XXXVIII - 10 (05)
what of the night?”
hour has come, the hour is striking and striking at you,
Conclusions We Face
Conclusions We Face
In October 1972, the Foundation released its first research manuscript - An Interpretive History of the Doctrine of the Incarnation as Taught by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Last year, in our October issue of WWN, we began a series of articles which were re-written chapters from the original manuscript. The original manuscript had many "typos" due to our inadequate proofing. These errors we sought to correct as well as to re-write some paragraphs so as to give better sense to what we were seeking to say. A careful comparison between the manuscript and the articles as they appeared during the year in WWN would reveal other changes also; but one thing did not change, and that is the basic premise upon which the original manuscript was written: -- the documentation of what the Church taught in regard to the Incarnation from its inception in 1844 and its organization in 1863 to the present time. Now that documentation demands some conclusions.
IF the Seventh-day Adventist Church truly believes that Ellen G. White was the Lord's "Messenger" to the Remnant, then the historic position of the Church in regard to the nature of the humanity Christ assumed in becoming the Son of man is crystal clear. From the very earliest beginnings of the Church, the "messenger" of the Lord wrote: "The great work of redemption could be carried out only by the Redeemer taking the place of fallen Adam" (R&H, Feb. 24, 1874). "It was in the order of God that Christ should take upon Himself the form and nature of fallen man" - that "by experiencing in Himself the strength of Satan's temptations (R&H, March 18, 1875; emphasis supplied), - He might understand how to succour those who are tempted" (Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 2, p. 39).
IF the Scriptures are to be taken as the rule and basis for all doctrine, then the conclusion is likewise inescapable that Christ laid aside "the form of God" and accepted instead the "slave form of man" (Phil. 2:6-7). See manuscript - In the Form of a Slave. He was made "in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh" (Rom. 8:3). "He was made to be sin for us, who knew no sin (II Corinthians 5:21), "Forasmuch then as the children are partakers of flesh and blood, He also Himself likewise took part of the same" (Heb. 2:14). ["Children" came after the Fall in Eden.]
The findings of this research indicate that since 1950, theologians and apologists of the Church have altered the historic position, and now teach that Christ in accepting a human form from Mary was preserved free from the working of the great law of heredity through the operation of the Holy Spirit.
Further, it is now proposed that the humanity Christ took, except for physical degeneracy, was the same as the sinless nature of Adam prior to the Fall. On some of the published writings of these theological leaders and apologists, the highest elected leaders of the Church have placed their "imprimaturs" making the doctrines taught therein as "authoritative" as any official position of the Church. Thus the theologians and leaders have united together in leading the Church into a state of apostasy in regard to the doctrine of the Incarnation.
This all leads to some personal questions: IF the factual data as presented in the issues of WWN this past year is correct, then what is my responsibility in the light of this apostasy? Further, can a Church involved in such apostasy "go through," or is it a basis for its rejection before God when weighed in "the balances of the sanctuary?" (8T: 247).
In the September issue of WWN (p. 5), we noted the 1972 action of the Biblical Research Committee in preparing a series of quotations from the Ellen G. White writings to replace those which had appeared as Appendix B, sec. III in Questions on Doctrine - "Took Sinless Human Nature" (p. 650). It was published as an "insert" in the February issue of The Ministry. At the time, we believed the new series prepared by the Committee did not reflect the depth of the condescension of Immanuel as stated in the Writings. We submitted another series to the
Committee. These statements follow (all emphasis supplied):
In Christ were united the divine and the human - the Creator and the creature. The nature of God whose law had been transgressed, and the nature of Adam, the transgressor, meet in Jesus - the Son of God, and the Son of man (Ms. 141, 1901; 7 BC: 926).
Think of Christ's humiliation. He took upon Himself fallen, suffering human nature, degraded and defiled by sin. He took our sorrows, bearing our grief and shame. He endured all the temptations wherewith man is beset. He united humanity and divinity: a divine spirit dwelt in a temple of flesh. He united Himself with the temple. "The Word was made flesh and dwelt among us," because by so doing He could associate with the sinful, sorrowing sons and daughters of Adam (YI, Dec. 20, 1900; 4BC:1147).
Christ did in reality unite the offending nature of man with His own sinless nature, because in this act of condescension He would be enabled to pour out His blessings in behalf of the fallen race. Thus He made it possible for us to partake of His nature (R&H, July 17, 1900).
It was in the order of God that Christ should take upon Himself the form and nature of fallen man, that He might be made perfect through suffering, and Himself endure the strength of Satan's fierce temptations, that He might understand how to succor those who should be tempted (Spirit of Prophecy, Vol. 2, p. 39).
In our strength it is impossible for us to deny the clamors of our fallen nature. Through this channel Satan will bring temptation upon us. Christ knew that the enemy would come to every human being, to take advantage of hereditary weakness, and by his false insinuations to ensnare all those whose trust is not in God. And by passing over the ground which man must travel, the Lord prepared the way for us to overcome (The Desire of Ages, pp. 122-123).
Cast yourself, helpless, unworthy, upon Jesus, and claim His very promise. The Lord will hear. He knows how strong are the inclinations of the natural heart, and He will help in every time of temptation (5T:177).
The religion of Jesus Christ we need daily. ... Though He had all the strength of passion of humanity, never did He yield to temptation to do one single act which was not pure and elevating and ennobling (In Heavenly Places, p. 155).
The Mystery Years
L. E. Froom in his book, Movement of Destiny, tells of an informal group meeting of Adventist leaders at the headquarters of the Church during the years 1930-1935. They met "periodically, on Sabbath afternoons for intimate Bible study, followed by informal round table exchange" (p. 429). He noted that these began "not long after the time of the issuance of the (1931) 'Fundamental Beliefs' statement." This statement was formulated by F. M. Wilcox, editor of the Review & Herald, whom Froom lists as in attendance at the special Sabbath afternoon study group along with W. W. Prescott, A. G. Daniels and W. E. Howell as well as others. Froom does not mention F. D. Nichol as present, although in 1927 Wilcox had invited him to be his associate editor. We can conclude that he, too, was present. Froom keeps emphasizing the fact that he was the youngest person present, and attributes it to his "close association with Elder Daniels" as well as his responsibilities with the Ministerial Association (p. 430).
First, let us note Nichol's "paper trail" in regard to the subject of the Incarnation. In 1932, he published a book, Answers to Objections, which was "an examination of the major objections raised against the teachings of Seventh-day Adventists." The "objections" he discussed focused on the Law, Sabbath, Second Advent, the "state" of man in death, and briefly on the atonement and the "scapegoat" as a "saviour." There was no mention of the Incarnation. The book was reprinted in 1947, and finally in 1952 enlarged and revised to include other areas of the "Sanctuary and Atonement," such as the Incarnation and a completed atonement at the Cross. After noting the objection to the use of "sinful flesh" as applied to Christ's humanity, Nichol places a "word of counsel" to our "Adventist writers and speakers" in regard to the use of the phrase, "sinful flesh" (p. 397). The gist of the counsel was "tone it down." The
question is how far can truth be "toned" down? While Nichol's advice was excellent that we stay "within the protecting bounds of (Scriptural) quotation marks," then let us follow it, and permit Scripture to speak with finality. Christ took the "slave form (morfhn doulou labwn) of man (Phil. 2:7).
The "paper trail" of Froom goes much further afield. An undated manuscript on "The Tremendous Truth of the Virgin Birth" composed of three chapters was circulated by Froom during the time of the controversy over Questions on Doctrine with a notation - "Confidential: Please Read and Return with Suggestions. - L.E.F." Froom's reason for the emphasis on the Virgin Birth was because he considered it as "the sole explanation of the sinless life" (p. 2). We shall quote excerpts from this manuscript in a selected type style. Comments which we shall make will be placed in a different type style and enclosed within brackets.
Froom engages the subject:
First of all, we must recognize that the Incarnation - and its virgin birth - lies at the heart of God's method in redeeming a lost race. Everything in Holy Writ moves toward a destined moment of Incarnation until its accomplishment. The life of Christ finds fulfilment and explanation therein. It reveals the unity of God, the power of God, the holiness of God, the grace of God, and the Fatherhood of God, together with the Eternal Deity of the Son. Therein the Eternal Son becomes united with humanity by the Holy Spirit.
The mystery of the Incarnation, with its inseparable Virgin Birth, occupies its own solitary place in the Christian Faith. The Eternal Son, with all the fullness of His Godhead, assumed human nature. No man-made theories can explain it. No mind can encompass it. Nevertheless, the Incarnation, by the way of the Virgin Birth, is the foundation of all activities and provisions of redemption. Indeed, the Virgin Birth - God becoming man - is the most stupendous fact and event in all human history. Moreover, the Virgin Birth is the sole explanation of a sinless life, [Is this not also the reasoning behind the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception?] and then the vicarious death and wondrous resurrection of our Lord, and all that follows thereafter. That a Person of the Godhead should become one of the human family - the sphere of His own creation - with a view to retaining that new form and relationship thenceforth throughout eternity, must ever remain an inscrutable mystery to the creatures of this world.
It should be said at the onset that it is foolhardy for quibblers to contend that Christ had to have two parents in order to assume humanity - for the simple reason that Adam, as the first man, had no parents. He came into being by direct creation. Creative power was similarly involved in the Virgin Birth. [It was "the power of the Highest" (Luke 1:35), that was engaged; but was it in the creative mode? Paul gives the direction of the intent - alla eauton ekenwsen - "but Himself He emptied" (Phil. 2:7). It was God entering a "humanity" being formed in the womb of Mary. "A body host thou prepared Me" in Mary (Heb. 10:5).] (p. 2; emphasis his.)...
As intimated, more than any other provision of redemption, the Incarnation - and its inseparable Virgin Birth - is a mystery unfathomable to the mind. In the Old Testament it is a subject of dim but definite prophecy which in the New Testament is elaborated, clarified, and irrefutably fulfilled. Indeed, we may say that the Incarnation, through the Virgin Birth of the Son of God, is the supreme fact of history, bringing the Eternal One to a human birth in time. It is God becoming Man according to the divine plan and redemptive provision. It is freely granted that the Virgin Birth was a stupendous miracle. It was a creative work for the redemption of a lost race - a creative work just as verily as was the original creation....
The tremendous truth of the supernatural coming into the world of Jesus Christ is the one doctrine that involves and compasses all other doctrines of redemption. God not only assumed human nature, and was manifested in human history as a Man among men, but the supreme purpose of that coming was to condemn sin in the flesh, and to redeem mankind from its consequences. That has vast involvements.
Jesus Christ is the one exception to the universal rule of sin and sinfulness. How did He escape the taint of sinful heredity? There is but one answer: His human nature came into being by a direct and miraculous intervention, the overshadowing of the Holy Ghost. The virgin Birth is so inseparably related to the Incarnation, and is so vital to the whole plan of redemption, that it is an absolutely indispensable article of the Christian faith. This has not
been commonly recognized (pp. 2-4; emphasis his).
At one point in his discussion, it would almost appear that Froom borrowed from Andreasen rhetorically. He stated that "to deny the Virgin Birth is to abandon the Christ of the New Testament for another Christ - a philosophical, human Christ, one who may teach and inspire but has no power to save. Such a contention is the purveyance of 'another gospel,' a grave perversion, against which Paul most solemnly warns (Gal. 1:6-9). Denial of the Virgin Birth is actually reducing Jesus to the rank of a mere human personality. It is taking away our Lord" (p. 4; emphasis his). He then introduces another factor:
The Virgin Birth and the Resurrection are the two indisputable evidences (that) we here have something unique and supernatural in the history of humanity. It is commonly admitted that the Apostles all believed in and taught the resurrection of Jesus Christ. But if there was a stupendous miracle at the close of Christ's earthly career, why could there not have been an equally amazing one at the beginning? And there was.
Christ, be it noted, was the "Seed of the woman," not of the man. By a creative act God broke through the channel of ordinary human generation and brought into the world a supernatural Being. But this should not stagger one unless he denies the possibility of the supernatural. Such a wonderful life as that lived by Christ, having a wonderful exit in the resurrection and ascension, logically calls for a wonderful and extraordinary entrance into the world, which involved the biological miracle of the Virgin Birth (Chap. 1, p. 4, emphasis his).
Pressing the two concepts - the seed of the woman" and the "generation" of the humanity of Christ by the Holy Spirit, Froom continues his paper of the Virgin Birth. He links them as the fundamental elements of "the doctrine of Christ" (Chap. 1, p. 9). He wrote:
The Eternal Son of God entered into the human race by means of the Virgin Birth. The Holy Spirit generated within the humanity of Mary the body of flesh by means of which the Son of God tabernacled among men (chap 2, p. 9). [Did the Holy Spirit "generate" the humanity in the womb of Mary, or did He merely stimulate the birth process to which He united Himself?]
Jesus' human nature originated miraculously in the humanity of His virgin mother by the creative power of the Holy Spirit (Matt. 1:18, 20). Jesus was a real man, because He was born of a woman. And yet He was sinless, because He was generated by the Holy Ghost. The "power of the Highest" overshadowed Mary while the Holy Spirit was creating the humanity which He was uniting to Himself (chap. 2, p. 11). [IF Jesus was God (John 1:1) how could He be generated? He who ever was came to be flesh; He emptied Himself. He took "upon Him (self) the form of a slave" (Phil. 2:7). Did the Holy Spirit create a "slave form"?]
Genesis 3:15 is the gospel in embryo, the epitome of all human history, the beginning of all prophecy and promise. ... Genesis 3:15 foretells deliverance and a Deliverer....
Eve is set forth as the "mother of all living," and Adam as the father of all who are destined to die (Rom. 5; I Cor. 15:22). But Eve was also to be the mother of all who would live again - through Christ. Here is the initial hint, in Holy Writ, of the Virgin Birth. Christ was to be the "Seed" of the woman, not of a man. Observe the implication of the term seed of the woman. The seed is the life element of man's nature, the symbol of the continuity of the race. Normally, it is in the masculine and never in the feminine. But here we have the seed of the "woman." Therefore the birth here indicated implies a biological miracle.
The promise of a Deliverer, made in the Garden of Eden to Adam and Eve, consequently contemplated the birth of the virgin's Son. The promised "Seed" was to be the seed of the "woman" alone - the woman without connection with a man. Christ was that Son, "made of a woman” (Gal. 4:4) because He had a human mother but no human father (chap. 1, p. 13; emphasis his).
[It is true that Jesus could have no "human" father, for if so, He would be a mere human being. He was God manifest in the flesh; but the flesh could be only that which Mary could provide as a daughter of Adam. The Roman Church recognized that fact and promulgated the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception of Mary! Froom recognized the same problem, and has the Holy Spirit "generating" in the
womb of Mary a new "humanity" different and distinct from the humanity as created in the beginning. The "ladder" does not reach to the earth -"the dust of the ground."]
The question might be raised, Why cite from this unpublished manuscript of Froom's when it has no church standing? Here is where the book, Movement of Destiny, enters the picture. The book carried a "Foreword" by the president of the General Conference, and a "Preface" by the president of the North American Division, who also served as Chairman of the Guiding Committee for the publication of the book. Froom's position was affirmed in a letter to the editor of the Evangelical journal, Our Hope. The editor, Dr. E. Schuyler English, had contended:
He [Christ] was perfect in His humanity, but was none the less God, and His conception in His incarnation was overshadowed by the Holy Spirit so that He did not partake of the fallen nature of other men" (p. 469).
That, we in turn assured him was precisely what we likewise believe (p. 470).
As we conclude this article and with it the series on the doctrine of the Incarnation as taught by the Church, we return to the first article of this issue of WWN, "Conclusions We Face." Answers must be given to the questions which close the article. Read them again.
CORRECTION: The last sentence of the 2nd paragraph in column 2 on page 4 of XXXVIII – 9(05) should have read - Thus editorials appearing in the Review "in no way bind the Church body to an action, nor do they reflect any particular official position that a committee has designated” (H. E. Douglass, Letter to Editor, dated at Takoma Park, D. C., Dec. 29, 1971).
The humanity of the Son of God is everything to us. It is the golden chain that binds our souls to Christ and through Christ to God. This is to be our study. Christ was a real man; He gave proof of His humility in becoming a man. Yet He was God in the flesh. When we approach this subject, we do well to heed the words spoken by Christ to Moses at the burning bush, "Put off thy shoes from off thy feet, for the place whereon thou standest is holy ground." We should come to this study with the humility of a learner, with a contrite heart. And this study of the incarnation of Christ is a fruitful field, which will repay the searcher who digs deep for hidden truth.
Selected Messages, bk. 1, p. 244
When we want a deep problem to study, let us fix our minds on the most marvellous thing that ever took place in heaven or earth - the incarnation of the Son of God. God gave His Son to die for sinful human beings a death of ignominy and shame. He who was Commander in the heavenly courts laid aside His royal robes and kingly crown, and clothing His divinity with humanity, came to this world to stand at the head of the human race as the pattern-man.
Ms. 76, 1903 (7BC:904)