate that Adventists have no need to question this conclusion either.

[ix] Lest the reader be tempted into thinking that Classical Arminianism is inherently lacking in providing assurance of salvation observe the challenges that Calvinism and OSAS Arminianism have in this respect as well. In Calvinism God elects those he saves with no choice of their own. You can only become aware that you were elected. You cannot actually choose to be saved. But what happens when a seemingly born again Christian apostatizes? Calvinism only has two answers. Either he will repent again in the future (at which point you have a person whom God has elected for both salvation and apostasy and then salvation again) or you were never really elected for salvation to begin with. Thus, many Calvinists who struggle with a post-conversion fall have been left wondering if they are eternally reprobate or not. OSAS Arminianism faces the same struggle. Either your apostasy is proof you were never saved to begin with or you will forever remain saved despite your apostasy. In the end, believers are left having to wonder which one is true of them. Classical Arminianism teaches that we are saved by grace through faith and that we remain saved, not by works, but by continued grace through faith. Likewise, a Classical Arminian can potentially experience a lack of assurance knowing that its possible for he/she to apostatize and be judged accordingly. Thus, all of these systems fail to provide “air-tight assurance” meaning in the realm of assurance none can confidently claim to be superior to the other. Nevertheless, an Arminians hope never rests on his/her performance or ability to be “faithful” but on faith in Christ as their only hope. This faith can be rejected for either legalistic reasons (such as the book of Hebrews) or carnal reasons. But so long as that faith (a gift of God) is maintained we are secure in the one in whom we put our trust.

[x] Let’s be clear here that this has nothing to do with Adventists but applies to all Classical Arminians such as Methodists and Pentecostals. And again, while not in either category Lutheranism also rejects Perseverance theology and OSAS leaving the possibility of a genuinely born again person to turn their back on God and be lost wide open.

[xi] The article cited in the opening claims that “We should have the humility to accept that we may have been wrong all along about the nature and timeline of Christ’s priestly ministry in heaven.” However, its nature is derived from Classical Arminianism and its timeline is firstly based on Mortal Soul theology. The timing is discussed in Appendix B and a future article will tackle it in greater detail.

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mike_maneaMike Manea studied theology at Andrews Theological Seminary and has served the church for over twenty years as youth pastor, missionary, Bible worker and teacher. He is currently a senior partner at Zahid|Manea LLC, a marketing and management consulting firm based in Southern California. He runs several theology and philosophy sites and podcasts and is cofounder of Intelligent Adventist. In his free time he enjoys spending time in nature with his wife and four year old son. You can follow his blog at mikemanea.com

 

 

 

UntitledOriginally from New Jersey, Marcos now lives in Australia with his wife and children. His dream is to share the story of Jesus with the post-modern culture that pervades the continent. Marcos’ greatest passion is to help others realize that Christianity is a passionate and committed relationship with God, not a religion. He also runs his own blog at pomopastor.com
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The Only Reason Why I’m A Seventh-Day Adventist

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“Potlucks”

“Family-feel”

“Haystacks”

“My parents”

“My teacher”

“Sabbath”

“Sam’s chicken”

And the list goes on when one’s inquired about why they are a Seventh-Day Adventist.

In light of the recent notoriety the denomination has been getting through media and news networks, I had to revisit this question myself:

“Why are YOU a Seventh-Day Adventist, Kevin?”

I am not going to lie. This was a tough one. When I reflected on my 25 short years as an Adventist, however, I was able to boil it down to a single reason onto a single sentence.

The only reason I am a Seventh-Day Adventist is because I believe that we have the clearest, richest, and fullest picture of the love of God in the person of Jesus Christ.

How we understand the Scriptures ( the Bible ) presents Jesus as a serious BOSS. He is the Writer, Editor, Compiler, Creator, Presenter, and Protector of this meta-narrative that my friend calls the “God-Story.” The Old Testament points forward to the coming of Jesus and the New Testament looks back at the Jesus who’s already come.

How we understand the Trinity exalts Jesus as One with the Father and the Spirit – distinct yet equal in authority. The Father, Son, and the Holy Spirit live out their lives in each other, through each other, and this other-centered love has been poured out full strength to the human race through the person of Jesus Christ.

How we understand creation presents Jesus as One through whom all things were made and in whom all things hold together. I believe that He is the soundtrack of all nature, and the sustainer of all life.

Howe we understand the seventh-day Sabbath reminds me of what was created through Jesus and what was redeemed by Jesus. This is a time where I can fully rest from my need for validation and rest in the love of God.

How we understand the nature of humanity let me know that I am known, valued, understood, appreciated, and enjoyed because I’ve been created by Jesus. Because I’m fearfully and wonderfully made, my life finds its purpose, joy, and function in and through Him.

How we understand the “God-Story” or the Great Controversy, presents Jesus as the conquering hero who has successfully completed the ultimate rescue mission in earth’s history. I find my place in this story as a beloved, victorious son of God who’ll one day see the face of his Creator, Redeemer, and Friend.

How we understand the life, death and resurrection of Jesus elevates Christ as the theme and song of all Biblical history. We believe that His account isn’t localized within just the first four books of the New Testament, but from Genesis to Revelation, every chapter and every verse, echoes His love ultimately manifested through His sacrifice on the cross.

How we understand salvation magnifies Jesus as the Author, Provider, and Finisher of our salvation. We are justified by His blood, sanctified through His Spirit, and will one day be glorified through his grace.

How we understand our spiritual growth transforms every waking moment of our existence as a spiritual experience through the spirit of Jesus. The dichotomous relationship between the “sacred” and the “secular” is decimated through Him. The more I’m aware of His presence in my life, the more I grow into his likeness so I can treat others as He did – with compassion, justice, and mercy.

How we understand the church honors Jesus as the foundational ‘adhesive’ who unites all His children together. This is a context where everyone is entrusted with embodying and telling someone the God-Story. It is a refuge in the midst of this stormy world where we pray together, play together, and process together all the while praising Him who has our back.

How we understand the mission of God’s remnant finds its reason and method in Jesus. We are to introduce others to His love, experience joy in Him, and live out our lives in him as we approach the end of this sojourn on earth.

How we understand Baptism as a symbol of our new birth, finds its impetus and rubric in the life and death of Jesus. As I raise up from the ‘watery grave’, it’s an outward expression of an inward change that has taken place because of Him.

How we understand the Lord’s Supper as an emblem of Jesus’ experience invites all His friends to authentic service, brotherly love, and faithful community in Him.

How we understand the gift of prophecy highlights Jesus as its theme of contemplation and admiration. The ministry of this prophetic gift through Ellen White has brought me closer to Jesus than anyone has ever done.

How we understand the law of God honors Jesus as the mode and purpose for relational faithfulness between God and us. Because of what He did for me on the cross, I no longer work towards victory but from it.

How we understand stewardship acknowledges Jesus as the Provider of my time, talents, and resources. I am entrusted with them to better the environments I find myself in, whether it be within the community of God or outside of it.

How we understand marriage as a heavenly institution finds its reason for existence in Jesus. His selfless love poured out to his bride – the church – gives me a model from which I can learn to love my spouse.

How we understand Christ’s ministry in the heavenly sanctuary elevates Jesus as not only my Savior and Friend, but also as my Judge, Advocate, and High Priest who prays for me even right now!

How we understand the end of life honors Jesus as the Conqueror of death! Death is not the end, but a sleep! The real and living hope of reuniting with loved ones energizes my life’s pursuits.

How we understand the millennium, the new earth, and the second coming lauds Jesus as the King of a new kind of existence – one where there will be no more sickness, no more pain, no more death, and no more sorrow. A place filled with inexpressible joy and unfathomable happiness and peace. A place where I can finally see my ever faithful Friend face to face.

There it is. The package and its contents.

I don’t have 28 reasons as to why I’m a Seventh-Day Adventist.

I have One. And He’s all I need.

This post first appeared in Kevin’s personal blog www.crossculturechristian.com 
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Should SDA Churches Host Sunday Services?

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Note: This article was originally published February 8, the day in which the controversial Sunday service hosted by a Seventh-day Adventist church, was officially launched.

About an hour from now the First SDA Church in Huntsville, AL will hold its inaugural Sunday Surge service. Some people in the Seventh-day Adventist Church have criticized First SDA for deciding to hold a regular Sunday service. They believe it is problematic and confusing for a church that upholds the seventh day Sabbath to hold regular worship services on the first day of the week. Moreover, when the church has a prophecy regarding the use of Sunday worship as a weapon of persecution, people can get uncomfortable at the appearance that an Adventist church may be engaging in worship on that day. In the end this seems to be much ado about nothing. However there are some things that I find interesting about the more conservative elements of the SDA church being against something like this.

If the Bible doesn’t prohibit services on Sunday, and the prophet of the church explicitly supports services on that day, I’m not sure that there is any reason to have a debate on the issue.

First, there is nothing to stop any church from worshiping on Sunday. There is nothing wrong with worshiping on Sunday or any other day for that matter. Now I believe just like every other Seventh-day Adventist, that God has given a special reverence to the seventh day. That is why we choose to worship on that day. However, the theological basis for Sabbath comes from the 4th commandment (as well as Genesis 2). When we look at the text itself, we can see that the heart of the Sabbath commandment is rest, not worship. That doesn’t mean it is either right or wrong to worship on the Sabbath, but what is true is that we don’t have any explicit biblical basis to require that worship only take place on the Sabbath. I am sure some Adventist will quote the prophet Ellen G. White to me. While I haven’t looked it up, I am sure she has made some statement about the importance of having worship on the Sabbath day. In response I would say this, “Whenever it is possible, let religious services be held on Sunday. Make these meetings intensely interesting. Sing genuine revival hymns and speak with power and assurance of the Saviour’s love.”[1] That is also a quote from Ellen G. White. If the Bible doesn’t prohibit services on Sunday, and the prophet of the church explicitly supports services on that day, I’m not sure that there is any reason to have a debate on the issue.

Despite this, some will argue that worship services are what should be reserved for the Sabbath. I don’t know how we decide the difference between worship services and other religious services, but even then I don’t think there is anything to discuss. I had the pleasure of speaking with one of the pastors of the First SDA Church about the Sunday services last week. He said that the type of service they will be holding is not in any way like the services that they hold on Sabbath. Instead, the program will be a Bible study in which they will be discussing Adventist beliefs and doctrine. The service is targeted for those who cannot make it to First SDA’s Sabbath services and members of the church who would like to start their week off right. Once again, I am not sure why anyone would be upset about a Sunday morning Bible study.

Second, I find it interesting that “conservative” Adventists are now forced into a position to make arguments that sound awfully “liberal.” Normally fundamentalist or conservative Adventists are in support of the expressed word of the Bible and the word of Ellen G. White. In this case those things don’t work in their favor. So now, at least in the discussions I’ve seen on this subject, conservatives are arguing that we need to understand the cultural context of what White said, and how that context proves that her words don’t apply the same way now as they did then. They argue that in this situation we have to be critical of what we read and not just accept everything at face value. These are the same principles that they argue against when liberal Adventists make those arguments in regard to jewelry or Sabbath observance or dress codes. I find the turnaround to be fascinating, although I’ll doubt that anyone will remember this when we have the next theological debate.

So long as the church is not violating any Adventist principle, then there is really nothing for us to criticize.

Third, I was in a Facebook discussion with some people about this over the last few days, and someone told the story of how their church tried Sunday services and it didn’t work. Of course, the story was given to prove the point that First SDA shouldn’t try it either. I don’t know if that is the lesson that this anecdote teaches. Instead, I think the lesson we should learn is that everything isn’t for everybody. Much like each person’s walk with Christ is individual and unique, so is the life of every church. Some churches should not do this, either because it wouldn’t be beneficial for the community they’re in, or because the members of the church would not be able to handle having a Sunday service. But the fact that your church can’t do it says nothing about whether another church can. So long as the church is not violating any Adventist principle, then there is really nothing for us to criticize.

At the end of the day, our predilections about what type of service should occur on what day are not important. What is important is what this particular church believes is their mission, and what is the best way for them to have an impact on the community around them. In speaking with one of the pastors of the church, he told me that the criticism of the project has not come from within his church, because the members there understand what the service is for and see its value. Instead, the criticism has come from those on the outside who, quite frankly, are ignorant of all the time, effort, energy, and prayer that the church has gone through before engaging in this project. This does not mean the services will be successful. They may peter out after a while for any number of reasons. They may be successful but short-lived as the needs of the church and the community change. Regardless, we have to be willing to extend ourselves outside of our comfort zones in order to reach those who are seeking a genuine relationship with God. If even one person’s life is made better by these services, I say it is well worth the effort.

This article was originally published at thehinesight.blogspot.com. It has been shared with permission.

[1] Testimonies to the Church, Vol. 9, Pg. 233.

photo credit: Day 103- What to Get…. via photopin (license)

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JasonHines_150_160_60autoJason Hines is an attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at http://thehinesight.blogspot.com.