The Hole in Adventism (part 7)



In the previous post we explored Adventisms (ADM) Meta and Macro narratives in more detail and looked at how ADM's presuppositions impact the way in which the narrative progresses. In today's post we will close the series by putting all of these elements together into the Micro-narrative and seeing how they impact ADM's covenant thought. In the end, it is my hope that the reader will have a greater knowledge of ADM's continuity with traditional protestant covenantal thought and also of the unique elements it brings to the table.

MICRO-NARRATIVE
The Micro-Narrative is the narrative that deals primarily with local events on the earth. Of course, it is not divorced from the Meta and Macro. Instead, it's events can only be understood through the Meta and Macro. However, this is not to be misconstrued to mean that there are three cannons within scripture or that a Meta theme can interpret Micro eventualities with carelessness. Rigorous exegesis is still required and each doctrinal point must make sense on its own before being subjected to this interpretive lens. In other words, if the Micro clearly teaches the abrogation of the law, ADM does not propose we ignore such clear teaching because it supposedly contradicts a Meta theme. However, the opposite is true. We cannot carelessly interpret verses in the Bible as though they did not belong to a literary or cultural context (micro), a universal conflict context (macro) or an ontological context (meta). Rather than viewing this system as a dictatorship where the Meta imposes itself upon the Macro and Micro, it should be viewed as a balance where each narrative is meant to be in harmony with the other in order to arrive at the clearest picture possible. Finally, because all three narratives depend on revelation ADM takes a very strong stance on Sola Scriptura and holds to a thought-inspiration model of divine revelation.


Edenic Covenant: The Micro-narrative of scripture begins at creation and materializes into the Eden story. It is here that 2LBC proposes a Covenant of Works for Adam and Eve. As seen in the fourth installment, while ADM has never used this categorical label (along with covenant of redemption) both are nevertheless inherent in its system of thought. During this Covenant of Works Adam and Eve were to retain eternal life by demonstrating allegiance to God alone. ADM has traditionally referred to this as a probationary period for Adam and Eve in that their loyalty was being tested. Through obedience, Adam and Eve would be granted eternal life. Through disobedience, they would inherit death. Of course, God already knew the outcome else a Covenant of Redemption would not have already been made.

However, due to ADM's Meta and Macro, this Covenant of Works cannot be understood as an arbitrary, peremptory or imperious agreement as if God was sitting in heaven demanding immediate obedience of infant intelligences on the threat of death. Earthly parents who act this way toward their children are seen as authoritarian and exacting and the results of rebellion in their children are often guaranteed. Did God, through a hard-line approach with Adam and Eve, actually set them up to rebel? Did he push them into Satan's trap? Of course not. And the strongest evidence of this is via one of the pre-fall applications of the law of love: The Sabbath. With the finalization of creation day seven brought with it Sabbath rest. In Eden, Sabbath was not a command as we understand it today. Truly, no law in Eden was. Only one "do not" existed, and it was in regards to the forbidden tree. All other laws were positive in nature for God's law of love is naturally such. Likewise, the Sabbath was an invitation for Adam and Eve to enter into Gods rest. They had not created anything, yet they rested. They were not tired, yet they rested. And by resting in Gods finished work - none of which they had either seen nor participated in - Adam and Eve were declaring faith in God as their maker. All of creation had been made for them and now, rather than work or toil, God gifted them with rest that they might enjoy all he had made. God's command to stay away from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was not set in the context of emperor to subject but in the context of loving father to beloved children. God had made them for his love, therefore, his required obedience for their eternal security is to be understood as an act of grace, not oppression.

Additionally, it is here that the Great Controversy is introduced into the Micro-Narrative. Satan tempts Eve and does so by questioning God's goodness via insinuating and then accusing God of being an arbitrary and untrustworthy being (Gen. 3). We can refer to Satan's accusations about Gods character as his "Counter-Narrative" in that it seeks to counter the true Meta-Narrative of God. This Great Controversy over the character of God is seen all throughout scriptures covenantal progression


Adamic Covenant: Once man fell into sin the Covenant of Redemption, which ADM generally refers to simply as the "Plan of Redemption", came into effect and was immediately revealed to man (Gen 3). Man did not immediately die because God had a substitute for their sin, namely Christ. The promise of an offspring who would crush the serpent's head is scriptures first prophetic utterance. This promise was fulfilled in Christ. The Adamic Covenant thus points us to the Covenant of Redemption which is an outflow of the Eternal Covenant (Covenant of Grace).


Eternal Covenant (Covenant of Grace) is God's eternal posture toward creation
Results in Covenant of Redemption for humanity prior to their fall
Is revealed to man via the Adamic Covenant in Genesis 3

However, the Covenant of Redemption is about more than redeeming man (Cristo-centric and Anthro-peripheral presuppositions). Rather, it is about destroying the Counter-Narrative by restoring the truth about who God is and what he is like. Thus, the plan of salvation involves a revelation of the character of God to the fallen world and the heavenly intelligences.


Noahic Covenant: After the wickedness of men increased on the earth God acted to preserve a holy people through whom the messiah would come by destroying earth's inhabitants with the exception of one family through whom he would start anew. The Noahic Covenant promised that God would never destroy the earth again with a flood demonstrating that Gods ultimate desire is to redeem, not destroy, mankind.

In the Noahic Covenant, the severity of the Great Controversy comes to the fore. Satan is never mentioned in this narrative, but his activity on the earth is clear in that the entire planet has entered a state of severe degradation. The thoughts of men's hearts are only evil continually demonstrating a complete moral departure from creations parametric design. Thus, the flood is not about an angry deity lashing out against disobedient humans but a loving God seeking to preserve an avenue through which his Covenant of Redemption can be ultimately ratified resulting in the salvation of the human race. Satan, as usual, has taken occasion of the event to push his Counter-Narrative even more and thus malign Gods character and present him as a dictatorial and evil deity.

Abrahamic Covenant: The earth was soon full of wickedness once more and the promise of redemption given to Adam was all but forgotten. Satan's attempt to introduce a Counter-Narrative appeared successful. Lies about God spread. Religions centered on man's works developed. And mankind came to wholly distrust God and despise his law and his government. Thus, God chose Abram as the man through whom his narrative would be preserved upon the earth and through Abram God raised a nation for that very purpose. To them "were given the oracles of God" (Rom. 3:2), his law, and his plan of salvation. As a people they were to preserve the truth about God and as other nations came into contact with them they were to see a nation governed by a God of love, wholly distinct from all the others. At last, the promised offspring through whom the nations of the earth would be blessed was to arrive and ratify the promise to Abram by the shedding of his own blood on behalf of fallen man.

But, once again, this was about much more than fallen man. This was about the vindication of God's character. Once lies about God have been spread the only adequate response of love is revelation. God would not respond with shows of power, not because he is a master at PR campaigns, but because it is not in his nature to do so. It was through revelation that God would restore the truth about himself and spread it throughout the earth. The culmination of that revelation is the gospel. In the gospel Gods character, law, and government are vindicated and restored in the hearts of believers before the recreation of the universe.


Mosaic Covenant: After nearly 400 years of Egyptian captivity the children of Abraham had lost sight of Gods law and holiness which led them, in their ignorance and self-reliance, to promise to God that they would keep all of his laws. God would not preserve the truth of himself through a self-dependent nation, thus he brought them under the Old /Mosaic Covenant which was to lead them to recognize their need for a savior. Then, embedded in the center of the Old Covenant God revealed his entire plan of salvation like never before via the Sanctuary system. While God had heretofore revealed the plan of salvation through the death of a lamb on an altar, the sanctuary system revealed all of the promises of the Covenant of Redemption which involved not only personal forgiveness and reconciliation but the complete judgment of and eradication of sin from the universe. This entire system was centered in Christ and by daily/ yearly enactment the children of Israel were to have their hopes turned to Jesus as their only hope, not their promises or resolutions. This hope was not simply one of personal salvation but of the complete restoration of all things.


Through the Mosaic Covenant, God led his people to a realization that they needed a savior but he also led them to a realization of how beautiful his law and government are as extensions of his character of love. Thus, those who understood the narrative (such as King David and Paul) could speak romantically of the law of God and of the principles of his government. However, the beauty of Gods law was used as a means of revealing how desperately men needed a savior for, even after recognizing its attractiveness, the Israelites were repeatedly unable to enter into harmony with it. The law, which was good, thus became the means of death to them. Life could only be granted via the sacrifice. This was the purpose of the Mosaic Covenant thus leading men to love Gods law, despair at their inability to keep it, and thus cling to the Savior as their only hope. When Jesus came, this schoolmaster was no longer needed because it was meant to lead men to him. Thus, the entire covenant was done away with. Nevertheless, because the law (Meta-narrative) far transcends the Mosaic Covenant (Micro-narrative) it remains forever.

Before moving on, however, it is important to appeal back to some elements of ADM's biblical presuppositions and its Meta and Macro without which the Adventist mind cannot be fully understood. And that is that while WCC and 2LBC tend to view the law of God as arbitrary and strictly legal ADM has an entirely different view. This arbitrary and legal understanding of the law then leads proponents of CDM and NCT to reject the law altogether. From interacting with these systems of covenant thought one gets the impression that the law is a negative thing from its inception. Thus CDM and NCT proponents tend to be very passionate about their rejection of the law's perpetuity. ADM on the other hand sees the law, not as arbitrary or legal but as reflective and celebratory. For example, ADM - being inherently Arminian - recognizes the love of God as the primary essence through which we can understand him. His law is simply an extension of his character of agape love. This is true of both natural (laws that governed the natural world) and moral law (laws that govern the moral nature of sentient beings). All of them reflect God's agape love. Realities parametric design is thus in harmony with his character. So to the Adventist mind, the law of God is not arbitrary. And while it does retain a legal function it is not summarized in this. The law can be best understood as an extension of God's love. Thus, according to ADM, there is never a view of the law that is negative and there is never a repelling relationship between grace and law. Grace is not seen as that which rescues us from law but as that which brings us back into harmony with law thus restoring within God's children the love-law that God originally created us with. Without this understanding of ADM's view of law students and critics will fail repeatedly at a proper understanding of the Adventist mind. Accusations of legalism fly right over our heads and theologies that take an inherent negative slant on the law have little chance at being taken seriously. ADM takes a high view of Gods law, once again - not in an arbitrary sense - or in an exclusively legal sense. Rather its high view goes right back to its Arminian conception of the nature and character of God, his creation motive and his parametric design of reality.

Davidic Covenant: In the midst of this Mosaic covenant God made another promise to King David that his descendant would sit on the throne forever. This promise pointed forward to the Savior and has been fulfilled in Christs heavenly enthronement. However, here again, the Great Controversy over Gods character comes to the fore. Satan had long accused of being a power hungry and oppressive deity. God promises David that his descendant would always sit on the throne. The Jews - who had been led astray by the Counter-Narrative, expected a messiah who would take the throne by force and rule with power - exactly how Satan painted God to be. However, the coronation of Jesus begun, not with power, but with a crown of thorns placed upon his head. His obedience unto suffering and death is given as the foundational reason why God has exalted him above all others and given him a throne. Thus, the Davidic Covenant, fulfilled in the coronation of Christ, is yet another revelation of Gods self-sacrificing agape love character.


New Covenant: Christ's death and resurrection have ratified the Abrahamic covenant and brought it into full effect. The Old Covenant was done away with and the promise of the offspring made to Adam and Abraham was fulfilled. Likewise, the entire ceremonial system of the Old Covenant, which pointed forward to the death of Jesus, has met its end in Jesus. Sin has been atoned for. Redemption is accomplished. And man can now experience the full assurance of salvation through the finished work of Jesus on the cross - a work which guarantees eternal redemption to those who receive it by faith.

However, the battle is far from over. Lies about God still exist. Sin still runs rampant. And Jesus work of redemption continues. Thus, the church was instituted to be the main weapon of warfare against lies about God. Through the proclamation of the gospel, we are to reveal to those in darkness the truth about God and as they come to see his love they are to be drawn to it in full surrender. Just as Israel was once responsible for preserving the narrative of God, his law, and his promise so the church is to do so in the new dispensation. Because ADM sees the church as the continuation of Israel it understands that the church has always existed. In the OT it was spiritual Israel within national Israel. In the NT it is no different. The church is composed of those who are true people of God and false people of God. And in the end, the remnant of the church - those who are true people of God - will be the ones responsible for lighting the world with the truth of God's character of love.

Through the remnant church, composed of those who are truly in love with God, God shines the light of Jesus through the world. However, this testimony is only effective if it is authentic. Thus, for ADM, sanctification and cleansing from sin are very important. In other words, Jesus is actively involved, through the plan of redemption, in bringing each of his people into harmony with his law of love. Jesus did not come simply to forgive but to heal our fallen condition. Thus, he is currently working to remove sin from our lives and give us freedom from that which places us at odds with selfless love. This concept cannot be separated from the Great Controversy motif which posits that the central aspect of the story is Christ and not man. When kept as the foundation, the process of sanctification in the Christian life resumes its relevance in the cosmic battle over Gods character[11].

Eschatology: Using the Historicist method of interpreting apocalyptic prophecy inherent in Classic Covenantalism, ADM arrives at conclusions in the prophecies that are both in keeping with its system of thought and unique in the Christian world. Those conclusions are: 1) The battle over the character of God continues post-Calvary. 2) Satan uses the church to spread lies (a counter-narrative) about God and through it he masterfully re-writes the gospel turning it into a system of salvation no different from the pagan religions of the world (Dan. 7-8, Rev. 2-6). 3) Gods pre-advent judgment begins which cancels out the counter-narrative and uplifts the cross before a world deceived by its lies (Dan. 9, Rev. 14)[12, 13]. A final battle over the law of God takes place in which the revived medieval church unites with apostate Protestantism and all other false systems of man-centered religion (Rev. 12-13). It is in this context that ADM sees the emergence of a "remnant" church and a renewed emphasis on the relevance of Sabbath[14, 15]. According to ADM, Sabbath celebrates grace. The medieval church which developed a counter-grace system of salvation (a further development of Satan's Counter-Narrative) naturally changed the law which celebrates Gods eternal covenant of grace in both a pre and post-fall world. However, the medieval church cannot be oversimplified as a law-changer when it is, at its very core, a philosophically sophisticated alternate system of salvation. Thus, this final battle over Gods law is not to be understood as a war against arbitrary commands but as a war against Gods parametric design which testifies of his love and which Satan wants to erode. 5) This battle ends with the visible return of Jesus followed by the Millennium and the Great White Throne judgment which forever puts an end to sin and sinners (Rev. 20). The vindication of Gods character is complete and "every knee bows and every tongue confesses" the Lordship of Jesus Christ who is, in himself, the vindication of God. ADM holds to an annihilation view of the fate of the wicked on the basis of God's sovereignty and character. 6) With sin forever removed from reality, God restores the entire universe to perfect harmony with his law of love.
One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love[16].
Conclusion
The narrative we have just reviewed is a brief overview of ADM's system of thought. In the future, it is my hope to expand on each of these views in book format. Nevertheless, at this juncture, we have discovered several things. First, covenantal thought is divided into two camps - those who affirm the perpetuity of the law and those who do not. Second, ADM fits within the first category, Category A: Covenantalism - and is most closely aligned to the theology of 2LBC. This alone nullifies any accusations that ADM has a system of covenantal thought wholly distinct from the Protestant traditions and that our Sabbatarianism makes us legalists. Third, ADM is nevertheless unique in that it is inherently Arminian and Historicist. These unique features are enough, I would argue, to place ADM in a separate category of covenantal thought altogether. While it matches Category A in that it too believes in the perpetuity of the law, and matches 2LBC in its understanding of scriptures covenantal progression, its overall narrative has enough distinctions to introduce a Category C. This category could be best described as Arminian-Federalism in its understanding of redemptive history and a Historicist approach for eschatology places it closer to the classical camp (as opposed to the modern which is Preterist). Therefore, I would like to introduce the term "Classical Arminian Federalism"[17] as a new system of Covenant Thought and sub-categorize Adventism - with all of its unique elements - under this banner.





While there is much for our Protestant brothers and sisters to disagree within ADM's system of thought I believe this presentation provides us with an intelligent outline that invites thoughtful critique and consideration. This framework is also helpful in discussing the elements of ADM that often confuse non-Adventists and have been the subject of undue criticism (ie. Investigative Judgment, Sabbath seal, Mark of the beast, Spirit of Prophecy, Remnant church theology, End time events, etc.). Placing our theological worldview within a covenantal system of thought that recognizes the broad spectrum of ADM's narrative will make those concepts much easier to discuss and explain. Therefore, I conclude by offering this system of covenantal thought to the Seventh-day Adventist church as having apologetic and evangelistic value. I also offer it to the wider community of Christian faith as a tool for understanding the Adventist mind.

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[11] This does not imply perfectionism - a theology that claims one must be sinless in order to be saved, that one can be sinless this side of heaven, or that God is dependent on human sanctification in order to vindicate himself. Rather, it shows that God is actively working to restore all things to perfect harmony with his agape love and that such a task has evangelistic and theodical value in God's redemptive plan. Groups within ADM who tend toward perfectionism often deny the Christo-centric and Anthro-peripheral presuppositions thus making God dependent on man and his victory over sin in order to finalize the atonement. As a result these groups tend to make sanctification a condition of justification which ADM unequivocally rejects. For more information See "Sin and Salvation" by George R. Knight and visit the following: a) http://www.pomopastor.com/2013/07/never-good-enough-close-of-probation.html; b) http://www.pomopastor.com/2013/08/reclaiming-adventism-response-to.html; c) http://www.pomopastor.com/2013/04/the-sda-gospel-is-legalistic-isnt-it.html

[12] For more on the Pre-Advent Judgment see the series "The Pre-Advent Judgment" at http://www.pomopastor.com/search/label/IJ 

[13] http://www.pomopastor.com/2016/01/why-critics-of-investigative-judgment.html

[14] http://www.pomopastor.com/2014/02/the-remnant-church-denominational.html

[15] http://www.pomopastor.com/2014/03/the-sabbath-as-seal-grace-alone-my.html
[16] ibid., p. 678.
[17] "Classical" - reflecting the original views over against contemporary adaptations. "Arminian" - reflecting the thought of Jacobus Arminius, John Wesley, and Ellen G. White as it relates to scriptures Meta-Narrative. "Federalism" - reflecting the covenantal progression of the 2nd London Baptist Confession also known as 1689 Federalism. For more information see: thearminianfederalist.blogspot.com.au/ 
The Hole in Adventism (part 7) The Hole in Adventism (part 7) Reviewed by Pastor Marcos on March 19, 2017 Rating: 5