kirkpatrick-sm2013-handout4.pdf (A basic look at the Emerging Church, focusing especially on Scripture)
If there are two ideas that don't go together, they are the two in this presentation's title: "Scripture," and the "Emerging Church." But our first need is to get a grip on what the Emerging Church is. In the latter portion of this presentation we will focus especially on "Scripture and the Emerging Church."
What is the Emerging Church and its Argument?
First, the basic argument behind the Emerging Church can be summarized in four steps:
- The culture is undergoing a shift from modern to postmodern thinking.
- The people of God must think-through afresh how to do things in order that our work shall continue to be effective.
- The people of God should adopt the principles of postmodern thought.
- Here are our shinny new ideas for doing church
That is the argument. And I agree with the first two points. We could say that the third proposition is true in part. The fourth is catastrophically wrong.
But what is the Emerging Church itself? Besides its argument, what are its sources? Here is a chart. The column on the left lists some thought-leaders of the Emerging Church, naming some of its gurus and high priesthood.
An illustration may help. There are three lakes situated quite close together, with strips of land separating them and meeting in the middle. The people in the left column have their poles and are fishing in Lake Theology, Lake Mysticism, and Lake Philosophy. They are catching the fish that correspond to these fellows listed in all the other columns to the right. Left is more recent in time, right, most ancient.
Being Seventh-day Adventists, we are drawn immediately to Lake Theology. In this case, this is a mistake. Yes, Emerging Church draws from that row but not so much as you might think. It draws more from Lake Mysticism, and far more again from Lake Philosophy. Everything extracted is combined under the guiding principles of postmodernism. The result is the "Emerging Church" (EC).
You would have to go one column farther left to represent those Seventh-day Adventists who are jumping onto the Emerging Church bandwagon. People get it first from Brian McLaren, Rob Bell, and others. Then some go farther rightward on the chart, drawing from other key thinkers in turn. Key point: the Emerging Church is built up out of three primary sources: the combination is theology + philosophy + mystical influences.
A Very Important Influence
There is involved a very significant group you may know little about. If we would understand something very urgent about EC, this is another giant point. This is pivotal.
In the mid-1600s a group developed which persists today. The name you most likely would associate with this group is George Fox. The group is known today as the "Friends," but in some settings, still go by an earlier designation, the "Quakers."
The development of this group is fascinating but we are skipping all that and offering you only the summary. This group has been loosely identified as Protestant. In a moment I will ask you how Protestant do you think they are?
INSPIRATION. The Quaker view of inspiration is that God does not need to use the Bible, but directly inspires worshippers. Here is the way old-fashioned Quakers worship: they sit in a circle in total silence. At various times in the meeting, after everyone feels "centered," "light comes," and one or more may feel led to speak. The person speaks directly to the group, perhaps for a half-minute, perhaps for four. Whatever is said is considered a revelation directly from God, light given through the individual to the group directly. The sense is conversational.
ALL SPACE IS HOLY. Quakers do not have anything like our communion service; they regard no space and all space as holy. Some of these groups have a kind of "clergy," some do not. Men and women lead equally. Since the beginnings of Quakerism, they have been completely EGALITARIAN.
Their view of ECCLESIOLOGY--the doctrine of the church--is equally, well, equal. They have minimum of organization and structure. Gatherings will sometimes shift which "yearly meeting" they belong to.
They have a focus on so-called SOCIAL JUSTICE. They favor women's rights, gay rights, same-sex unions, homosexual marriage, and so on.
Their openness to direct spiritual experience minimizes the importance of Scripture and builds up the opposite. Personal experience is central. Moreover, this leads Quakers to be very open MYSTICAL influences. Richard Foster, who popularized the idea of "SPIRITUAL FORMATION" and "spiritual discipline," is a Quaker. Likewise Dallas Willard. Openness to the mystical is characteristic to Quakerism.
Our interest today is in Emerging Church, not in the Quakers. But based on what I have just shared, assuming that it is a fair statement of their views, does this sound like a Protestant kind of group?
Many today experimenting with the Emerging Church, are heavily influenced by this group.
I will not at any length today (not enough time) address the influence of mysticism in the Emerging Church. Not because it is insignificant; it is significant; but because this is a space others address.
A Protest Movement
Let's carry on now with the Emerging Church. Another piece of the picture: the Emerging Church is a reaction against megachurches (Willow Creek, Saddleback, etc.). Emerging Church advocates don't like big, plastic, mall-like, generic megachurches, and they are also a protest against what they would call "traditional" churches. That would in their mind be us.
The Emerging Church prefers creative, experimental worship events, mix-and-match tradition, candles, informality, writing their own song lyrics, emphasizing the experiential, offering a truckload of "ministry options," with small groups focused on mission projects, Alcoholics Anonymous, divorce recovery, and every other thing. I have visited EC churches which offered more than 40 different groups to belong to.
Here is how some EC advocates describe what they are doing:
At its essence, emergent Christianity is an effort by a particular people in a particular time and place to respond to the gospel as it (once again) breaks through the age-old crusts (Tony Jones, The New Christians, p. 37).
Ten Signs You Have Entered the Postmodern Zone
One fellow has a video somewhere on the internet where he takes a poke at postmodernity and the Emerging Church, offering "Ten Signs That You Have Entered the Postmodern Zone," or something like that. I have since lost the link, but here are the signs:
- Their website has a statement about what they believe--and it affirms what they do not believe
- They are constantly teaching against other churches that engage in polemics
- They reject the commercialism of the modern church--by making their church feel more like a coffee shop
- They have a strong desire to be relevant--for the sole purpose of being relevant
- The term "living incarnationally" means living less like Christ and more like the world
- They argue that anyone who thinks that he has a metanarrative is wrong--because he doesn't understand that the one story that controls all other stories is the story that says that there are no metanarratives
- They encourage using metaphors and deride propositional teaching because it doesn't work--unless of course they are teaching propositionally about metaphors
- They argue that the church should be less theological and more relational--and then attempt to give theological reasons why this is the case
- They are constantly using language--to try to tell us that language cannot communicate truth
- In order to argue against a propositional understanding of Scripture, they quote Jesus' proposition from Scripture where He said, "I am the truth"
OK, the above is not quite fair. There are reasons why they wish to be relevant, there are reasons why they beieve they can embrace the culture in practical terms, in full. But there is also considerable ironic truth there too.
Have you heard Ravi Zacharias speak? He said that if we bring postmodernism to our young people in the church, we will leave them as empty as secular postmodernism has left them outside the church.
Scripture and the Emerging Church
Let's look at Scripture and the Emerging Church. Make no mistake. Many of the assumptions of Emerging Church advocates are quite different, and that incudes assumptions about the Bible. Especially when it comes to His authority revealing and speaking to us through it. For example, Doug Pagitt:
So much of what I've come to believe about God and humanity and Jesus and the way we are to live comes from the Bible. For me, it is a living thing. It is a member of my community and a vital source of wisdom and truth (Doug Pagitt, A Christianity Worth Believing In (2008), p. 54).
Notice, the Bible is "a member of" Doug Pagitt's community. It is one voice, even an important voice, yet but one among many.
Peter Rollins is another Emerging Church author. What does he say?
The first thing we notice when reading about God in the Bible is that we are confronted, not with a poverty of descriptions concerning God, but rather with an excess of them. We do not find some simple, linear understanding of YHWH developing through the text, and thus we do not find a single, coherent definition of God, as proclaimed by many contemporary churches. In the Bible we find a vast array of competing stories concerning the character of God that are closely connected to the concrete circumstances of those who inhabit the narrative. . . Western theology has all too often reduced the beautifully varied and complex descriptions of God found in the Bible to a singular reading that does violence to its vibrant nature. The Bible itself is a dynamic text full of poetry, prose, history, law and myth all clashing together in a cacophony of voices (Peter Rollins, How (Not) to Speak of God (2006), pp. 12, 13).
Rollins insists that the Bible contains many descriptions of God clashing together. It is not (he says) a harmony.
One Emerging Church I attended is MissionGathering in San Diego. Here is a portion of their statement concerning what they believe about the Bible:
We believe in the truthfulness of the ancient Scriptures. Because the English language has been so fluid over the past several hundred years and our language continually shifts in its meaning, there has been a need for a variety of translations of the Bible. But we believe that when interpreted, understood and applied correctly the Bible is the inspired Word of God. We believe the Bible to be the voices of many who have come before us, inspired by God to pass along their poems, stories, accounts, and letters of response and relationship with each other and the loving God (From "What We Believe," Missiongathering.com Christian Church, San Diego, CA, http://missiongathering.com/#/who-we-are/what-we-believe, accessed 2012-10-06 00:34Z).
When it comes to Emerging Church statements of what is believed, you need to take them very carefully. Pay close attention to "buzzwords." Do not accept that words have the meaning you would expect.
In our test case here, the Scriptures are said to be truthful, inspired, the Word of God. To us, this would mean that they are accurate in the history recounted, and that God has guaranteed this truthfulness by the Holy Spirit's involvement in giving divine thoughts and preserving what was written. But look again at what the statement does and does not say.
But the statement does not define what any of these terms mean in a positive way. It does not elucidate. But there are inferences and suggestions.
Notice: the Bible must be "interpreted, understood, and applied correctly." Only then is it the inspired Word. A great deal is encompassed in interpreting, understanding, and applying. You and I would say that the Bible is the Word of God whether we interpret, understand, or apply it correctly or not! Emerging Church will say that the Bible is the Word of God based upon how we experience it--a completely alien perspective.
Also interesting is the following line. What is the Bible? For MissionGathering, it is not the voice of God but it is a collection of "the voices of many." You and I know that the Bible was written by several persons; yet we perceive underneath those voices one supreme inspired author of divine thoughts. All coheres because all has one author. But from the Emerging Church perspective, there are many voices--all different.
What did they pass along? "[T]heir poems, stories, accounts, and letters of response and relationship with each other and the loving God." They passed on to us an account. Not necessarily God's account (for which it would have to be correctly interpreted, understood, and applied), but their accounts. There is no suggestion in the statement outside of the buzzwards that the Genesis creation account is reliable. It is one of their accounts, one of their stories, and what clearly is the most important to MissionGathering is their "response and relationship with each other and the loving God." Which is all to say that the MissionGathering statement concerning what they believe about the Bible is actually useful because once we understand the basic approaches we would expect in the category of Emerging Church, we understand how to discover its gelatinous places.
Let's Talk Brian McLaren
McLaren is not the Emerging Church. But he is the best-selling Emerging Church writer and he has much to say. Of course, he does not speak for everyone interested in the Emerging Church. And yet, he has been the most widely acknowledged spokesman for the movement, and doubtless has more words in print concerning the Emerging Church than any other human being.
McLaren says that the Christian faith needs "to disembed from the paradigm of modernity and experience something akin to a total makeover or rebirth in a postmodern context" (A New Kind of Christianity, p. 10). According to McLaren, "we need a deep shift not merely from our current state to a new state, but from a steady state to a dynamic story. We need not a new set of beliefs but a new way of believing, not simply new answers to the same old questions, but a new set of questions" (p. 18). McLaren is ready to take us on a journey to this new way of believing. Listen, from the same book:
You can't go on a quest if you're locked in a closet, cell, or concentration camp. And you won't go on a quest if your captivity is sufficiently comfortable. That's where we find ourselves: in a real-life version of the classic movie The Truman show. We live in a comfortable captivity. Everywhere we turn we are surrounded by padded chairs, nice broadcasts of music and teaching, pleasant lighting and polite neighbors, all designed and integrated to keep us content under the dome. Life inside the dome is so perfect that every day we feel a little more afraid of the cold, unedited world outside.
The chains, locks, bars, and barbed wire that hold us are disguised so well that they have a homey feel to us. We see our guards not as guards at all, but as pleasant custodians in clerical robes or casual suits. They've been to graduate school where many of them have mastered the techniques of friendly manipulation, always with a penetrating smile and a firm, heavy hand on the shoulder. We like them. They like us. The high-tech security system that holds us inside the dome can be unlocked, should we ever wish to leave. The key is a question. When you ask it, something clicks, and you are free (Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity, p. 31).
According to McLaren, if we do not embrace his Emerging Church ideas, we are sleeping prisoners, satisfied in our cage, appreciative of our keepers, trapped under the dome, oblivious. I might add that this description makes pastors like me, or Sabbath School teachers like some of you, "guards" and manipulators of people.
We--because we teach the historical-grammatical sense of Scripture, because we believe that the Holy Spirit was able to inspire and protect what God revealed through the Bible writers, because we teach that what it teaches transcends culture, is not culturally-conditioned--we are as prison guards guarding our church members, keeping the "truth" that McLaren and others would like to bring to them out of the church. We have imprisoned you in comfortable chairs and padded pews. We have you "under the dome."
McLaren, in A New Kind of Christianity, addresses the question of what the Bible is at length (three chapters worth). Consider:
There will be no new kind of Christian faith without a new approach to the Bible, because we've gotten ourselves into a mess with the Bible. . . . the Bible is becoming a box cutter or suitcase bomb in the hands of too many preachers, pastors, priests, and others. . . . very few Christians today, in my experience, anyway, have given a second thought to--much less repented of--this habitual, conventional way of reading and interpreting the Bible that allowed slavery, anti-Semitism, apartheid, chauvinism, environmental plundering, prejudice against gay people, and other injustices to be legitimized and defended for so long. . . Our quest for a new kind of Christianity requires a new, more mature and responsible approach to the Bible (Ibid., pp. 67-69, 76).
Further on he tells us what the Bible text actually is. . .
. . . a portable library of poems, prophecies, histories, fables, parables, letters, sage sayings, quarrels, and so on. . . . Whom does our current approach favor or empower? Clearly, the constitutional approach to the Bible provides authority and employment for people who learn to read it and use it with a lawyerly approach. This approach to the Bible bolsters their authority in the communities to which they belong. That doesn't make the approach wrong, but it does suggest that 'insiders' who depend on the constitutional system for their salary and social status will be unlikely to question it and equally likely to defend it passionately. They are far from disinterested 'objective scholars' in this matter. . . . the biblical library has a unique role in the life of the community of faith, resourcing, challenging, and guiding the community of faith in ways no other texts can. It is uniquely valuable to teach, reprove, correct, train, and equip us for love and good works, as the apostle Paul says. It provides a kind of encouragement that is central and unique to the community of Christian faith (Ibid., pp. 79, 80, 83).
McLaren says that, to some, the Bible is "a divinely inspired constitution," to some "a collection of human literature and nothing more." He would have us join him in seeing it as "an inspired library. This inspired library preserves, presents, and inspires an ongoing vigorous conversation with and about God, a living and vital civil argument into which we are all invited and through which God is revealed" (Ibid., p. 83). The metaphor is troubling; most of the books in a library we don't read. Most are not inspired. Reading and understanding and obeying what they say, is optional. You pick out the ones you want to read. Oh yes; and a quite large proportion of books in a library are fictional.
McLaren, in his book, A Generous Or+hodoxy, spends more than 300 pages blending ideas. All kinds of things are flung into the bowl, mixing here, matching there, with much discarding, even more ignoring, and yet more redefining. Get the flavor from the book's subtitle:
Why I am a missional + evangelical + post/protestant + liberal/conservative + mystical/poetic + biblical + charismatic/contemplative + fundamentalist/calvinist + anabaptist/anglican + methodist + catholic + green + incarnational + depressed-yet-hopeful + emergent + unfinished Christian (Brian McLaren, A Generous Or+hodoxy, cover).
In other words, McLaren wishes to be many things and yet nothing definite, all at once. He revels in the slash and the plus sign. He is like a confident child with canvas and a rainbow of paint colors, blurring all into a swirly, black-brown mess. Much that he offers is simply deconstruction and redefinition. This is how he can claim to be Protestant and catholic all at the same time.
When it comes to Protestantism, McLaren regales us with his ability to read minds:
Protestants have paid more attention to the Bible than any other group, but sadly, much of their Bible study was undertaken to fuel their efforts to prove themselves right and others wrong (and thereby worthy of protest). . . How many Protestants can't pick up the Bible without hearing arguments play in their heads on every page, echoes of the polemical preachers they have heard since childhood? How much Bible study is, therefore, an adventure in missing the point? (Ibid., p. 138).
So Protestants are Protestants because they wanted to prove themselves right and others wrong? This justified their protest against Roman Catholicism? Many were so involved in this that they cannot even open a Bible without hearing arguments with every leaf turned? McLaren nevertheless claims that he is a Protestant--after he has redefined Protestant to mean "pro-testifying" (p. 140). He asks, "What if Protestants switch their focus from Protesting what they are against to telling the story about what they're for?" (Ibid., p. 140).
Protestants have, however, almost always differentiated between what they are for and what they are against. Because after the Protest of the Princes at Speyer they became known as "Protestants," does not mean that they or those following in that heritage focused unduly on what they opposed and offered little information concerning what they stood for. The issues resulting in the split between Catholicism and Protestantism were life and death issues at the time. McLaren's claim has a superficial ring.
There is a reason why both positive and negative expressions of belief are needed. A positive expression of belief contains no condemnation; only a negative expression of belief states particular opposition to an idea. We cannot say that all proponents of Emerging Church share McLaren's penchent for deconstruction and glib redefinition. We do know that the movement in general embraces leveling, demolishing barriers, and ripping down walls. The end result--as it can only be--is reducing believers to embodied mists like McLaren.
One last item from McLaren. He is talking about the book of Job:
Can we trust God's voice to be God's voice? Or is even 'God' a character in the story too, not the actual God necessarily, but the imagined God, the author's best sense of God, the fictional character playing God for the sake of this dramatic work of art? This is a powerful and perhaps terrifying question (Brian McLaren, A New Kind of Christianity (2010), p. 94).
But we might say, 'God is indeed a character in the text, a representation, not the real God. But the same is true of Job, the Satan, Eliphaz, Bildad, Zophar, and Elihu.' The real Job (if there was one--my sense is that the Job story is a kind of archetypal theological opera and has no intention of portraying what we would call a historical event) is represented in the text by a word, a name--that's not the real Job. The whole text, in this sense, is a representation or construction, but not just a construction, any more than a wedding vow or a court summons or a love poem is just words. To say the text is inspired is to say that people can encounter God--the real God--in a story full of characters named Job, Eliphaz, Bildad, the Satan, and even God. Through stories like this, gathered in a library like this--not articles and amendments enumerated in a constitution--God can self-reveal, so that the Word of God, the speaking and self-revealing God, can burn like fire in the branches, twigs, and leaves of the text (Ibid., p. 95, emphasis in original).
McLaren suggests that Job is a "dramatic work of art" not to be understood as representing actual reality. God does not appear in the story. No one does! All the participants are fictional creations of a human author. But, having stripped away any representation of any actual reality, McLaren then insists that God can be "encountered" in such a story.
"The whole story is a construction," says McLaren, "but not just a construction." Hold the phone. McLaren has removed everyone from the story. Even God as a person has been removed from the story. McLaren has interpreted the whole as a fictional story. Then he gives us back a generic, undefined "revelation" from God. In my view, McLaren is lying. He gives us back nothing at all. He reduces Job to a fictional story. It is a construction, nothing more. There is no difference between the story of Job and the story of Alice in Wonderland. You or I might read them and feel that we have encountered God, that He has self-revealed to us. But the location of the revelation is no longer the Bible; McLaren has moved it to the reader. The Bible here has no more significance than a muscle massage machine. But think. Based upon the views many postmoderns hold, what else would we anticipate? If we embrace uncritically such philosophical views, this is where people land.
If the Bible is telling us the truth when it states that the heart is deceitful and desperately wicked (Jeremiah 7:9), what else are we to expect but that through human philosophy we will entrap ourselves in reasons, whether simple or complicated, by means of which we will justify our commitments to thinking that is opposite the gospel of Jesus Christ?
Near the end of Becoming Conversant, D.A. Carson (not an emergent) asks:
When we reflect on how many of the emerging church leaders leaders warn against using truth categories, can we but sense the huge gap between their position and that of Jesus? The reasons why truth was not acceptable to Jesus' hearers may not be exactly the same as the reasons why the truth is not acceptable to some contemporaries. Nevertheless, if we Christians are to take our cue from Scripture, this does not mean that we stop appealing to the truth, but that we recognize that sometimes the truth itself is what will actually repel people. There is nothing new in that; only the underlying reasons for the repulsion have a show of newness about them. But if we stop appealing to the truth when the truth repels, we go down a road specifically disallowed by Isaiah and Jesus. We may have to try extra hard to explain what truth is, to point out that we are not claiming to be omniscient, to point to the ultimate disclosure of the truth of God in the incarnation of His Son, and much more. But we cannot stop talking about the truth without abandoning Scripture or the gospel or the exemplary significance of Old Testament prophets and of the Lord Jesus Himself (D.A. Carson, Becoming Conversant with the Emerging Church, p.p. 213, 214, emphasis in original).
The reasons they give sometimes seem new. But could it be that Pagitt, Rollins, McLaren and their friends are having trouble with the very idea of truth?
Emerging Church and the Seventh-day Adventist Church
Someone might ask, What is the big deal? So a few Adventists are dabbling with Emerging Church. It is a fad like 100 other things and this too will pass. But, while our review has been limited, I hope that you have seen that the Emerging Church is unlike any other "fad" that has slithered through our doors. It is an alien viewpoint with a rather full set of approaches. It is true that no two Emerging Churches are exactly alike. And yet, they share many commonalities.
More than two dozen months ago I predicted to some in private that Emerging Church was like a candy or a drug that would be especially attractive to SDA liberals, and that it would be speedily embraced in Seventh-day Adventist university towns. That is coming true. Beside this, we see increasing evidence of Emerging Church interest on certain "Adventist" websites. We are also finding that in the past 18 months, pastors in an increasing number of Seventh-day Adventist university settings are experimenting with the Emerging Church.
Young Adventists sent to Adventist Universities in North America are very likely to encounter in some form the ideas we have shared here today. A theory (EC) which is theologically hostile and incompatible with the long-standing Seventh-day Adventist commitment to discovering the Historical-grammatical meaning of the Bible, is wending its way even now to the front. It is being placed before the faces of our young people. How can we--and they--respond?
Dealing With Emerging Church Encroachment into Adventism
The setting we are entering into is changing rapidly. The new situation is one in which we need to be better prepared to explain why our approach to biblical interpretation is valid, not only from a theological but also a pilosophical standpoint.
What can we do? Some ideas.
- Educate yourself about sound Bible study methods.
- Educate yourself about the problems of the Emerging Church. Admittedly, that is somewhat difficult as few Adventists have addressed these issues.
- This is a challenging problem. In order to deal with it effectively, some of us should add to our reading lists the works of writers who are trying to understand these questions. I have a few resources I can suggest for those interested.
- If at some point you will be sending your children to an Adventist University, you need to let the right persons understand your convictions and concerns. Tell such persons that you do not plan to pay to send your child into a setting where the ideas of the Emerging Church are being endorsed to our young people. Speak to your University president, your union leadership, and so on. Your interactions should be brief, clear, Christian in character, friendly, and definite. Don't become a pest.
- Have some logical truths in your tool box and at your disposal to demonstrate that there is more than mist, there are objective truths. Examples: -- Hypocracy among cancer researchers doesn't invalidate research findings -- The law of non-contradiction. A bird cannot be red and blue all over at the same time -- Two plus two equals four, whether in Portland or Poughkeepsi.
- Beware of certain false arguments. Become aware of these so that you can warn your young people. Example: Postmodern thinking hold that there is no real space for objectivity, we are all biased, everyone has an agenda. This is what these folks all believe. But to gain legitimacy, who do they need to appeal to in the church? Still powerful yet fading late-modernist liberals, who still believe in unbiased progress. How to appeal to them? Claim to be unbiased, at least pseudo-unbiased. Claim that your agenda is all about Jesus, that you have no ulterior agenda. You are not about doctrine; you are not about minor theological disputes; you have a higher mission. The fact, of course, is that such a group is not without bias, is not pristine, it has a mission, and very likely that mission would be quite distinct from the way of looking at the world held by aging modernist Adventist liberals.
Time has come to conclude this short series. First, finishing up here, what about the Emerging Church? It is dangerous, alien, experimental, incompatible with Seventh-day Adventist ideas, teachings, and biblical interpretation. Yes, the world is changing and yes, I believe that we have to think carefully and freshly. Doubtless we will have to think in ways that are new. No one here is against new ways of thinking. But whatever we do will have to fit into what the Seventh-day Adventist mission and message is.
In the third presentation, we saw the progression from Historical-critical, to Liberation Theology, to Feminist Theologies, to Queer Theology, and finally into the developing Postmodern Theology. The picture here was about a continuing change in our methods of biblical interpretation.
The second presentation focused on the one longstanding, Bible-based Seventh-day Adventist method of interpreting hte Bible, the Historical-grammatical method. In 1986 the world church voted the Rio document in Annual Council and explicitely ruled-out the use of the Historical-critical method and its persuppositions.
Finally, returning to where we began, our first presentation insisted that
God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines, and the basis of all reforms. The opinions of learned men, the deductions of science, the creeds or decisions of ecclesiastical councils, as numerous and discordant as are the churches which they represent, the voice of the majority--not one or all of these should be regarded as evidence for or against any point of religious faith. Before accepting any doctrine or precept, we should demand a plain 'Thus saith the Lord' in its support (The Great Controversy, p. 595).
We saw that interpretation is an inescapable fact of human creaturely existence. Also, that how we interpret the Bible is a challenge frought with much possibility for positive and for negative. Are we a people of the book? You get to decide that. I hope these presentations have encouraged you to redouble your interest in Scripture and your insistence in studying the Bible according to the Seventh-day Adventist understanding of it. May God help and bless us all.
Republic WA Sheridan Meadows Camp Meeting Upper Columbia Conference 2013-07-26