The New Theology has no need for the Bible’s teachings of Jesus’ movement from the holy to the most holy place in heaven in 1844 at the end of the 2300 day/year prophecy. The New Theology-infected are willing to say that 1844 was necessary. They may even in some vague way believe it. And yet, the description of the investigative judgment shows it to be only an empty add-on which plays no effective part in their gospel.
Christ moving into the most holy place to cleanse the sanctuary, an investigative judgment to see who “Through the grace of God and their own diligent effort” have become “conquerors in the battle with evil” (The Great Controversy, p. 425), is about the development of a people who follow Jesus into the zone where there is no sinning. But this is supremely unimportant in the New Theology.
Heaven is working in this hour, “to the intent that now unto the principalities and powers in heavenly places might be known by the Church the manifold wisdom of God… unto Him be glory in the church” (Ephesians 3:10, 21). The development of a victorious character in fallen flesh by our Father’s remnant of believers is heaven’s goal. God by His own choice will vindicate His own character, through us. Not what we are declared but what we become will complete the great controversy war.
But the New Theology turns the investigative judgment into the merely ceremonial reading of a list of the redeemed. Inspiration is clear nonetheless, that
Every name is mentioned, every case closely investigated. Names are accepted, names rejected. When any have sins remaining upon the books of record, unrepented of and unforgiven, their names will be blotted out of the book of life, and the record of their good deeds will be erased from the book of God’s remembrance (The Great Controversy, p. 483).
How regrettable then, that the New Theology turns this solemn and important tribunal into an entirely different kind of event. Yet such is the end result. For example, one New Theology presenter in a sermon said the following:
I will respond in obedience, I will respond in love toward Him through the power of the Spirit, but my response to Him, my sanctification and my obedience, is never properly the grounds of my salvation. Do you understand? Your sanctification will never be sanctified enough! The foundation and basis of your standing before God, is what Christ has done and is doing on your behalf… God’s Holy Spirit [is] given to us, not on the basis of what we do, but on the basis of what Jesus has already done for us.
It is of interest to compare his statement with the following three paragraphs by Mrs. White:
…[B]ecause of his [Adam’s] sin our natures are fallen and we cannot make ourselves righteous. Since we are sinful, unholy, we cannot perfectly obey the holy law. We have no righteousness of our own with which to meet the claims of the law of God. But Christ has made a way of escape for us. He lived on earth amid trials and temptations such as we have to meet. He lived a sinless life. He died for us, and now He offers to take our sins and give us His righteousness. If you give yourself to Him, and accept Him as your Saviour, then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ’s character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned (Steps to Christ, p. 62).
The above paragraph speaks clearly of the work that Christ did for us, outside of us, on the cross. But in the very next, the “more than this” paragraph, the decription shifts to what happens inside of us, the work that is done in the believer:
More than this, Christ changes the heart. He abides in your heart by faith. You are to maintain this connection with Christ by faith and the continual surrender of your will to Him; and so long as you do this, He will work in you to will and to do according to His good pleasure. So you may say, ‘The life which I now live in the flesh I live by the faith of the Son of God, who loved me, and gave Himself for me.’ Galatians 2:20. So Jesus said to His disciples, ‘It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you.’ Matthew 10:20. Then with Christ working in you, you will manifest the same spirit and do the same good works—works of righteousness, obedience.
So we have nothing in ourselves of which to boast. We have no ground for self-exaltation. Our only ground of hope is in the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and in that wrought by His Spirit working in and through us (Steps to Christ, pp. 62, 63).
Notice the difference. The first of three paragraphs quoted above has Christ’s righteousness being counted to us in place of our own righteousness: “then, sinful as your life may have been, for His sake you are accounted righteous. Christ’s character stands in place of your character, and you are accepted before God just as if you had not sinned.” However, justification by faith does not stop here. Mrs. White adds emphatically, “more than this.” But what more than this?
Christ changes the heart, that’s what! More than a mere counting, God works in us. In fact, whereas Christ was working outside of the believer on Calvary, and whereas the believer, before coming to Christ, was working alone, now the work that occurs inside the believer is a copartnership. Consider these thoughts from the above two paragraphs:
He abides in your heart…
He will work in you…
The life which I now live…
It is not ye that speak, but the Spirit of your Father which speaketh in you…
With Christ working in you…
You will manifest the same spirit and do the same good works…
His Spirit working in and through us…
Here are a multiplicity of persons, in me, but only by my consent. Father, Son, and Holy Spirit are all in me, all working. Our fellowship is with all three persons of the godhead. So Ellen White continues, “more than this!” Notice the outcome, which directly contradicts the New Theology assertion that, “Your sanctification will never be sanctified enough!” Rather, “Then with Christ working in you, you will manifest the same spirit and do the same good works—works of righteousness, obedience.” The works that are done are the same.
With Christ working in me, God is actively changing my heart. So the third paragraph sums up the ideas, saying
So we have nothing in ourselves of which to boast. We have no ground for self-exaltation. Our only ground of hope is in the righteousness of Christ imputed to us, and in that wrought by His Spirit working in and through us.
“Our only ground of hope” includes “the righteousness of Christ imputed [here, counted only] to us, and in that wrought by His Spirit working in and through us.” This is not a low-impact form of sanctification. We cannot consider these works as strictly our own. In fact, they are the works of God done in us. All that we have done, is to cooperate.
Some may say it is exalting our own merits to expect favor from God through our good works. It is true that we cannot buy one victory with our good works; and yet we cannot be victors without them. The purchase which Christ recommends to us is only complying with the conditions He has given us. True grace, which is of inestimable value, and which will endure the test of trial and adversity, is only obtained through faith and humble, prayerful obedience (Testimonies, vol. 4, p. 89).
“We” cannot be victors without “our” good works. But they are “our” good works only in the sense that we cooperated and through the strength provided by God answered His call to us to work out our own salvation with Him, as truly He accomplishes that which changes us. The works are ours only in the sense of consent and solidarity—not merit.
Such talk, nevertheless, tends almost inevitably to call forth complaints from New Theology people, such as, “The argument that it’s God doing the works in us, and thus not our own [work], doesn’t let them off the hook… It’s still the people themselves doing these works, and if these works justify them, then they’re saved by faith and works, period.”1
Such, however, are not the sentiments found in the texts above or in the Spirit of Prophecy:
Will man take hold of divine power, and with determination and perseverance resist Satan, as Christ has given him example in His conflict with the foe in the wilderness of temptation? God cannot save man against his will from the power of Satan’s artifices. Man must work with his human power, aided by the divine power of Christ, to resist and to conquer at any cost to himself. In short, man must overcome as Christ overcame. And then, through the victory that it is his privilege to gain by the all-powerful name of Jesus, he may become an heir of God and joint heir with Jesus Christ. This could not be the case if Christ alone did all the overcoming. Man must do his part; he must be victor on his own account, through the strength and grace that Christ gives him. Man must be a co-worker with Christ in the labor of overcoming (God’s Amazing Grace, p. 254).
Every viewpoint that waters down the significance of Daniel 8:14 and 1844 is hostile to the core of Adventism.
The subject of the sanctuary was the key which unlocked the mystery of the disappointment of 1844. It opened to view a complete system of truth, connected and harmonious, showing that God’s hand had directed the great advent movement and revealing present duty as it brought to light the position and work of His people (The Great Controversy, p. 423).
This subject is described by inspiration as being “the key,” that “opened to view a complete system of truth.” More than this, this subject showed the validity of the great advent movement and our present position. What could be more important than this?
Yet the New Theology inevitably undermines the investigative judgment teaching, claiming importance for it even as it is actually unimportant within the New Theology perspective, no names being rejected, or even names accepted, but merely reaffirmed. This is more difficult to get at because of claims, perhaps sincere, to the contrary. The sanctuary will by the New Theology advocate often be held as being “non-negotiable,” even as a careful evaluation of the theological underpinnings of that teacher’s theology will show it to be entirely superfluous to it.
Here we are far down the line from the pioneers who forged this movement under the Spirit’s guidance, and are our evangelists today preaching a message that bears resemblance? I recently heard one Adventist evangelist say in his message that you could put all the perfect people on earth in a phone booth and still have room. And I thought, my, that sounds astonishingly similar to what you would expect the devil to say! The great controversy war is about showing that Jesus’ power for overcoming is no fluke, and that he can produce quite a group of overcomers. I would like to see that presenter try to fit 145,000 people into one phone booth. But no need to hold our breath. If he believed the Third Angel’s Message he would preach it. But his gospel has no victory. Claims must all be checked against facts. Sincerity is no substitute for soundness.
NEXT: (A longer article—consider yourself forewarned!) What is the New Theology Part 12: The Selective Use of the Spirit of Prophecy
- Clifford Goldstein, Adventist Review, “The Christless Cross,” November 22, 2001, p. 28.