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5. Last Generation Theology

David Shin

Description

It’s a term that 21st century Adventists are allergic to. How did we get here? A look at the most influential Adventist theologian that nobody has heard of.

Presenter

David Shin

Dr. David Shin is the President of Ouachita Hills College.

Conference

Recorded

  • December 30, 2016
    9:15 AM
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All right, just a few items before we begin, in order to facilitate covering all the intended information in this seminar. Please hold and write down your questions until the seminar is completed. Until the seminar is what? Completed. Otherwise, we will dive down, and I will never get done. So, if time allows, there will be a segment for questions at the end – if time allows.

 

Information will be given at the end of the seminar of a time and location when further dialogue can take place later this evening. GYC has opened up a room for speakers to dialogue with individuals, and if you’d like to dialogue some more, there will be a time that I will reveal later on at the end of the seminar.

 

There will be a link provided at the end for downloadable seminar notes. I apologize to those that have come to previous seminars. I did not know that the host would charge. I’m not trying to make money on it, and so I switched to a different provider, and I’ll provide those links at the end of the seminar.

 

All right, here is the format for this seminar. In the beginning, I will attempt to synthesize Andreasen’s theological package, then I’ll touch briefly on Questions on Doctrine, and then we’ll talk about Heppenstall’s systematic theology, and then I’ll do some personal reflections, and, if time, we will do questions at the end. So let’s begin.

 

M.L. Andreasen, the most influential systematic theologian of the 1930s and 1940s. He’s known for his book Sanctuary Service. The most controversial chapter in his book is the last chapter concerning the final generation in which he describes what is called Last Generation Theology. It cannot be overstated the influence and the reaction of M.L. Andreasen’s theological package. George Knight, in his book Search for Identity, puts it this way, “It is impossible to overestimate the influence of M.L. Andreasen on twentieth century Adventist theology. His theological package is so central to modern Adventist development that a person is forced to respond in one way or another to it. Individuals and groups within the church either agree with his theology or they must react against it. Neutrality is not an option for those who understand his teachings.”

 

M.L. Andreasen’s systematic theology can be synthesized several different ways, but this is a way that I have attempted to synthesize his theology. His view of sin is that sin is predicated on the notion of choice and volition. Sin is the transgression of the Law. By the way, when I’m going through this, I’m going to be descriptive, okay, descriptive, and at the end I will provide some personal reflection. So I’m attempting as best as possible to be descriptive. Andreasen’s framework for sin is predicated on the notion of free will and volition. Sin is the transgression of the Law. It is a choice stemming from a sinful nature. In Andreasen’s theological framework, the sinful nature is the result of sin, but it is not sin. We inherit a sinful nature as a result of sin, but that sinful nature is not sin. Andreasen’s framework for sin is a categorical rejection of the notion of a sin of being. It is a categorical rejection of the Augustinian notion of original sin.

 

So, from that framework, because sin is coming from a sinful nature, but the sinful nature is not sin; therefore, this has implications when it comes to Christology. If having a sinful nature does not mean that you are sin, as in, that sin is a state of being, then, when you go to Christology, you can come to the conclusion that Jesus, having a sinful nature or the sinful nature of Adam after the fall, would not make Him a sinner.

 

Are you following me? Because in the Andreasen framework of systematic theology, coming from his understanding of sin, that sin is predicated on free will and volition not a state of being; therefore, Jesus can have the nature of Adam after the fall, having the inherited and cultivated tendencies to sin (now, we will parse that out a little bit later) post fall, having what Ellen White calls a sinful nature, Christ can, and in Andreasen’s paradigm, does have the nature of Adam after the fall with the tendencies to sin, the inner tendencies because having the inner tendencies does not mean that you are sin or a sinner. That is Andreasen’s paradigm.

 

Therefore, in the package of Andreasen, Christ can be our example. In other words, Jesus came all the way down, became a man, a human being just like us, and overcame sin in the flesh, and His life is an example for our lives. A logical implication following his definition of sin, the nature of Christ, and Christ as our example. This has eschatological implications as well. Eschaton, Greek word, that means “the end.” So you can see that this systematic theology, this package has hamartiology, the nature of sin; Christology, the nature of Christ; and it also has eschatological implications.

 

In Andreasen’s theological framework, it is developed on this notion of harvest theology, that when Christ is coming, in the book of Revelation, He’s holding in His hand a sickle. He’s coming to reap the earth. The notion is that the 144,000 are going to mature as Christians, developing a reflection of the character of Christ found in the book of Revelation. And the quotation that has become kind of a synopsis of the Andreasen eschatology is Christ’s Object Lessons, 309, here it is. (Thank you. It was early when I did this, or late, whichever you look at it. Kevin Paulson says it’s 69. Thank you.) “Christ is waiting with longing desire for the manifestation of Himself in His church. When the character of Christ shall be perfectly reproduced in His people, then He will come to claim them as His own.”

 

So this is a synopsis, a summary of what is called Last Generation Theology in the Andreasen framework. So, it starts with the nature of sin, nature of Christ, implication, Christ is our example. It has an eschatological perspective as well in terms of the last generation that will perfectly reproduce the character of Christ. Also built into this whole notion, when you read the rest of this paragraph and the paragraph afterwards in Christ’s Object Lessons, it gives the notion that Christ is waiting for this. In other words, Christ is not waiting for the pope or final events or these things; He’s actually waiting for His church to reproduce the character of Christ in the Andreasen paradigm.

 

Now, around the time that Andreasen was retired, there were some developments in the interactions between Adventism and Evangelicalism. A gentleman by the name of T. Unruh, who was president of the Pennsylvania Conference, wrote to Barnhouse who was the editor of Eternity magazine, a predominant Evangelical magazine. And T. Unruh, an Adventist conference president, wrote to him and affirmed him on his presentation on righteousness by faith. Barnhouse reacted and said, “Look, I didn’t believe that you would affirm righteousness by faith because I thought that you believed in righteousness by works.

 

Anyway, this conversation didn’t go anywhere. Later on, Barnhouse and his associate Martin wanted to start a project dealing with cults, and naturally Adventism was put into the mix. And Martin, wanting to go to the original individuals rather than secondary information, reached out to T. Unruh who Barnhouse had had dialogue with. And T. Unruh went to the General Conference, to the brethren, and facilitated a dialogue between Martin and his associates and with representatives from the General Conference. There were three prominent individuals that were in this dialogue. They were W.E. Reed, R.A. Anderson, and probably the most notable, Le Roy Froom.

 

And in this dialogue, there were a number of issues that the Evangelicals had with Adventist theology. Now, I don’t want to get lost into this topic, but we need to recognize that the Calvinist mind and the reformed theology is really coming from a framework of theology. They’re coming from a very well-developed, systematic theology, and we discussed a lot of that in our presentation number two.

 

Calvinistic systematic theology is really based in Augustinian theology; it’s a framework. And so, when they’re coming from and Augustinian/Calvinistic framework, they looked at the writings of the pioneers and Ellen White, and they really had some problems with the systematic theology that M.L. Andreasen was espousing. And one of the key elements that they had a problem with was specifically in relationship to the nature of Christ. They had an issue because they looked at Ellen White’s writings, and she says - I’ll go to those quotes later – where she says that Jesus was born with a sinful nature. Now, we need to parse that out and see what that means.

 

However, from the Evangelical mind, they could not bring together this notion of having a sinful nature and not being a sinner; the two were synonymous because in the Calvinistic framework, and I want to talk a little bit about the Calvinistic classic Augustinian view, when it comes to their view of sin, they believe in original sin. They believe that because of Adam’s sin, every person that is born into this world is a sinner, not predicated on the notion of choice or freewill or volition, that is, sin as well, but it’s predicated on the fact that our nature is sinful and that makes us a sinner. It is sin as a state of being.

 

Now, we need to also recognize that the Augustinian model, as we discussed in our second presentation, really imported from Platonic dualism not only a view of the world but also a view of human nature. The dualistic human nature that was imported and is in all Protestantism today is not the wholistic biblical view of human nature, but it is really a dualistic view of human nature, a dichotomy between the body and the soul. And in the notion of total depravity, not only is the element of the body sinful or sin, but the soul is sin as well.

 

So, even though on the Alger element of the body, sin can be arguably overcome, that the essence, the soul, still remains in a state of sin. You following me? This is in line with Platonic dualism, which was imported into the Augustinian model of original sin.

 

So, this also has Christological implications. What does it do to Augustinian Christology? If being born with a sinful nature, the nature of Adam after the fall, makes you categorically a sinner by nature, it implies that Christ could not have a post-fall nature. Everyone following me? That’s the classic Augustinian model. So, in the classic Augustinian model, they have a certain view of sin, it’s original sin. Then it comes to Christology, Christ cannot have a sinful nature; He must have what we call a sinless nature, the nature of Adam before the fall. Now, I’m talking about classic Augustinian systematic theology.

 

So, in that framework, there is a minimization in terms of Christ as our example and an emphasis of the atonement made at the cross. So there’s kind of a minimizing of the example. He’s not so much our example as He is our Savior. This has eschatological implications as well in terms of overcoming sin before Jesus comes because in this framework, sin can ultimately be never overcome, because our essence is sin, until we are reunited with Christ at the Second Coming. So that’s the classic Augustinian view.

 

And so, from this systematic theology, the Calvinists are having dialogue with Adventists, and up to this time, it is well understood that the predominant framework of Christology was that Christ had a sinful nature. Now, this did not imply that Adventists believe that Christ was a sinner. It just comes from the systematic theology of Calvinism coming head-to-head with Adventism.

 

Now, when we talk about questions on doctrine, this document was produced in which questions were asked, and one of them was on the nature of Christ. Now, we can go into the atonement, but you’ll have to save that for another seminar perhaps someday. I don’t want to get lost into that. But this is how the book Questions on Doctrine emerged as a result of this dialogue. There were questions asked from the Evangelicals, and the Adventists responded to this in this book.

 

Now, M.L. Andreasen was left out of the conversation, and this led to a huge division within the Seventh-day Adventist Church that we are still living to this day. The fallout of Questions on Doctrine, believe it or not, which was published in 1957, we are living the results of what happened in 1957. M.L. Andreasen wrote multiple letters to the church, and later on they were published openly, called Letters to the Churches, in which he contended that the brethren at the General Conference had sold out the Adventist identity to the Evangelicals. It really caused a fissure within the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

 

George Knight, in commenting on this, actually says that, “Questions on Doctrine and the controversy could have been avoided if Andreasen was included in the conversation.” George Knight’s perspective is that things could have been framed and refined quite a bit in that conversation. And this is a lesson from history that we can all learn.

 

”Questions on Doctrine,” according to George Knight, “easily qualifies as the most divisive book in Seventh-day Adventist history. A book published to help bring peace between Adventism and conservative Protestantism,” Evangelicalism, “its release brought prolonged alienation and separation to Adventist factions that grew up around it.” There’s a whole dissertation in the Andrews University library which thesis is just focusing on the reactions to Questions on Doctrine. There were multiple reactions on different fronts.

 

Now, there is a part of Questions on Doctrine specifically in regards to the question of the nature of Christ. Now, the heading for this section afterwards gives Ellen White statements, but the heading for this section, according to George Knight in his analysis, and I agree with this analysis by George Knight, he says that, that heading was, at the best, misleading. Because the heading said that Christ had a sinless nature when Ellen White’s comments specifically say that He had a sinful nature. Now this is in the footnotes in that section.

 

I want to read this very quickly. This is from George Knight in his analysis of that heading in Questions on Doctrine. “Heading number II (in QOD on the nature of Christ) has been seen as problematic because it implies that Ellen White believed that Christ ‘took sinless human nature’ when in fact she claimed the opposite. For example, in 1896 she wrote that Christ ‘took upon him our sinful nature.’ Again in 1900 she penned that ‘he took upon himself fallen, [suffering] human nature, degraded and defiled by sin.’”

 

Now, we need to parse that out. “Thus, Questions on Doctrine not only supplied a misleading heading, but it also neglected to present the evidence that would have contradicted the heading. The result has been that Questions on Doctrine has been vilified by many Adventists and has probably done more to create theological division in the Adventist church than any other document in its more than 150-year history.”

 

Now, I want to point out that M.L. Andreasen in his letter says that there is much good in the book Questions on Doctrine. It makes a firm stand on the pillars of our faith such as the Sabbath, state of the dead, aspects of our eschatology. This aspect of the nature of Christ really became a lightening rod in the conversation on Christology.

 

George Knight goes on in his commentary in the Annotated Questions on Doctrine, which was published by Andrews University, and he says this, “Whether Froom and his colleagues were willing to admit it or not, the view of Christ’s human nature that they had set forth was a genuine revision of the position held by the majority of the denomination before the publication of Questions on Doctrine.” This is not debated in the scholarly community in Adventism. Whether you are on one side of Christology or the other, everyone is in agreement that there is a definite marker between the Christology held by the majority prior to Questions on Doctrine and the Christology that developed after.

 

Now, what that means we will have to reflect on some more, but this is a definite marker. There is a book by Zurcher which illustrates this. You have before Questions on Doctrine and after Questions on Doctrine, Touched with Our Feelings…(Thank you, thank you for sitting up here, Kevin. You really helped me out. Okay.) All right, Touched with Our Feelings by Zurcher provides a historical perspective on this.

 

So, notice what he says, “It was a genuine revision of the position held by the majority of the denomination before the publication of Questions on Doctrine.”

 

Now, after Questions on Doctrine, Edward Heppenstall, a systematic theologian at the seminary, developed a systematic theology that responded to M.L. Andreasen. This is a systematic theologian that I would say arguably very few young people have heard of, but I believe that he is the most influential systematic theologian in Adventism of our generation. I want to read this from George Knight who agrees with this, “The most influential scholar to come out against Andreasen’s final generation theology was Edward Heppenstall.”

 

George Knight goes in in A Search for Identity, “While Heppenstall’s writings were influential, his teaching career was much more so. He influenced a generation of preachers and religion teachers through his college and seminary lectures. Themes highlighted by Heppenstall would echo in other classrooms through such teachers as Hans LaRondelle and Raoul Dederen and in the pulpit through Morris Venden throughout the 1970s and 1980s.”

 

I’m just reading, okay. This is George Knight the Adventist historian giving an analysis of the influence of Heppenstall. So you had Andreasen, Questions on Doctrine, and then you have the response to Andreasen’s systematic theology found in Edward Heppenstall. Heppenstall is the most influential theologian of our generation. Woodrow Whidden makes this same commentary, “Edward Heppenstall is the most influential theologian of this generation,” yet very few people have heard of him, but the ideas of Heppenstall are very pervasive as a response to Andreasen’s Last Generation Theology.

 

Now, I want to give quotes from Heppenstall, starting with his understanding of sin and go on, and then afterwards I will try to synthesize them as a package. I’m just going to read through these quotes from Heppenstall just to give you a picture of where he’s coming from as a systematician. Now, when we talk about systematic theology, we’re talking about a system where one person takes a concept or a theme and systematizes it, works its way through hamartiology, the nature of sin, works its way through the nature of Christ, works its way through eschatology. There’s a lot of work in systematic theology. You impact one, you impact the other; it is a package, a theological system.

 

So this is Heppenstall’s theological system, and again I want to remind you I’m being descriptive. I will provide my personal reflections at the end. All right, here’s a quote from Edward Heppenstall. Here’s his view of sin, “All men are born in a state of separation from God. This is the original sin, a state into which all of us enter the world.” Notice the language, a state in which we enter the world. Heppenstall is in the framework of a sin of being.

 

Edward Heppenstall says, “Where man is separated from the presence and reality of God [in] any way and to the slightest degree, there sin exists in some form…All sin springs from separation from God.” Now, I want us to just process the notion of sin in Heppenstall’s systematic theological framework. Andreasen’s framework would say that separation from God is the result of sin. You see, that’s Andreasen’s framework. In Heppenstall’s framework, separation from God is sin. You following me? It seems like just semantics, but there is a fundamental distinction between the two.

 

Andreasen’s framework: separation from God is the result of sin. Heppenstall’s framework: separation from God is sin. There is that nuance in there, and you will see as we progress through Heppenstall’s systematic theology, he uses this frame of separation from God being the definition of sin and processes it through his eschatology.

 

Here is his Christology, and this is Denis Fortin, a professor of theology specializing in ecclesiology at Andrews Theological Seminary in his commentary on this framework of Christology. So we just have seen Heppenstall’s view of sin. We now come to Christology. “A third group of theologians and church members emphasize that although Christ’s nature was fully human and that he could yield to temptations, Christ did not inherit our inner inclinations and predispositions to sin. He could sin and was tempted to sin, but all his temptations came from outside [of himself] as was the case with Adam and Eve before the fall…This position is held by the following theologians,” and the first one that he lists is Heppenstall.

 

Now, I just want to just kind of dwell a little bit on this notion. Now, in Andreasen’s Christology, that framework believes that Christ was born with the inherited tendencies to sin. In this Christology, He was not.

 

Now let’s move on. Christ as our example, “There is no salvation in the life example of [Jesus], the Carpenter of Nazareth if that is all there is.” Now, we need to parse this out a little bit, but at the very least, you can see that the emphasis of Heppenstall focuses more on the atonement at the cross and kind of just makes a statement about the example of the life of Christ in this framework. Now, this needs to be parsed out some more. This is not saying that he did not believe that the example of Christ did not have validity, but the emphasis in his systematic theology is more in the cross than on the example.

 

Here is the eschatology of Heppenstall, “The Christian believes that there still remains in the regenerate man a fountain of evil, that sin always exists in the saints till they are divested of their mortal bodies…This original sin remains in Christians and non-Christians until they die or are translated.” You see what’s happening; this is a systematic theology predicated on the notion that sin is separation from God. He brings it to eschatology, and he says, “Look, sin is separation from God, which means that, as long as we are even physically separated from God, we are still in a state of sin, which means that until we are physically reunited with God, we will continue to stay in that state of sin.” Everyone following his eschatology? This is a very logical framework to follow based on the premise of sin. This is Heppenstall’s own words.

 

Now, we come to the reflections, but before that, let’s just go through Heppenstall’s theology, his systematic theology: predicated on the notion of sin, sin is a state of being. He does not deny that it is actions, thoughts, and motives, but he says it goes beyond that. It has to do with the essence of the person. It is a state of being, separation from God. Sin is separation from God. In the Andreasen model, the result of sin is separation from God. That’s the fundamental difference.

 

It goes to Christology. In Heppenstall’s Christology, Christ was not born with the tendency to sin. In Andreasen’s Christology, Christ was.

 

In Andreasen’s theology, the implication is a strong emphasis of Christ as our example. In Heppenstall’s theology, it’s not so much an emphasis on example as the atonement made on the cross.

 

When it comes to eschatology, Andreasen says that there will be a generation that reflects the character of Christ and overcomes sin before Jesus comes because sin is not a state of being, but it’s a choice, an action predicated on free will. In Heppenstall’s systematic theology, when it comes to eschatology, we will continue in a state of sin because we are separated physically from God, and until we are reunited, we will continue in that state of sin.

 

All right? Those are the two frameworks. And these two are coexisting in Adventism today. I’ve just given as best as possible a synthesis of these two theologies.

 

Now, here are some of my personal reflections. Let me get a drink of water. Whew! We all love each other, right? You know, I’m convinced that in theological discussions, the way we dialogue is as important as the content that we dialogue about. You know, I’ve been in theological discussions where, oh, wow, it was anything but Christlike. And we need to seek understanding together, and, look, there are going to be people in Heaven that don’t have their theology all put together nicely. Ellen White says that there are going to be people in Heaven that do not perfectly understand the plan of salvation. But, you know, there’s going to be no one in Heaven that is not willing to be made like Jesus. Notice I said “willing to be made like Jesus.” So, character is important in theological discussions. It’s just strange and ironic that sometimes in theological discussions, when we’re talking about God, we can be ungodly. Might as well talk about something else.

 

So, this is just a reflection on my journey, and, look, don’t take my word for anything. Study it for yourself. I’m just giving my reflections on this, all right? Look, I could be a heretic. Don’t take my word for it, okay? Study it for yourself, all right? Now, I had been on both sides of this, and I want to share some theological reflections and some principles as we begin.

 

Let’s talk about this whole notion of sin. I believe that from a framework of Adventist theology, our understanding of sin must be consistent with the sanctuary service and the blotting out of sin. This is a principle. Whatever our definition of sin is, it needs to be compatible with the sanctuary service. It needs to be compatible with the whole notion of the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary and the implications of what that means.

 

Also, our understanding of sin must come from a biblical understanding of human nature, meaning that, we, as Seventh-day Adventists, do not subscribe to a dualistic view of human nature of the dichotomy between the body and the soul. We do not believe in the timeless Platonic soul. We need to understand that all of the Evangelicalism and Catholicism is based in an Augustinian understanding of human nature. Their hamartiology, which means their understanding of sin, comes from that understanding.

 

And the thing that we need to be careful of is we cannot import an understanding of sin from the Evangelical frame without also understanding that it’s coming from a certain understanding of human nature. If we are going to develop a notion of sin, it has to come from a biblical perspective of human nature, wholistic and in a time-space continuum of historicity. The Augustinian is a Platonic view of a dualism, not only of human nature but of a timeless reality of God and a time-bound reality of man. That is the framework that they’re in: God acts in an instant in the timelessness that interacts with our soul. I don’t care if you’re talking about Catholic theology or Protestant theology, that is the framework in which their theological system is built.

 

So, we need to develop, and more work needs to be done, along these lines. We need to develop an understanding of sin that comes from a biblical understanding of human nature because what the Augustinian frame espouses when it talks about sin of being, it’s talking about the sin of total depravity in the soul! You understanding me? So it doesn’t matter what you’re doing on the outside in the body; the soul is still sin. That is the framework. So we need to develop more on this as a church.

 

Our understanding of sin must be compatible with our eschatology (the close of probation and living without a mediator). Now, we need more development in these lines as well, but whatever our definition of sin is, it has to be compatible with our eschatology, meaning that at one point Jesus will cease His ministration in the Most Holy Place indicating a close of probation, and there will be a time period between the ceasing of that ministration and the Second Coming in which a people will be living without a mediator. I mean, what does that mean?! All right? We need to have a definition of sin that is compatible with that reality. We need to work from these frameworks, and the Achilles heel of systematic theology is if we develop with a notion, and we develop it out, and we change eschatology stemming from this. So we need to be conscious of what we are doing in our systematic theology.

 

There are individuals that categorically reject this notion of living without a mediator because it is incompatible with other aspects of their systematic theology. So this is a very important point. Now, I want to point out that living without a mediator does not mean that we no longer need Christ, that we’re now on our own, “You made it up to this point; you’re on your own,” that’s not what it’s implicating. What I believe it’s stating is that there are going to be people that are so dependent on Christ, total dependence upon Him and His righteousness, that they would rather die than sin. Now this needs to be parsed out some more in these lines, but these are some principles that we need to work with.

 

Understanding of sin must be compatible with the sanctuary. Understanding of sin must come from a biblical understanding of human nature. Understanding of sin must be compatible with our eschatology of close of probation and living without a mediator.

 

Here’s an Ellen White quote on what she says is the definition of sin, “‘Sin is the transgression of the law.’ This is the only definition of sin. Without the law there can be no transgression. ‘By the law is the knowledge of sin.’ The standard of righteousness is exceeding broad, prohibiting every evil thing.” Now, Ellen White does go on and say that, “All sin is selfishness.”

 

Now, I want to point out that when you look at the definition of sin throughout the writings of Ellen White and the quote that she did in 1 John, sin goes beyond the external actions. You remember in the Sermon on the Mount, Jesus expands the Pharisaical definition of sin from just an action. He said, “Look, if you look at a woman to lust after her, you have committed adultery with her in your heart.” So Jesus expanded the definition of sin in the Pharisaical model from just actions that are external but also to the thoughts. And when you talk about selfishness, selfishness can be said to be the motivations behind our actions and thoughts. The motivation.

 

So, in the frame of sin, in my personal reflection is that sin is not only actions, it’s the thoughts and the selfish motivations. Now, the opposite of love is selfishness. Love at its core is selflessness. So these are some things that we can glean from our understanding of sin.

 

Now, let’s talk a little bit about Christology. Now, here’s this wonderful tension when it comes to Christology. Yesterday we talked about the ellipse of truth, that you have heresy when you focus on one aspect to the rejection of the other. We talked yesterday about Docetism, how it focuses on the divinity to the rejection of the humanity of Christ. Docetism believes that Christ was divine, and He just appeared to be human. Then you have the other emphasis on the humanity of Christ during the Enlightenment period where individuals believed that Christ was just a good man. The Jesus of faith and the Jesus of history are two separate individuals.

 

So, you have this whole thing, and our debate is not along those lines, but it does have to do with the humanity in dealing with exactly how did Jesus come into this world, specifically in the conversation of Adventist Christology has to do with this notion of tendency or propensity. Now, there is a whole host of Ellen White quotes, and I want to encourage you to do some research on this. And I just want to give you a sampling of this, and I will attempt, a very humble attempt, to synthesize this at the end.

 

When it comes to Christ’s nature, what was He born with? Let me give you some Ellen White quotes very quickly here. The Desire of Ages, page 49, “It would have been an almost infinite humiliation for the Son of God to take man’s nature,” notice the language here, “even when Adam stood in his innocence in Eden. But Jesus accepted…,” (Microphone noise - It just started all of a sudden. All right, there we go. Sorry about that.) “But Jesus accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by four thousand years of sin. Like every child of Adam He accepted the results of the working of the great law of heredity. What these results were, is shown in the history of His earthly ancestors. He came with such a heredity to share our sorrows and temptations, and to give us the example of a sinless life.”

 

Now, just from a casual observation of this, very clearly Ellen White is supporting the notion that Christ was born with the nature of Adam after the fall. Now, we need to parse out some more what that indicates, and this was helpful to me in Hebrews, chapter 2, verses 17 and 18, “Therefore, in all things He had to be made like His brethren, that He might be a merciful and [faithful] High Priest in things pertaining to God, to make propitiation for the sins of the people. For in that He Himself has suffered, being tempted, He is able to aid those who are tempted.” Notice that it says that He is made like His brethren. Jesus was made like the brethren.

 

Now, who are the brethren? In the same chapter, Paul elaborates, “For both He who sanctifies and those who are being sanctified are all of one, for which reason He is not ashamed to call them brethren.”

 

Now, let’s just put this together. Ellen White said He was born with the nature of Adam after the fall, and we see that in the book of Hebrews that He was born sanctified. He is made like His brethren, but He was born sanctified. Now, let’s parse a little bit more what that means. What does a sanctified nature look like?

 

This is in the book Steps to Christ, 93 and 94, “Our Saviour identified Himself with our needs and weakness, in that He became a suppliant, a petitioner, seeking from His Father fresh supplies of strength, that He might come forth braced for duty and trial. He is our example in all things. He is a brother in our infirmities, ‘in all points tempted like as we are;’ but as the sinless one His nature recoiled from evil; He endured struggles and torture of soul in a world of sin.” His nature recoiled from evil. This is what a sanctified nature looks like.

 

Now, I want to read another statement as to what sanctification does in our lives. Look at this. The Desire of Ages, page 668, “All true obedience comes from the heart. It was heart work with Christ. And if we consent, He will so identify Himself with our thoughts and aims, so blend our hearts and minds into conformity to His will, that when obeying Him we shall be but carrying out our own” (what?) “our own impulses. The will, refined and,” there’s the word, “sanctified, will find its highest delight in doing His service. When we know God as it is our privilege to know Him, our life will be a life of continual obedience. Through an appreciation of the character of Christ, through communion with God, sin will become hateful to us.”

 

This is the full potential of sanctification: “Sin will become hateful to us.” Christ was born sanctified, His nature recoiled from evil. Here we have the potential of human sanctification where we hate sin. Let’s go on.

 

Ellen White, 1 Selected Messages, page 252, “The Majesty of heaven undertook the cause of man,” and I’ve capped this for emphasis, “and with THE SAME [FACILITIES] THAT MAN MAY OBTAIN, in other words, we don’t have it, but we can obtain it. Jesus “undertook the cause of man with the same [facilities] that man may obtain, withstood the temptations of Satan as man must withstand them. This was the only way in which fallen man could become a partaker of the divine nature.”

 

Now, I want to be very clear that when we’re talking about the nature of Christ, we need to be very careful that we’re not speculating beyond revelation. The nature of Christ, I believe, is probably going to be an eternal mystery. So we need to, as Ellen White says, take our shoes off our feet, recognizing that we are on a holy conversation on the nature of Christ.

 

Here is my humble synthesis here: Jesus was born in the nature of Adam after the fall, however, in the full potential of human sanctification with sanctified tendencies. That is my attempt at what we have just seen. Jesus was born in the nature of Adam after the fall, however, in the full potential of human sanctification with sanctified tendencies.

 

Now, I want to parse this out a little more when we talk about Jesus as our example. The Bible is very clear that Jesus is our example in 1 Peter, chapter 2, verse 21, “To this you were called, because Christ suffered for you, leaving you an example, that you should follow in His steps.” Now, we need to be very careful when we talk about Christ as our example. Christ as our example is tied to His humanity, but we need to be very careful that, when we’re focusing on Christ as our example, the fundamental ground of Christ as our example is predicated on how he lived His life here on Earth.

 

Now, I want to parse that out a little bit more. It is focused on the notion of Christ’s decision to not use His divinity but depend upon the Father. That is the ground of Christ being our example. We need to be very careful that we are not using Christ as our example by saying, “You know what? In everything He was just like me; therefore, He’s my example.” Now, there’s a subtilty to it, but, look, Jesus is not exactly just like you. He’s our Savior.

 

Now, I hope you’re understanding what I’m trying to say here. I’m not saying that He was not human or all these other things, but it’s kind of like saying, “You know What? Someone else is my height. They can dunk; I can dunk. They’re just like me. Their Asian; I’m Asian,” right? I mean, this is the kind of thing that we can get into, and we need to be very careful in Christology that we’re not saying, “Jesus did it. I’m going to just pull up my boot strap, and I can do it, too.” It becomes like this anthropocentric focus. Are you following me? “Jesus did it; I can do it.” But the posture of Jesus was this posture. It’s the posture of His decision to totally depend on the Father. This is where He’s our example.

 

Look at this. “Then answered Jesus and said unto them, Verily, verily, I say unto you, The Son can do nothing of himself, but what he seeth the Father do: for what things soever he doeth, these also doeth the Son likewise.” And in John, chapter 5, verse 30, “By myself I can do nothing.” So Jesus lived as our example by totally depending on the Father. And in the same way, we are to totally depend on Jesus. You following me? That is our framework. The framework is not performance-centered; it’s dependence-centered.

 

Remember the analogy that Jesus used, “I am the vine, you are the branches, and if you abide in Me and I abide in you,” code – total dependence, “you will bear much fruit.” He didn’t say, “Focus on the fruit.” He said, “Focus on the dependence.” The fruit will take care of itself. It’s not performance-oriented. So the example of Jesus is grounded in the reality that in the same way that He depended on the Father, total dependence, we are to totally depend on Jesus. It’s the frame of total dependence.

 

The Desire of Ages, 664, “Jesus revealed no qualities, and exercised no powers, that men may not have through faith in Him. His perfect humanity is that which all His followers may possess, if they will be in subjection to God as He was.” Total dependence: if they will depend on Jesus as Jesus depended on the father. So this is the framework. Notice, Jesus revealed no qualities, exercised no powers predicated on this notion of total dependence. Now, total dependence implies, “Look, I can do nothing; God must work.” That’s the framework that we are in.

 

Now, when we talk about the last generation, I want to be very clear here that I have been in different discussions and in dialogue on and in communities that espouse Last Generation Theology. And sometimes individuals that have interacted in communities where Last Generation Theology is the predominant theology, there has been observations that the conversations held by the individuals have not been held in a Christlike manner.

 

Now, I want to be very clear. You never judge something by its abuse. You can abuse water, waterboarding, depends on…anyways. You can drink too much water; you can die. But also we need to recognize that in Last Generation Theology, if it is developed in a way that is anthropocentric, meaning man-centered and performance-driven, it can become a sanctification lifestyle checklist. You see what I’m saying? That it’s very performance driven. In other words, you’re on this path toward a performance-driven theological framework that becomes like a checklist, you know, vegan – check, dress reform – check. I appreciate Adventist lifestyle, but we do not believe in righteousness by veganism. We do not…I mean, I uphold the health message; please don’t misunderstand me, but it is not a meritorious element.

 

And what happens in some in Last Generation Theology is that the focus can become on performance, and the perspective of our unworthiness is lost sight of. And so, it becomes a relative perfection. In other words, you look around you, and you say, “Oh, he’s not vegan; I am.” “Immodest / modest.” You know what I’m saying? And then there is kind of this undercurrent, there’s this edge, that comes in, and you look at somebody, and they don’t meet the criteria of lifestyle sanctification, and so they’re like, “Ohhhh,” like, “Someday you will be like me,” you know? It’s subtle.

 

So this is the framework that can be a fallout of a performance-driven theological framework. And I’m convinced that the focus of God’s people needs to be total dependence. That’s the focus. God will take care of the fruit. God will take care of the vindication. Our focus is to be on dependence. And there is this dichotomy almost, because I believe that in our own self-awareness, even in the last generation, our self-awareness even in the last generation, that we will never feel perfect.

 

We’re talking about the existential reality. God can look down and say, “Imputed, imparted, perfect,” like He did in the Bible, talking about individuals, but we’re never going to say, “You know what? I’m perfect. I have arrived,” in our consciousness. That is God’s declaration, not our self-awareness. If we ever come to the place where we say we’ve arrived and we’re perfect, we need to experience Isaiah, chapter 6, “Woe is me.”

 

So I’m not saying that we need to focus on our imperfection, but that is the byproduct of when we keep our eyes on Jesus, there will be a byproduct, a consciousness of our unworthiness. So that needs to be our frame. I’m not saying focus on our imperfections, but that consciousness, I believe, will never be there, even in this notion of the last generation.

 

Now, I believe there is going to be a last generation, meaning, look, there’s going to be a group of people that are alive when Jesus comes and translated without seeing death. Now, we need to parse what that indicates.

 

So, in Revelation, chapter 7, you have the four angels holding the four winds back. Another angel comes and says, “Hold the four winds.” Now, in the context of Revelation, it implies that when the four winds are let go, it ushers in the final events that brings about the culmination and the Second Coming. The angels are holding back the four winds until the servants of God are sealed where? On their foreheads, all right. Notice the 144,000.

 

Now, we need to recognize that this is talking about character, sealed in their foreheads. Sabbath is a sign of that seal. God creates the earth in sixth days; he signs it with the Sabbath, Ezekiel, chapter 20, God re-creates in us the image of God. When we keep the Sabbath, it’s a signature of salvation. That signature is a sign. But notice the Sabbath is not us working; it is God working through us. We are to rest in the assurance of God’s re-creation.

 

Now, in this framework, we need to look at this concept of the sealing. Notice it is about character. The character of God, the character of God is love. It is selflessness. Sometimes Christ’s Object Lessons and this notion of character restoration has been reframed from the reproduction of Christ’s love in us to a reproduction of a certain lifestyle and standards. Please don’t misunderstand me. I believe in standards in lifestyle, but that is not to be equated as the definition of character restoration. Are you following me?

 

You can be a lifestyle person and be very nasty and un-Christlike. So, we’re talking about this whole concept of the character of God, His love being reproduced in us as a work of grace and the byproduct of our dependence on Him. That is the framework that we’re talking about.

 

Now, notice this concept of character transformation takes place in the sanctuary framework. The character transformation takes place in the Holy Place. The penalty of sin in the courtyard. Transformation, character transformation, in the Holy Place.

 

Now, I want to read a statement from Ellen White that talks about this nature, the nature of character transformation. This is from The Adventist Home, page 16, “Jesus does not change the character at His coming. The work of transformation must be done now.”

 

“When Christ shall come, our vile bodies are to be changed, and made like His glorious body; but the vile character will not be made holy then. The transformation of character must take place before His coming.” It must take place before His coming. Now, we’re talking about the character.

 

Now, there’s a lot more that can be parsed out in this, but I just want to close with these few quotations from Ellen White about human merit. This notion of sanctification does not mean our works are meritorious, to be very clear. You know, if we are being sanctified, it does not hold merit with God, be very clear. That’s Catholic theology. Catholic theology believes in meritorious sanctification, which Protestantism rejected.

 

But look at this from the Ellen White writings, from Ellen White’s pen, “The closer you come to Jesus, the more faulty you will appear in your own eyes; for your vision will be clearer, and your imperfections will be seen in distinct contrast with his perfect character. Be not discouraged; this is an evidence that Satan’s delusions are losing their power.”

 

“And any works that man can render to God will be far less than” (what?) “nothingness. My requests are made acceptable only because they are laid upon Christ’s righteousness.”

 

The last generation living without a mediator is still going to need the righteousness of Christ.

 

(AUDIENCE: Sanctification is part of that righteousness.)

 

Exactly. Righteousness by faith also is imputed and imparted.

 

“Oh, that all may see that everything in obedience, in penitence, in praise and thanksgiving, must be placed upon the glowing fire of the righteousness of Christ.”

 

So here is that wonderful tension in Scripture that we talked about. God works in us, but our works are not meritorious. They need the righteousness of Christ. We are justified and being sanctified.

 

All right, we are out of time. I think I’m over, right? I’m way over. I am so sorry. They are going to not be happy. All right, we need to go to Outreach, but look at this, For further dialogue and questions, between 8:30 and 10 p.m. tonight in room 320 ABC, it’s in your program there. If you want to dialogue further, perhaps you don’t, but if you do, I will be there. We can dialogue further. Our next seminar is “The Omega Apostasy” tomorrow. You can see that in your program. And also here’s a link to download all the notes. This is a Dropbox link that you can look at.

 

Let’s bow our heads for prayer, and then I will let you go. Let’s bow our heads. Father in Heaven, we thank You so much for the opportunity that we have to just engage in this topic, and, Lord, we just pray for Your Spirit to remain in us. We pray that we would have the Spirit as well as a heart seeking for truth. Thank You for hearing and answering our prayers. In Jesus’ name. Amen.

 

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