SOME ESSENTIAL SDA HISTORY
Wm. H. Grotheer
The Church - 1967-1980
In permitting the final sign given by Jesus to be fulfilled, God was seeking to tell the Church something, even as God used John the Baptist to seek to tell the Jewish Church something in that day -- there was only a brief period of time left in which to bring forth "fruits meet for repentance." (Matt. 3:8) It dare not be overlooked that the "trust" committed to the Church - the Three Angels' Messages of Revelation 14 (See 9T:19) - was a message to every "nation" as well as to individuals. With the "times of the nations" about to be fulfilled, the Church faced a crisis of the greatest magnitude -- either the work had to be finished; was finished; or else the Church had failed in its trust before God. Further, if the Church has altered the basic beliefs of the Three Angels' Messages, how could they in reality profess before God that they were still able to carry to completion that which had been committed to their trust? This is not a theoretical question, and the answer is written with indelible ink on the pages of history.
During the second session of Vatican II, a Seventh-day Adventist "representative" and a staff member of the World Council of Churches concluded that informal talks between a group of Seventh-day Adventists and an equal number of representatives of the WCC would "fulfill a useful purpose." The first informal meeting was held in 1965. This was followed by formalized meetings with the "blessing," authorization and funding by the employing bodies of the Adventist participants. (So Much in Common, p. 98) The results of these meetings were quick in coming.
The January, 1967, issue of the official paper of the WCC - Ecumenical Review - carried an article on "The Seventh-day Adventist Church." Our official organ - Review & Herald - responded through its associate editor, Raymond F. Cottrell, in three editorials (March 23, 30, & April 6, 1967) In the last editorial, Cottrell concluded:
It is no small measure of regret that SDA's do not find it possible, as an organization, to be more closely associated with others who profess the name of Christ. On the other hand, if the Secretariat on Faith and Order, for instance, were to invite SDA's to appoint someone competent in that area to meet with their group from time to time and represent the SDA point of view, we could accept such an invitation with a clear conscience. Perhaps the same might be done in other areas of Christian concern. On such a basis we would concur with Dr. Hanspicker that the WCC is "one more place" where SDA's might bear their distinctive "witness to the full truth of the Gospel." (p. 13f)
The invitation was not long in coming. The Central Committee of the WCC appointed Dr. Earle Hilgert, vice-president for Academic Administration of Andrews University as a member of the 120 member Commission on Faith and Order. (See Exhibit #10) The leadership of the Church endorsed this selection. Events moved so rapidly in 1967 that Dr. Hilgert was able to attend the triennial meeting of the Faith and Order Commission held in Bristol, England, July 30 to August 8, 1967, as the first Seventhday Adventist to serve on such a Commission.
[Note: Dr. Hilgert has since become an ordained Presbyterian minister and is serving on the staff of McCormick Theological Seminary in Chicago, Illinois. His replacement on the Faith and Order Commission was Dr. Raoul Dederen, also of Andrews University.]
The hierarchy of the Seventh-day Adventist Church loudly proclaims to the laity that the Church is not a member of the World Council of Churches. This is true, but the
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request and subsequent appointment of a Seventh-day Adventist theologian to the Faith and Order Commission have far greater implications than appears on the surface. Cottrell sought to cover his suggestion as "an opportunity to witness." This naive stance betrays either ignorance of, or a purposeful cover up of the real objectives of the Faith and Order Commission. It must be clearly understood that the World Council of Churches is "a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the glory of the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit." (WCC Constitution) The WCC does not perceive itself as "a universal authority controlling what Christians should believe and do." However, they are striving as a "community" to "realize the goal of visible Church unity." To assist this "community"
towards this goal, the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council provides theological support for the efforts the churches are making towards unity. Indeed the Commission has been charged by the Council members to keep always before them their accepted obligation to work towards manifesting more visibly God's gift of Church unity. So it is that the stated aim of the Commission is "to proclaim the oneness of the Church of Jesus Christ and to call the churches to the goal of visible unity in one faith and one eucharistic fellowship, expressed in common worship and common life in Christ, in order that the world might believe." (By-Laws) [Baptism, Eucharist and Ministry, pp. vii & viii; Faith and Order Paper No. 11, Emphasis mine]
This is what the leadership of the Church through its official organ asked to become a part of in 1967. Then we forwarded this whole process toward "Church unity" by placing in the Statement of Beliefs voted at Dallas, Texas, in 1980, the full Constitutional statement of the WCC which is required for membership in that organization.
The Fall Out
"Since 1968 the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists has been actively represented at the annual meeting of 'Secretaries of World Confessional Families'. This participation is largely the result of WCC/SDA Conversations and contacts made at the time of the Uppsala Assembly [of the WCC]." (So Much in Common, p. 100) This association led to the separate audience granted by Pope Paul VI to the "participants of the Conference of Secretaries of the World Confessional Families." (RNS, May 19, 1977, p. 19) The Secretary for the Conference of Secretaries is Dr. B. B. Beach of the Adventist Church, who on the occasion presented the Pope with a gold medallion as "a symbol of the Seventh-day Adventist Church." (Review, August 11, 1977, p. 23) Thus in symbolism the Church was given into the hands of the Anti-christ. No greater affront could be given to the God of Heaven than for His chosen people through a representative to wantonly defy the message of the Third Angel as was done on this occasion. This act was done with the full approval of, and prior arrangements with the Northern Europe-West Africa Division Committee. [For full details, see Steps to Rome]
The fraternization with the World Council of Churches on an international level reaches down to the local units of this "community" - the Ministerial Associations. Southern Tidings the official paper of the Southern Union Conference in the Telex news section for April, 1975, reported that Elder Robert Hunter, then pastor of the Morganton District of the Carolina Conference, joined in the local ministerial association's "Pulpit Exchange Day." The pulpit of the Adventist Church on that day was occupied by Thomas Burke, parish priest of the Roman Catholic Church. "The theme of the city-wide program was 'Blest Be the Tie."'
The strong contrast envisioned in the Third Angel's Message between those who were to be entrusted with the giving of this message, and the power symbolically represented by the "beast" was nullified in a Brief presented in the United States
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District Court for Northern California. The Brief read:
Although it is true that there was a period in the life of the Seventh-day Adventist Church when the denomination took a distinctly anti-Roman Catholic viewpoint, and the term "hierarchy" was used in a perjorative sense to refer to the papal form of church governance, that attitude on the Church's part was nothing more than a manifestation of widespread anti-popery among conservative protestant denominations in the early part of this century and the latter part of the last, and which has now been consigned to the historical trash heap as far as the Seventh-day Adventist Church is concerned. (Reply Brief for Defendants in Support of Their Motion for Summary Judgment, Civ. No. 74-2025 CBR) [See Footnote, p. 41, Excerpts - Legal Documents; EEOC v. PPPA (Available from Adventist Laymen's Foundation of Iowa - alfiowa.com)]
In the same Brief, the legal counsel for the Church's officers quoted from an affidavit given by one of the intervenors, Mrs. Lorna Tobler, in which she had sworn that during her training and instruction in Adventist schools and churches, she had been taught that the Adventist Church strongly disapproved "the Roman Catholic system." To this the reply in the Brief read:
In several ways this illustrates the dangers incurred by an individual church member who presumes to deny the authority of the duly constituted officials and governing bodies of the Church. In the first place, it is true that for a period in its history, the Seventh-day Adventist Church had an aversion to Roman Catholicism and especially to the papal form of church government -- an aversion shared by virtually all Protestant denominations ... While, however, Adventist doctrine continues to teach that church government by one man is contrary to the Word of God, it is not good Seventh-day Adventism to express, as Mrs Tobler has done, an aversion to Roman Catholicism as such. (Ibid., p. 46)
How must the God of Heaven have felt when the Church,to whom He had committed in sacred trust the giving of the Three Angels' Messages, no longer shared the aversion" with which the book of Revelation indicates He holds the Papal system?
Not only did God entrust His chosen people with truth, and the final message to the nations, but He also entrusted them with the means to carry out this primary purpose of their calling. How have these means been handled, and when were fateful decisions made? In an article - "Investment Practices of the General Conference," Elder Robert E. Osborn of the Church's Treasury Department wrote:
Because the General Conference is responsible for a large pool of capital, the controlling investment and securities committee decided in 1967 to retain professional investment counsel. (This took place at the time the "unitized funds" program. described later in this article, began operation.) Lionel D. Edie & Company, Inc., of New York City, was chosen to do the research, analysis, and selection of securities for the General Conference portfolio. Members of the investment section of the Treasurer's Office worked very closely with Edie & Company and kept in communication by telephone and inperson conferences for detailed review of current and projected trends in the economic and money markets. (Spectrum, Vol. 5, #2, 1973)
The "unitized funds" program, as explained by Osborn, "operated in a manner similar to mutual funds. All unit holders (conferences, unions, divisions, the General Conference, and church-owned institutions) own a proportionate share of the unitized funds, on the basis of the amount invested; and unit holders share in the investment income and capital appreciation." [And loss?] (Ibid., pp. 53-54)
While no report is available to this writer as to the amount of the losses sustained in playing the stock market by the General Conference since 1967, a window into the results of this type of monetary practice is to be found in reports of the investments made by one conference in the Pacific Union. The Pacific Union had chosen to set up its own investment program. One conference - Northern California - during a period of six years - 1968-1973 - had a "paper loss" of over $2 Million.This loss involved
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funds of trust deposits, and revocable trust funds. A Lay Advisory Committee reporting on the investments and the losses stated - "If the trustors and trust depositors should elect to withdraw their money the fund would be insolvent - unable to honor these withdrawal requests." This committee made the following two-fold recommendation:
That the Conference and the Association adopt a policy of making no additional stock investments after this date and of eliminating all investments in common stock and stock investment funds and that the time for accomplishing this be no more than two years. (Report #2, Sub-Committee on Conference Organization & Finance of the Steering Committee of the NCC-LAC)
One member of the Steering Committee, Ken Cortner, reported in the Adventist Laymen's Pipeline, July 1, 1983, the full picture of these investment procedures. That report read:
Church publications have been silent concerning some seven (7) million dollars of Northern's [Northern California Conference] funds turned over to the Pacific Union Conference in the late 60s and early 70s for investment in the stock market. The market had seriously declined thereafter, and in January 1974 conference officials, without disclosing either the investment or the loss to the church members ordered the sale of shares of stocks that had cost $837,402.97 for $500,000. The realized loss in that single transaction that was sustained by Northern California Conference and/or Association was $337,402.97.
In the fall of 1974, a then independent Northern California Conference Lay Advisory Committee (NCC-LAC), chaired by a lay person in contrast to the present (1983) chairmanship being held and under the control of the conference president, discovered the investments and asked the Conference Executive Committee to call a halt to any further dealings in the stock market and that divestiture of all stock held be completed within a two year period. They contended the $2,053,298.42 loss of stock value from 1968 through 1973 was "only a paper loss" and that by waiting for whatever time it took, the market would recover and possibly even bring a profit. LAC members, generally. did not agree with that decision but lacking authority and having only an advisory capacity felt that they had done their job.
Local and Union Conference officials had characterized the stock purchased as "all of the blue chip variety" and that they had been selected by "a group of experts to whom we gave complete authority to buy and sell in our behalf." Laymen learned that the "group of experts" contained not one single Seventh-day Adventist Church member and the portfolio of stocks described as "all of the blue chip variety" consisted of such companies as Ringling Bros., Barnum and Bailey Circus, and among others, a host of small, insignificant, virtually unknown and highly speculative businesses.
Keep in mind that this is but the story of one conference and its investments. Some units of the General Conference "unitized funds" program dissatisfied with the results turned to the glowing possibility of Dr. Davenport's investment schemes. The story of the resulting scandal need not be recited here.
Not only did the SDA-Evangelical Conferences in the mid-1950s signal a doctrinal revision of some of the basic concepts of the Advent Movement, but by the mid-1960s, "for the first time in the history of the church, a whole generation of scholars with doctorates from secular universities became active in church institutions." (Spectrum, Vol. 15, #2, p. 23) Further, there were Adventists with a similar training in gainful employment outside the church's institutions. Some of these became convinced that individual participation within the framework of the church was an ineffectual means of dealing with the issues of the 20th Century they faced in the society in which they moved. Others met in small groups both here and abroad "with the primary aim of trying to understand how the secularizing and divisive trends [could] be reversed." These groups were formed around academic and professional people.
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"To further this spontaneous search for meaningful participation, the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists invited representatives from several of the groups to meet with them in October of 1967. The purpose was to discuss possible methods of establishing a cohesive program to provide for dialogue between the church leadership and this segment of the laity and to involve the latter more significantly in the activities and concerns of the formal church. The outgrowth of that meeting was an action by the officers of the General Conference (taken at the 1967 Fall Council) to approve the establishment of an organization known as The Association of Adventist Forums." [AAF] (Spectrum, Vol 1, #1, Winter, 1969)
It is AAF which publishes Spectrum. This Association with its publication has been on the "cutting edge" of liberal trends within the church structure, manner of life, and doctrinal revision. While they prefer to see themselves as "progressives," both the liberals within the church, and the liberals of the Adventist community outside the payroll structure find common cause. It was the AAF which provided Dr. Desmond Ford the podium from which he launched his attack on the sanctuary teaching of the Advent Movement.
During the administration of R. R. Figuhr, not only was approval given but firm support maintained by Figuhr himself in the publication of Questions on Doctrine. Further, during his administration, provision was made for a study program in geology which led to the establishment of the Geoscience Research Institute. In the early 1960s a change was made in the leadership of the Institute, and "by the mid-1960s, the progessives' [liberals'] study of the issues led them to conclude that harmony between Genesis and geology required some kind of a theological accommodation by the church." (Spectrum, Vol. 15, #2, p. 26) This conclusion led to the appointment of two men with theological backgrounds from the Seminary. The reason - "At that time the most theologically flexible products of the Adventist educational system were its seminary graduates." (Ibid.)
The resolution of the problem in the eyes of the liberals required much more time be allotted than six literal days, and a creation six thousand years ago of "the earth, the sea, and all that in them is." (Ex. 20:11) Any altering of the concept of six literal days for the creation of the earth ex nihilo (out of nothing) strikes at the very heart of the Sabbath commandment. In such a schema, the Sabbath ceases to be a specific memorial, and the emphasis on the seventh day irrelevant. It can then be thought of as a celebration, a weekly rest for man's restlessness.
It dare not be overlooked that all these major actions which laid the groundwork for the acceptability of liberalism in the Church, and open agitation of the same, was done with the full approval of the highest officers of the Church, starting with Figuhr in the mid-1950s, and culminating with the Pierson-Wilson official blessing in 1967.
The Closing Event
In 1979, the Annual Council voted a new Statement of Beliefs to be presented for adoption at the 1980 session of the General Conference in Dallas, Texas. The full disclosure of all that took place in the formulation of the Statement of Beliefs voted at the Annual Council and the final adoption of the 27 Fundamentals as voted at Dallas, has yet to be written. There are gaps in the story as known. This detail is beyond the scope of this manuscript. However, certain factors of this story must be understood. The Statement as adopted by the Annual Council was written by a group of theologians at Andrews University. (Spectrum, Vol. 11, #3, p. 61) It was sent out to "the division committees immediately as well as unions and overseas colleges. It was given to the Adventist Review for immediate publication in the hope that as many reactions as possible could be received from the field prior to the General Conference quinquennial session in Dallas. Unfortunately, for reasons never disclosed, it did not appear for four months, until February 21, 1980," (Ibid., #1, p. 6; emphasis mine)
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Substantive changes from previous Statements of Belief were apparent in the Andrews University formulation. Sections on the Godhead were expanded; other sections contained new terminology which altered historic Adventist concepts; and new sections were added not covered in any previous Statements. Section 2, captioned, "The Trinity" read in part: "That there is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a self-existing Unity in Trinity." Elsewhere in the Statement, "the oneness of the triune God" is noted. The death of Christ is spoken of as "this act of atonement" and declared to be "a complete and perfect atonement." Such a position makes any concept of a final atonement irrelevant. The heavenly ministry of Christ is described as simply "making available to believers, the benefits of His atoning sacrifice offered once for all on the cross." Then in 1844, Christ merely "entered the second and last phase of His atoning work." Baptism and the Lord's Supper were noted as "sacraments," and "the service of foot washing" was designated "a means to seek renewed cleansing." The "ministries of the Church" as defined in the Statement include "the ministry of intercession." All of these expressions have Roman Catholic overtones. The Church itself is defined to be "the company of believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour." (Adventist Review, Feb. 21, 1980, pp. 8-10)
When the time came for a discussion of the Statement of Beliefs at Dallas, the delegates received a different formulation than had been adopted at the Annual Council and no explanation was given as to why. This brought expressions of shock and dismay from a number of delegates. "Those who had been involved in formulating the earlier draft felt that the new version was disastrous in form, if not content. Gone was the balance, the beauty and the sensitivity to words. Clumsy rhetoric prevailed." (Spectrum, Vol. 11, #1, p. 8) Substantive alterations were also apparent. The statement on the Godhead was modified to read - "There is one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of Three co-etemal Persons." Although there was considerable discussion over this new wording (Adventist Review, April 22, 1980, pp. 11, 14), it was made a part of the voted Statement with only cosmetic alterations. The terms, "sacraments" and "means" were deleted as was also the idea of a minister in the role of an intercessor. The Cross was still referred to as the "act of the atonement." This was changed in the voted Statement to read - "this perfect atonement" - which in reality changed nothing, still nullifying the concept of a final atonement. If the Cross is the "perfect" atonement nothing can be added to that which is perfect. In historic Adventism, the Cross, typified by the Altar of the Court, is the place of sacrifice and an atonement which brought forgiveness, to be followed with a final atonement which resulted in cleansing. The section on the Church was rewritten and divided into two statements, but when finally voted, a key wording from the Andrews University formulation was restored - "The church is a community of believers who confess Jesus Christ as Lord and Saviour."
The retention of the definition of the Church from the Andrews University formulation when coupled with the Statement on the Trinity - a statement never appearing in any prior Statements of Belief from 1872 to 1979 - is significant. These two concepts are borrowed from the Constitution of the World Council of Churches. The first article of that Constitution reads - "The World Council of Churches is a fellowship of churches which confess the Lord Jesus Christ as God and Saviour according to the Scriptures and therefore seek to fulfill together their common calling to the one God, Father, Son and Holy Spirit." Further, the idea of "one God: Father, Son, and Holy Spirit, a unity of three co-etemal Persons" was first formulated by the Council of Constantinople in A.D. 381.(Early Christian Doctrine, p. 88)
In all three Statements - the Andrews University formulation, the one given to the delegates, and the one finally voted by them - there appears a phraseology describing the heavenly ministry of Christ which also had never appeared in any previous statement of Adventist beliefs. It read in its final form - "There is a sanctuary in heaven, the true tabernacle which the Lord set up and not man. In it Christ
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ministers in our behalf, making available to believers the benefits of His atoning sacrifice offered once for all on the cross." This language was first used in the book - Questions on Doctrine (pp. 354-355, 381), where it stated:
Jesus our surety entered the "holy places" and appeared in the presence of God for us. But it was not with the hope of obtaining something for us at that time, or at some future time. No! He had already obtained it for us on the cross. And now as our High Priest, He ministers the virtues of the atoning sacrifice for us." (p. 381, emphasis theirs)
Introduced during the morning session prior to the final reading and voting of the Statement of Beliefs was Bishop Robert Terwilliger, a representative of the Anglican Consultative Council. He had been reading the proposed Statement of Beliefs, and had listened to some of the discussion. When he responded to Dr. B. B. Beach's introduction, he said - "As I have read the beliefs set before you for revision, I had hoped to find some degree of disagreement. I had the most awful disappointment. I found increasingly that we are together in our faith. Therefore the unity that we share is not simply a unity of good will and fellowship but unity in faith increasingly, a unity in Christ." (Adventist Review, May 1, 1980, p. 16)
How can God finish His work on the earth through an instrumentality that has so altered the faith committed to it in trust that an Anglican bishop perceives a growing unity with that which he believes? This culminating denial in a series which began in the 1950s, left God with no alternatives. The Church weighed in the balances of the Sanctuary was found to be wanting. He had given the prophetic warning in 1967 when the military forces of Israel retook Jerusalem that the final period had begun - the achri hou (until) of Luke 21:24. Now that period was up. Three months after the Statement of Beliefs was voted at Dallas, the Israeli Knesset voted to move the entire government from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem. The times of the visitation of the nations being ended, God would take things into His own hands for the completion of the Advent Movement which He had begun in 1844. We are now in the tarrying time as events move rapidly to the final conflict of the great day of God Almighty. The end of all things is at hand.
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The Church Today
Up until 1980, all decisions effecting the Church, doctrinally and ecumenically, were made by the hierarchy at the highest levels of administration. The laity had no part in deciding whether there should be conferences with the Evangelicals. They were not consulted as to the compromises made in doctrine, but were submitted, as were also the lower levels of the clergy, the propaganda enforcing these compromises. The book - Questions on Doctrine - was thrust upon them as a "missionary book."
The decision to make contact and carry on dialogue with representatives of the World Council of Churches was not made by the laity. And even though it was first initiated on a personal basis, it was adopted and encouraged by the highest levels of church authority. It was not a layperson who suggested that a Seventh-day Adventist theologian be appointed to the Faith and Order Commission of the WCC. Neither was it a lay decision to give the Church "in symbol" into the hands of the Pope.
The laity did not enter into the decision to play the stock market with its ensuing losses; neither did the laity initiate nor promote the investments in the Davenport enterprises. But it was the money the laity dedicated to the Church in tithes, offerings and trusts for the work of the Lord which was gambled and lost.
The General Conference in 1980 enlarged the scope of the involvement. The Church in general session voted the 27 Fundamental Statements of Belief, and into these statements were incorporated the compromises of the previous decades. While the General Conference in session was and is considered the highest authority on earth speaking for God, still the rank and file of the laity and clergy had little voice. It was the theologians of the Church working in close alliance with the top levels of administration who guided through the 1980 session the new statement of beliefs which included concepts which never had appeared in any previously accepted or voted statement. Some of these new statements were very good, but this only adds to the deception, producing a "tree" of both good and evil.
In the mind of the hierarchy, these new statements of belief were not considered a rejection of the compromises made in the Evangelical Conferences of 1955-1956, but were rather an affirmation of them. However, due to the continued agitation in the Adventist community by "dissidents," not only concerning the compromises of the 50's, but also because of what was written into the 27 Fundamentals, the late Dr. Walter Martin, one of the chief conferees for the Evangelicals at the conferences in the 50's, wrote to the General Conference. Here is his rationale for writing and the answer he received in reply:
Since I have always stressed the importance of doctrinal integrity in my evaluations of religious movements, the doctrinal upheaval in Adventism is of special concern. Consequently on February 16, 1983, I wrote the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists (Washington D.C.), calling for the Conference's public and official statement reaffirming or denying the authority of the Adventist book, Questions on Doctrine, which was the representative Adventist publication on which I based my earlier evaluation and book. On April 29, 1983, W. Richard Lesher, vice-president of the General Conference [now president of Andrews University], responded in a personal letter. His reply read in part: - "You ask first if Seventh-day Adventists still stand behind the answers given to your questions in Questions on Doctrine as they did in 1957. The answer is yes. You have noted in your letter that some opposed the answers then, and, to some extent, the same situation exists today. But certainly
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the great majority of Seventh-day Adventists are in harmony with the views expressed in Questions on Doctrine." (The Kingdom of the Cults, p. 410)
In 1985, another General Conference convened, this time in New Orleans. During the final business meeting of the session, Elder Neal C. Wilson commented on several requests that had come to re-open discussion on the 27 Statements of Fundamental Beliefs. He then explained why these requests had not been honored:
There have been several requests for an open discussion of the Statement of Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists. I want to explain why we chose not to do this at this session. There seems to have been a very favorable world reaction to and acceptance of the Fundamental Beliefs as voted in 1980.
The introduction states that "when the church is led by the Holy Spirit to a fuller understanding of Bible truth or finds better language in which to express the teachings of God's Holy Word," wording revision could be discussed again. Frankly, throughout this past five years there has been no one who has revealed to us that the Holy Spirit has led in making any substantive changes.
There needs to be a degree of permanence to a Statement of Fundamental Beliefs. It should not be opened up every time we meet, seeing how we can word it a little differently. When the Holy Spirit leads us to some different conclusions or when it seems as though the Holy Spirit points out that it should be more clearly stated, we want certainly to open it. For these reasons we have chosen to leave this statement as it is. (Adventist Review, July 11, 1985, p. 17)
The 1985 Session was large1y devoted to organizational changes. No suggestion was made that the Church should return to the structure as formulated in 1901 and rejected in 1903. It should be kept in mind that it was this rejection of the 1901 Constitution which caused Ellen G. White to call for corporate repentance and conversion. But no such repentance was forthcoming at the 1985 Session, but rather a continuing fulfillment of the warning sounded by P. T. Magan at the 1903 Session. (See Chapter IX, p. 26) Papal language was used during the session in illustrating the roles of the officers of the General Conference. Wilson, in responding to questions raised by a report of the nominating committee and a feeling expressed from the floor that the selection of leadership did not rightly represent the Church in the Third World, stated - "If you compare vice presidents to 'cardinals,' we already have a 'cardinal' from Africa, and before this session ends, I predict we will have two African 'cardinals' among the 15 vice presidents." He used the same comparison a second time in this response. (Bulletin, p. 795) There is no desire to repent but organizational strengthening of hierarchical control in continued rebellion against the purposes of God.
As the Church prepared for the 1888 Centennial celebration, opportunity was provided for the laity to evaluate and decide in regard to the 27 Fundamental Statements of Belief. In the Ministry (April, 1988) and in the Adventist Review (April 7, 1988), Elder Neal C. Wilson revealed the plan for the Sabbath School lessons for the last two quarters of that year. He wrote:
The framework is already in place for intense study of the fundamental doctrines of the church. The Sabbath School lessons for the last two quarters of this year focus on our 27 fundamental beliefs. Seventh-day Adventists Believe..., the 325-page doctrinal book on which we have been working for two years, will be on the press by May 1. The manuscript for this book has been read and critiqued by more than 200 Adventist scholars and church leaders around the world. Each of the 27 chapters takes an in-depth look at one of our beliefs. And yet the book is written in such a way that every member of the church can understand and grasp the importance of these great truths that bind us together.
Although the book was written in a style which the average laymen could grasp, they were not provided with previous statements of belief held by the church so that a comparison could be made as to changes that were voted in 1980 and the gravity of those changes. Each individual member of the Church needed an opportunity to decide if indeed the 27 Statements are fundamental truths, or apostate formulations, or a
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mixture of the two which would make them the more deceptive.
The Lord through Hosea declared - "My people are destroyed for lack of knowledge." (4:6) It is not that the laity have had no opportunity to obtain knowledge. The facts of what has taken place over the past three decades have been available to all who wished to know. But "false prophets" on the periphery of Adventism have been plucking leaves from the "pretentious" fig tree to lure the concerned laity into thinking that they have an understanding of the apostasy which has engulfed the Church. Nevertheless these agents of Satan (II Cor. 11:13-15) have urged the laity to give at least lip service to these 27 Statements of Belief so that some of them could still find entrance into the "sanctuaries" of the Church. Thus this segment of the concerned laity have been robbed by these "false prophets" of essential facts so as to evaluate correctly the Sabbath School lessons and the book on them. One such "false prophet" when asked to take a stand on the changes made in the 1980 Statement of Beliefs from the previous statements, replied through an associate - "Up to this time we have not performed a thorough analysis of the 27 fundamental beliefs. Thus we cannot provide an official critique of them." This letter was dated January 3, 1989, over eight years after the Statements were voted at Dallas, and yet this "false prophet" has proclaimed himself a spokesman for "historic" Adventism holding to the "firm foundation."
A vast segment of the laity who studied the Sabbath School lessons during the last two quarters of 1988 were brought into church fellowship under the ministry of men who had been taught in college and the Seminary the apostate teachings arising from the compromises made with the Evangelicals thirty years ago. How large this segment actually is can be noted in the membership difference between 1955, the time of the SDA-Evangelical Conferences and the present. From about one million members worldwide, the Church grew in three decades to over five million. A sizeable portion of the ministry of the Church has been recruited from this influx of new members during this same period. However, the lesson plan for the final two quarters of 1988 did give each individual the opportunity to review for himself what the Church officially proclaimed itself to believe, and whether he would concur or dissent.
There is a prophecy in the Writings of Ellen G. White which has a direct relationship to this present time. (See Appendix A) In this prophecy, she wrote that "the church - the Lord's sanctuary - was the first to feel the stroke of the wrath of God." (5T:211) And she told why -
The ancient men, those to whom God had given great light, and who had stood as guardians of the spiritual interests of the people, had betrayed their trust. (Ibid.)
But the final sentence of this prophecy could not be fulfilled until every member of he church had an opportunity to evaluate the situation to see if they would choose to accept the betrayal of the sacred "trust" by "the ancient men." That sentence reads "Men, maidens, and little children all perish together." The opportunity was given in the study of the Sabbath School lessons for the final two quarters of 1988 to make that evaluation and decision.
The fearful import of the final six months of 1988 cannot be fully perceived unless we understand clearly the lessons of the final years of the Jewish Church/Nation as a corporate entity before God, and the time allotted by God for the individual members of that church to make a decision. Further the close parallel between recent Jewish history and the Seventh-day Adventist Church history tells us in the words of Ezekiel -
"It is coming, the hour has come, the hour is striking at you, the hour and the end." (Eze. 7:6-7 Mofatt)
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God in His foreknowledge had determined the time to be allotted to the Jewish Church and its holy city. To Daniel was revealed that "seventy weeks are determined upon thy people and upon thy holy city." (9:24) Yet in the close of the probation of the Jewish Church, the time varied for various segments of that Church.
A careful study of the book of Acts reveals the hierarchy of the Jewish Church passed the point of no return prior to the time that probation closed for the Jewish Church as a corporate body. Observe closely, with your Bible open, the following points:
1) On the Day of Pentecost (A.D. 31), Peter preached to "devout" Jews (2:5) and called them to repentance. (2:38) The hierarchy were busy at the Temple with the festivities of that day.
2) Shortly after the Day of Pentecost, but prior to A.D. 34, Peter again called the laity, who had gathered in the Temple courts for the hour of prayer, to repent. (3:1, 19)
3) While speaking to the people, Peter and John were arrested by the Temple police, and on the following day were arraigned before Annas, Caiaphas, and other of the kindred of the high priest. (4:6-7) Peter boldly charged these top leaders of the Jewish Church with the crucifixion of Jesus (4:10); but at no point did Peter call them to repent.
The leadership of the Jewish Church had passed their day of probation prior to the time allotted to the Jewish nation as a corporate body.
In A. D. 34, Stephen standing before the supreme "council" of the Jewish Church arraigned them in judgment before God as the "betrayers and murderers" of "the Just One." (6:15; 7:52) There was no call to repentance, for the hour of the end of the "seventy weeks" had arrived. In the execution of the judgment of the high council of the Jewish Church upon Stephen, probation closed for that Church as a corporate body. Yet for another 36 years, the forms and ceremonies of the Jewish religion would continue to be practiced in the Temple before the "curtains" fell on that Temple and the "holy city." Why was time extended?
In the decision of the Jewish hierarchy to kill Jesus, the laity of the Jewish Church were not involved, although as a part of "the house of Israel," they shared accountability. (Acts 2:36) When Stephen was stoned, the decision was made by the Jewish "council." Again the laity were not involved, but as a part of the corporate body shared in that guilt. God, being a God of justice and mercy, granted time so that the individual member of the Jewish Church might decide whether the decisions of the Jewish leadership were correct, or whether the testimony of the apostles of Jesus was true. This necessitated not only that the Jewish laity in Jerusalem receive a call to repentance, as on the Day of Pentecost; but also that the same laity scattered in the synagogues of the Diaspora be given the same opportunity. This is what the major part of the book of Acts is all about. Not only does Paul carry the gospel to the Gentiles, but he enters the synagogues and tells the individual members what their hierarchy did at Jerusalem. (Acts 13:27-29) The book of Acts closes with a confrontation of Paul with the local leadership in Rome. (28:17, 23-29) This final picture of the book of Acts takes place within the shadow of the time when the "sign" Jesus gave marking the hour for the destruction of the city of Jerusalem
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occurred - A.D. 66. The end of all things for the Jewish Church was at hand - its ritual and its temple services in A.D. 70.
This history can be diagramed and its significance -visualized as follows:
(2) A.D. 34 - Close of Probation for the Jewish Church as a corporate body.
(3) - Decision time for the laity of the Jewish Church.
In the fate of this once "holy city," we can see "a symbol of the world hardened in unbelief and rebellion, and hastening on to meet the retributive judgments of God." (Great Controversy, p. 22) Also in this city, we see fulfilled events which Jesus connected with "the scenes which are to take place in the history of this world just prior to the coming of the Son of man in the clouds of heaven with power and great glory." (Counsels to Writers, pp. 23-24) In these final events, it is not the probation of the Jewish Church which is involved, it is the probation of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, modern "spiritual Israel," to whom sacred trusts were committed as was to the ancient Jewish Church.
The Seventh-day Adventist Church cannot divorce itself from the fate of the nations. To the Church was committed the trust of giving "the everlasting gospel... to every nation." (Rev. 14:6) In a special sense to the Seventh-day Adventist Church was "entrusted the last warning for a perishing world." (9T:19) Following the Great Disappointment in 1844, as the minds of a small group of disappointed ones were directed to the High Priestly ministry of Jesus, they perceived as "the closing work of the church" the giving "to the world the warning of the third angel of Revelation 14." (SP, IV, p. 272)
Jesus linked the fate and probation of the nations with events which were to take place in the history of Jerusalem. He plainly foretold the destruction of the city, and gave the sign by which His followers would know that time was imminent. In the same prophecy, Jesus also set the boundary of the probation of the nations as corporate entities. Jesus declared that Jerusalem - the city, not the temple - was to be trodden underfoot by the nations "until the times of the nations be fulfilled." (Luke 21:24) [In the Greek, there is but one word for "nations" and "Gentiles"] Inasmuch as the fate of the Church is linked to the fate of the nations because of the trust committed tothe Church involving the final warning to the nations, this prophecy of Jesus becomes a major factor in understanding the true significance of the "now" time to which we have come.
Further, the fate of the Jewish Church and the fate of the Seventh-day Adventist Church was linked in a letter sent to Elders George I. Butler and S. N. Haskell in 1886. That letter read in part:
I think of His [Jesus'] great sorrow as He wept over Jerusalem, exclaiming, "0 Jerusalem, Jerusalem, thou that killest the prophets, and stonest them that are sent unto thee; how often would I have gathered thy children together, as a hen doth gather her brood under her wings, and ye would notl" [Luke 13:34] God forbid that these words shall apply to those who have great light and blessings. In the rejecting of Jerusalem it was because great privileges were abused which brought the denunciation upon all who lightly regarded the great opportunities and precious light
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that were entrusted to their keeping. Privileges do not commend us to God, but they commend God to us. No people are saved because they have great light and special advantages, for these high and heavenly favors only increase their responsibility. ...
When Jerusalem was divorced from God, it was because of her sins. ... The depth of our ruin is measured by the exalted light to which God has raised us in His great goodness and unspeakable mercy. Oh, what privileges are granted to us as a people! And if God spared not His people that He loved because they refused to walk in the light, how can He spare the people whom He has blessed with the light of heaven in having opened to them the most exalted truth ever entrusted to mortal man to give to the world? (Letter 8-55-1886; emphasis supplied)
The parallel between the history of Jerusalem in the fulfillment of the prophecy of Jesus in Luke 21:24, and the history of the Church in its rejection of the truth entrusted to her is so related that it dare not be overlooked. (See Appendix D) This parallel and the message of the book of Acts tell us where we are in the stream of time as God's professed people today. Let us recapitulate the data and its signif icance:
On June 21, 1948, Israel again became a nation. This did not fulfill a prophecy. Coming events were merely casting their shadows before. This event did, however, force the Seventh-day Adventist Church to review its prophetic interpretation concerning Israel as a nation. In 1944, the Pacific Press published a book - Palestine in Prophecy - which stated that "those who are holding the hope of national restoration for the Jews are following a theological will-o'-the-wisp." (p. 95) In 1947, the same press published another book - The Jews and Palestine - with the specific declaration that "careful study of both the Old and New Testament reveals that the literal descendants of Abraham, as a nation, will never be re-established in the Holy Land." (p. 61) Yet within a year, what we said could not, and would not be, did occur. We then backed up to the position Edson White had taken in his book - The Coming King - first published in 1898, which stated:
We also read that "Jerusalem shall be trodden down of the Gentiles, until the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." Luke 21:24. Jerusalem has never again come into possession of the Jews, and will not until "the times of the Gentiles be fulfilled." This will be when the work of the gospel is finished. (p. 98; See Exhibit #5)
We publicly proclaimed this position at the 1952 Bible Conference. Elder Arthur S. Maxwell in his presentation noted Luke 21:24 as one of the yet unfullfilled prophecies as of that date, stating that "Jerusalem is to remain trodden down of the Gentiles till probationary time of all Gentiles has run out." (Our Firm Foundation, Vol. 2, p. 231; See Exhibit #I) But today, Jerusalem is under Jewish control, and has become the capital of the nation. (See Exhibit #8) We are again faced with the fact that we still have not interpreted this prophecy accurately. We have failed to distinguish between "nations" as corporate entities, and "individuals." To face this distinction is not to our liking because the fate of the Church as a corporate entity is tied to the fate of the nations because of the message committed to the trust of the Church. In the fulfillment of Luke 21:24, God is trying to tell us something and we will not listen.
In 1950, God sent to the Church two "messengers" even as He did in 1888. Elders R. J. Wieland and D. K. Short called for denominational repentance, the only solution to the problem and need of the Church. The Church was soon to face its moment of truth in the soon fulfillment of Luke 21:24, resultant from the establishment of the Jewish State in 1948. In other words, the call of these two "messengers" was a message from God on time. While Elders Wieland and Short did not correctly interpret the nature of the repentance called for, and have since wandered off course as did Waggoner and Jones, the fact that God called for a denominational repentance, - this was clearly presented in 1950. But what was the reaction? In the first response of the General Conference in 1951, the hierarchy rejected their manuscript - 1888 Re-Examined - as too "critical." Another evaluation in 1958 also rejected it.
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Between 1950 and 1958, a major event occurred within the Church. The SDA-Evangelical Conferences were held and the resultant book - Questions on Doctrine - denied the sacred trust committed to the Church. Then in 1967 (June 5-10) came fhe Six-Day War, and Jerusalem was once again in Jewish hands after 1900 years. This was the beginning of the final period of the "times of the nations" (Gentiles). Within days another series of events began to unfold:
1) June 27-29 - A committee of the General Conference met in Washington and after hearing Elder R. J. Wieland in person, again rejected his and Short's manuscript because "its fruitage is evil." [Wieland and Short's revised edition of 1888 ReExamined does not give the true picture. It has been altered. But the manuscript A Warning and Its Reception - gives the complete data.]
2) July 30 - August 8 - . The triennial meeting of the Faith and Order Commission of the World Council of Churches met in Bristol, England. For the first time, a representative of the Seventh-day Adventist theological viewpoint sat in session as a voted member by the Central Committee of the WCC. He was Dr. Earle Hilgert, then of Andrews University. Now Dr. Roaul Dederen also of Andrews University has taken Hilgert's place.
3) October 17-24 - The Annual Council of the Church gave recognition to the Association of Adventist Forums. It was from the podium of this organization that Dr. Desmond Ford launched his attack on the Sanctuary truth in 1979.
4) December 15 - The first issue of "Watchman, What of the Night?' was mailed to a small list of names. For 23 years now this publication has been calling the attention of the Church to the apostasy both in doctrine and deed which has engulfed it.
Prior to 1967, another series of events began to unfold which reached their fruition in 1980. At the final session of Vatican II, an observer of the SDA Church and a member of the WCC Secretariat made arrangements for private dialogue. The first unofficial meeting took place in 1965. (So Much in Common, p. 98) Also in 1965, Dr. Bernard Seton wrote from Switzerland to the General Conference of the need for a revised Statement of Beliefs. This beginning, though at first rejected by the General Conference, ultimately led to the 27 Fundamental Statements of Belief voted at Dallas on April 25, 1980.
In 1967, when Israel took Jerusalem, the capital remained at Tel Aviv. However, on July 30, 1980, the Knesset (Parliament) of Israel made Jerusalem "the capital of Israel" and "the seat" of all government of the nation. Thus was completed the fulfillment of Luke 21:24. What does this mean?, We are now living in the time which would be parallel with the end times of the Jewish Church and nation - A.D. 34 - A.D. 70 - when the Jewish laity had to make a decision regarding the actions of the Jewish hierarchy.
For the Seventh-day Adventist Church today, all the actions of the leadership of the Church since 1950 onward focus in one document - the 27 Fundamental Statements of Belief. The compromise with the Evangelicals which denied the sacred trust committed to the Advent Movement is transcribed into the Statement. The requirement for membership in the World Council of Churches as written in the Constitution of the WCC is verbally written into the Statements of Belief. For six months the Sabbath School lessons were devoted to these Fundamentals. A new book - Seventh-day Adventists Believe... - details chapter by chapter each of the Statements. At the Centennial Celebration of 1888, these 27 Statements were proclaimed as the acceptance of the 1888 Message. It is now before each individual member of the Church as to which road he will take - the Way of the Sacred Trust, or the denial of that Trust over the past four decades by the hierarchy.
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Ezekiel 9 and Luke 21:24
As Seen in Testimonies for the Church
Internal evidence indicates there are three prophetic testimonies which are in themselves inter-related and coincide in their fulfillment with the prophecy of Jesus as given in Luke 21:24. These testimonies are to be found in Vol. III, pp. 266-267, Vol. V, pp. 207-216, and Vol. VIII, pp. 247-251. The relationship between the first two of these testimonies is very obvious - both quote directly from Ezekiel 9. In Vol. III, p. 267, after quoting Ezekiel 9:4, the instruction is given - "Read the ninth chapter of Ezekiel." The reference in Vol. V quotes Ezekiel 9:1, 3b-6 at the very beginning of the chapter.
The relationship between the first two references and Vol. VIII, pp. 247f., is not so obvious, but can be readily deducted by comparing what is written within each testimony. In the chapter, "The Seal of God," it speaks of a time when "the glory of the Lord had departed from Israel." (V:210) In the chapter, "Shall We Be Found Wanting?" the same language is used - "My Father's house is made a house of merchandise, a place whence the divine presence and glory have departed!" (VIII:250) Thus both chapters are describing the same condition and time. Using the geometrical axiom that if a = b, and b = c, then a = c; we find all of these testimonies interrelated.
The time on which these events focus is given in Vol. V, pp. 207-208, where it reads - "Jesus is about to leave the mercy-seat of the heavenly sanctuary, to put on garments of vengeance." In Adventist terminology, this means simply that the events as noted in Vol. V, pp. 207-213 are to take place just prior to the close of all human probation. The last paragraph on p. 212, begins with a quote of Daniel 12:1, and then the comment is made - "When this time of trouble comes, every case is decided; there is no longer probation, no longer mercy for the impenitent." (p. 213)
There is, however, another time mentioned in this chapter. On page 208, the example of the Amorites is cited as to how God has dealt with the nations in the past. Then the conclusion is drawn:
With unerring accuracy, the Infinite One still keeps an account with all nations. While His mercy is tendered, with calls to repentance, this account will remain open, but when the figures reach a certain amount which God has fixed, the ministry of His wrath commences. The account is closed. Divine patience ceases. There is no more pleading of mercy in their [the nations'] behalf.
The next paragraph inter-relates this time with Ezekiel 9 - "The prophet [Ezekiel], looking down the ages, had this time presented before his vision." One reads in vain for any reference to "the nations" in Ezekiel 9. Ezekiel 9 is concerned with the Church, and the sealing of those who sigh and cry for the abominations done within it. But the time of the events prophetically symbolized in Ezekiel 9 are pinpointed as taking place at the time mercy is no longer extended to the nations. Jesus in Luke 21:24 gives that sign to be, Jerusalem no longer under Gentile control. This brief period began in 1967 with the taking of Old Jerusalem by Israeli military forces, and ended with the transfer of the entire civil government from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem in 1980. Thus we are living in the time when the events portrayed in these three testimonies are or have been fulfilled. And these testimonies relate to the Church!
Vol. III, pp. 266-267 indicates this to be the time of "the closing work for the church," -- the "last work" as prefigured in the charge to the man clothed in linen
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with a writer's inkhorn by his side.
Vol. V, pp. 209-213 tells us that two groups will be developed - "the little company" also called "the faithful few ... who have preserved the faith in its purity, and kept themselves unspotted from the world." It also tells us that "the church - the Lord's sanctuary - was the first to receive the stroke of the wrath of God."
Vol. VIII, pp. 247-251 indicates the Seventh-day Adventist church as a corporate body is to be weighed in the. balances of the sanctuary, and if she is judged as having failed the trust committed to her, on her will be pronounced the sentence - "Found wanting." Further, the servant of the Lord hears the Divine Instructor asking - "How is the faithful city become an, harlot?" This is the question! The once faithful city - who during the 1940s and 1950s experienced the golden years of an evangelistic thrust which proclaimed the message worldwide - the sanctuary, the mark of the beast - all! - now declared to be "an harlot!" How? The answer is simple, and found in the testimony itself. The Church refused to heed the call to repentance asked by God even though He sent two messengers with this call in 1950. The results followed: she first played the harlot with the Evangelicals, then turned to the World Council of Churches. When she altered her doctrinal position to include both the thinking of the Evangelicals and the WCC, God indicated He was betrayed enough, and permitted the final sign given by Jesus to be fulfilled.
There are those, who, when confronted with the significance of Christ's prophecy in Luke 21:24, ask - Does this mean that when Jerusalem was no longer under Gentile control, probation had closed for all individuals? The answer is, No! Only the times of the nations had been fulfilled. Then another question follows - If the present work is for the Church - "the closing work for the church" - then how and when will the final witness be given to the individuals who perhaps have never heard the truth for this time?
The same night that Jesus gave the prophecy concerning Jerusalem which would serve as a sign when the times of the visitation of the nations were ended, He also told what the final witness would be. This part of the prophecy is found in Mark's gospel. It reads:
But take heed to, yourselves: for they shall deliver you up to councils; and in the synagogues ye shall be beaten: and ye shall be brought before rulers and kings for my sake, for a testimony against them. (Mark 13:9)
The 10th verse is interposed parenthetically - and it gives the time location, reading: "And the gospel must first be published among the nations." When the gospel has been given as a witness to the nations, their times of visitation are fulfilled, and the end period begins. After giving this time setting, Jesus continued the thought of the 9th verse:
But when they shall lead you, and deliver you up, take no thought beforehand what ye shall speak, neither do ye premeditate: but whatsoever shall be given you in that hour, that speak ye: for it is not ye that speak, but the Holy Spirit.
For men and women to merely open their mouths, and the voice of the Holy Spirit is heard can mean only one thing - they are completely filled and controlled by the
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Holy Spirit. The final atonement of Jesus will have accomplished its objective, and the fulness of the latter rain will have been experienced by the "faithful few" who have overcome by the blood of the Lamb, and who are now ready to give their testimony, loving not their lives unto death. (See Rev. 12:11)
God alone will be exalted in that day. It will not be men nor institutions which will be headlined by this experience. Those who bow their hearts before God in surrender in the closing moments of human probation as a result of this final witness, will be known only to God. It is our responsibility now to understand what it means to be so completely emptied of self that the Spirit of God will alone appear not only in our manner of conduct, but be able to take over our minds and voices. The image of Jesus, who "emptied Himself" (Phil. 2:7 RV) and who declared, "of my own self, I can do nothing" (John 5:30) will be mirrored in such lives.
1 N.B. It has been over twenty years since this manuscript was first published. The Church has fallen into much deeper apostasy during the years that have passed.