XXXVIII - 8(05)

“Watchman,

what of the night?”

"The hour has come, the hour is striking and striking at you,
the hour and the end!"            Eze. 7:6 (Moffatt)

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The Doctrine of the Incarnation as Taught in Adventism — 8b

 

Decades of Conflict and Apostasy
1952 — Present - 2

Continued from 7(05), p. 7

On the question of the Incarnation, Questions on Doctrine followed closely the articles that had appeared in The Ministry. The writer(s) of the book declared that "although born in the flesh, He [Christ] was nevertheless God, and was exempt from the inherited passions and pollutions that corrupt the natural descendents of Adam. He was 'without sin' not only in His outward conduct, but in His very nature" (p. 383; emphasis supplied).

The word, "exempt" has theological connotations borrowed from Rome. James Cardinal Gibbons, in his comments on the Dogma of the Immaculate Conception in his monumental work The Faith of Our Fathers, stated that "unlike the rest of the children of Adam, the soul of Mary was never subject to sin, even in the first moment of its infusion into the body. She alone was exempt from the original taint" (88th ed., p. 171; emphasis supplied). The main thrust of the view presented in QonD, however, was pegged to the word "vicariously." After quoting from Isaiah 53 and Matthew 8, this comment is made:

It could hardly be construed, however, from the record of either Isaiah or Matthew, that Jesus was diseased or that He experienced the frailties to which our fallen human nature is heir. But He did bear all this. Could it not be that He bore this vicariously also, just as He bore the sins of the whole world?

These weaknesses, frailties, infirmities, failings are things which we, with our sinful, fallen natures, have to bear. To us they are natural, inherent, but when He bore them, He took them not as something innately His, but He bore them as our substitute. He bore them in His perfect sinless nature. Again we remark, Christ bore all this vicariously, just as vicariously He bore the iniquities of us all (pp. 59-60; emphasis theirs).

I recall as if it were but yesterday, the day following the close of a camp meeting in Indiana, where I was ministering, of being called off of a work detail by T. E. Unruh, the president, to meet with Elder A. V. Olson of the General Conference, who had been the principal speaker that year. The objective of the meeting, which was held in Unruh's camp meeting office, was to interrogate me about my position on the Incarnation. (That is a story in itself.) During the session Unruh and Olson got into an argument as to whether Christ could take a "common cold." I was amused; for it reminded me of the history from the Middle Ages of the scholastic debates over how many spirits could dance on the point of a needle. I laughed. This brought a verbal blast from Unruh. It embarrassed Olson, and he quickly ended the meeting because he had "to catch a plane." In parting, he assured me that he had not requested the meeting.

When QonD reached the ministers and laity of the Church, reaction was swift and pointed from those who knew what the Church had taught in regard to the nature Christ had assumed in becoming man. Elder M. L. Andreasen met the issue "head-on." Through mimeographed and printed Letters to the Churches, he presented to all who were willing to read about the compromises resultant from the illicit fraternization with the Evangelicals by leading ministers at the headquarters of the Church. On the subject of the Incarnation, Andreasen wrote:

If Christ had been exempt from passions, He would have been unable to understand or help mankind. It, therefore, behoved Him "in all points to be made like unto His brethren, that He might be a merciful and faithful high priest. ... for in that He himself hath suffered, being tempted, He is able to succour them that are tempted" Hebrews 2:17-18). A Saviour who has never been tempted, never has had to battle with passions, who has never "offered up prayers and supplications with strong crying and tears unto Him who was able to save Him from death," who "though He were a son" never learned obedience by the things He suffered, but was "exempt" from the very things a true Saviour must experience: such a Saviour is what this new theology offers us. It is not the kind of Saviour I need nor

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the world. One who has never struggled with passions can have no understanding of their power, nor has ever had the joy of overcoming them. If God extended special favors and exemptions to Christ, in that very act He disqualified Him for His work. There can be no heresy more harmful than that here discussed. It takes away the Saviour I have known and substitutes for Him a weak personality, not considered by God capable of resisting and conquering the passions which He asks men to overcome.

It is, of course, patent to all that no one can claim to believe the Testimonies and also believe in the new theology that Christ was exempt from human passions. It is one thing or the other. The denomination is now called upon to decide. To accept the teaching of Questions on Doctrine necessitates giving up faith in the Gift God has given this people (Letters to the Churches, Series A, #1, p. 8).

Andreasen was correct in drawing a distinct line that the acceptance of the "new" view of the Incarnation meant rejection of the "testimonies" of the Spirit. The "messenger" had plainly written - "Though He [Christ] 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).

During the controversy resultant from the publication of QonD, a group of representative members in the Loma Linda, California, area formed a committee for the revision of the book. They presented a Memorial to the General Conference Committee which charged that the book glossed "over certain vital fundamentals and compromise[d] other tenets of our faith." Then the committee illustrated what they meant by this charge:

To illustrate: In Hebrews 2:14-17 and The Desire of Ages, pp. 48-49 and 112, it is stated in clearest language that Christ our Saviour was "subject to the great law of heredity" and took upon Him our "fallen" and "sinful" nature. See also Medical Ministry, p. 181.

In direct contradiction to these inspired words QonD declares that Christ "took sinless human nature," and that "He was exempt from the inherited passions and pollutions that corrupt the natural descendants of Adam." This constitutes a most unfortunate surrender to the so-called "Evangelicals," and robs the Christian of a perfect divine-human Saviour.

The Memorial also expressed the Committee's deep conviction in these words:

It is evident that certain statements and teachings of the book will never be accepted by a considerable number of our people. In fact, it is our conviction that not since the time of J. H. Kellogg's pantheistic controversy more than a half century ago, has anything arisen to cause such disquietude, dissention, and disunity among our people as the publication of this book.

The Memorial was signed by the following: A. D. Armstrong, Frank L. Cameron, Edna E. Cameron, R. F. Cottrell, Florence Keller M.D., Scott Donaldson, Claude E. Eldridge, Pearl Ferguson, N. M. Horsman, Orville W. Lewis, Sharon Y. Lewis, Daniel A. Mitchell, Harold N. Mozar M.D.,

O. S. Parrott M.D., B. R. Spear, Claude Steen M.D., Willa S. Steen, W. T. Weaver, Walter L. Webb, Harry G. Willis and Thomas I. Zerkle M. D. (This group could hardly be considered a part of the "lunatic fringe" of the Church. [See 7(05), p. 5, col. 2].

While at Andrews University (1964-1965) to complete work for a Master's degree, I obtained a copy of a term paper, "The Humanity of Christ" by Robert Lee Hancock, written for the Faculty of Church History. This paper was a brief study of the teachings of the Church on the nature of Christ's humanity. It has served as a guide for the in-depth research that I have done for this manuscript. The term paper was motivated because of the charge "that the church has changed her historic position on the doctrine of Christ's human nature." The study was "limited to the question of whether Christ took the nature of Adam as he was originally created perfect by God, or whether he had the 'sinful' flesh with its inherent weaknesses which every child normally inherits from his parents."

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The student's conclusions were most interesting. He wrote:

Regarding the specific question of Christ's humanity, this study has revealed that:

1)   from its earliest days the Seventh-day Adventist Church taught that when God partook of humanity He took, not the perfect, sinless nature of man before the Fall, but the fallen, sinful, offending, weakened, degenerate nature of man as it existed when He came to earth to help man. …

2)   that during the fifteen year period between 1940 and 1955 the words, "sinful" and "fallen" with reference to Christ's human nature were largely or completely eliminated from denominational published materials.

3)   that since 1952, phrases such as "sinless human nature," "nature of Adam before the fall," and "human nature undefiled" have taken the place of the former terminology....

The findings of this study warrant the conclusion that Seventh-day Adventist teachings regarding the human nature of Christ have changed and that these changes involve concepts and not merely semantics (Robert Lee Hancock, "The Humanity of Christ," Term Paper, Dept. of Church History, AU, July, 1962, pp. 26-27).

In 1971, Review & Herald Publishing Association released a book by Dr. Leroy E. Froom titled, Movement of Destiny. The weight of two of the highest officers of the Church was employed in placing the "imprimatur" upon the book. Elder Robert H. Pearson, president of the General Conference wrote the Foreword (p. 13) and Elder Neal C. Wilson, chairman of a large guiding committee which reviewed the book before it was released, wrote the Preface in his capacity as Vice President for the North American Division (pp. 15-16). This book is as "official" as any publication could be except for one approved by the General Conference in Session. Froom himself maintained that "some sixty of our most competent denominational scholars of a dozen specialties" approved what he wrote in the book (Letter to Editor, dated April 17, 1971).

A book review of Movement of Destiny by Ingemar Linden (Spectrum, Autumn, 1971) cautioned readers as to the pitfalls they might meet in the reading of this book. Linden stated that Froom "stands as the foremost current apologist" of the Church. In 1971 Linden was a teacher at Uppsala University in Rimbo, Sweden. He was a member of Church Historians Association of Sweden, and reviewer of theological dissertations in the field of eschatology and apocalypticism for church historians in Scandinavia. He noted that in writing the book, Froom was given the task of "countering all 'charges' against Adventism's founding fathers and succeeding leaders," and observed that because this puts considerable limitation on his work, "the reader must always be on the alert when studying Froom, asking himself whether Froom has given a full account, or whether important aspects have been neglected, or misrepresented.”... "Movement of Destiny seems to be the work of the General Conference 'defense committee to put all things straight', with Froom serving as an untiring preacher and organizer of the material" (pp. 89-91).

While Froom covers many doctrines in their historical development in the Church, this manuscript is primarily concerned with the teaching of the Church in regard to the humanity Christ assumed in the Incarnation. On this subject Froom revealed his position in writing of the contacts which preceded the publication of the book, Questions on Doctrine. He placed himself and the Church in full accord with the editor of Our Hope, who had written that Christ's "conception in His incarnation was over-shadowed by the Holy Spirit so that He did not partake of the fallen sinful nature of other men."

In a section which discussed the note in Bible Readings on the nature of Christ's humanity, Froom declared it to be an "erroneous minority position" (p. 428). The phrase to which Froom most strenuously objected indicated that Christ "partook of our sinful, fallen nature." How then did this "minority" concept get into Bible

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Readings? In 1956, Anderson did not know WWN 7(05), p. 6, col. 2). Froom, being a part of the same study group did not know then either. But now fifteen years later an answer is either found or manufactured. It was written supposedly by one, W. A. Colcord. No proof is given; a mere statement is made - "Apparently it was first written by W. A. Colcord, in 1914" (Froom, op.cit.) To discredit the statement in Bible Readings, Froom resorted to what amounts to a "smear" tactic. In a footnote, he alleged - In 1914, about the time his note on Christ's nature appeared in Bible Readings, he regrettably lost faith in the teachings of the Seventh-day Adventist Church" (ibid.). Not having an admissible answer in 1956, a "goat" was found in 1971!

(To Be Continued)