Thursday, August 16, 2012

The Time Has Come

This is long overdue: I have moved my blog to Wordpress. Please bookmark my new address:

Theoretically, all my old posts should be at Wordpress. That doesn't seem to be working out however as of yet. I can import the post titles and indicators as to how many comments each post has, but there is no text to the posts or comments. Not sure what I can do about that. Of course, all my old posts will still be available here, but anything new will come from them.

I will hopefully get back on the blogging bandwagon again soon. I have not written much lately. I think I will try for shorter, more frequent, thoughts.

As to why I switched, it is obvious: the design options for Blogger are terrible and tacky.

Happy reading and spread the word!

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Pastor: Preacher or Comedian?

I made a decision some time ago that when I am preaching, I want to give the audience less of me and more of Jesus. I certainly have not arrived yet, of course. I know that, far too often, there is still a lot of Shawn and little of Jesus.

I am not against using humor in a sermon. I still think there is a place for a little wittiness, a little irony. But I know that in my preaching - especially when speaking to young people - the temptation is to turn the sermon into a stand-up comedy routine. And, though I am not trying to say I am in the funniest guy in the world, I certainly have the capability of running with the best of them when it comes to being humorous in a sermon.

When this happens, though, the focus turns away from Christ and onto me.

We come up with a number of reasons as to why we use so much humor in sermons - you know, breaking the ice with our audience, relating to them, meeting them where they are . . . But I think when humor is a prominent part of our preaching, it stems more from insecurities on a couple levels.

For one, it is because of personal insecurity. As a preacher, we want people to like us, we want people to think we're funny and interesting. We want to be invited to preach far and wide - and humor can go a long way in securing those invitations.

Similarly, when we look into the audience and see blank faces, we worry that we are inadequate as a preacher.

So we reach for the humor.

Ironically, many times when I have seen blank faces in the audience, I have found out later that those precise people are very much engaged and making decisions that have eternal consequences. Indeed, body language doesn't always tell the truth about a person's engagement in the listening process.

Secondly, when we rely upon humor in our preaching it betrays our insecurity when it comes to the very gospel message itself. We are not truly convinced that the power is in the gospel. So we try to make up for a weak gospel by using other gimmicks - with humor being one of them. Sadly, we have a hard time saying with Paul, "For I am not ashamed of the gospel of Christ, for it is the power of God to salvation for everyone who believes" (Romans 1:16).

The power in one's preaching is in the gospel that is proclaimed not the funny anecdotes that are related. Proclaiming Christ should be that which draws people to sit at our feet, not our personalities.

Of course, I am not trying to speak for other preachers. We are all at different places in our journey and I would never condemn anyone else for where they are in their preaching. I just know that, far too often, I try to justify a funny story or a clever anecdote by stretching the point, even though it truly has little relevance to the larger point I am trying to make. Rather, the story is about me.

But we want our preaching to be about God and His gospel.

So, if we ever hear someone say, in response to our preaching, "Oh, I love listening to him; he's so funny," or if someone were to sit through ten minutes of our sermon and not be able to tell if it's a sermon or a comedy routine, I think we would want to re-evaluate who the sermon is really about.

Let's make it all about Jesus.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Salvation Parable

There were two brothers who both had sons. Each man loved his son very, very much. One year, when the two sons came of age, the two fathers decided together that they would both give their sons a brand new car for Christmas. It would take great hard work to pay for such an expensive gift, but each father, with great love for his son, set out to do all that he could do to make the gift possible.

Throughout the year, both fathers worked extra hours to earn enough money. They denied themselves personal pleasure - all for the sake of acquiring the one goal towards which they were working.

Finally, as Christmas neared, each man had put in enough blood, sweat, and tears to earn enough extra cash to buy the brand new car. With great joy and love, the fathers picked out the cars their sons would surely want. When the two boys were not around, they drove the cars into their garages until they would be unveiled Christmas morning.

When Christmas morning came, each father had butterflies. They were so excited about the joy they would surely see on the faces of each of their sons.

Both fathers decided to place the key for the cars into a small box, wrap it in beautiful wrapping paper, and present it to their sons after all the other presents were opened.

Finally, the time arrived. At their respective homes, each father happily plodded to the Christmas tree, retrieved the small box and then handed it to his son.

As the first father handed the small box to his son, unable to contain his excitement, he joyfully explained how exciting the gift was. "You will absolutely love this gift," he exclaimed. "It is going to be the best gift you have ever gotten." He had to exert extra energy to make sure that he didn't spill the beans as to the contents of the gift before his son opened the box.

Without hesitation, and bursting with anticipation, the son ripped apart the wrapping paper, tore open the box, and saw a bright, shiny, silver key lying inside. "Is this what I think it is?" he shouted. "Yes! Yes! It's in the garage!" his father responded.

Before anyone could blink an eye, the son darted out the front door and ran around to the garage. There, in front of him, was the most beautiful car he had ever seen. He quickly jumped into the front seat, shoved the key into the ignition, and peeled out of the driveway while yelling, "I have to go show my cousin my new car!"

Meanwhile, at the second father's house, things were going a little differently. The second father took a different tactical approach. As he handed the small box to his son, he immediately began explaining to him, "Son, I spent a lot of time working overtime to buy you this gift. But you have to remember something: no matter how much I have put into the gift and how it is free, you still have to open the box." Almost bewildered, the son responded, "What do you mean?"

"Well, I did pay for it. I put in a lot of my blood, sweat and tears. But, technically, the gift is not yours until you open it. You have a part to play in this." He continued, "Granted, opening the gift does not mean you are 'earning,' it, but it isn't yours unless you do open it - you know, put in a little effort yourself. You have to take off the wrapping paper, open the box . . . "

The son was clearly confused. He was having a hard time comprehending what his father was trying to convey. He just stood in the middle of the room, box fully wrapped in hand, mouth open, puzzled by the whole scenario.

At that precise moment, his mother, standing near a window, yelled out, "Hey, there's your cousin, driving a brand new car! He must have gotten it for Christmas!"

"Oh, that must mean that he opened the present - just like you are supposed to do, son!" the father called out. "His father gave him a wonderful present too, but he couldn't enjoy it unless he first opened it."

Utterly confused, the young man sat down on the couch that was directly behind him.

He slumped down in the soft cushions and let out a great big sigh.

As his cousin drove around his new, shiny car all around the neighborhood, he just stared blankly at the ceiling.

Saturday, May 19, 2012

This is My Home

Maybe I am just feeling a little nostalgic right now, having enjoyed another beautiful Sabbath in northern New England, but it is hard to underestimate the significance of one, seemingly mundane decision. Eighteen years ago this summer, I made a decision that would change the course of my life.

I was born and raised in Massachusetts, one of the three states that comprises what is known as southern New England. For much of my childhood, the three New England states that were north of the Massachusetts border - Vermont, New Hampshire, and Maine - were anything but relevant to me. Yes, I had aunts and uncles and cousins that lived there, but I had no experience in those three states that captured my imagination - or heart.

In fact, I remember that I would often snicker when I read the bottom of Maine's license plate: Vacationland. "Vacationland?" I used to think, "Who in the world is going to Maine for vacation?" To me, the state - and, to some extent, New Hampshire and Vermont as well - was comprised of remote trailer homes and beat up cars and truck stops and places one would pass through to get somewhere else.

But the summer I turned 13, everything changed.

Growing up, I used to attend Camp Winnekeag, our Seventh-day Adventist youth camp in Massachusetts, just about year-round, it seemed. I would go there for pastors' retreats with my dad, church winter retreats with our church, and summer camp in the summer. Somewhere along the line, I got Camp Winnekeag-ed out. I think it had a lot to do with the fact that when I was there as a summer camper when I was nine or ten, I came down with terrible nausea and I ended up going home early because I was so sick, vomiting everywhere. It was not a pleasant experience.

A few years later, I got the fateful invitation. My cousin, Devin, who lived - and still lives - in New Hampshire, invited me to go with him to Teen Camp at Camp Lawroweld, our Seventh-day Adventist summer camp in East Podunk, err, Weld, Maine. I don't know if I deliberated much over it, or whether I needed much convincing, but I decided to give it a shot and see if the "unsophisticated" folk in Maine could show me a good time.

My uncle Terry, Devin's Dad, drove us from their house in North Conway, New Hampshire, to Weld, Maine. I still remember the drive to this day. After passing beautiful lakes and rushing rivers, we turned onto the dirt road that led to the old camp.

And then it happened. We took the right-hand turn into the entrance of Camp Lawroweld, and it was like a virus was injected into my bloodstream. Northern New England had instantly stolen my heart.

No longer was northern New England trailer homes and trucks stops. It was the sound of a crying, lonely loon, echoing through the night sky across a serene lake. It was singalongs beside a crackling campfire. It was whitewater rafting down daring rivers. It was magnificent views from breathtaking mountaintops.

It was home.

For the next few summers, I returned as a camper to Camp Lawroweld. And then, when I was old enough, I was granted the privilege of working there. It turned into a seven year affair, coupled with trips north for Music Clinics and Camp Meetings and any event I could participate in.

I soon discovered the even greater charm of Maine and northern New England. Lighthouses along the rocky coast. Old fishing villages, lined with lobster traps. White-steepled churches, surrounded by the most brilliant fall colors. Mountaintop lakes, that felt blissful after strenuous hikes. It was nothing but charm and beauty and near-heavenly scenery and experiences.

My senior year of college, I sent my resume to every single Seventh-day Adventist conference in North America. The dozen or so conferences that actually responded all had the same message: thanks, but we're not hiring. I worked that following summer at camp, once again, and then I was prepared to return to Andrews University to enter into the Seminary.

But about a week before camp was over, I got an interesting question from our camp director. He said he got a call from the conference, and they wanted to know how committed I was to going to the Seminary. What started as an innocent question turned into an interview to serve as an interim pastor in Vermont. A few days later, as I was driving with Camille to our place in Nova Scotia, I got the phone call from the conference secretary, asking me if I would be willing to accept the invitation (I still remember the exact spot I turned off route 9 - also affectionately called the "airline" - to field the call on my cell phone. It is, ironically, just a hop, skip, and a jump from where I now pastor).

Since that fateful day 18 years ago, I have wedded my Maine girlfriend, had two children in these northern woods (though not literally, of course), and pastored seven churches. Over the last few years, I have had opportunities to move on; to pastor West or South or somewhere else. But the Lord hasn't nudged me away from this heaven on earth.

It is, after all, the greatest mission field in America as well. And it is mine to conquer.

All because I made a seemingly insignificant decision to attend summer camp at a place I had never heard of.

Thursday, April 12, 2012

It's About a Person

The New Testament phrase "in Christ" (Greek, en christo) has been the topic of much debate throughout its history. Ever since Paul (or Peter, depending on who wrote his epistle first) coined the phrase in the first century AD, the meaning of the phrase has been greatly contested.

I am not necessarily interested in the larger debate, nor am I interested in discussing the nuanced-Adventist debate about whether all were "in Christ" at the cross, etc. That is a discussion for another day. What has piqued my interest is borne out of personal study that I was doing this morning in Paul's first epistle to the Corinthians.

In 1 Corinthians 1:4, Paul writes, "I thank my God always concerning you for the grace of God which was given to you by Christ Jesus." This is how the New King James Version renders it, at least. The phrase "by Christ" is a translation of the Greek en christo, however, which has caused most other major translations to render it "in Christ Jesus."

The difference may seem nuanced and minor but the theological distinction is interesting - however subtle it may seem. What Paul is thankful for is that the Corinthians have been given the "grace of God." But how has that grace been given? One way renders it "by," the other "in."

Is there a difference?

Does it make a difference?

The first way, "by," seems to imply agency or means. In other words, God gave the Corinthians grace, and the instrument by which He gave that grace was through Jesus. Thus, Jesus simply becomes a vehicle by which God gives us something. God "uses" Jesus, in some ways, to accomplish an end. Subsequently, the Corinthians also "use" Jesus to receive that which God wants to give them.

This almost makes Jesus an impersonal instrument. He is simply a go-between, a middle Man.

While there may be some truth to the overall concept, it seems to betray our attitudes more than Paul's intent. We seem to use Jesus more as a means to an end rather than as an end itself. Jesus went to the cross to die for our sins, we essentially think, so that God could give us grace, be happy with us, and we can live forever. Then we go to Jesus so we can receive something from God through Him.

And Jesus is only good insofar as He provides something for us.

But I don't think this is what Paul meant when he used the phrase en christo. I think many versions are correct when they translate the phrase "in Christ," which is its most natural rendering. When Paul says that the Corinthians were given the "grace of God . . . in Christ," I believe that Paul was saying that Christ, Himself, was the grace. Though I am probably not on strong syntactical grounds, the Greek construct that is used (a dative) perhaps could be that of content or material. Thus, we do not go to Jesus to receive grace; we go to Jesus because He essentially consists of grace.

So instead of going to Jesus to receive grace, we go to Jesus Himself because He is grace. When God gave grace, He gave us Jesus - not as an instrument to deliver that grace to us, but as the grace itself.

Let us, therefore, not go to Jesus to receive something, but to receive someone - namely, Christ Himself.

Tuesday, April 3, 2012

More Grace-Oriented Than Jesus

(While searching through the archives of our magazine New England Pastor, I came across this editorial I wrote in May 2009. I thought it might scratch where someone is itching today.)

I don’t know about you, but I continue to grapple with the balance between emphasizing the so-called “positive” elements of the Gospel and the not-so-glorious components of it. There is a constant tension in my mind between calling sin by its right name and yet uplifting the love and forgiveness of the Savior. This tension plays out in the sermons I preach, the articles I write, the interactions I share with members and non-members alike.

This tension also finds its way into the conversations I have with some of my parishioners. I find that some of the saints want stronger messages against sin and the follies of this world, while others are quite uncomfortable with anything other than a “grace-oriented” sermon coming from my lips. Such individuals have openly told me that they will not invite their non-Adventist friends so long as they do not feel it is “safe” to bring them, in fear that they will hear a sermon that talks about the negatives of the Gospel.

This sentiment is shared by many, of course. I’ve heard of numerous churches that have moved more towards a “grace-oriented” style of church, hoping to be more “seeker-friendly” and welcoming to visitors. And, truth be told, if it were left up to me, I would prefer this type of approach completely. My personality and interests are such that I enjoy uplifting Christ’s love and forgiveness and grace more than dwelling on the “negatives” of Christianity.

The problem is, when we pursue such an approach exclusively, we may find that we are actually acting a little more grace-oriented than Christ Himself did. It’s funny how selective we are when it comes to the Gospel story. After all, the same Jesus who said, “Neither do I condemn you,” to the woman caught in adultery, also said, “Go and sin no more” (John 8:11).[i]  The same Christ who declared, “My peace I give to you,” (John 14:27) also curiously stated, “Do not think that I came to bring peace on earth. I did not come to bring peace but a sword,” (Matthew 10:34).  This is also the same Guy, by the way, who pulled no punches when He called the Pharisees “snakes” and a “brood of vipers,” (Matthew 23:33) and gave no greater endorsement to any human being than to John the Baptist, whose ministry probably wouldn’t exactly be considered “PC,” were he alive today.

The other problem is that such an approach is also incredibly imbalanced. And in an age when the buzz word is “balance,” we cannot afford to be anything but. Thus, in order to be balanced, we must be willing to share the good and the bad. A physician’s career would be short-lived if he or she only gave out positive diagnoses and nice, red lollipops to all of his or her patients. Similarly, merely dwelling on forgiveness all the time doesn’t do a whole lot of good if people don’t recognize that they need to be forgiven in the first place.

Perhaps the biggest problem of all, however, is that such an emphasis on grace is not really giving a full picture of grace at all. The truth is, this five-letter word has been incredibly watered-down throughout its history. You see, grace involves forgiveness and pardon, yes, but that is not it. Grace is also about power to leave the life of sin and selfishness behind. “When God goes about providing grace to men and women of faith, it is an ethical matter and not merely a judicial act leading to legal fiction,” Hebert Douglass writes. “The gospel is concerned about redemption, not legal transactions. Grace liberates men and women of faith from their sins by helping them to overcome them, not cover them by some kind of theological magic or legal fiction—and then call all this ‘righteousness by faith.’ ”[ii]

This is, after all, certainly what Paul meant when he talked about grace. “For the grace of God that brings salvation has appeared to all men,” he informed Titus. “It teaches us to say ‘No’ to ungodliness and worldly passions, and to live self-controlled, upright and godly lives in this present age” (Titus 2:11, 12, NIV). For Paul, God’s grace could accomplish much more than simply overlooking past mistakes. It could actually take root in the believer’s life and teach him or her how to be transformed into the image of Christ from glory to glory.[iii]

So here’s a call to truly be “grace-oriented.” Let’s give our parishioners and “seekers” the full picture of grace. Let’s show them a picture of a Savior who not only pardons their sins, but tells them that they have a problem to begin with, and can give them the power to overcome. Such will be the most refreshing picture of grace they have ever seen.

[i] Scriptures taken from the New King James Version unless otherwise indicated.
[ii] Herbert E. Douglass, Should We Ever Say, “I Am Saved”? (Nampa, Idaho: Pacific Press, 2003), 71.
[iii] See 2 Corinthians 3:18.

Monday, April 2, 2012

Christianity . . . Through the Eyes of Someone Who's Never Read the Great Controversy

I came across an interesting little cartoon yesterday. It was Tweeted by my new friend Andreas Beccai. The cartoon is below. It was created by Saji George, who has a series of cartoons that deal with issues of faith. I think it is a clever cartoon that reveals a lot of our biases and myopia.

As I said, I think the cartoon is clever and thought-provoking. It starts a good dialogue about these important matters. However, I think it is a little misguided. Nothing against its creator.This seems to be a pretty typical view that many non-Adventists, and especially non-religious people, have. Sadly, it is also a view that Seventh-day Adventists are increasingly subscribing to. From the classic Adventist perspective, however, it was clearly created by someone who has never read The Great Controversy - which I happen to think is a reflection of the biblical worldview (or, more accurately, the biblical "universeview").

I realize that one of Adventism's greatest challenges is that it comes across as being arrogant. This is unfortunate. This was, however, the same problem Israel had. It did not change the fact that they were still God's chosen people and, truthfully, arrogance is more a reflection of a misunderstanding of what it means to be "chosen," rather than the truth of one's chosen-ness. To be a part of God's "chosen" is less (in fact, not at all) about being saved as it is about being responsible. So the "remnant" concept is missional in nature, not salvational.

This doesn't deny the fact that God has people in all faiths and perspectives (see John 10:16, reading the whole verse). Nor is it to say that Israel (or, by way of extension, Adventism) is any better than anyone else or more loved by God. It simply says that we have a greater responsibility.

Anyway, this cartoon got me thinking about how I would diagram the history of Christianity and the appropriate attitude one should have in relation to that perspective. So here is what I created. It is not exhaustive. In some ways it is simplistic (then again, so is the original cartoon). In other ways it demands exhaustive explanation. But see if it makes sense to you (I hope I am not violating any copyright issues):

A few bullet-point explanations:

  • This diagram is, in no way, fit to scale as it relates to the periods of Christian history.
  • Though some may have a hard time understanding the concept, this diagram - and the point of Christianity - is theocentric (ie., God-centered). When one recognizes the "Great Controversy" theme in scripture, it places the "true church/remnant" concept in perspective.
  • This diagram represents systems of doctrine about God, not necessarily the behavior reflected in the lives of all those who espouse those particular doctrines.
  • The end goal of Christianity is not only to match the level of the New Testament Church - both in doctrine and in praxis - but excel it, thus vindicating God in the Great Controversy. We are not there yet, of course. In fact, I do not think we have even matched the level of the NT church. But I think we are heading in that direction, by God's grace.
  • By God's grace, not only will the truth about God's character be fully restored, but the lives of God's followers will be reflective of that truth. In other words, God's character of love will be fully reflected in God's followers. Perhaps more accurately, the truth about God's character will fully be restored when that truth is seen in the lives of His followers. But this truth can only be seen in the lives of His followers when those followers first understand that truth about Him. So the truth about God and fruit in the life of His followers go hand-in-hand.
  • In case you didn't pick up on it, some of the branches of Christianity are now going backward instead of moving forward!
  • If the diagram were to be completed prophetically according to the book of Revelation, there would end up being only two lines within Christianity - God's true church and Satan's counterfeit. Perhaps even more startling is the fact that the counterfeit would not only include all of apostate Christianity, but every fallen system of truth (ie., systems of lies).
  • Again, this is not to say that people who are presently in those "fallen systems" are bad or lost. It's just that God is now inviting them to "Come out of her, my people" (Revelation 18:4) and be a part of a movement that teaches and lives the full truth of God's character of love - which is what Adventism as a system of truth, I do believe, is working towards. I say this with no arrogance or malice. Just trying to be faithful to what scripture teaches.
I think I will leave it at that for now. For further reflections on this, see my book Waiting at the Altar. For a shorter and more eloquent read, see Ty Gibson's essay, "Why We Exist as a People." I do not believe this is available on the internet anywhere, but contact Ty by going to

Thursday, March 29, 2012

How to Work with Youth

(I am currently doing some research in Ellen White's writings on a topic I am seeking to write an article on. Searching for "key words" is beneficial on many levels. Perhaps the greatest benefit is that you come across articles and writings on a multitude of subjects that you are not necessarily seeking. This is one example of that: some counsel by Ellen White, written in 1886, on how to do youth ministry. It has great relevance for us today!)

I advise and exhort that those who have charge of the youth shall learn how to adapt themselves to meet the youth where they are, by learning useful lessons themselves of Him who was meek and lowly of heart, that they may bring into their life and character the love of Jesus. They should be kind, cheerful, and courteous, and bind the hearts of the youth to their hearts by the strong cords of love and affection.
     Do not be afraid to let them know that you love them. If the love is in the heart give it expression, do not smother it. When they gather about the table to partake of God's precious bounties make this a season of cheerfulness. Do not make it a season of grave decorum as though they were standing about a coffin, but have it a social season where every countenance is full of joy and happiness, where naught but cheerful words are spoken. And the youth should not feel that they are under an eye that is watching them, ready to reprove and condemn. Approve whenever you can; smile whenever you can; do not arrange your countenance as though a smile would bring the condemnation of heaven. Heaven is all smiles and gladness and gratitude. I wish we all knew more about heaven and would bring its pure, healthful, holy influence into our lives, for then we would bring sweet joy into many a life that needs it.
     In association with one another we should cultivate habits and ways and manners that would attract and invite the confidence of the young. Satan has abundance of alluring temptations to charm and captivate the youth. If Christians would bring more pleasantness into their lives they would make religion and truth a power for good. I verily believe that few know how to deal with the young. They need more of the spirit that pervades heaven before their own religious life will be as the sweet perfume, and before they can exert a proper influence over the faulty, erring youth who, notwithstanding all their faults, have a depth of love and affection if it could only be called forth by love and affection.
     Oh that we could be more like Christ and not repulse but attract. With what judgment ye judge ye shall be judged. With what measure ye mete it shall be measured to you again. God will deal with us as we deal with one another. Then let us be very careful that we do not become pharisaical, but let us be Christlike. This your school in South Lancaster needs.
     If anyone has a motherly influence that tries to help and encourage the young do not let the idea be entertained that she is teaching them to be rebellious; because there is a kind, courteous spirit manifested to help the young do not let this be interpreted as working against the instructors of the youth. It will certainly be a contrast to the attitude of some, and the children will prefer to be in the company of those who have a sunny temperament, who possess some joyfulness and gladness; but this should not create envy or jealousy or evil surmisings. This spirit of cheerfulness and hope and joy must be an element in your school, or it will never flourish and grow up and become a missionary field as every school should be. . . .
     I will work against this cold, cast-iron, unsympathizing religion as long as I have strength to wield my pen. The Lord knows there is enough of this element in the churches in our land. My soul is pained beyond measure as I see so little of the love of Jesus. We need to live very close to Jesus, to have wise discrimination, to have wisdom to speak a kind word, that will have a soothing and comforting influence at the right time, throwing sunshine into the minds and hearts. Oh for the sunshine of the Son of righteousness to rise in our hearts!--Letter 19, 1886, pp. 4-6. (To Elder S. N. Haskell, July 12, 1886.)  [6MR 92-93].

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Lessons from South Lancaster

As I have studied Ellen White’stestimony from the meetings that were held in South Lancaster, Massachusetts, in 1889, there are a number of elements that jump out at me in relation to revival. For a few years I have used her testimony from these meetings as a barometer by which to judge other experiences. This is true not only in experiences I have encountered and been a part of personally, but in other “revival” movements that appear on the Adventist landscape.

This South Lancaster experience helps us in two arenas: it helps us, first of all, see what the root of revival was and then, secondly, what the fruit of that revival was. Regarding the second, it seems to me that if the fruit is not witnessed as a result of these various movements within Adventism, then we can be fairly confident that they are not true revivals.

Of course, this is not to say that good cannot come from such movements, but, at the very least, if it is not true revival, then optimal good will not result. At the same time, we must always be careful when it comes to “judging” anything because we do not see what God sees and we are not the final arbiters. Nevertheless, Jesus does say that “by their fruits you will know them” (Matthew 7:20). So we should ever ask the Holy Spirit to give us humble discernment when it comes to such.

Similarly, there are many who can easily fall into the other ditch, confusing fruit with root. Instead of spending time on the root and allowing the fruit to come as a response to the root, the fruit is either dwelt upon, urged, or thought to be the root. This we must guard against, by God’s grace. The “middle man” (the Holy Spirit, working through the proclamation of the root) cannot be taken out of the equation, else the fruit will not be true fruit but man-powered and temporary. This, far too often, is what happens in many revival movements.

Based on my study of Ellen White’s testimony, these are the observations I have made that help inform any potential revival movements. The first category are root observations, which include both methodological approaches (both positive and negative) and theological emphases. Whether these root elements are or should be normative is perhaps another discussion, but they are at least noteworthy. The second category is the fruit that resulted from the root. Both categories are listed in chronological order, speaking nothing of normative priority.

The Root of Revival

  1. Supplication. “Our hearts were drawn out in earnest supplication to God that he would work in our behalf,” Ellen White says in the first paragraph. This, no doubt, means that time was spent in prayer, inviting the Holy Spirit to be poured out upon the attendees and presenters.
  2. Urging obedience to the law of God. Ellen White spent Sabbath afternoon talking about the “necessity of obeying the law of God,” and how it is not “enough to say that we believe.” God’s righteous standard was lifted up as the goal to attain.
  3. Social meetings. After a number of the discourses, “social meetings” were held where attendees could internalize the messages they had heard.
  4. Christ was presented as a Savior who is “not afar off, but nigh at hand.” This was specifically mentioned as being emphasized during the first social meeting. Christ’s identification with humanity was lifted up in its beauty.
  5. Christ was presented as a “sin-pardoning Saviour, and the sanctifier of the soul.” This was seen as the “truth as it is in Jesus,” which was a “light which they had never before viewed.”
  6. Christ’s blood “alone” can be trusted in the full assurance of faith to cleanse from all sin. This was urged upon attendees as the experience of resting upon Christ.
  7. The paternal love and care of God for his children was dwelt upon. Ellen White says, “The knowledge of God’s love is the most effectual knowledge to obtain.” She adds that Jesus “leads us as children to take views of his goodness, mercy, and love,” and that He “ever directed the minds of his disciples to God as to a loving Father,” educating his followers to “look upon God with confidence and love.” We see the “Father revealed in the Son, for God is love.”
  8. There was no undue excitement, urging, inviting, or calling forward. This seems to mean that presenters were free from fanaticism or arm-twisting.  

The Fruit of Revival

  1. Conviction of souls of need for God’s grace and love. This a result of the “social meetings,” where it is said that the “Lord came very near.”
  2. Confession of sin, and restitution of wrongs. This, too, was borne out of the “social meeting” experiences.
  3. Repentance by confessing to one another how he/she had wronged the other by word or act. Repenting and confessing to one another results from the “Spirit of God” working upon the heart.
  4. Avoidance of “wild, clamorous cries and exercises.” Ellen White says these behaviors are “no evidence that the Spirit of God is at work.” Thus, this is somewhat of a “negative” fruit and therefore these behaviors do not prove that God’s Spirit is the root of such actions.
  5. The presence of peace; believing that God is able to do what He has promised. Souls are able to rest in Jesus’ work, rather than trying to establish their own righteousness.
  6. Attendees wanted more. Ellen White says that “the meetings continued a week beyond their first appointment.” When revival takes place, people want more and more of what they have been getting. School was even “dismissed” and “all made earnest work of seeking the Lord.” Later on, Ellen White says that the testimonies would have “continued hours longer, if it had been allowed to run its full course.”
  7. Joy in recognition that Christ had forgiven their sins. The attendees were able to joyfully proclaim of the assurance that Christ had forgiven their sins.
  8. Hearts overflowing with thanksgiving and praise to God. In addition, “sweet peace was in their souls.”
  9. Love for one another, as well as resting in God’s love.
  10. They breathed in the “very atmosphere of heaven.” Ellen White says that “angels were hovering around” and “the Lord had visited His people.” These realities could be seen, perhaps, as both a root and a fruit!
  11. Everyone had a testimony to bear. This was seen in the social meeting, where everyone seemed to have something to share.
  12. Ellen White lost sleep. She said that, as a result of the Spirit’s movings at the meetings and the revival that took place, she says she was “not able to sleep that night until nearly day.”
  13. Convicted as being sinners. Ellen White says that many “testified . . . they had been convicted in the light of the law as transgressors.”
  14. Realization that they were trusting in their own righteousness, and trusting and working in their own strength. In light of God’s love, attendees recognized that they were trying to save themselves; trying to overcome sin in their own strength and power.
  15. Pride was subdued, self was crucified. Ellen White says that when people come to Jesus, confess their sins and cast their helpless souls upon the compassionate Redeemer, then pride is subdued and self is crucified.


Based upon an analysis of Ellen White’s testimony from South Lancaster, this is the basic conclusion that I draw as it relates to what took place. Revival took place because the meetings were bathed in prayer, the law and the gospel were presented in conjunction with one another, the attendees opened their hearts, and personal work—by way of the social meetings—was carried out. Ellen White specifically says that “The knowledge of God’s love is the most effectual knowledge to obtain.” God was presented as a loving Father, and Christ was seen to be a Savior who is not “afar off, but nigh at hand.”Attendees were pointed to the law as the standard of righteousness and were reminded that it was only through Christ’s power and strength that they could reach such a high standard. At the same time, emotionalism and fanaticism were avoided, which would have resulted in false revival.

Because of the root, people saw their sinfulness. They were convicted not only of their guilt, but also their inability to attain righteousness in their own strength. Instead of becoming guilt-laden, however, they rejoiced and embraced the forgiveness and love of God and rested upon God’s promise that He was able to do what He said He could do. Self was crucified. Testimonies were borne; hearts were grateful and appreciative to God. Confession toward one another took place. Love was poured forth towards all. Heaven came down to earth and they breathed its atmosphere. Everyone wanted more and more of what was being presented and the allures and responsibilities of the world lost their appeal.

Lastly, attendees recognized that they were to “manifest to the world the character of God.”

Oh, that such revival would take place among us again!

An Account of True Revival

(There is a lot of talk about revival these days. From our General Conference President, to our church publications, to various movements like GYC and - in a round about way - the 1 Project, there are many different perspectives on what revival looks like and how it takes place.

One of the places I often go back to when I seek to understand what true revival looks like - and whether movements, voices, or people are hitting the nail on the head - is an account that Ellen White shared after holding meetings - along with A.T. Jones and E.J. Waggoner - in South Lancaster, Massachusetts, in January of 1889. These meetings were extremely powerful in Ellen White's mind, to the point that she said, "We seemed to breathe in the very atmosphere of heaven." Thus, I find it fruitful to judge these various perspectives against the elements that were present in those South Lancaster meetings.

So I am here re-producing Ellen White's testimony about those meetings. It is a little lengthy for a quick read, but at only 2300 words, I think it will be an extremely beneficial read. At some point in the near future, I hope to offer some reflections on what I see as the main elements that caused Ellen White to say that "we seemed to breathe in the very atmosphere of heaven." So take a few minutes and read this account, taken from the
Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 267-268. You will be extremely blessed.)

Special meetings began at South Lancaster on Friday, Jan. 11. We were glad to find the church well filled with those who had come to receive benefit from the meetings. There were many persons present whom we had never met before, and their presence testified to the power of God to convert souls, and to turn men's feet into the path of his commandments. Delegates were present from Maine, Connecticut, Massachusetts, and other States. We realized that there was a work to be done in setting things in order, which man's best efforts could not accomplish without the aid of God. Our hearts were drawn out in earnest supplication to God that he would work in our behalf. We had a message of present truth for the people; and if they would place themselves in the channel of light, they would be prepared to do a work for others similar to the work that should be done for them.
     On Sabbath afternoon I had freedom in presenting to the people the necessity of obeying the law of God. It is not enough to say that we believe. We must have that genuine faith which works by love, and purifies the soul. God has given us a perfect standard of righteousness in his law. "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy strength, and with all thy mind; and thy neighbor as thyself." This comprehends the whole duty of man to his God and to his neighbor. We owe to God our life, and all that makes life desirable, and when we refuse to render obedience to him, we rob and defraud our own souls. No man can choose his own way without deep ingratitude to God; in so doing he renders to God enmity for love. 
     We felt burdened for those who had been bearing the message of truth to others, lest they should close their hearts to some of the precious rays of heaven's light that God has sent them. Jesus rejoiced when his followers received his messages of truth. At one time he raised his eyes to heaven, and said, "I thank thee, O Father, Lord of heaven and earth, because thou hast hid these things from the wise and prudent, and hast revealed them unto babes." The precious Saviour, who brought life and immortality to light, rejoiced that the plan of salvation could be understood by those who were humble in spirit, although the proud and self-sufficient could not comprehend its mystery. The worldly-wise cannot see the beauty of that truth which Christ constantly opens to the understanding of those who have a willing, childlike desire to be loyal to God. To the humble the truth is the power of God unto salvation.  
     On Sabbath afternoon, many hearts were touched, and many souls were fed on the bread that cometh down from heaven. After the discourse we enjoyed a precious social meeting. The Lord came very near, and convicted souls of their great need of his grace and love. We felt the necessity of presenting Christ as a Saviour who was not afar off, but nigh at hand. When the Spirit of God begins to work upon the hearts of men, the fruit is seen in confession of sin, and restitution for wrongs. All through the meetings, as the people sought to draw nearer to God, they brought forth works meet for repentance by confessing one to another where they had wronged each other by word or act. Wild, clamorous cries and exercises are no evidence that the Spirit of God is at work. The Lord manifested himself to Elijah in the still small voice. Says Christ, "Behold, I stand at the door, and knock; if any man hear my voice, and open the door, I will come in to him, and will sup with him, and he with me." It is the sinner himself who has barred the door. Will he take down the barriers? Will he unbolt the door? The locks are all on his side of the door, not on the Saviour's side.
     There were many, even among the ministers, who saw the truth as it is in Jesus in a light in which they had never before viewed it. They saw the Saviour as a sin-pardoning Saviour, and the truth as the sanctifier of the soul. "If we confess our sins, he is faithful and just to forgive us our sins, and to cleanse us from all unrighteousness." If we would be partakers with Christ of his glory, we must also be willing to share with him in his humiliation. "Though he were a Son, yet learned he obedience by the things which he suffered." This must be the experience of every true child of God. "Forasmuch then as Christ hath suffered for us in the flesh, arm yourselves likewise with the same mind; for he that hath suffered in the flesh hath ceased from sin."
     We should not murmur if we are called upon to share the suffering part of religion. There are many who do not feel averse to suffering, but they do not exercise simple, living faith. They say they do not know what it means to take God at his word. They have a religion of outward forms and observances. It is painful to see the unbelief that exists in the hearts of many of God's professed followers. We have the most precious truths ever committed to mortals, and the faith of those who have received these truths should correspond to their greatness and value. There are many who seem to feel that they have a great work to do themselves before they can come to Christ for his salvation. They seem to think that Jesus will come in at the very last of their struggle, and give them help by putting the finishing touch to their life-work. It seems difficult for them to understand that Christ is a complete Saviour, and able to save to the uttermost all that come unto God by him. They lose sight of the fact that Christ himself is "the way, the truth, and the life." When we individually rest upon Christ, with full assurance of faith, trusting alone to the efficacy of his blood to cleanse from all sin, we shall have peace in believing that what God has promised he is able to perform. As Christ represented the Father, so we are to represent Christ to the world. We cannot transfer our obligation to others. God desires to make known to you what is the richness of his glory, that you may preach the mystery of salvation to those around you,--Christ in you the hope of glory.
     As our brethren and sisters opened their hearts to the light, they obtained a better knowledge of what constitutes faith. The Lord was very precious; he was ready to strengthen his people. The meetings continued a week beyond their first appointment. The school was dismissed, and all made earnest work of seeking the Lord. Eld. Jones came from Boston, and labored most earnestly for the people, speaking twice and sometimes three times a day. The flock of God were fed with soul-nourishing food. The very message the Lord has sent to the people of this time was presented in the discourses. Meetings were in progress from early morning till night, and the results were highly satisfactory.
     In the early morning meetings I tried to present the paternal love and care of God for his children. The knowledge of God's love is the most effectual knowledge to obtain, that the character may be ennobled, refined, and elevated. Jesus is to be our pattern. The Lord has lessons of the greatest importance for us to learn. He leads us as children to take views of his goodness, mercy, and love, from the simple, lowly life of our dear Redeemer. Christ ever directed the minds of his disciples to God as to a loving Father. He educated his followers to look upon God with confidence and love. When we are overawed with the greatness and justice of God, we are pointed to Jesus, to his spotless character and his infinite love. There we see the Father revealed in the Son, for God is love.
     Both students and teachers have shared largely in the blessing of God. The deep movings of the Spirit of God have been felt upon almost every heart. The general testimony was borne by those who attended the meeting that they had obtained an experience beyond anything they had known before. They testified their joy that Christ had forgiven their sins. Their hearts were filled with thanksgiving and praise to God. Sweet peace was in their souls. They loved every one, and felt that they could rest in the love of God.
     I have never seen a revival work go forward with such thoroughness, and yet remain so free from all undue excitement. There was no urging or inviting. The people were not called forward, but there was a solemn realization that Christ came not to call the righteous, but sinners, to repentance. The honest in heart were ready to confess their sins, and to bring forth fruit to God by repentance and restoration, as far as it lay in their power. We seemed to breathe in the very atmosphere of heaven. Angels were indeed hovering around. Friday evening the social service began at five, and it was not closed until nine. No time was lost; for every one had a living testimony to bear. The meeting would have continued hours longer, if it had been allowed to run its full course; but it was thought best to close it at that time. I was not able to sleep that night until nearly day. The Lord had visited his people. And there was joy in heaven among the angels over the repentant sinners that had come back to the Father. What a beautiful sight it was to the universe to see that as fallen men and women beheld Christ, they were changed, taking the impression of his image upon their souls.
     There were many who testified that as the searching truths had been presented, they had been convicted in the light of the law as transgressors. They had been trusting in their own righteousness. Now they saw it as filthy rags, in comparison with the righteousness of Christ, which is alone acceptable to God. While they had not been open transgressors, they saw themselves depraved and degraded in heart. They had substituted other gods in the place of their Heavenly Father. They had struggled to refrain from sin, but had trusted in their own strength. We should go to Jesus just as we are, confess our sins, and cast our helpless souls upon our compassionate Redeemer. This subdues the pride of the heart, and is a crucifixion of self. In the parable, the father saw the returning prodigal son. He saw his repentance and contrition of soul, and he had compassion on him, and ran, and fell on his neck and kissed him. The son spoke his penitence, saying, "Father, I have sinned against Heaven, and in thy sight, and am no more worthy to be called thy son. But the father said to his servants, Bring forth the best robe, and put it on him; and put a ring on his hand, and shoes on his feet: and bring hither the fatted calf, and kill it; and let us eat, and be merry; for this my son was dead, and is alive again; he was lost, and is found." The prodigal made a full confession of his sin. He made no excuse for his wrong-doing, and he was forgiven, and re-established in his father's house.
     We thank the Lord, we rejoice, that it is not too late for wanderers to return, with humble confession, and receive a welcome in the Father's house,--to be clothed with the righteousness of Christ. I thank God for this with a full heart every day. We should be the most ungrateful of his creatures, were we indifferent when he works for the children of men in such a marvelous way. We should be like the heath in the desert, if we did not praise God when good cometh. I know that there has been rejoicing in heaven because of the good work done in South Lancaster; and if the angels rejoice, why should not we who have also witnessed the return of wanderers from darkness into the marvelous light of God's love?
     To know God is the most wonderful knowledge that men can have. There is much wisdom with worldly men; but with all their wisdom, they behold not the beauty and majesty, the justice and wisdom, the goodness and holiness, of the Creator of all worlds. The Lord walks among men by his providences; but his stately steppings are not heard, his presence is not discerned, his hand is not recognized. The work of Christ's disciples is to shine as lights, making manifest to the world the character of God. They are to catch the increasing rays of light from the word of God, and reflect them to men enshrouded in the darkness of misapprehension of God. The servants of Christ must rightly represent the character of God and Christ to men. Says the apostle, "Ye are a chosen generation, a royal priesthood, an holy nation, a peculiar people; that ye should show forth the praises of him who hath called you out of darkness into his marvelous light."

Monday, March 5, 2012

1888 and Arminianism

(Update: After further reflection, I disagree with myself that this post is simply for those who advocate the "universal justification" view of 1888 within Adventism. I think this is actually interesting insight for Adventists who oppose "universal justification" in that the Arminian view is actually a lot closer to the "corporate" Adam/Christ view espoused by Wieland, Short, Sequeira and Jones and Waggoner. See the latter half of the post especially for that discussion.)

This post has a very specific audience that will not apply to probably 90% of my readers. You are still welcome to read it, of course. But it is directed toward a group of Adventists who, along with me, subscribe to a specific paradigm of the gospel within Adventism.

It is specifically for those who have an appreciation for the message of justification by faith as presented by A.T. Jones, E.J. Waggoner and Ellen White. But not just any version of that message; it is the version that has been passed on - rather correctly, in my opinion - by people like the late Robert Wieland, who is one of my spiritual and theological heroes.

My goal in this post is to clear up a misconception that I believe Elder Wieland and others have, unfortunately, propagated. Whether intentional or not, Elder Wieland gave the impression that the theological paradigm known as Arminianism was an enemy of the "1888 message." I completely understand what he - and others - were getting at it in sharing this idea, but it was misled and very much exaggerated.

The truth of the matter is - and this cannot be stated enough - the "1888 message" is in agreement with Arminianism for about 99% of what the latter affirms, maybe even more! When Elder Wieland and others said that the "1888 message" of justification was neither Calvinist or Arminian (though it agreed with parts of each), this gives the uninformed person the impression that all things Arminian are to be avoided.

Without going into great detail, Adventism and the "1888" version of it are decidedly Arminian. Arminiansim teaches a picture of God that stresses God's love and grace for all people, and His self-limiting nature. This is over and against the Calvinist paradigm which stresses God's sovereignty and power to the point of determining everything. The Arminian view of the atonement is that it is universal in scope - it is on behalf of the entire world, the just and the unjust. The Calvinist viewpoint is that Christ's death applies only to the elect.

What Elder Wieland found repulsive about the Arminian view of the atonement is that the Arminian view allegedly teaches that Christ's atonement doesn't really do anything for anyone until a person believes first. Thus, the atonement is only effective for the believer.

Yet this is the only objection that could potentially be leveled against Arminianism, and even that is debatable (as I will show below) vis-a-vis 1888. So it would be well to realize that Arminianism is not the enemy - whatsoever - of the 1888 message.

Incidentally, Ellen White actually says nothing about Arminianism and Arminius himself. E.J. Waggoner is silent as well. A.T. Jones does, however, talk about Arminius and his followers in a number of places. None of his views on Arminianism are overwhelming either way. In a couple places, he simply recounts the history. But in two places he gives passing endorsement to this Reformer's views. Here's a snippet of one of his treatments:
Moreover, the truth of God is as much an exact science as any of those that are called the exact sciences. Therefore no true reform can deny, or be made independent of, any principle of true reform that may have gone before. Consequently, when this reform upon the principles of morality shall have come, it will deny the truth and efficacy of no single step in the progress of the Reformation. With Luther, it will hold justification by faith; with Zwingle [sic], it will hold the Lord's supper as a memorial of "the Lord's death, till he come;" with the genuine Anabaptist, it will hold that we are buried by baptism into the Lord's death; with Arminius, it will hold that the grace of God is free to all men; with Wesley, it will hold the genuine conversion of the soul, and the witness of the Holy Spirit; with the Puritan, it will hold simplicity of worship; with William Miller, it will hold, "Behold I come quickly," saith the Lord; with the general grand result of the Reformation as a whole, it will hold the most perfect toleration of religious belief, and the inestimable boon of freedom of thought and liberty of discussion (Advent Review and Sabbath Herald, July 1, 1884).
Lastly, the objection that Wieland laid against Arminianism as it relates to justification may not be an area of disagreement at all. This still needs more study, but there may be more agreement between Wieland and Arminius than the former realized (and there may be more agreement between the two than Adventists who oppose "universal justification" realize as well). These things can be very nuanced, of course, but Wieland's uneasiness with Arminianism stems from the fact that in the sacrifice of Jesus, he believed the death of Jesus already applied to all humanity (which I fully agree is the biblical and truly Adventist view). Arminianism, he maintained, teaches that Christ's death is only effective for those who accept it.

But perhaps there is more commonality than realized. In his book, Arminian Theology, Roger Olson shares this interesting tidbit:
Arminians believe that Christ's death on the cross provides a universal remedy for the guilt of inherited sin so that it is not imputed to infants for Christ's sake. This is how Arminians, in agreement with Anabaptists, such as Mennonites, interpret the universalistic passages of the New Testament such as Romans 5, where all are said to be included under sin just as all are included in redemption through Christ. It is also the Arminian interpretation of 1 Timothy 4:10, which indicates two salvations through Christ: one universal for all people and one especially for all who believe. Arminian belief in general redemption is not universal salvation; it is universal redemption from Adam's sin (p. 33, emphasis added).
Olson also shares this view:
Because God is love (Jn 3:16; 1 Jn 4:8) and does not want anyone to perish but all to come to repentance (1 Tim 2:4; 2 Pet 3:9), the atoneing death of Christ is universal; some of its benefits are automatically extended to all (e.g., release from the condemnation of Adam's sin) and all of its benefits are for everyone who accepts them (e.g., forgiveness of actual sins and imputation of righteousness) [p. 34, emphasis added].
I am not saying there is complete agreement on the atonement between Wieland, Jones, Waggoner, Arminius, and Arminianism, but they are probably closer than some realize. And they certainly need to be fleshed out more.

Tuesday, January 31, 2012

Is the Only Difference the Sabbath?

There has been quite a reaction in the last couple of days within the Adventist community about the latest episode of Family Guy, in which Seventh-day Adventists are briefly discussed. You can watch the link below:

Most of the reaction I have heard has been positive, though some have said the clip needs to be watched in its larger context to truly see whether it is positive or negative. I have not yet been able to do that, but leaving that behind, I think the clip betrays a misunderstanding that most Adventists and some other Christians do not recognize. The sentiment of many is that Family Guy does a good job of showing just how silly it is for mainline and conservative Christians to think we are all that different. After all, we essentially believe the same thing; we just happen to go to church on Saturday. (Many Adventists view it as a positive that other Christians are just beginning to realize we're not all that different.) 

I know most Seventh-day Adventists recognize that there are other differences, of course, but these are "minor" differences. Our basic understanding of the gospel, salvation, grace, and so forth, is essentially the same as that of the "typical" Protestant denominations.

But is this so?

I would propose that there are incredible differences between our fundamental understanding of the gospel and the average Evangelical's. Of course, we run the risk of painting everyone with a broad brush, but, nevertheless, in a general sense, the Adventist version of the gospel, I would submit, is more compelling, more powerful, and more heart-changing. This is not to say that we are superior or that other Christians cannot be saved. It's just that our understanding of God's character, His way of salvation, indeed, His love, is a more robust version of the gospel. And, as my dad likes to say, the Evangelical gospel can "save" a person but it cannot "translate" a person.

What are those fundamental differences in our understanding of the gospel and the typical Evangelical's? I realize the term "Evangelical" is a very broad category, but I would like to offer a few key areas of differences between a large segment of Evangelicalism and Adventism.

A few caveats are in order, however: first, I do not want to approach this in an arrogant way. Again, I do not feel like Adventists are superior to any other Christians. I do not feel like we are loved more by God or that others cannot be saved. I do think, however, that, as a whole Adventists have continued the Reformation and accepted "light" that others have refused to embrace. This comes with greater responsibility more than anything else.

This is not to say, either, that we should distance ourselves from our fellow Christian brothers and sisters and say that we should not have fellowship with them. Nor is it to say that we should spend a great deal of our time in our interactions with fellow Christians emphasizing our differences. It is simply to recognize that there are fundamental differences, and picking up a book on the gospel by an Evangelical is not the same thing as picking up a book by an Adventist. So we mustn't assume that it's all right to read a book or listen to a sermon on the gospel by non-Adventists because their gospel and ours is the same (I am not saying we shouldn't read or listen to non-Adventists; I am just saying we should expect - and be aware of - the differences).

Similarly, the reason one would want to highlight the differences is so that we can recognize just how good the good news is that we have in our possession, which should compel us to want to share it with our fellow Christian brothers and sisters. We don't want to do it in a condescending way, but if we have something that excites and compels us, wouldn't we naturally want to lovingly share that with others?

If, on the other hand, we believe our gospel is simply the same gospel and we have nothing to really share with our fellow Christians on the basics of the gospel, we might be robbing them of the fullness and depth of the gospel, which might be the exact remedy to what ails them. In short, if there is no perceived difference, we won't be compelled to point our brothers and sisters to a higher and richer experience.

Secondly, I recognize I am a pastor who enjoys theological exercise, but I am going to try my hardest to avoid overemphasizing theological nuances. The differences I am seeking to point out are core, fundamental differences. 

Thirdly, I want to make it clear that Adventists, along with other denominations, believe that we are saved by grace alone through faith alone. As we will see below, however, we do have a little different definition in many regards to the key terms "saved," "grace," and "faith." So, although Adventists and Evangelicals might agree on that concept at face value, what an Adventist means by being "saved" and an Evangelical means, for example, may be incredibly different.

1. The nature of God. Our basic understanding of God's character, as seen in the Great Controversy (GC) theme, is really the grand metanarrative that binds all of Adventism's beliefs together. While many Christians give cursory thought and attention to the idea of a "good vs. evil" dynamic in the universe, it is really the lens through which we read the whole Bible.

And the theme really brings out a core difference between Adventists' understanding of God and Evangelicals'. The GC theme points out that God is fundamentally other-centered, that He is humble, that He is willing to open Himself up to questioning, that He regards human freedom as more important than getting His own way all the time. Though certainly not the view held by all Christians, the most common understanding of God is influenced by John Calvin, whose God is most concerned with self-glorification and control. Out of this comes doctrines like predestination and a great deal of other self-centered theology.

Of course, many Christians do rightfully reject Calvin's view of God (whether in part or as a whole), but I am not aware of entire denominations that fully embrace the GC picture of God. At the very least, it cannot be emphasized enough how different the Adventist view of God is and most Evangelicals'. When one gets a picture as to just how loving and humble God is - demonstrated, especially, by His willingness to be slandered by Satan and judged by the Universe - one's appreciation of God is capable of reaching greater heights than what one would get simply by consuming the Evangelical diet. (Ironically, in the Family Guy video, the discussion was between an Adventist and a Methodist. This is ironic because of all the denominations, historic Methodism perhaps aligns more with Adventism's theological framework than any other denomination.)

2. The nature of man. Perhaps no verse in the Bible demonstrates the depth of power that the Adventist gospel employs over and against the Evangelical gospel than Matthew 26:38 (which is restated in Mark 14:34). There, Jesus utters to Peter, James, and John, while in Gethsemane, "My soul is exceedingly sorrowful, even to death." It cannot be underscored how significant this passage is in distinguishing the power of the Adventist gospel in comparison with the Evangelical gospel.

Simply put, because of the Adventist understanding of the nature of man - which states that human beings do not naturally possess an immortal soul - the sacrifice of Christ reaches to a much greater depth and, as a result, is able to compel a much greater appreciation. This is not to say that Evangelicals don't have a deep appreciation for Christ's sacrifice, it's just that the appreciation, theoretically speaking, has a "ceiling." This is because, whether realized or not, the Evangelical version of Christ's sacrifice cannot appreciate the total annihilation that Christ was facing when He was in Gethsemane and ultimately experienced at Calvary.

Though most Evangelicals would probably not recognize the logical outworking of their own theology, the fact remains that when the belief is in place that man possesses an immortal soul, it means that Christ's sacrifice is blunted because, ultimately, his humanity never truly met its end. This is why Catholics and Evangelicals alike need to spend so much time emphasizing the physical suffering that Christ experienced because they are unable to comprehend the true sacrifice - the annihilation of His soul - that Christ faced.

And this is one of the chief reasons why the Adventist gospel is more powerful; that the Adventist gospel can "translate" while the Evangelical gospel can only save. When a person meditates upon the implications of Christ's sacrifice, the same Christ whose soul was crushed to death, the appreciation that results from that meditation knows no bounds.

Of course, it needs to be mentioned that there are a significant number of Christians who do not subscribe to the "immortal soul" belief. Many leading Christians are beginning to see the folly of such a view. Yet the fact still remains that no denomination - with the exception of Jehovah's Witnesses, and perhaps a few others - subscribe to the same belief on the nature of man.

3. The nature of Christ. The nature of Christ debate has never truly been officially settled within Adventism. Yet that is, to some degree, irrelevant. Whether one takes a post-lapsarian view or a pre-lapsarian view (or a combination of the two, which seems to be the working understanding of many within the church), our understanding of Christ's nature, and the "risks" He subjected Himself to in becoming man, is foreign to many Christians.

What do I mean by this? 

Let me simply quote Anthony J. Hoekema who, in critiquing Adventism in his book The Four Major Cults wrote this about our views of Christ's human nature: "It should be observed here that Christian theologians have usually insisted that we must not say that Christ could have sinned" (The Four Major Cults, p. 114). 

Say what?

Christ could not have sinned?

I will not get into all the theological issues at play here, and those that contribute to this view, but, suffice it to say, the Adventist understanding of Christ has a greater ability to give one an appreciation - and thus elicit a response of faith - for Christ, His condescension, His humility, and His sacrifice. It is able to bind our hearts closer to His when we realize that when He took upon Himself humanity, He wasn't just playacting and going through the motions. He faced real struggles, real temptations, and the real possibility that He could have sinned. And thus, He "is able to aid those who are temped" (Hebrews 2:18).

4. The nature of the atonement. There are two issues here in this subcategory that relate to Evangelicals' ties to Calvinism. The first is the teaching that says Christ's atonement on Calvary was "limited" (ie., He only died for the elect) while the second relates to the concept of the "perseverance of the saints." A more popular version of this latter teaching, though certainly not condoned by "hardcore" Calvinists, is the "once saved, always saved" belief. The Adventist version of the gospel rejects both these views.

To begin with, we reject outright the idea that Christ merely died for the elect. We believe He died for every single sinner that has ever or will ever live (see 1 John 2:2). Many Christians also believe this idea as well but they may not fully recognize the implications of what that means. Though not embraced by all Adventists, many see the further implications of Christ's sacrifice in the fact that His death has actually affected all human beings, whether realized or not. In other words, though it might be expressed differently by different people, Christ, in a sense, "saved" every human being on some level already. At the very least, He saved us from premature death and condemnation. Indeed, as Ellen White states, we owe Him even this "earthly life" (see The Desire of Ages, p. 660).

I don't believe most Evangelicals understand this.

Secondly, we reject the view that says once a person accepts Jesus one time, his destiny is sealed for all eternity. This is partially why we have the doctrine of the investigative judgment - which ultimately vindicates God's decision-making process as to who should be granted eternal life and who shouldn't.

Thus, what it means to be "saved" is fundamentally different. Being "saved" for Evangelicals is something a person did ten years ago, or when he or she said a prayer last week. Being "saved" to an Adventist is an ongoing experience of continual surrender - which, in many senses, is a lot more assurance-laced than hardcore Calvinists who say that if a person's life is not demonstrating fruit in his or her life it must mean that he or she was not elected by God to begin with. Talk about anxiety!

These are four of the most fundamental differences I see between the Adventist gospel and the Evangelical gospel. There are more, of course, but I will leave it at that. I think these four are enough to demonstrate why the Adventist gospel is more robust, more compelling, and ultimately able to bring a person to full maturity in the Christian walk so as to get his or her eyes off of self and squarely onto God.

For further reading, I might suggest Herbert Douglass's A Fork in the Road, which details the fascinating dynamics surrounding the Questions on Doctrine issue that to a large degree divided Adventism 50 years ago (and continues to do so today, though unrealized by many). 

Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Studies in Revelation

I have started to tackle the book of Revelation again, in preparation for a Revelation seminar I will be presenting in the fall. This is a book that I have not spent a great deal of time grappling with. I have made attempts in the past but have not gotten very far. In looking through previous notes on my studies in Revelation, I came across these notes that I was keeping almost two years ago. I think there is something pretty good stuff in there.

Wade through it if you'd like. There's quite a bit. It's all mostly based on word studies.


Chapter 1

1.      Verse 1
a.       “Revelation of Jesus Christ”
                                                             i.      apokaluyewj ihsou cristou
                                                            ii.      Phrase also used, though in a different case, in Gal 1:12 (genitive) and 1 Peter 1:7, 13 (dative)
                                                          iii.      Cf. Romans 8:19 where it says that creation is waiting for the “revealing/revelation of the sons of God”
b.      Things which must “shortly” take place
                                                              i.      Greek: taxei
1.      Quickly, swiftly
2.      It seems to signify more of the speed in which they will occur, rather than when they will occur
a.       OT uses taxei in this context mostly (Exo 32:7; Deut 7:22; etc.)
3.      Most versions interpret it in the sense of when the things will happen, however—meaning “soon”
2.      Verse 2
3.      Verse 3
a.       “For the time is near
                                                              i.      Eggus: near, close to, on the verge of
4.      Verse 4
a.       “To the seven churches which are in Asia”
                                                              i.      The beginning of this book seems to be like any other NT epistle. It has the formula of an epistle. John gives his credentials, and then he greets his audience
                                                            ii.      What constituted “Asia”? It was a region in southwest Turkey
                                                          iii.      But were there only “seven” churches in Asia?
                                                          iv.      Interestingly, Ephesus was the closest church to Patmos. Thus, to write to Ephesus first, as he does in the letter, would make the most sense because they would have received the letter first. The order of the churches in John’s letter is determined by their physical location—this is typical of a circular letter, no doubt as it was a matter of convenience to go in such an order
                                                            v.      It doesn’t seem very typical—at least in the Bible—that a person would write a letter that is sent to multiple churches but have specific and unique messages for each of those churches
1.      But John probably does this here because a) he was more than likely limited in his time/ability to send individual letters to all the churches b) he wanted all the churches to get the bulk of the vision, which is 19 out of the 22 chapters.
b.      “Grace to you”
                                                              i.      This is, again, the typical formula to begin an epistle. Paul starts 10 of his epistles this way (Rom; 1 Cor; 2 Cor; Gal; Eph; Phil; Col; 1 Thess; 2 Thess; Phm—this excludes Timothy and Titus) and Peter begins both of his this ways also. Surprisingly, none of John’s other three letters begin this way
                                                            ii.      For anyone who does not believe that Revelation contains the gospel, the very beginning of the book establishes grace and peace as the foundation
c.       “From Him who is and who was and who is to come”
                                                              i.      This is one of three places that this phrase is used in Revelation. The other two places are in 1:8 and 11:17. This is very clearly in reference to God, the Father, and the phrase obviously refers to His eternal nature
d.      “And from the seven Spirits who are before His throne”
                                                              i.      Used 4x in Revelation. Here, and 3:1; 4:5; 5:6. This seems to be a reference to the Holy Spirit. What other Spirits could extend grace and peace? Seven is also the number of perfection and completeness.
                                                            ii.      There is in interesting contrast between the seven Spirits in Revelation and seven unclean spirits/demons mentioned by Christ in the Gospels (Matt 12:45; Luke 8:2; 11:26)
                                                          iii.      The number 7 is used 55x in Revelation, by the way—second only to Genesis
e.       “Before His throne”
                                                              i.      The phrase “before the throne” (without His) is used 10x in Revelation (and nowhere else)
1.      4:5 says that there were “seven lamps of fire burning before the throne,” which are the seven Spirits
2.      4:6 says there was a “sea of glass”
3.      4:10 says that the 24 elders throw their crowns “before the throne”
4.      7:9 says that the “great multitude” stood “before the throne”
5.      7:11 says that the angels, the elders and the four beasts fell on their faces “before the throne”
6.      7:15 says, once again, that the great multitude are “before the throne”
7.      8:3 says that the “golden altar” was “before the throne”
8.      14:3 says that the 144,000 were “before the throne”
9.      14:5 has the phrase in the TR but not in the BGT and says, once again, that the 144,000 are blameless “before the throne”
10.  20:12 says that the dead, “small and great” were “standing before the throne”
5.      Verse 5
a.       “the faithful witness”
                                                              i.      The Greek is ho martus ho pistos. It could literally be translated  “the faithful martyr”
                                                            ii.      Interestingly, Psalm 89:37 describes the moon as “the faithful witness”
1.      This is clearly because the moon is simply reflecting the light from the sun—it faithfully witnesses to the light from the sun
                                                          iii.      Proverbs 14:5 says that a “faithful witness will not lie”
                                                          iv.      Proverbs 14:25 says that a “A truthful/faithful witness saves lives”
                                                            v.      And, of course, Revelation 3:14 says that Jesus is “the faithful and true witness.”
b.      “the firstborn from the dead”
                                                              i.      Greek: prototokos (from whence we get the word “prototype”)
1.      Luke 2:7 uses the word to say that Christ was Mary’s “firstborn”
2.      Colossians 1:15 says that Jesus is the “firstborn of every creature.”
3.      Colossians 1:18 uses the exact same phrase, saying that Jesus is the “firstborn from the dead,” though it adds the word ek (from) after prototokos, whereas Revelation does not.
c.       “the ruler over the kings of the earth”
                                                              i.      1 Kings 5:14 says that all the “kings of the earth” came to see Solomon and hear his wisdom
                                                            ii.      Revelation 17:18 says that the “woman,” or the “great city” (ie., Babylon) is the city which rules/reigns “over the kings of the earth.”
1.      Thus, this woman sets herself up against Christ. She is the antithesis to Christ, trying to have rulership over what He, alone, has authority over
2.      This power is the Antichrist and it is a religio-political power since it tries to take the power that Christ alone possesses
d.      To him that loved us, and washed us from our sins in his own blood”
                                                              i.      Most translations say “to Him who . . . freed/loosed us from our sins”
1.      This is following the NU where it has the word luo (“to loose”). However, the TR has the word louo (“to bathe, wash”) instead. The latter word seems more likely, fitting the context better (since we are “washed . . . in His own blood”). The presence of the Greek en, before “his blood,” makes this likely.
2.      Then again, the word is followed by ek (“from”) and this seems to make more sense if it is “freed” (“freed from” rather than “washed from”)
3.      The word itself, either way, is a participle—so this is not a one-time deal. He didn’t simply free/wash us sometime in the past and then stop doing it. Being washed/freed by Him is a continuous experience
6.      Verse 6
7.      Verse 7
a.       “Behold, He is coming with clouds”
                                                              i.      This concept definitely has Danielic overtones
1.      Daniel 7:13, “I saw in the night visions, and, behold, one like the Son of man came with the clouds of heaven, and came to the Ancient of days, and they brought him near before him.”
                                                            ii.      It is also very similar to what Jesus says in Matthew 24:30, “And then the sign of the Son of Man will appear in the sky, and then all the tribes of the earth will mourn, and they will see the SON OF MAN COMING ON THE CLOUDS OF THE SKY with power and great glory.”
                                                          iii.      In fact, the “all the tribes of the earth will mourn” is exactly the same—though it is different in the Greek. Matt 24:30 says “and then will mourn all the tribes of the earth,” (tote koyontai pasai ai fulai thj ghj) whereas Rev 1:7 says that “mourn because of him shall all the tribes of the land” (ai. ko,yontai evpV auvto.n pa/sai ai` fulai. th/j gh/j).
b.      “Even they who pierced Him”
                                                              i.      This is an echo of John 19:37, which said that, “And again another Scripture says, ‘THEY SHALL LOOK ON HIM WHOM THEY PIERCED.’ ” And this is a quotation from Zechariah 12:10, “And I will pour upon the house of David, and upon the inhabitants of Jerusalem, the spirit of grace and of supplications: and they shall look upon me whom they have pierced, and they shall mourn for him, as one mourneth for his only son, and shall be in bitterness for him, as one that is in bitterness for his firstborn.”
                                                            ii.      Thus, Revelation seems to be saying that those who crucified Christ will actually see Him coming in the clouds.
8.      Verse 8
a.       “I am”
                                                              i.      In the Greek it is ego eimi. This is the Great “I AM”
b.      “the alpha and omega”
                                                              i.      The only two other places where it means “alpha and omega” is in Revelation 21:6 and 22:13. In these two places, however, it actually does add “the beginning and the end.” 1:8 doesn’t really have this in the Greek. It is merely supplied. 22:13 also adds “the first and the last.”
                                                            ii.      This phrase, of course, indicates completeness and totality—akin to someone saying, “From A to Z” in our modern vernacular.
                                                          iii.      The question is whether this statement is made by/about God, the Father, or Jesus. On the one hand, it seems to be about Jesus, since, intertextually (especially within the writings of John), Jesus often referred to Himself as the “I Am,” (cf., John 8:12; 10:7; etc.). Though the case is a bit weaker, there are two other examples of Jesus using the term “I Am,” and also being called “Lord” in the same instance. These are both in Paul’s conversion experience, recorded in two separate places, in Acts 9:5 and 26:15.
                                                          iv.      But the evidence may point to the Father, as we will notice below
c.       “Who is and who was and who is to come”
                                                              i.      Used two other times in Revelation (and the whole Bible), 1:4 and 11:17—the former of which clearly identifies Him as the Father, since it goes on to say in v. 5, “And from Jesus Christ,” clearly distinguishing Jesus Christ from the one “who is and who was and who is to come.”
d.      “The Almighty”
                                                              i.      Greek: pantokrator
                                                            ii.      Used in LXX usually as the Greek version of tsavaot (hosts)
                                                          iii.      Used 9x in NT aside from this instance (only once outside Revelation in 2 Cor 6:18). 2 Corinthians very clearly is in reference to the Father, where, quoting the OT, Paul speaks of God saying, “I will be a Father to you.”
1.      Interestingly, Revelation 16:7 talks quotes God’s people as saying, “Yes, O Lord God, the Almighty, true and righteous are Your judgments.” Yet, Jesus very clearly states in John 5:22 that “the Father judges no one, but has committed all judgment to the Son.”
2.      However, Revelation 21:22, once again, seems to distinguish between the Father and the Son, attributing the “Almightiness” to the Father: “And I saw no temple therein: for the Lord God Almighty and the Lamb are the temple of it.”
a.       The way the Greek is constructed in this verse, however, makes me wonder if it could be translated this way: “I saw no temple in it, for the Lord God, the Almighty, is its temple and its Lamb.” I am not flawless in my Greek and I forget the rules of constructs when it comes to two nouns going together, so it may not work. But it does say naos autes estin kai to arnion.
e.       Suffice it to say, this verse does speak about God, the Father, but there seems to be enough ambiguity to perhaps allow for the idea that it may also be referring to Christ as well.

Chapter 6

1.      V. 1
a.       The seal, sphragis
                                                              i.      A seal was used to signify ownership and that the book was not to be opened by anyone but who the book/scroll was intended for
b.      The “four living creatures,” tessaron zoon
                                                              i.      This is a direct quotation from Ezekiel 1:5 where they are in the midst of a whirlwind. It says their appearance was the “likeness of a man.”
                                                            ii.      Ezekiel goes on to explain that each of them had “four faces,” and each had “four wings.” Their legs were straight, and the soles of their feet were like the soles of calves’ feet. They sparkled like the color of burnished bronze.
c.       The voice/sound of thunder, phone bronte
                                                              i.      Psalm 77:18, in reference to God
                                                            ii.      Psalm 104:7 is in reference to God as well
                                                          iii.      Elsewhere, in Revelation 10, it talks about the voice of “seven thunders.” John was going to write down what they said, but he was forbidden from doing so
                                                          iv.      Revelation 14:2 talks about a sound from heaven being like the “sound” of loud thunder
                                                            v.      Revelation 19:6 also speaks of this sound of loud thunder coming from heaven, praising God for His glory and splendor and majesty
                                                          vi.      Mark 3:17 talks about James and John being the “sons” of thunder
                                                        vii.      John 12:29 relates an event where Jesus speaks, and people claimed that it thundered
d.      “Come” (erchou—imperative)
                                                              i.      This seems to be a favorite of John’s, also recorded in John 1:46 and John 11:34
2.      Verse. 2
a.       “White horse” (hippos leukos)
                                                              i.      Used elsewhere in Revelation 19:11 with Jesus riding on it
                                                            ii.      This whole chapter seems to be playing off the imagery set forth in Zechariah and his vision of the horses
                                                          iii.      “These are the ones whom the Lord has sent to walk to and fro throughout the earth” (Zechariah 1:10).
1.      So these four horses in Revelation 6 (white, red, black, pale) are simply “they who are sent forth to roam/patrol/walk the earth”
                                                          iv.      Again, Revelation 19:14 says that the “armies” in heaven, who are clothed in fine linen, follow Christ on “white horses”
b.      “White” (leukos)
                                                              i.      Seems to signify purity (Revelation 3:18, 4:4, etc.)
c.       “Bow”
                                                              i.      This is present with “horse” in Jeremiah 6:23, where it says that a “people comes from the north country” will come and have no mercy. The north country is where Zechariah 6:6 says that those on “white horses” will follow the “black horses”
1.      Where/what is the “north country”?
2.      It seems to be the location where God’s people are (Jeremiah 31:8). It is only used in this passage in Jeremiah, as well as Jer 6:23 and Zechariah 6:6, 8.
3.      Psalm 48 mentions how Mount Zion is in the north, where the city of the great king is located
4.      Isaiah 14:13 also talks about Lucifer wanting to set his throne on the house of the north/zaphon
5.      Jeremiah talks a lot about people from the north coming to bring destruction (1:14). It is also where Israel is located, of course (3:12)—a place where God instruct Jeremiah to go and tell Israel to “return” to God
6.      Jeremiah 50:9 may be particularly relevant to this “white horse” that is conquering and going forth to conquer in Revelation 6:2
d.      “Crown” (stephanos)
                                                              i.      A crown always seems to indicate victory—given to those who overcome
1.      Cf. Revelation 2:10; 3:11, etc.
2.      So being given a crown is a good thing!
e.       “Conquering and to conquer”
                                                              i.      Greek, nikao—“to overcome” or gain the victory over
1.      It is the same word that is used for all seven of the churches when Jesus says, “To him who overcomes or conquers”
2.      It is almost always used in a positive way (Romans 3:4, 1 John 5:5, etc.)
3.      Elsewhere used in Revelation 5:5 about the Lamb overcoming, God’s people overcoming by the word of their “testimony” (12:11)
4.      Used negatively about the beast in Revelation 11:7 who overcomes the two witnesses; also 13:7 about the first beast
f.       Question for future entertainment: why are there only four “living creatures” and four “horses” in Revelation 6?
                                                              i.      These four living creatures must, obviously, be assigned to these four different horses
                                                            ii.      But why don’t the last three seals have horses and living creatures?
3.      V. 3
4.      V. 4
a.       These first two horses were “given” something. The first was “given” a crown, the second one was “given” the right to take peace from the earth
b.      “Red” (purros)
                                                              i.      In Rev 12:3 it talks about the devil being a “red” dragon
c.       “Slay/kill” (sphazo)
                                                              i.      Used mostly in OT in Levitical sense—that of slaughtering sheep, oxen, Isaac (Genesis 22:10),
                                                            ii.      Elijah “slays” the prophets of Baal in 1 Kings 18:40
                                                          iii.      In Jeremiah 52:10, the “King of Babylon” slays the children of Zedekiah
                                                          iv.      1 John 3:12, John says that Cain “slayed” Abel
                                                            v.      Thus, it almost seems like the righteous are always the ones being “slain.” But perhaps I am reading into it!
                                                          vi.      In Revelation 5:6, 9, 12, it is the Lamb who is “slain.”
                                                        vii.      But in 6:9 it now talks about those who have been “slain” for the Word of God and for the testimony which they held. Is this the same group?
                                                      viii.      See also Rev 18:24
                                                          ix.      The only challenge with this is that it says that they were able to “slay” one another—as if both groups are engaged in killing
d.      Slay/kill with “sword” (machaira)
                                                              i.      Genesis 22:10 Abraham is about to slay Isaac with a sword
e.       “Great sword” (machairo mega)
                                                              i.      Jeremiah 25:38 seems to be the only place that talks about a “mega” sword, and it is in the hand of God—this is only seen in the LXX
                                                            ii.      This sword is being used against all the nations, as well as “Israel,” and, in fact, v. 33 talks about the “slain” of the earth being from one end of the earth to the other. It is NOT the same Greek word for “slain” however, though the word “earth” (geh) is present
f.       “Peace” and “sword”
                                                              i.      There are 6 other places that couple “peace” and “sword”: Esther 3:13, Jer 4:10; 12:12 (“For a sword of the LORD is devouring From one end of the land even to the other; There is no peace for anyone); 14:13 (where false prophets say there shall be peace and no swords); Ezek 38:8 (where Gog comes up against Israel, who is dwelling safely, on horses and takes peace from them); Matt 10:34 (where Jesus announces that he did not come to bring “peace” but a “sword”)
5.      V. 5