Seminar:
A Seventh-day Adventist Philosophy for Witnessing
Pt. 1: A Credible Faith

Seminar Overview

Today we have the first installment of the seminar on witnessing I've been wishing to get us moving into. How many parts? When we're done we'll both know. We won't go straight through for 12 weeks. We won't do this on first Sabbath's either, as those are especially planned for guests. From time to time we'll do other things too. The seminar is called "A Seventh-day Adventist Philosophy for Witnessing," and I've chosen that title carefully. You see, there are plans out there for sharing gospel presentations with people, but few, if any of them, really come from a biblical background consistent with Seventh-day Adventism. Mostly those are imports.

Today, when every wind of doctrine is blowing, that is a time to be especially careful with theological imports. The task heaven has allotted us is to make Christians in the end-time. We are put on earth and God's blessing will be placed upon us, as we share His end-time, present-truth message. The Bible does not say, after all, that the end will come as we share a misty and indistinct blur across the globe of earth, but that it is as this gospel of the kingdom is preached for a witness first, that the end comes along next (Matthew 24:14).

Can we get by with recycling what another church thinks the gospel is, and really be presenting to the world "this gospel of the kingdom"? It might be nice. It might be convenient. It might mean a lot less work and fewer times when the baseball bat of contemporary Christianity comes dashing up alongside our denominational head and batters us for violating the latest politically correct way of being "Christian."

But I don't think we can do that. We can't just be lazy and wait for Jesus to come. Nor can we indulge in a thoughtless activity without thinking-through what we are doing. Were that our philosophy, we'd still be observing Sunday and teaching many other errors that are not found in the faith given in Scripture.

In our seminar we are going to, in the first sections, make certain we are clear about how what we believe differs from others, and why we need to use an approach that is consistent with Scripture. Then we are going work out a very user-friendly approach to soul winning. When we get to the end we are going to help everyone tune-up your own personal testimony for sharing. So we are looking to combine the theological nuts and bolts with the very, very practical. We are going to be looking at the rich counsel given to us through the writings of the Spirit of Prophecy. There should be something here for everyone. There is a lot of neat stuff ahead.

Our first section deals with a very important, very long-term issue. Namely, how can I share my faith in a credible fashion?

What is Credibility?

The Oxford Dictionary defines it thusly:

credible. n. believable; worthy of belief.

If we are out there sharing a belief system, we want to share one that is worthy of belief. It should come across as believable. And it can only come across as believable if we come across as believable.

This issue, the issue of what personal credibility is, is a Scriptural concern. Come with me in your Bible to the writings of Paul, and in specific, 1 Corinthians 14:18-19:

"I thank my God, I speak with tongues [languages] more than ye all. Yet in the church I had rather speak five words with my understanding, that by my voice I might teach other also, than ten thousand words in an unknown tongue."

Now the word "unknown" here is added. Literally, this is speaking of a language that others do not know. Paul says he would rather speak five words that people could understand than 10,000 that they could not. Why? Because as he says in 1 Corinthians 14:23, if an unbeliever comes along and upon entering into a place of Christian worship only finds chaos running loose and every different language going up in a chorus of seeming gibberish, they'll think you are crazy! Credibility matters.

In reference to Jesus, there was some concern too. Turn with me to John 7:15. Why was there concern over Jesus? Because He was credible! But He had not been to the proper schools. That was what disturbed the people; it upset their lazy reliance upon their national educated elite. Our text asks, "How knoweth this man letters, having never learned?" This wasn't just that Jesus spoke with a deep, pastoral voice, or had some matchless rhetorical polish or masterful command of flowery language; what bothered the religious leaders was that here was someone not under their control, not presenting the commonplace agenda, and He had credibility. The people might listen to this One. He was dangerous because He was credible.

Every Seventh-day Adventist should be dangerous because every Seventh-day Adventist should be credible. Certainly every Seventh-day Adventist member of the Mentone Church should be credible.

Later in the seminar we'll deal with the unique credibility connected with personal spiritual experience. We need to be such a people that those whom we share with will marvel, realizing that we've been with Jesus. But today we are going to hone in on this issue of credibility in a very specific way. Let us focus on the content of what we share. Here are some statements that will interest you:

"We must individually know for ourselves what is truth, and be prepared to give a reason of the hope that we have with meekness and fear, not in a proud, boasting, self-sufficiency, but with the spirit of Christ. We are nearing the time when we shall stand individually alone to answer for our belief. Religious errors are multiplying and entwining themselves with Satanic power about the people. There is scarcely a doctrine of the Bible that has not been denied." Ellen G. White, Evangelism, p. 69.
"Let things of minor consequence be put in the background, and let us now bring to the front the things which concern our eternal interests." Ellen G. White, Signs of the times, January 4, 1883.
"We must now stand with a united front. Every element will be stirred to bring in confusion, teaching errors that will not stand." Ellen G. White, Manuscript Releases, vol. 13, p. 326.
"The testimonies of Sister White should not be carried to the front. God's Word is the unerring standard. The Testimonies are not to take the place of the Word. Great care should be exercised by all believers to advance these questions carefully, and always stop when you have said enough. Let all prove their positions from the Scriptures and substantiate every point they claim as truth from the revealed Word of God." Ellen G. White, evangelism, p. 256.
"God's ministers should not count the opportunity of engaging in discussion [this is what a public debate competition was called in Ellen G. White's day] a great privilege. All points of our faith are not to be borne to the front and presented before the prejudiced crowds. . . . The truths that we hold in common should be dwelt upon first, and the confidence of the hearers obtained." Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 3, p. 426.
"We shall be attacked on every point; we shall be tried to the utmost. We do not want to hold our faith simply because it was handed down to us by our fathers. Such a faith will not stand the terrible test that is before us. We want to know why we are Seventh-day Adventists, what real reason we have for coming out from the world as a separate and distinct people. . . . The powers of darkness will open their batteries upon us; and all who are indifferent and careless, who have set their affections on their earthly treasure, and who have not cared to understand God's dealings with His people, will be ready victims. No power but a knowledge of the truth as it is in Jesus, will ever make us steadfast; but with this, one may chase a thousand, and two put ten thousand to flight." Ellen G. White, Maranatha, p. 217.

Pay close attention to this statement from the pen of Ellen G. White:

"'Search the Scriptures; for in them ye think ye have eternal life.' Every position of truth taken by our people will bear the criticism of the greatest minds; the highest of the world's great men will be brought in contact with truth, and therefore every position we take should be critically examined and tested by the Scriptures. Now we seem to be unnoticed, but this will not always be. Movements are at work to bring us to the front, and if our theories of truth can be picked to pieces by historians or the world's greatest men, it will be done." Ellen G. White, Evangelism, p. 69.

Yes, you heard aright. "The highest of the world's great men" will evaluate our representation of what the Bible teaches. Our views will be brought right up "to the front." If what we are saying "can be picked to pieces," it will be. Bottom line? What we propose must be credible.

It is important to be clear here. Notice again what this statement says. Consider this contrast.

Position of truth (demonstrable by Scripture)
taken by our people (the body of Seventh-day Adventists)

versus

Position (not necessarily scriptural or within SDA consensus)
taken by individuals

We are at heavy risk today of picking up the lint of random positions that are not compatible with our belief-system. Let me explain.

How This Problem arises

A class of workers within the church have decided that our denominational background is a liability. They think that since we rose from an apocalyptic emphasis, and that our distinct identity is so closely linked to prophecy, and since (they think) we may be mistaken about some of these prophetic notions, the best plan is to put distance between our past and the present. They want to disown their origin.

The upshot of this is, that today there is much less emphasis on prophecy than there should be. And our books that most aggressively present the prophecies, like Uriah Smith's, Daniel and Revelation, C. Mervyn Maxwell's God Cares, or Ellen G. White's The Great Controversy, receive less and less attention. Today, most preaching about prophecy in Adventism is limited to sets of evangelistic meetings. Our church newspapers give us very little prophetic nourishment. Even our missionary journals are light on prophetic emphasis.

Consequently, our people, a people of prophecy, are starved for, you guessed it, prophecy. This same reticence to uphold prophecy causes our people to begin to loose faith in church leadership. And they turn to whatever they can get elsewhere.

Meanwhile, out in Christendom outside of Adventism, they also have a problem. When the current church's predecessors rejected the third angel's message back in the 19th century, they created for themselves a prophetic vacuum. Other people are also interested in prophecy, not just us.

And to supply what is missing in their churches, they have their varied ideas on prophecy, their varied ideas and notions. The trouble is, few of these are sound or compatible with Adventism.

But in the vacuum what do our people do? They find the food they can. This is one way that strange ideas about Bible prophecy find their way into our midst. Like free radicals floating through the body, they lodge where they will. And where we should be developing a thrilling but credible faith, we absorb and intermingle with our belief-system unsound notions that render the real message we are supposed to be giving less credible. And the devils laugh.

Sources for a Credible Faith: The Mighty Triangle

We're going to take apart some of those strange ideas shortly, but first, what is the best source for our developing a credible faith? What is the spiritual drinking fountain from which we can drink, from which we can inform ourselves, educate ourselves, define the eyes through which we see our world?

Now you might become concerned here. After all, we are talking about what we let into our mind. But we need to realize that day by day there are so many things leaking into our sponge-like minds. Whether it is television, radio, a billboard we drive past, something an unbeliever says at work, there are many things that come that we have no control over until they are out of the spigot so to speak, until they have already registered in our brains. Some of this we can control, some of it is not within our sphere of control.

The way to deal with this then is to be proactive, to plan ahead, to determine, to choose for ourselves, insofar as is possible, what we will feed our mind. That is, to a point, we may wall-paper our thinking processes with that which will help us spiritually, or that which may harm us spiritually.

I would like to propose a "mighty triangle," if you will, that is one way to start this process. We are dealing with long-term things here. How can we, in the long term, change the way we think, improve our capacity to share an authentic Seventh-day Adventist faith with others?

Here's my suggestion. I will call this the mighty triangle. At each of the three corners you have one of the major Ellen G. White books: Great Controversy, Desire of Ages, and Steps to Christ. In the very center of the triangle formed by these books, you have the best book of all, the Bible.

If you have not clarified in your own mind the validity of the Ellen G. White books, also called the Spirit of Prophecy, then you should read some of them to help you arrive at clarity about how you will react to them. But until you are sure where you stand in relation to them, no one expects you to take what they say as authority. That's for after you've reached a personal determination about them.

Nor is the triangle pattern meant to place a relative value on the various books, although we will say very clearly that the Bible is by far the very most crucial. Nor are we trying to say that other books from the pen of Ellen G. White are unimportant. A good goal is to read every line she ever wrote. Most of us are still working on that one. But let me explain the mighty triangle.

At the center of the triangle is the Bible. Everything that is truth flows out from that objective center. That is your power source. That is where you test everything else from. It is holy Scripture. You should read this book through numerous times in your life. You should let its teachings and truths be your foundation. This is a matter of eternal life. God has given us a trustworthy book in the Bible, He has preserved it through vast ages. Christians have given their lives for it, martyrs burned for translating it into the common language. It comes down to us through the ages as the most noble inheritance of the human race. If you are not reading it on a fairly regular basis, you are starving yourself.

Everything flows out from the Bible.

Now we have our triangle. Why did I pick those books? Well, those books each are the decisive exploration of crucial themes. Let's start with Great Controversy.

Great Controversy is the single most complete treatment in any one place in any one book or volume, on planet earth, on how the end-time works, what God and Satan are both seeking to achieve in the battle between good and evil, and what God's people can expect to occur. It contains nearly 6000 Bible verses. This book is the closest thing we have to a blueprint for Adventism.

If you want to understand prophecy, this is it. In my opinion, the most important book published in 1700 years except the Bible itself. A lot of people out there are interested in Bible prophecy. You want to learn Bible prophecy? Take the Great Controversy as your textbook. You cannot improve on that.

There are many people who are interested in Jesus, as they should be. The best expansion on Jesus you can find besides the Bible, is the book Desire of Ages. If you want to be ready to talk to people about Jesus, this book is invaluable. If you yourself want to draw close to Him, you can't beat it.

The third angel is personal spiritual experience; how do I live the Christian life? And for that there is nothing better than Ellen G. White's Steps to Christ. The Bible is always first, but what I have in mind is what you can read in focused, concentrated form.

Each of the three corners of the triangle expand out from the Bible in a specific direction: Prophecy, Jesus, spiritual experience.

These are all areas that will help us grow, help us talk in a way that is interested and informed with others, and meet their interest and need at that time. Mind you, I am not saying to throw a stack of quotations out of these books at them. I am suggesting you let these books act as a means God can use to strengthen you and educate you. This is your coursework.

But never forget that in the center of the triangle is always the Bible itself, your very best help in sharing with others.

Put simply, if we focus on these materials, materials which we know are inspired, then we are sure to keep away from the edges where some of the strange and alien ideas congregate. The weeds of error always seek to entwine themselves about the trunk of truth. If you are out at the edges somewhere you could accidentally absorb some of the weeds. If you are in at the trunk, in the inspired materials, the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy, you are going to be a lot safer.

The Seven-Part Test

Now in a minute we are going to look at some specific examples of errors that will take away credibility from our witnessing. But first, a seven-part test for what we are thinking about.

  1. Do we find the specific, literal words?
  2. Do we find the specific, identifiable concepts?
  3. Do we find in the Bible or Ellen G. White writings that which rules-out a given idea?
  4. How much emphasis does the Bible give this point? Specifically? Generally?
  5. How much emphasis do we find on this point in the writings of Ellen G. White? Specifically? Generally?
  6. How much emphasis do we find on this point in the uninspired writings of the Adventist pioneers? Generally? Specifically?
  7. How much emphasis do currently credible thought-leaders in Adventism give this point? Generally? Specifically?

We'll explain the use of these more as we go. But now, let's consider some of the problematic ideas.

Problematic Ideas

There are certain ideas that we hear sometimes in certain Adventist circles. Some of these are also heard elsewhere too, outside of Adventism, so if you are not an Adventist, don't be too quick to laugh at us. I'll bet there are some embarrassing and kooky ideas that run freely in your neck of the denominational woods too.

Jesuits, Jesuits, Everywhere

Let's take an easy one first. Jesuits. Some of our people are very concerned that possibly there are Jesuits infiltrated into our church, perhaps in those indistinct higher places and orbits where the General Conference brethren operate.

By the way, I hope you do know what a Jesuit is. Jesuits do exist. They exist today. In my evangelistic series I show current Jesuits websites on the screen. And I don't mince any words. The Jesuits, or Society of Jesus (this is where you get the initials S.J.) are a distinct, currently existing branch of the Roman Catholic Church. They do have a mission -- the same mission they've always had since their founding. Their mission is to destroy Protestantism.

Here's a sentence from the current Jesuit oath:

If then the present Pope or his successors should send us for the improvement of souls or the propagation of the faith to the Turks or other infidels even in India or to heretics, schismatics or some of the faithful, we are to obey without evasion or excuse." From "The Oath of the Jesuits." As reproduced in The Age of Reformation, ed. Roland H. Bainton (Princeton, NJ: D. Van Nostrand Co., Inc., 1956), 152-153. http://college.hmco.com/history/west/mosaic/chapter8/source54.html, accessed October 18, 2002, 6:00PM PST.

We'll leave the meaning of these creative phrases "improvement of souls" and "propagation of the faith" to your study or imagination. Suffice it so say that the 16th century saw the introduction of the Jesuits, increased activity of the inquisition, retrenchment of the Catholic Church and its dogmas in what has very creatively, in very inaccurately been labeled the "Catholic Reformation" or "Counter-Reformation." Through the ages they have infiltrated higher education, and invested themselves with positions in places of power. Today the Jesuits are alive and well.

But is it wiser for us to focus on what may sound like an irrational belief in conspiracies, or to spend our energies more carefully in defeating the thinking of Jesuits and those who today are pursuing essentially the same vision as theirs -- impregnating Christendom with a theology that effectively neutralizes Protestantism?

We can have the facts all day long, but if the facts are ruled out to begin with, if your real battle is against perception, then you must give careful thought to what you sya nad how you say it, or you may not be credible to your hearers.

Who can really prove today, or even give substantial credible evidence that our denomination is infiltrated with Jesuits? I haven't seen it. Assembling credible evidence means more than accepting as "documentation" whatever some random speaker waves in the air or sales in his meeting Saturday night after sundown. You want verifiable documentation, sources, multiple sources, credible sources.

Now remember our set of seven tests. Can we apply one of them? For example, how much emphasis does the theme of contemporary infiltration by Jesuits into the Seventh-day Adventist church receive in the writings of Ellen G. White? The answer is, none at all. Hmm. Well then, can we find the literal word in her writings anywhere? Yes. Twelve references in all her writings. And she has a lot of writings! But if you follow up all those hits, there are actually only four. The others are all repeats or appendix entries to her books added in the 1911 edition.

The references in the 1888 ed. of Great Controversy (four altogether, found on pp. 234, 235, 279) are repeated in the 1911 ed. of the Great Controversy, same page numbers. Additionally there are five of the 12 hits that are references given to the works of various church historians in the appendix that was added to the book in 1911. One other is only in reference to the statements already made in the lines of Arthur L. White's Sixth Ellen White biography volume on p. 329.

What about those references then on pp. 234-235, 279? Look them up if you'd like. You'll find they speak very generally of the tactics of the Jesuits and of their devotion to the destruction of Protestantism. But you will not find any evidence that the Jesuits would infiltrate the church.

Ten times worse than any single Jesuit infiltrator of the church would be our reception of ideas destructive to the church. And you don't need to be a Jesuit to launch your ideas into the church. You are more easily detected that way. All you need to do is wittingly or not, be ready to press forward ideas that are destructive to her existence. Now you can go on and on worried about whether there might be Society of Jesus (Jesuit) infiltrators in our church. But judging from the almost nonexistent treatment of Jesuitism by Mrs. White I would suggest we can move on; there is nothing to see here.

Indeed, public chatter about the possibility of Jesuits in the church is likely to do little more than render other things you might share that would be truths for this time, non-credible by association. Other of the seven-part tests are of interest too. How much did our pioneers talk about Jesuits? The combined total of the Adventist pioneer library CDROM is 30 hits. Considering the size of the database on that disk, again, this is sparse representation. What about the seventh test: who that is today in Adventism a credible thought-leader is chattering all over the place about Jesuits infiltrating? Doug Batchelor is not. Dennis Priebe is not. I can't think of a single one.

Health Reform the Only Entering Wedge

Some think that the health reform is the only entering wedge. Is that right? Is that sound?

Pam and I are health reformers. We have been vegan for years and years. I became a vegetarian the same year I was first baptized. You won't find us eating any diary products. We like fruits and vegetables. It's been hard for Pam to accomplish this, but she finally was able to get me to eat more fruit. I'm doing a lot of apples. We are careful about our exercise program too. Normally we walk six miles a day -- together -- three in the morning and three in the evening. The only exception in an average week is Sabbath morning when we do not walk. So we are into health.

But we live the health reform quietly. We are in favor of it very much, but we want to see the topic approached in a way that is appealing, not damning. We look for openings to share it, but we don't force an opening. Now there are some though, scattered here and there, who will take an Ellen White statement and say that health reform is the only entering wedge. Hmm. What does inspiration say?

A search of the EGW CDROM give 27 hits for "health entering wedge." Some of those are titles added by editors, others are repetitions. What about some of those hits. Here's one: "I can see in the Lord's providences that the medical missionary work is to be a great entering wedge, whereby the diseased soul may be reached." Ellen G. White, Counsels on Health, p. 535. Another, "When properly conducted, the health work is an entering wedge, making a way for other truths to reach the heart." Ellen G. White, Testimonies, vol. 6, p. 327. Read the whole page. But how about one that may seem to contradict: "Wherever an interest is awakened, the people are to be taught the principles of health reform. If this line of work is brought in, it will be the entering wedge for the work of presenting truth." Ellen G. White, Counsels on Health, p. 495.

The context of that statement is an occasion when the brethren were trying to set up a health-food industry in Australia. The statement is given in time and place, and it says that when a work is being done and an interest in the truth for this time is being manifested, we are to be sure that we include in what we teach them the principles of health reform. "This line of work" is called "the entering wedge of the work of presenting truth." But when you read the whole of this, it is hard to get the sense that "the" here is used in an exclusive sense, as if meaning to say "the entering wedge and the only entering wedge."

There are a few more statements, but I think you'll catch the idea. Health reform is a wonderful help in presenting the truth. But it is "a" method, not "the only" method. We are altogether for health reform. But according to Mrs. White, a few fanatics can undo the influence of an army of good workers. How? By erasing our perceived credibility. I hope you can hear what I am saying. I'm saying let's all be health reformers for sure, but that we want to also give our own people room to work in their own armor. We have experts on health among us, and that is fantastic. They need to be given opportunity to serve. But we want to have recognition too that not everyone we share our faith with will be head over heals ready to hear health reform. For some it will have to go more slowly. It must go. But we can not move faster than people are willing to move.

The New World Order and Other Conspiracy Theories

Let's try one more item. A variety of people have studied and debunked conspiracy theories. But what do we mean by "conspiracy theory"? Some have put it this way:

"Conspiracy" will mean: a specific plan by an identifiable group to cooperate in committing a specific illegal or immoral action, in such a way that secrecy is central to the plan's success. A "conspiracy theory," then, becomes an interpretation of reality postulating a conspiracy as the primary cause for an event or set of events. Ed Merta, "Birth of a Conspiracy Theory," http://www.nmia.com/~emerta/conspiracy.html.

This brings our minds back to the Jesuit item already considered. But from time to time there has also been talk of secret internment camps built into highway rest areas, with black helicopters, etcetera. One person some have heard of goes around claiming that the government is out to kill him because of the information he is presenting. And yet he is able to print and publish and speak at announced religious meetings!

How incredulous do I look, really? Listen, if the government wants you dead, you will be dead. Only if God intervenes will that not happen. Consider that if such vast plots exist, if such vast networks are operating, then there is no way of credibly explaining how one could elude their net for so many years and still be holding public meetings today!

One of the major problems with conspiracy theories is that they are, by nature, self-sealing; they cannot be solved. Another discussion of conspiracy theories from the internet explains this:

A Grand conspiracy theory is a belief that there is a large-scale conspiracy by those in power to mislead and/or control the rest of the world. Consider the following example: There is a conspiracy amongst the computer programmers to control the world. They are only allowing the public to have simple machines, while they control the really powerful ones. There is a computer in \ they call "The Beast." It has records about everyone. They use this information to manipulate the politicians and businessmen who ostensibly rule the world into doing their will. The Beast was prophesied in the Book of Revelation. . . . Conspiracy theories divide the world into three groups. The Conspirators, the Investigators, and the Dupes. Conspirators have a vast secret. The Investigators have revealed parts of the conspiracy, but much is still secret. Investigators are always in great danger of being silenced by Conspirators. Dupes are just the rest of us. Often the Conspirators show a mixture of incredible subtlety and stunning stupidity.

Evidence produced by the Investigators is always either circumstantial or evaporates when looked at carefully. The theories can never be disproved, since any evidence to the contrary can be dismissed as having been planted by the Conspirators. If you spend any time or effort digging into the evidence produced by Investigators then you will be labeled a Conspirator yourself. Of course, nothing a Conspirator says can be believed.

From Skeptic FAQ Background http://home.xnet.com/~blatura/skep_0.html, accessed October 17, 2002, 8:40AM.

Ellen G. White would call such things 'sensationalism." Here's one occasion where she wrote about the mischief caused by sensational books: "The world is deluged with books that might better be consumed than circulated. Books on sensational topics, published and circulated as a money-making scheme, might better never be read by the youth. There is a satanic fascination in such books. . . ." Ellen G. White, Adventist Home, p. 412.

Frankly, it seems to me that most of the books written on prophecy by those who have no love for the Sabbath or the Bible fit into the same class. They would be better consumed than circulated. "Books on sensational topics" she says, are circulated "as a money-making scheme." Why should you or I line the pockets of those who make merchandise of the gospel and will fill the covers of a book with whatever sensational imagined prophetic schemes they can, which do not mesh with Scripture?

Does anyone remember the testimony of Daniel 2:43, the feet of the statue? The head of gold was Babylon, the breast of silver, Medo-Persia, the belly and thighs were made of bronze, representing Greece. His legs were made of iron and represented Rome, and his feet were part of iron and part of clay. Coming down into our day it was said that the kingdoms would mingle themselves with each other, there would be an attempt at unity, but we know that what? It shall fail in the end. (All of this is found in Daniel chapter two.) With all of this talk about a "one world government" or a "new world order," you'd think everyone has forgotten Daniel two. God will not allow any one-world government to persist. This is how we knew that Germany would never prevail in WWII or the Soviet Union would never prevail in the cold war. It is also how we know that now the United States will not prevail either. But we have lost a lot of our prophetic insight, and so people tremble about these things that the Bible has given us assurance on.

Most Christian groups outside of Seventh-day Adventism have lost their way in terms of prophetic interpretation, there is a vacuum out there, and that vacuum is being supplied by a steady stream of materials put together by those who are utterly clueless. When I say most other groups have lost their way in terms of prophetic interpretation, I am speaking carefully. The evidence of history will show anyone who cares to check into it that most Christian groups that in the past had specific and carefully presented views on Bible prophecy have changed those views very substantially between then and now.

The secret rapture and the seven years of tribulation viewpoints have incorporated into modern evangelical Christendom in relatively recent time. The Lutherans, who through Martin Luther had some very strong views against the Papacy now say that the Reformation was all just a misunderstanding (at least most of Lutheranism says this. Missouri Synod does not). Let's not taint the precious truths of Scripture with the guesswork about vast conspiracies we should leave at their source. Let God bring good out of evil by allowing this incredibly inedible credibility-destroying junk where it will destroy the credibility of those whose credibility needs destroying.

Other Suggestions

There are several more hints that will help us be more credible when we are sharing our faith. For example:

  1. Make sure the person you're sharing with knows we are Christian, that we believe in Jesus and go by the teachings of His Bible.
  2. Is it clear in your mind which things are from the Bible and which ones from the Spirit of Prophecy? Keep them distinct in your mind, and separate for the purpose of your sharing and your defense of your beliefs.
  3. Avoid tangential items. It may be interesting to tell about Adam being more than twice as tall as humans now are, or that Michael the archangel is Jesus, or that there are intelligent beings on other worlds observing the great controversy. But is it always wise? You can't prove that Adam was that tall from the Bible. You can prove that Michael the archangel is a title used for Jesus as heavenly commander and general, and that you do not view Jesus as a created being, but do you want to spend all that time and energy doing that at this stage of your sharing? And you can find Scriptures that hint about intelligent life possibly our there elsewhere in the universe in the Bible, but you can't prove it. You can prove angels. So it is enough to talk about the angels watching the great controversy.
  4. Another way of saying the last item, is consider the magnitude. Share the important things and be wise about how much time you spend on side issues -- as interesting as they might be to you.

The Jesus Angle

We've all seen the milk advertisements. They ask the question, "Got milk?" But we are a planetful of worship-natured beings. It is a built-in feature of our humanity that we are thirsty, that we desire to worship that which is greater than ourselves. Really, a whole planet is crying out to nourish this spiritual drought; a whole planet is crying out, "Got milk?" Jesus said that the fields already were white unto harvest (John 4:35). Already that is, there were many just waiting to find the spiritual reality heralded by His arrival. Never spoke Christ more truly than when He said, "The kingdom of heaven is at hand" (Matthew 4:17).

Jesus said, "I, if I be lifted up from the earth, will draw all men unto Me." (John 12:32). That's the Jesus angle. If Christ is lifted up, He will draw everyone who needs spiritual nourishment to Him. Yes, His being "lifted up" has first reference to the death that Jesus would die, suspended between earth and heaven on the splintery cross. But for those who follow Him, the cross was meant also to be a drawing power. There Jesus' death for humankind would be highlighted, there His love for this race of fallen creatures would be manifested. And for what we share with people to be credible, we want to remember this principle. If Christ is lifted up from the earth, He will indeed draw all men unto Him; if we can, with credibility say that we know Jesus, they will be drawn.

People have different interests. Some may not at first seem to be interested in Jesus. But a lot of perception figures into this too. Maybe the Jesus they don't want anything to do with is the Jesus you don't want anything to do with either. Maybe they have heard of an alien being who is very arbitrary and magical, that is what Paul calls "another Jesus" (2 Corinthians 11:4) who cannot be found in the Scriptures. Maybe they find good reasons to reject that portrayal. But the same person may be open to Bible prophecy. So start there. You can't get too far with Bible prophecy without bringing in Jesus!

If we love Jesus, we will want to talk about Him, we will want to tell others, to share what He has done and is doing for us. There will be a spontaneous nature to that too, springing up within us. If that is lacking in your experience, spend some more time with God, pray more, ask Him to give you more of that love. He will pour the Holy Spirit out into your heart so that you can lift up Christ before the world. Don't ever leave out the Jesus angle.

Conclusion

Let's review our seven part test:

  1. Do we find the specific, literal words?
  2. Do we find the specific, identifiable concepts?
  3. Do we find in the Bible or Ellen G. White writings that which rules-out a given idea?
  4. How much emphasis does the Bible give this point? Specifically? Generally?
  5. How much emphasis do we find on this point in the writings of Ellen G. White? Specifically? Generally?
  6. How much emphasis do we find on this point in the uninspired writings of the Adventist pioneers? Generally? Specifically?
  7. How much emphasis do currently credible thought-leaders in Adventism give this point? Generally? Specifically?

We are soldiers in a battle over minds. God has called us to be skillful soldiers. We are doing the most challenging work there is to do -- dealing with human minds, with perception, with truth, and with credibility. We need to fill our minds with the right things. Try the mighty triangle: fill your mind with the Bible, the Great Controversy, the Desire of Ages, and Steps to Christ. Then we'll tell others the right things, and starve out the minutia and the sensational trash-points that we may have on occasion been tempted to blend in to the hallways of truth. And let us never forget the Jesus angel. It is he who attracts, it is His Spirit that convicts, it is His truth that saves. Now go out there and administer the right medicine!


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Pastor Larry Kirkpatrick is an ordained minister of the gospel. Since 1994 he has served in the American Southwest as pastor to several churches. He received his BA in Religion from Southern Adventist University in 1994 and a Master of Divinity from Andrews University in 1999 with a specialization in Adventist Studies. While in Michigan he was employed by the General Conference at the White Estate Berrien Springs branch office. More important than his scholastic preparation has been his immersion in the biblical and Spirit of Prophecy materials. He is author of the 2003 book Real Grace for Real People. Presently he serves as Pastor of the Mentone Church of Seventh-day Adventists, located near Loma Linda, California. Larry is married to Pamela. The couple presently live in Highland, California along with their two children, Etienne and Melinda.

Freely reproduce these materials | A statement regarding donations
To Email the GCO editor: larry@greatcontroversy.org
Freely reproduce these materials
A statement regarding donations
To Email the GCO editor: larry@greatcontroversy.org
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