Taking a Bite out of Adventism

Wrong, Right, or Irrelevant? You know there is no greater crime than to preach an irrelevant message. An irrelevant message is by definition unimportant and a waste of time. We all have heard wrong messages. Many of us have heard right messages. These messages inspire in us a desire to do something. They inspire us to move forward. Or maybe they just inspire us to attack the message. Yes it may be wrong, but it is important enough for the speaker to present it, therefore it is probably important enough for me to attempt to correct the speaker.

Right, Wrong or Irrelevant?

However, there is another category of message. This is the “irrelevant ones.” These are the messages that are only of “academic” interest. You may be right, I may be right, but in the end, it really doesn’t matter. For most of us, when we immediately recognize such a message, we ignore it and move on. There are some of us who actually specialize in this type of message, and soon we find ourselves in a position where no one will listen to us.

Is Our Contribution Irrelevant?

applebite300Interestingly enough, there are some among us who think that Adventism’s contribution to the Christian world is an irrelevant add on. We talk about the Sanctuary Message being the doctrine that we bring to the Christian world. But then we immediately assure our Christian brothers and sisters from other denominations that this message does not really affect our understanding of the Gospel. No our understanding of the Gospel is just the same as yours, we just have added this doctrine to talk about it. No the sanctuary does not really mean that Christ will one day stop doing the work of forgiveness while he will ever retain the work of empowerment. No the sanctuary just means that God investigates who will be saved before Jesus returns. It is not about soul transformation, no we are just like you as far as the Gospel in concerned. We just fiddle around with some mathematical calculations that end up at 1844, but you don’t really have to know that, all you really have to know is what you already know.

The Neutered Message

What we have ended up doing is neutered the sanctuary message so that the Christian world will not see it as a barrior to fellowship. Once you have done that, then you end up with a doctrine that is meaningless. And why preach a meaningless doctrine? And so we don’t. We set it aside and forget about it. No we ain’t been called to ignore that message. Neither have we been called to neuter it so that others will not find it offensive. Neither have we been called to turn it into a mathematical calculation or a celestial book-keeping operation that has no meaning for my contemporary living.

In short, I would rather you defend the real sanctuary message that includes soul cleansing. But if you must go ahead and attack the real sanctuary message. But please don’t continue to promote the ignoring of this important message by turning it into meaningless drivel that we pull out once in a while at revelation seminars.

Too Many 2300 Days Knowing, Vegemeat Eating Legalists?

While listening to much of the discourse in the sermons from many preachers one can come to a few interesting conclusions. First, vegetarianism must somehow be related to a meanspirtedness. In addition, this meanspirited vegetarianism must be rampant in the church. Why would I make this assumption? Well because often in the illustrations it is the vegetarian who is the foil. He is the one that is upsetting the equilibrium and hurting the new Christians who are seeking to follow God but have not grown to the full stature of Christ. Now certainly there is a place for this type of rhetoric. There are some who use vegetarianism as some sort of “get out of hell” card when it was never meant for that kind of thing. However, my problem is that the proper purpose of vegetarianism is hardly ever spoken of. When you hear about it, it is usually the obviously problematic person in the story that the preacher is speaking of.

Sanctuary and Vegetarianism? Anti Christian?

The Tabernacle
The Tabernacle

The same again with the knowledge of the 2300 days. There are some preachers who never even refer to the 2300 days or the sanctuary message except when saying that a knowledge of it is not necessary for some reason. They may preach that you need to know Jesus more than you know the Sanctuary. OK, I can go along with that to a certain extent, but doesn’t the Sanctuary tell us something about who Jesus is and what Jesus is doing? (but i Digress)…The same preacher may preach a story about the person who studies the Sanctuary doesn’t have the Love of God. Certainly there are those types of people. But when you never balance this rhetoric with either a proper presentation of the Sanctuary (demonstrating the unavoidable description of Jesus) or a proper role for the doctrine in the Christian life, then we end up with a distorted view that seems to think that these doctrines are almost problematic for Christian living.

Never Placing the Doctrines in Proper Context

Certainly many of these preachers are not saying that explicitly. Many of these preachers don’t even mean that at all. However if you only speak of the Sanctuary within the context of the hypocrite and the unloving foil and you never place the Sanctuary in the proper context of a loving Christian experience, then you are in essence teaching that the Sanctuary is a useless appendage. The same with other doctrines and vegetarianism.

Certainly there are some preachers who go to the opposite extreme, and there are some who place all of the doctrines in the context of Biblical Christ-centered Christianity. But in much of the discourse there is a strong undercurrent that seems to imly that the Sanctuary, vegetarianism, and other things that we have been called to teach are actually problematic. In short, if the Sanctuary is not a Christ-centered doctrine, then we either must start teaching it correctly, or openly toss it out, but we cannot continue to badmouth the very doctrines that were given to us to help us understand our purpose in these last days.

We Have Killed the Sanctuary Message

sanctuary255We have killed the Sanctuary Message. We all have contributed to its demise. From the local elder who drones on and on about the color of the tassel the priest was wearing to the pastor who oftentimes just ignores the whole message. From the Bible Teacher who made it merely a mathematical calculation to the lay person who goes to sleep every time it comes up. We have Killed the Sanctuary Message!

We all had a Hand in this

Part of it is the culture that doesn’t want to work for anything. We would rather sing “Jesus loves me this I know…” for the rest of our lives than to put forth any effort to provide depth to our religious experience. Part of it is due to the whole tabernacle service being so alien to us. We do not know anything about sacrificing animals and priests representing the people. The sanctuary illustration doesn’t make sense to us. Part of it is due to the issues over the years that external and internal theologians, preachers, and Bible teachers have had with parts of the message. Part of it is due to the fact that few seem to be able to give the “cliff note” version of the message which might provide the context to understand the message.

I have been reading the evangelistic messages of some of the great evangelists of our past. One thing that is interesting is that oftentimes the Sanctuary was given to open up the way for the Sabbath. We preached the Sanctuary in heaven where the very Law of God was placed in the throne of God. S. N. Haskell used to use the Sanctuary as his organizing principle for his teaching all of our doctrines. He spoke of everything through this model.

Understanding from the Sanctuary

The simple fact is that we don’t know as much as we think we know without referring to the Sanctuary. We cannot understand the “lamb of God that taketh away the sin of the world” (John 1:29) without referring to the tabernacle services. It is problematic to attempt to speak of the “priest after the order of Melchizedek” (Hebrews 5:6) without looking at the sanctuary. And even what we think we know takes on added significance like why and how we can come “come boldly to the throne of grace.” (Hebrews 4:16) Without the sanctuary as a model we would miss some of that imagery.

But we have missed it. The Sanctuary message has not been “seeker-sensitive.” It is deemed not “relevant” and even called “valueless. Yes we have killed the Sanctuary message, but what is perhaps more interesting than that is that few seem to notice or care.

Can We Survive Without It?

Certainly there are quarters of Adventism where the sanctuary message is all you hear. And the leadership of the church still produces Sanctuary materials from time to time. The Seven Volumes of the Daniel and Revelation Committee definitely seek to affirm the value of the message. The upcoming Sabbath School Lesson makes reference to this subject. In addition, Clifford Goldstein has made a career out of reminding us of the importance of the sanctuary. There are others who teach this as well, but the majority of American Adventists, those who proport to believe the teaching or not, have set it aside for more “pressing” concerns. And there are some parts of Adventism that would tend to celebrate its demise. One can only hope that Ellen White was incorrect when she said that this is one of the pillars of our movement. In addition, when she said that this is one of the principal subjects we should be preaching, we have to hope she was wrong. Because if Sister White is right, we may have seen a part of our foundation leave…And if that is true, what will we do when all that can be shaken will be shaken?