Thursday, January 6, 2011

The Missing Value

I don't want to belabor the point, but I just wanted to follow up on my previous post about GYC. I want to share an addendum to what I wrote.

But before I do that, I want to once again make it clear that I do not write these things with malice, envy, self-righteousness, or anything of the sort (at least that is my hope). I write as a friend and supporter of GYC. I write as someone who shares all the same values as GYC. I write as someone who has not figured it all out but just wants to continue to grow alongside those who shape, direct, and participate in this awesome and wonderful movement.

I have questioned and prayed about whether I should even voice my concerns. And, truthfully, it was not my original intention to share these thoughts so soon after the latest Conference. I know many people have returned to their homes or schools on a high, having been extremely blessed by what they have just experienced. So I don't want to rain on their parade, so to speak!

The reason I did go ahead and share these thoughts now, however, is because of what David Asscherick said in his closing talk on Sunday. With his message fresh in peoples' minds, I figured that my thoughts would be more relevant.

Of course, I realize that my thoughts have been unsolicited by all and, no doubt, unappreciated by many, but just as GYC feels at liberty to independently call the Adventist church as a whole to a higher standard, I think those within leadership can appreciate the concern with which I write.

So with all that said, let me share my addendum.

As people have responded to my initial thoughts, perhaps the most prevailing sentiment is that I, as a non-attender, am somewhat speaking from a point of ignorance. Fair enough. I already acknowledged this in my first post.

Of course, as I have already mentioned as well, however, GYC makes itself pretty accessible to those who don't attend. The main meetings are broadcast on 3ABN and the plenary sessions are all recorded and posted on AudioVerse. And through the years, I think it would be pretty safe to say that I have listened to as many presentations via AudioVerse as some people have while attending GYC in person.

But here is the important part that I would like to raise, which I have already raised in some of my responses to my previous posting: one does not even have to listen to a single presentation from GYC to know where their emphasis lies and whether the gospel, love, and sacrifice of Jesus Christ is an important value that they are trying to promote.

Last evening, one of my church members who attended GYC shared the program from this year's Conference. He does so every year and I enjoy going through it, salivating over some of the programs that I would have loved to experience firsthand. But as I turned to the back of the program, I stopped on p. 39. It gave me great pause. There, one reads the "Spirit of GYC," or, as it explains, those things which "GYC will promote among its participants." In other words, these are the values that GYC upholds and wishes for those who attend to uphold when they leave the Conference. One can also find this document on GYC's website.

These are the ten values that GYC seeks to promote - values that I completely and wholeheartedly affirm:

1. A respect for scripture
2. An appreciation for the Spirit of Prophecy
3. A quest for biblical holiness
4. A vibrant worship experience
5. A passion for lost souls
6. A cultivation of godly relationships
7. An exemplary and abundant lifestyle
8. An enthusiasm for service
9. A commitment to the Seventh-day Adventist Church
10. An attitude of humility and cordiality

Like I said, I fully affirm all these values and try to promote them in my own preaching, teaching, writing, and personal interactions. But as I went down the list, I noticed there was a missing value, a glaring omission - an omission that simply supports my original thesis.

Where is there mention of the hope to promote a deeper, richer, fuller, and greater understanding of and appreciation for the wonderful love of Christ - the foundation on which all other values rests? If I, myself, were to create a list of values, I would definitely have all the above ones mentioned, but I would start at the very beginning with the desire to promote "an appreciation for the love of God and sacrifice of Christ."

I know some might argue that such a value is assumed or implied. Others might argue that emphasizing the "love of God" is merely "milk" and we need "solid food." But we, as the Laodicean church, have a heart-problem, not a behavior problem. (Yes, we do have a behavior problem, but one's external behavior is a reflection of one's internal heart-experience and merely changing one's behavior does not solve the problem.) And only a strong and balanced emphasis on Christ's agape love can change the heart - which then changes the behavior.

This is why Paul was so determined to know nothing but "Christ and Him crucified" (1 Cor 2:2). And when he was given an opportunity to express his desire about what he wanted others to value, he bowed his knee and prayed that "Christ may dwell in your hearts through faith," that we would be "rooted and grounded in love," and that we we might be able to "comprehend with all the saints what is the width and length and depth and height - to know the love of Christ" (Ephesians 3:17-19). You talk about solid food! You talk about going deep!

This is because he knew all other issues flowed from this reality and understanding.

Of course, the response might be that Paul lived in a different context - that he did not live during the time of the Investigative Judgment or the three angels' messages. But let's let Ellen White tell us what message is relevant and important for this time then:

"Several have written to me," she wrote in 1890, "inquiring if the message of justification by faith is the third angel's message, and I have answered, 'It is the third angel's message in verity' " (Review and Herald, April 1, 1890). Again, she wrote, "The last rays of merciful light, the last message of mercy to be given to the world, is a revelation of His character of love" (Christ's Object Lessons, p. 415). Similarly, she declared, "One interest will prevail, one subject will swallow up every other, - Christ our righteousness" (Review and Herald, December 23, 1890). Again: "Our churches are dying for the want of teaching on the subject of righteousness by faith in Christ, and for kindred truths" (Review and Herald, March 25, 1890).

Thus, the message of the love of God, justification by faith, the sacrifice of Christ for the world, is not a side-dish. It should be the main course and every presentation should be seasoned with it. (This does not mean that every talk we give must simply be about the cross, but that every presentation we give should be presented in light of - and tied to - the cross of Christ and love of God. If you would like a better idea of what this looks like, see this article I wrote a few years ago called "Christless Adventists.")

So this is my friendly appeal once again: let's allow Christ to place Himself in the center of our values. And then let's allow Christ to shine forth from every other value we hold.


Kevin Paulson said...

Dear Shawn:

I have read both your earlier comments and this addendum. I appreciate your sincere, humble, and heartfelt tone. But you probably won't be surprised to learn that I see things somewhat differently.

Unlike yourself, I have attended every single GYC conference since the movement began. And while I maintain that certain elements within the movement need greater clarity regarding certain issues, I would steadfastly deny that Biblical Christ-centeredness has ever been seriously lacking in the public witness and practices of GYC.

The problem arises when we define Christ-centeredness in terms other than those found in Scripture and the writings of Ellen White. Much of what in modern and postmodern Adventism has sailed under the "Christ-centered" banner is not grounded in the consensus of Inspiration. When, for example, God's grace and forgiveness are mistakenly taught as "unconditional," when the role of human effort in salvation is abrreviated or even denied, when people are taught that all their sins were forgiven by Jesus on the cross (whether they like it or not), we are not speaking of Biblical Christ-centeredness. Rather, we are speaking of popular, conscience-salving counterfeits.

If the Bible is our guide, a message is not "Christ-centered" because of how many times the name of Jesus is mentioned, or how much the cross and its significance may seemingly be dwelt upon. (Many forget that one of the greatest accounts of divine intervention in history--the book of Esther--never even mentions the name of God.) What matters is both faithfulness to the Biblical consensus and the extent to which that consensus is taken to heart. The latter, of course, only God can know, since He alone reads the heart (I Kings 8:39). Which helps us understand how utterly inappropriate it is for anyone to call someone else a legalist.

GYC is a grand and glorious movement seeking a return to Bible-based, genuinely Christ-centered Adventism. As such, it will invariably evoke opposition from those whose thinking has been saturated by the various unscriptural varieties of easy salvation in the contemporary church. What is emerging, praise God, is a robust and fearless generaiton of young people who are poised to recover our fundamental doctrines and the summons to Last Generation victory thus affirmed. For me, I can say this is the dream of my life come true. May the movement speed on and triumph gloriously!!


Pastor Kevin Paulson

Anonymous said...

Well spoken. A Christian style and empathetic critique.

Israel Ramos said...

Perhaps we need to add something to the Spirit of GYC, Shawn. I'll pass this on to our president and Board. We'll see where things go from there :)
Thanks for caring.