Minister Speaks to Adventists
was an auspicious occasion. On the Sabbath afternoon of April 22, 1978,
Geoffery Paxton, an Anglican minister and author of the book, The Shaking of
Adventism, was about to appear in the Loma Linda University Church together
with some of the principal actors in the drama portrayed in his book. Now
crowds had to be accommodated elsewhere, because every seat was taken well
before the start of the meeting, which was to last or three and a half hours
and was to be characterized by earnest, rapt attention throughout.
was the climax of
what had been an eventful Week of Devotion for the University conducted by
Dr. Desmond Ford, who is the chief protagonist of one of the two
full-grown, distinct theologies which Paxton sees as now competing for
the devotion of the church members in a time of unprecedented
this background it is no wonder that crowds now thronged to the auditorium
to see and hear Dr. Paxton himself. He was flanked by a panel which included
two of the three men, whom, Paxton felt, had been largely responsible for
the two most favorable recent innovations in Adventist theology, vis.,
Edward Heppenstall and Desmond Ford. In reviewing the previous decade,
Paxton had written: It is obvious that while there are some encouraging
aspects in Adventist articulation of the Reformation gospel in the 1960s,
the real theological gains of the decade are to be found in the
affirmation of original sin and the repudiation of perfection in this life. This
significant advance a p pears in the theology of men such as Edward
Heppenstall, Desmond Ford, and H. K. LaRondalle.
meeting opened and continued smoothly in a spirit of brotherly love under
the ever-gracious moderation of Louis Venden, pastor of the University
Church. With great earnestness and eloquence Paxton spoke of the opportunity
and challenge facing Adventists to make good their stupendous claim to be
called to carry forward the work be gun by the sixteenth century reformers. He
reiterated a previously made challenge: Will the real Adventists please
stand up and be counted? It is clearly his hope that it will become
evident that the real Adventists are those who hold to what he
believes to be the correct understanding of the relationship between
justification and sanctification, and who are in accord with the
affirmation of original sin and the repudiation of perfection in this life.
Would Narrow Christ's Work for Us to Justification
is quite beyond the scope of this paper to go into the individual points
dealt with in the various discussions between panel members m answer to the
many questions submitted from the audience. One of the panalists
questioned whether Paxton had not given too exclusive attention to a single
aspect of Reformation theology, that is, justification, to the neglect
of other important aspects. He felt that he had not, because of the
necessarily restricted scope of his work. An interesting upshot of this
discussion was the revelation that it is generally recognized that the
Reformers themselves sometimes used the term justification in a broader
sense than solely meaning to declare righteous [justification], but also to
make righteous [sanctification]. This was especially significant in view of
the fact that Paxton is so concerned to bring us back to Reformation
theology. (Karl Barth clearly does this, also. See Church
Dogmatics, volume 4, number 1, page 95, and number 2, pages 499 and
onward). This fact was in sharp contrast to the impression repeatedly
given earlier by one of the other panelists (Ford). Sometime during the
meeting, Paxton rightly reminded his hearers that Justification and
salvation are not synonomous terms, and that the latter also includes
regeneration and sanctification and glorification.
says Sinning Cannot be Overcome
No One Can Keep the Law of God)
imply in the subtitle of this paper that these men are teaching that the
continual doing (in some degree) of what is known to be unrighteousness will
have to be covered by the perfect righteousness of Jesus Christ—the
perfect life He lived on earth—right up until the
removal of original sin at the moment of glorification. Up until
this past week I my self was not entirely sure that I was not misreading and
perhaps distorting their position. But Dr. Fords Friday night sermon on
Perfection cleared from my mind any lingering doubts as to where he really
stands. Notwithstanding the reiteration of carefully qualified statements
which could easily be interpreted as pointing in a different direction, Dr.
Ford made it unmistakably clear to me that he does not believe that all
sinning can be overcome in this life—either with or without the indwelling
of the Holy Spirit. This point, I fear, has not been adequately grasped by
many. It is basic to an understanding of the present theological
controversy. Only Certain Sins can be Overcome
to Fords understanding of the subject of character perfection is his idea
that Scripture distinguishes two kinds of sins. One kind is designated by
one or more of the following adjectives; willful, deliberate,
cherished or presumptuous. The second class of sins, sometimes
referred to as hasty-impulsive sinning, is something else again. As an
example, angry words, or sudden outbursts of temper, would probably fall
into this category. It will be his aim or goal to eliminate them insofar
as is humanly possible [to whatever degree he can do it by himself].
But he never reaches that goal in this life, according to the new
theology (i.e., new to Seventh-day Adventists). Consequently,
according to Ford, he will need incessant pardon for these sins right up to
the moment of glorification.
what all should be included in this second category of sin is not the point.
Dr Ford has indicated to me that covetousness is one of the inward sins
which cannot be entirely overcome in this life, and that is one of the Ten
Commandments! What is the point here, is that according to the new
theology there are two classes of sins, one which the Christian can never be
completely freed from in this present life. And we are here speaking of the
committal of sin, not merely of temptation to sin.
either we nor the grace of Christ is sufficient to overcome these little
sins in this life, according to Dr. Ford.
Down-grades the Work of the Holy Spirit in the Life
of the heaviest moments in the three and a half hour meeting on Sabbath
afternoon was when Paxton was directly pleading with Heppenstall not to try
to combine a perfect thing (the gospel of our Lords doing and dying for
us and outside of us) with the necessarily imperfect work of the Holy Spirit
inside of the believer. It is one of the beliefs of the Paxton Ford
group that the Holy Spirit is not able to keep us from sinning in this life,
hence we shall have to continue sinning.
from one of the Fallen Churches tells us that We are Fallen unless We
Come over to His Side!
at this point was grappling, in his intense interaction with Heppenstall,
with what in his book, on page 135 he calls Breaking the Synthesis. This
is a new-look in theology
theology—which he sees Ford as having successfully accomplished by the
end of the decade of the seventies. He felt Heppenstall and La Rondelle
probably had a little further to go before breaking into Paxton's better
theology. It is important to grasp what Paxton here means by the sythesis
and its breaking, for the concept is central to understanding his challenge,
Will the real Adventists please stand up? Paxton sees
theology prior to the 1950s as having been a synthesis of Protestant and
Roman Catholic elements. Naturally
he wants to see this synthesis broken. He also speaks of this as a
synthesis of justification and sanctification. This is indeed strange
theology, when one considers that neither justification nor sanctification
is Concerned with Righteousness Outside of Us and not Inside of Us
wants the righteousness of the expression righteousness by faith
to refer only to the doing and dying of Christ outside plus, and not at all,
also, to His work within the believer. To Paxton s way of thinking,
Christ in you the hope of glory, is meaningless. The real issue in all
of this concern over the synthesis centers about the question of
character perfection—the daily overcoming of sin. This battle
against perfection is transparently laid out before the reader in
Paxton's book, The Shaking of Adventism. It is to be noted, by the
way, that in the book, Paxton correctly perceives that this matter of
overcoming of sin has always been standard Adventist teaching until the
appearance of this new theology.
can not but be easily seen how almost all of the other disputed points of
doctrine in the p resent controversy cluster about, and are closely related
to, the question of perfection.
being defined as obedience to the law of God by faith in the enabling
strength of Jesus Christ.)
s Original Sin Teaching You cant Overcome Because Sin is
Inherently in You .
.Take the doctrine of Original Sin, for example. This is teaching, derived from Roman Catholic theology, that one cannot keep the law of God and stop sinning, because sin is innately within him—he cannot with the help of God, or apart from it, separate himself from sins control in this life. Paxton believes Adventists are accepting this teaching of his now, due to his earnest labors for us, and he sees this as one of the two real theological gains of the 1960s. The other theological gain being the repudiation (denial) of perfection in this life by many of the Remnant. The idea of Original Sin goes hand in hand with the hopelessness of successfully overcoming it—for both presuppose that man can never overcome it. Inevitability leads to respectability.
Christ a Different Kind of Human than We are?
another example, consider the question of whether Christ took the nature
that Adam had before his fall, or the nature of mankind after it had been
weakened by 4,000 years of sin. If Christ took Adam s unfallen nature,
then He had a nature very different than ours in regard to resisting sin. As
Gillian and Desmond Ford correctly point out in their document entitled, The
Soteriological Implications of the Human Nature of Christ,
answer to this question is basic to ones understanding of perfection and
of righteousness by faith. Fords viewpoint is that being born infected
with the burden of original sin means that some degree of sinning is
inevitable. If this is true, then Christ must have been born with a
different kind of human nature than other men have, for lie never once
sinned. The Spirit of Prophecy viewpoint is somewhat different: Through
faith in Christ. we have equal access to the same resources which Christ
used in overcoming daily temptation, and since we have the same human nature
lie had while on earth, we may daily overcome sin in our lives and reflect
the image of Jesus perfectly.
so we have seen that the question of original sin and the question of the
nature of Christ bear directly upon the subject of character perfection. In
fact, they derive much of their current importance in our thinking from
their close relationship to it.
Requirements and Unreachable Standards
of the methods of the new theology, is to make the standard of the Law
of God to be so unattainable that men will cease trying to obey it. By
carefully worded phrases, the thought is conveyed that no one could possibly
reach such a standard in this life. An example of this is the insistence
that all mistakes are sins. or that all shortcomings are sinful, or
that anything short of an absolutely perfectly developed faith and love is
sin. And so it goes. Thus, one becomes willing to settle for living a life
in sin covered by the righteousness of Christ.
this maneuver overlooks at least two considerations:
There is growth and development in perfection,—both
for saints on earth as well as for saints—and angels—in heaven. God
Himself is the only Being who has absolute perfection in the sense of unimprovabiity
in knowledge and in love. Remember that though God alone has absolute
perfection, it would not be correct to state that He only has absolute
sinlessness. The two terms are by no means equivalent. Second: There
is a difference between sins and errors or mistakes in judgment due to
incomplete knowledge, etc. But the new theologians will have none of
this. They well know that only as the standard is kept infinitely high, and
therefore obviously unreachable by mortal man, that man can be kept from
thinking that he might ever attain it by any means, earthly or heavenly. The
strategy seems to be: Only exalt the law to an infinite height, and man will
realize that he can never keep it perfectly, even with divine aid.
the new theology says, in effect, is that man is incapable of keeping the
law perfectly in this life and so Jesus Christ covers him with His own
righteousness. And though he may try to obey, in this life he never shall. For
Jesus by His life and by His death does not give man power to obey, but only
power to receive forgiveness.
true view is that the perfect righteousness of Christ covers my past with
forgiveness and justification, and enables me in the present, moment by
moment, as I cling to him for strength, to obey His Fathers law. There is
a co-operation, a combining of the human and the divine, through the
unlimited grace of Christ, that covers the past, and enables in the present.
finished work of Christ on Calvary providing the atonement for a
world lost in sin; the mediatorial work of Christ in the Sanctuary
applying the atonement individually to those who are willing to receive it;
and the continual work of the Holy Spirit to woo hearts to accept
it and then to work in the lives of those who will submit to the yoke of
Christ. And what is ahead for one who has entered the kingdom of Heaven? There
is continual growth in grace, and development in perfection. There are
struggles and temptations. There is crying to Christ for help in time of
there is receiving it. The
closer I come to Christ, the closer I shall be in Him. The nearer I come to
heavens atmosphere, the more I shall admire the divine loveliness, and
the less I shall see to admire of my own. As P. T. Forsyth wrote: The
holiest have ever been so be cause they dared not feel that they were. Their
sanctity crew unconsciously from their worship of His ... The height of
sinlessness means the deepest sense of sin. Because of this paradox, true
perfection of character is the farthest removed from spiritual pride.
Ford-Paxton view is: Christ's righteousness only outside of the believer;
the Spirit of Prophecy view is: Christ's righteousness both outside and
inside of the believer. The Ford-Paxton viewpoint is basically a matter of
pardon ,and that's it. Sanctification,
or what we call Christian growth, is something in their thinking, of no
particular importance in the plan of salvation. And this is understandable,
for they are
to the idea that the law of God can be properly kept in this life by
mankind—even with the assistance of an indwelling Christ through the Holy
Spirit. They don't believe that right living is important in the eyes
of heaven,—so why then should it be a matter of concern to man?
regard to the Judgment: The new theologians must necessarily agree
with Scripture that we shall be judged by our works, but then they
spiritualize this away ,so that it means, for practical purposes, no
judgment at all for the people of God, based on what they did in this
greatest appeal of the new theology is in the assurance
of salvation which
it holds out to the Christian. And what is- this assurance? It is the hope
and comfort of Christ's substitutionary obedience, as it is
called. You don't have to obey God s law—or anything else He has
said, for that matter—for Christ has obeyed it al in your behalf Only
accept Him, and lie will cover you—and your sins—with His
righteous cloak. I believe that in this age when various false revivals are
running rampant, the pragmatic test of whether a method works brings
emotional assurance—is not an adequate criterion of its Biblical validity.
To the law and to the testimony, if they speak not according to this
word, it is because there is no light in them.
righteousness by faith—the third angels message in verity—mean righteousness
by faith—made right and o right by faith (righteousness wrought by
Christ in the heart, based on His righteous life and substitutionary death,
and worked out in the life in obedience)? Or does it mean unrighteousness—continuing
in our sins—covered by faith in Christs righteousness? This is a
serious question for the Advent Movement
consider today. It may be obscured. It may be postponed. But it cannot be
evaded. Sooner or later it must be met.
what alarms me most about the new theology is the decided efforts of its
advocates to evade and by -pass the clear Spirit of Prophecy statements
about character perfection and the importance of obedience by faith in the
daily life. Paxton says that it is not necessary to read
perfectionism into her writings. When one considers the entire body of
those writings, and not merely a few scattered statements,—it seems
one could arrive at any other conclusion than that those writings teach the
most rigorous form of what these men are pleased to label perfectionism.
Many examples of these statements—impossible to be misunderstood—are
how then are they explained away? Here are some of the ways that are being
God at His Word
it is stated that a prophet, or God Himself, could not be expected to hold
up before the people an y thing less than a standard of 100% perfection.
What prophet would be expected to get up and say, Now brethren and
sisters, I think we ought to come up to 80% of the standard. But, as the
argument goes, the prophet well knows that no human being could[ possibly
to 100% of the standard—the prophet knows that no one could possibly do
what he is telling them they must do. So in place of trying to come up
to it, Christ has come up to it for us.
this one stroke alone—if one buys this kind of logic the whole body of
her statements on character perfection are effectively wiped out. But
more—the underlying concept here is that you cannot rely on what you read
in the writings of any inspired person. God does not mean what He says. He
says one standard, but He means another. If such be true, one
is tempted to give up on such writings—and turn to the words of the
more accurate theologians.
in reality, the writings as they are written, can be taken just as they
read—for indeed, all Scripture should be taken just as it reads, should
it not? Are we to phantomize and spiritualize it all away? The Word
of God gives us a standard, and it gives us a way of meeting that
standard—what Christ has done for us, and what Christ is doing in us.
Thank God for His inexpressible Gift!
second approach is observed when a passage is quoted that contradicts their
ideas. When such statements are read, and they are asked regarding them,
such replies are given as one I heard from a leading theologian: Oh,
that must be after glorification. (!) Quotations such as
this one: Everyone who
faith obeys Gods commandments will reach the condition of sinlessness in
which Adam lived before his transgression. When
we submit ourselves to Christ we live His life. This is what it means to be
clothed with the garments of His righteousness. Signs of the
Times, July 29, 1902.
are a couple more: In this earth He performed His mission and
fulfilled his office; and, by obedience to the law of God, He testified to
all its immutable character, while at the same time proving that its
precepts could be perfectly obeyed through His grace by every son and
daughter of Adam. -Bible Echo, volume 10, number 22. page 172.
He comes, He is not
to cleanse us of our sins, to remove from us the defects in our characters,
or to cure us of the infirmities of our tempers and dispositions. If wrought
for us at all, this work will all be accomplished before that time... We
is clearly and unequivocally stated in the above passage that all sin, of
whatever nature, will have to have been removed from the people of God
before Christ's second coming.
expression all sin of whatever nature must surely include both
outward and inward sin, both hasty-impulsive sinning as well as presumptuous
sinning. There is no other way in which this passage can be understood.
the proponents of the newer theology fault their more traditionally minded
brethren for holding a standard that is too low as they
often call it—it can be revealing to consider closely just what all is
being said in making such a charge. There is more than meets the eye at
first glance. There opens up before one that which is reminiscent of
Alice in Wonderland. When he says, Your standard is too low (too low
in comparison with my super-high ideal standard), he is at the same time
saying, Your standard is too high in relation to my actual standard ,the
one that I consider to be attainable in this life. This business of
calling too low what they personally consider to be too high is very
confusing to say the least Especially is this so when they go on to say,
I don't consider it possible for anyone to come up in this life to your
too low standard. Is it strange that people get confused when they enter
this Alice in Wonderland world of too low is too high, and too high is too
have by no means exhausted all of the specious arguments that are currently
being advanced in support of the new theology, but I have attempted to touch
upon some of the major ones. And I hope that the following will also have
become apparent to the thoughtful reader of this paper:
1. Underneath an obscuring cloud of semantic confusion, the church is
engaged in a life and death controversy over the Word of God. Shall
we take it as it reads, or shall we allegorize and spiritualize away its
most basic truths, so that man may sit contentedly, with his sins covered
The new theology has much going for it, for it offers a ready
solution for the sin problem ,just
continue to live with it, for God really doesn't expect much else of you
in this line. Such a viewpoint has a powerful appeal, that many are reaching
out to grasp. There is room in this theology for regular living, regular
standards, regular diversions. The more conscientious can live on a
higher level, the others can live on a lower one—for the imputed
righteousness of Christ is broad enough to cover it all.
It is, basically, the viewpoint of modern Protestantism. Down with
obedience, up with Salvation by Faith alone.
It has an especial appeal to young people. One
recent poll of Adventist college students purports to show a three to one
support for the new theology. Those not going along with the new
theology are increasingly viewed as obstructing the forward march of the
church, and tolerance for this obstruction is rapidly diminishing among our
restive youth, many of whom are understandably anxious to keep abreast of
the times, and hasten the corning of latter rain renewal. For an example
of this, see the Criterion for April 28, 1978.
Another factor strongly favoring the new theology is the wide publicity it
is being given. Desmond
Ford. Geoffrey Paxton, and Robert Brinsmead, as well as other lesser
proponents of it, are increasingly being invited to speak at important
church gatherings. This is evidenced by this Spring Week of Devotion, and
the three and a half hour Sabbath afternoon meeting in the Loma Linda
University Church. Camp meeting appointments. worker retreats, Sabbath
services, and college and institutional gatherings are alike being used as
sounding boards for the new view.
The large circulation of the Brinsmead-Paxton
7. Finally, it is no secret that a growing number of denominational
workers are openly teaching this error. This includes men of high rank
among us, as well as a large number of young ministers, especially those who
within recent years received their training at Avondale College in
Australia, or Pacific Union College and Andrews University in North America.
theology is being aggressively carried forward by some of our most able
theologians. By now
it is known by many, that these men enjoy the more or less covert support of
several ,but by no means all, of the leaders of our Seminary at Andrews
Valley of Decision
foregoing are some of the major factors which I see as favoring the advance
of the new theology, and which leads me to conclude that unless there can
be found among us, people with the discernment and courage to effectively
oppose this growing error among us, the triumph of the doctrine of
unrighteousness covered by faith will soon become an established reality. It
has been said that all that is needed to insure the triumph of evil or of
error is for good men to do nothing. Never was there a time when this was
more true. We are told: If God abhors one sin above another, of
which His people are guilty, it is doing nothing in case of emergency.
Indifference and neutrality in a religious crisis is regarded of God as a
grievous crime and equal to the very worst type of hostility against God.
3 Testimonies, page 281. I fear for the shepherds in that day
when they will awaken too late to realize that not only have they themselves
been deceived, but they have also unwittingly deceived their questioning
flocks, when they quieted their fears.
Time for Action
have viewed seven strengths that the new theology has in its favor, as it
seeks to overwhelm all opposition. There are two reasons why the faithful
are hesitant to stand up and oppose this erroneous teaching:
The desire for peace. Many
remain silent because they are naturally peace-loving. This love of peace is
so frequently appropriate that it is sometimes difficult to realize that
there are times when it must give way and be superseded by a still greater
The desire or unity. I
believe that there are many who hesitate to speak their convictions boldly
for fear of dividing the church. But consider this: It is becoming
increasing impossible to state ones convictions regarding righteousness
by faith and related subjects without being divisive. And as time
passes it is going to become worse.
This study is based on an analysis written by Dr. David Duffie of Loma
Linda, California. The original title was Ford and Paxton at Loma Linda.
It has been adapted to such a degree that problems or complaints regarding
this study should be sent to me, rather than to Dr. Duffie. His basic
analysis was excellent.
and the Future The Protestant world by her attitude is making
concessions to Rome S T 716. The fires of persecution will be rekindled
through the time-serving concessions of Protestantism 2 SM 368-369.
Underrate Sin Beware of treating sin as a light thing Ed 291.
Cherished sins that are excused will seal your own destiny 6 T 405.
Encouraging others to do evil is the most grievous sin PP 323.
Covetousness is especially offensive in the sight of God SC 30.
Covetousness is the greatest sin existing in the Christian Church I T 194.
Grievous sins must be called by their right name 3 T 324. There is no
greater sin than unbelief ML 14. Little sins eat out the life of godliness
in the soul 2 BC 1017. God has not given us a list of graded sins. MYP
Overcoming of Sin Christ has power to keep us from sin AA 306. Our
overcoming of sin must be on every point
108. Victory must be obtained over sin EW 105. Besetting sins may be
conquered 2 BC 1017. The religion of Christ calls for an abandonment of
sin 3 BC 1157. Besetting sins must be battled with and overcome CT 449.
The merits of Christ's blood are available to cleanse from the least to
the greatest sin3 T 543. Christ always separates the contrite soul from
sin DA 311. Besetting sins must be put away FE 134. Man may overcome as
Christ overcame MYP SO. Christ overcame sin to show man how he may
overcome sin3 T 388. God has made every provision for man to be an
overcomer of sin 5 T 574. Man may be an overcomer in Christ's
strength PP 238. Man may overcome sin on his own account, through
Christ SD 24. Man must be an overcomer, as Christ overcame DA 122-123.
Man must do his part in overcoming sin Te III. Christ gives men strength
to do what they cannot do of themselves in overcoming sin S T 472.
Assurance in Christ Abiding in Christ brings confidence SC 71. Jesus
gives us confidence in Him that increases SD 310. Gods pledged Word is
our assurance MB 133. The Christian has a holy and happy confidence in
God3 T 377. Acceptance of Christ brings perfect assurance COL 420; SL
90. Satan is ready to steal away Gods assurance to us SC 53; 5 T 629.
In full assurance of his faith, the aged Peter said, Give diligence to
make your calling and election sure. If ye do these things, ye shall never
fall. Precious assurance! Glorious is the hope before the believer as
he advances by faith toward the heights of Christian perfection! AA 533.
Nature was Like Ours He took our nature, with the possibility of
yielding to sin DA 117. As One with us, He bore the burden of our guilt
and woe DA Ill - He took upon His sinless nature, our sinful nature MM
181. He had experience in all our sorrows and temptations Ed 78. False
claim—that it was impossible for Christ to overcome. He took our nature,
with the possibility of yielding to temptation DA 117. He was tempted in
all points like as we, and they were Satan's fiercest temptations S T
422. He accepted humanity when the race had been weakened by four thousand
years of sin this paragraph along with DA 117 settles the matter DA 49.
No effects of sin on Adam when tempted. But not thus with Christ—took
infirmities of degenerate humanity after 4000 years of decreasing
physical, mental, and moral worth DA 117. He had the humiliation of
taking our fallen nature upon Himself DA 112. He voluntarily subjected
Himself to all the humbling conditions of mans nature 4 T 458. To the
angels He predicted that He would take our fallen nature EW 150. Christ
had no trace of sin, but He was constantly on guard in order to preserve
this, for He was subject to all the conflicts we have DA 71.