I recently read what was surely a well-intended, yet actually misguided article titled, "Good News or Fake News," published in the Connection magazine, Fall 2018 issue. The writer opined that theological controversy is an indicator of unhealthy church and controlling leaders (p. 3). He then claims that Satan has caused a false gospel to enter the church, which he identifies as Last Generation Theology (LGT).
What's worse for the author, he managed to uncritically accept and promulgate a number of needless misconceptions about Last Generation Theology, by repeating ideas from and recommending two factually-challenged books to his readers: God's Character and the Last Generation, eds. Jiri Moskala and Chris Peckham, and End-time Events and the Last Generation: The Explosive 1950s, by George Knight.
Those two volumes manage to decidedly and needlessly misrepresent the views of Adventists who believe that God has raised up His Seventh-day Adventist Church to give a present-truth message in the last days.
For example, according to the author who claims LGT is "fake news," it is important for the church to undergo "progression" (p. 4) in its understanding of truth, because "As we have grown in our understanding of scripture we have even realized that some things we have traditionally believed and taught have been in error" (ibid.). The author does not identify which teachings in particular are in his view erroneous and have been abandoned. He does indicate that there are claims from "the fringe of Adventism" that the church is departing from longstanding Adventist beliefs, but that the idea would be "completely erroneous" (ibid.).
Which is it? Has the church changed erroneous teachings, or is the idea that we are changing our beliefs completely erroneous? Is the Connection author himself a source able to increase our clarity?
According to the author, LGT began to enter the church only in the early 1890s, and mysteriously, by the 1950s, it was "widely believed and accepted in the church" (ibid.). He then praises two of the new books which, he says, "show why LGT is fake news and an anathema to the real and true gospel of Jesus Christ" (ibid.).
After strongly recommending the books, and claiming that belief in LGT creates "spiritually unhealthy churches" (ibid.). He moves to some more specific claims.
For example, LGT allegedly teaches that "Jesus' sacrifice on the cross wasn't enough" (ibid.).
However, Jesus' death on the cross most certainly was enough! We are saved by the merits of Jesus' life sacrificed for us and accounted to us. We cannot and do not add anything to Jesus' sacrifice. Nor does LGT teach that we add anything meritorious. As I put it in the actually published pages of my book, Cleanse and Close, "we have no ability to save ourselves."
When we seek to understand the end-time situation and what God desires to happen to complete the demonstration He is making in the great controversy, we understand that Jesus desires to show His power in the lives of the faithful. He graciously grants them victory over sin as His gift if they will receive His help. Then at last He will claim, "Here are they who keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus" (Revelation 14:12).
It is important to remember that God is sovereign, and He, not we, has authority to determine how His demonstrations are made. Down through the halls of history He has worked choosing the weakest of the weak. Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and others, at first glance, seem unpromising candidates for the demonstration of His power! But He chose them, and gave victory as they cooperated with Him.
LGT teaches that Jesus' sacrifice for us on the cross was sufficient to save every human who will believe. But we also recognize realistically, that 2000 years later, we are still here, and that in God's purposes He still has not brought us home. His Church is behind in submitting to Him and receiving His power.
The Connection article also claims that we teach that "perfection is a requirement for salvation" and that the LGT gospel is "works based" (p. 6). The article suggests that those who teach LGT hold that individual believers are somehow saved by personally attaining to some kind of perfection. This is not what we teach, nor do the two books recommended in the article give credible evidence that this is what we teach.
The only requirement for salvation is entire submission to God. We can receive His gift of salvation freely offered. We cannot possibly earn salvation. Our obedience cannot save us. He empowers us to obey in the strength of the Holy Spirit. But be clear: no merit toward our salvation is generated by anything we do.
The article claims that LGT has a very limited understanding of sin, and that we need to understand that our very nature is broken. Yes, our very nature is broken, deranged, disordered. But it is still true that the essential definition of sin is that it is the transgression of the law (1 John 3:4), whether manifest externally or internally.
When one goes beyond the Bible and teaches that we are guilty for our fallen nature, one departs from Scripture and from a biblically-corrected Protestantism. No one is guilty for having blue eyes or kinky hair; those are non-moral biological variations. No one is guilty for being born into a fallen nature.
The author moves on to claim that LGT teaches that Jesus is just like us, but that that teaching is negated by Ellen White's private letter she wrote to W.L.H. Baker but which was never published until the 1950s.
We agree with Scripture that Jesus took our humanity. The Bible is very clear about this in Hebrews two. The Ellen White statements which demonstrate this seem innumerable. Of course, Jesus can have a humanity like our own without being guilty because guilt does not reside in the body. Jesus can take a body like our own and not sin, because,
Christ took our nature, fallen but not corrupted, and would not be corrupted unless He received the words of Satan in place of the words of God (Temperance 107).
We've all done that. Jesus never did that.
Finally, the author indicates that in the true gospel, "We are forgiven of our past, current and future sinfulness as a free gift of unmerited grace" (p. 6). And yet, the fallen nature we receive at conception is a damaged kind of humanity, that is something for the atonement to address. We had no choice in the kind of human nature we received. Our nature needs healing, not forgiveness.
The person who receives Jesus will show the work of the Spirit in his life: "Love, joy, peace, longsuffering, kindness, goodness, faithfulness, gentleness, self-control" (Galatians 5:22-23). He won't create unnecessary friction. He will not misstate the theological position of another. He will not echo claims and charges made by uninformed persons but investigate for himself.
I can only believe that the author of the article is a person of good will, who, meaning to protect his members from something which sounds very dangerous, read misguided books, was influenced, and set out to push back against something he assumed was destructive. To his credit, he did not sit back and do nothing; he acted. But he acted on erroneous information.
When Seventh-day Adventists uphold God's truth, when they seek to advance His purposes for His end-time church, they will live and teach what can be called a "last generation theology." No one I've ever met on planet earth believes and teaches what the two books claim some teach. Although I am mentioned by name several times in these books, the caricatured version of LGT presented in the books is not a fair representation of my beliefs.
But it is true that for 60 years theologians have been seeking to bring change to Adventist theology, and for 40 years, historians in the church have been at work reexplaining Adventist history. As I've described elsewhere, that set of explanations about 1888 and what the gospel is and what LGT is, can fairly be called the Knight-Whidden Narrative (KWN). Possibly, the author of the article here discussed has uncritically accepted the KWN.
My plea would be for those who represent the views of others to seek to be fair in doing so, and generous in the motives they assume. It is difficult to work in the same team when blind prejudice destroys reputation. If only we could team together in the work of Jesus while it is still day. The night is coming when the work of the gospel will be immeasurably more difficult.