June 26, 2014
Ordination Study Committee
Regarding “Reflections on the TOSC Deliberations” (June 19, 2014): I appreciate that the study group sought to build consensus while still respecting the different views of each participant. It seems that historically our church has been guided by a willingness to submit ideas and theological positions to the general body of the church, and go no faster or slower than the church as a whole agrees. This has enabled the church not to fracture. It has demonstrated a basic trust in God, Who is leading our church. It has shown a willingness not to go ahead or fall behind in terms of what the church in a general session decides; believing that God is still in charge of His church, His body of believers.
This submissive spirit to the church has promoted unity and shown respect to members and leaders of the world church. In my reading of both the Bible and Spirit of Prophecy, this has always been the way God leads His people, in the past as well as today.
I hope we will continue to demonstrate to the world and to one another this kind of spirit.
After reading Mark Finley’s editorial, “Reflections on the TOSC Deliberations,” I am convinced that the decision about ordaining women will be in excellent hands as God-fearing individuals study this question that has been so divisive within our ranks.
One sentence in Finley’s editorial, “Am I willing to let the Holy Spirit speak to me through others with whom I disagree theologically?” impresses me as being totally open-minded. Certainly, God can work through individuals who have this mind-set as they study this, or any other, controversial situation.
Knowing there are people at the helm who can reason through a situation by putting aside personal ideas or prejudices reinforces, for me, the fact that yes, God is leading this church.
Regardless of whatever controversies arise along the way, we must remember this.
A Little Praise, a Little Criticism
I thoroughly enjoyed Ronald Rojas’ article, “Mission to the Gentiles” (May 22, 2014). Initially, I expected to read an article motivating us toward “evangelism” and “mission to the cities.” But I was pleasantly surprised to read a theological reflection on the apostolic council of Acts 15. I appreciated Rojas’ recognition that no matter how much we say, “Scripture is our only informant,” there are other factors we must consider when making ecclesiastical decisions, namely experience (via Holy Spirit) and culture/tradition.
If I could give one suggestion to an already excellent article, it would be to leave out the paragraph comparing pre-marital sex (Deut. 22:28, 29) as an example/metaphor/principle describing Cornelius’ experience of being filled with the Holy Spirit prior to water baptism. In the Review cover article of May 14, 2014, Joseph Olstad reminded us of the dangers inherent in mixing metaphors, though I’m sure Rojas meant no harm by such a comparison.
This is a response to Joseph Olstad’s article “God Is . . .” (May 15, 2014).
Theological debates frequently have a ditch on both sides of the road, and we have to avoid both.
The MaxProSmith model (as Olstad calls it) tends toward the “friends as equals” or “God as human parent” ditch. The opposite model has at times tended toward the “sinners in the hands of an angry God” ditch. Both are extremes, and neither correctly represents the Bible’s teaching.
A model that comes closer to center may be described this way: Suppose you, a commoner, are a personal friend of a king or president. As such, you may have pleasant social intercourse at times, and perhaps receive unusual “blessings” from time to time. But you do not tell him how to run his government.
Now, suppose you commit a serious criminal act. In spite of your friendship, you will go to jail. While there, you repent, determine to reform, and appeal for executive pardon. Your appeal is granted and you are released.
But some time later you commit an even more serious criminal act, judged worthy of capital punishment, and placed on death row. You might repent and be pardoned again, but you don’t, and the sentence is executed as the law prescribes.
Your friend was not angry with you, and would gladly have saved you if he could. But your own choice determined your destiny.
I appreciated Joseph Olstad’s article about the character of God (May 15, 2014). It answered questions I’ve encountered about whether a loving God could destroy sinners. Olstad’s observation that a killer can be considered a hero or a villain depending on the circumstances was especially profound.
It occurred to me that from the standpoint of biblical salvation metaphors, the wicked who are destroyed at the end of time are neither God’s friends nor His children. They are His enemies, not having accepted His offer of reconciliation and adoption (Rom. 5:10; 8:14-16). So the incongruous idea of a parent killing his children doesn’t apply in this situation. Instead, God is a heroic parent who defends His children, even if that requires killing the attackers who are bent on destroying them.
East Lansing, Michigan
The story in “Conversion of Harry Orchard” (May 8, 2014), his journey to Christ, the remnant church, and the ministry in prison was one with which I could identify.
I had never heard of the Seventh-day Adventist Church until my incarceration. In 1983 I was baptized, and since then I have endeavored to make my life count for Jesus. I recently wrote a book, Reaching The Unreachable (Review and Herald, 2014), about my journey, the planting of a Seventh-day Adventist Church in prison, and my experience pastoring a church of convicts as an ordained elder.
There are many “Harry Orchards” in North American prisons who are just waiting for someone to introduce them to Christ and invite them to become a part of the remnant church.
–Martin F. Scott
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