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Reflections A BRI Newsletter

Number 16
October 2006

Biblical Research Institute
Reflections is the official newsletter of the Biblical Research Institute of the General Con-
ference. It seeks to share information concerning doctrinal and theological developments
among Adventists and to foster doctrinal and theological unity in the world church. Its
intended audience is church administrators, church leaders, pastors, and teachers.

departmental staff, the entire Geoscience

Table of Contents Research Institute staff, division presidents
Second International Bible Conference . . . . 1 and secretaries, as well as other leaders of
Tiktaalik: Another “Missing Link?” . . . . . . . 3 the church. They were able to engage in
Open Theism—A Review of the Issues . . . . 4 dialogue with Adventists theologians and
Is Jesus Breaking the
biblical scholars.
Sabbath?–John 5:18. . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 6
The Final Judgment . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 8 The conference was organized by the
Book Notes . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . 9 Biblical Research Institute and sponsored by
the General Conference of Seventh-day Ad-
ventists, The Adventist Theological Society,
News and Comments and The Institute of Archaeology/Siegfried H.
Horn Museum. Long before the conference
S e c o n d I n t e r n at i o n a l B ib l e
took place, and while plans were being laid to
C onference , I zmir T urkey , J uly have such a meeting, it was felt that ecclesiol-
7-17, 2006 ogy is one of the most important and pressing
topics for the Adventist Church. Therefore, it
In July, 2006, almost 250 biblical schol-
was decided to choose as the general topic for
ars and theologians, including a good number
of church administrators, gathered in Izmir/ this conference, to which all lectures, plenary
Turkey for the Second International Bible sessions, and sermons would contribute the
Conference. This was a historic meeting, theme “The Adventist Theologian and the
because it Nature, Mission, and Unity of the Church.”
was only From July 7 through July 17, the group
the sec- listened to inspiring devotionals and ser-
ond time mons by M. Finley, C. Steger, L. Cooper,
in the his- R. Clouzet, D. Schneider, J. Paulsen, and
tory of the T. Wilson, challenging the audience to un-
Adventist divided commitment to Jesus, His remnant
Church that people, and the mission of the church. About
such a group met. The First International seventy-five seminars were presented from
Bible Conference had taken place in 1998 which participants could choose to attend
in Jerusalem. This time the positive response fifteen. The ten plenary sessions were dealing
to the invitation to come, share, listen, and with the following topics:
lecture was even more overwhelming. • “An Adventist Ecclesiology in the Mak-
Scholars and theologians from all around ing” (Á. Rodríguez)
the world were present. On the first Sabbath, • “The Message and Mission of God’s Peo-
the president of the General Conference, Jan ple in the Old Testament” (J. Moskala)
Paulsen, addressed the group. Also attending • “The Message and Mission of God’s
the conference were the majority of the GC People in the New Testament” (R.
vice presidents, the GC undersecretary, GC Badenas)
Page 2 Reflections — A BRI Newsletter October 2006

• “The End Time Remnant and the Christian World” (E.

Consensus Statement
• “The End Time Remnant and the Non-Christian
The Second International Bible Conference of
World” (G. Christo)
Seventh-day Adventist Theologians brought together
• “The Role of Fundamental Beliefs in the Theology
Bible scholars and administrators from around the
and Life of the Church” (K. Donkor)
world to Izmir, Turkey. The purpose of this gathering
• “The Role of the Church in the Interpretation of Scrip-
was to explore the biblical doctrine of the church, to in-
ture” (R. Davidson)
spire commitment to its mission and unity, and to foster
• “Ellen White and the Role of the Bible in the Remnant
fellowship. The program included visits to archeologi-
Church” (E. Zinke)
cal sites related to the seven churches of the book of
• “Unity and Diversity in the Seventh-day Adventist
Revelation. Theologians and administrators prayed and
Church” (G. Pfandl)
studied together, seeking a deeper understanding of the
• “The Duties and Responsibilities of the Adventist
truth about the church that we hold dear.
Theologian” (L. Lichtenwalter)
Apart from the opportunity to interact with each other
and share research results, concerns, and successes the
At the conclusion of the Conference we, the at-
group had the opportunity to visit the seven churches of
tendees, make the following affirmations:
Asia Minor mentioned in the Book of Revelation, the
1. We affirm, first and foremost, our commitment
island of Patmos, as well as some other places. Each
to Jesus Christ, our Savior and Lord, to the final au-
participant received a copy of the latest BRI Publica-
thority of God’s Word, the Holy Scriptures, and to the
tion “Understanding
leading of the Holy Spirit.
Scripture” and other
2. We affirm the unique contribution of the writ-
material. A pleasant
ings of Ellen G. White to the study of the nature and
atmosphere and a
mission of the church.
spirit of companion-
3. We affirm our commitment to the Seventh-day
ship were present.
Adventist Church as God’s end-time people recogniz-
Some colleagues were
ing that it is the responsibility of the world church to
very much engaged in
establish biblically based doctrines and standards.
helping to prepare the
4. We affirm, in continuity with our understanding
conference, while a great number of participants helped
of Bible prophecy and our theological heritage, the
with various tasks such as coordinating the buses, the
unique identity and role of our church as God’s end-
seminars, the worship services, the devotionals, and the
time remnant, entrusted by Him with the message that
music, welcoming the delegates at the airport, registering
prepares the world for the soon return of our Lord.
them in the hotel, caring for their health needs, and serv-
5. We affirm that the fulfillment of our mission as a
ing in the steering committee.
church depends on the guidance of the Holy Spirit. To
Thanks to all presenters and
a large extent it also depends on a clear understanding
all those involved in one way
of the nature and function of the remnant church and
or the other!  The conference
the degree of theological unity in the church.
was a great success, and this
6. We affirm the vital role of theologians in the
spirit of the Advent movement
fulfillment of the mission of the church—a task to
attracted also the attention of
which all theological activity should aim, and without
hotel guests and employees in
which our endeavors are incomplete.
very positive ways.
The Second International
A Call
Bible Conference was not only
In view of the above affirmations, we extend:
an opportunity to exchange
1. A call to all theologians, teachers, pastors, ad-
ideas and share biblical and theological insights, but it
ministrators, and local elders around the world to join
was also intended to contribute to the theological unity
us in our commitment to take positive steps that will
among Adventist theologians and scholars. Therefore, to-
bring these affirmations to fruition.
ward the end of the meeting a statement was drafted which
2. A call to all institutions and organizations world-
was discussed in three committees before it was brought
wide to support and promote the affirmations set forth
to the floor, where it was again discussed for about two
in this document.
hours. Finally, a vote showed that this statement, which
3. A call to all local churches and church members
is printed in the next column, was almost unanimously
to study the Scriptures and, together with us, affirm
accepted by the participants of this conference.
October 2006 Reflections — A BRI Newsletter Page 3

published in the scientific literature2 accompanied by an

the unique role of the Seventh-day Adventist Church
apparently well orchestrated blizzard of excited media
as God’s end-time remnant.
The impressive intermediate features of Tiktaalik
include a relatively flexible neck, some parts of the ear, a
We praise God, for in His abundant grace He has
pectoral girdle and fins with bones that resemble in some
called us to the pastoral, teaching, and administrative
ways those found in the forelimbs of tetrapods ranging
ministry of His church. We thank Him for this Confer-
from frogs to elephants. In addition, Tiktaalik has a skull
ence, and for the care and protection He has extended
that superficially resembles that of some amphibia and
to us during our travels and meetings. In a response of
love and gratitude for His goodness we re-consecrate
So should creationists give up on the Biblical record of
ourselves to that divine call and ask God to grant us
the creation and flood on the basis of such evidence? First, a
wisdom and power to effectively continue to serve
word of caution about reflexive responses to new discover-
Him and His church.
ies like Tiktaalik; the two essential ingredients in evaluating
A recommendation followed which reads the following claims of this sort
way: are: 1) expertise in It is worth noting that the his-
Since international Bible conferences contribute to the particular area tory of missing links is spotty
theological unity and to a better understanding among within which the at best.
Bible scholars and administrators, we recommend that claim is being made
the leadership of the church allocate the financial and and 2) examination of the actual material in question--in
human resources needed to convene these conferences this case the fossil. Anything short of this is probably fairly
at least once every quinquennium. We also encourage characterized as speculation. So far no creationist expert
church leaders to make provision for division-wide Bible has had access to this particular fossil and thus caution is
conferences that will include the participation of a limited warranted before placing too much confidence in criticisms
number of theologians from other divisions and from the of the fossil or its interpretation.
Biblical Research Institute of the General Conference. Such With that caveat in mind, it is worth noting that the
conferences will contribute to further research on issues history of missing links is spotty at best. Currently there
of theological significance, enhance trust and collegiality is much debate about relationships between the various
among theologians, Bible teachers, and administrators, and Sarcopterygian fish, and because of this, it is probable that
strengthen the unity of the church. the claims made for this particular fossil will become more
Ekkehardt Mueller, BRI controversial in the future. This seems to be a common
trend when it comes to putative missing links; frequently
telling challenges are put forward by both creationists
and others.
Tiktaalik: Another “Missing Link?” Assuming this specimen is everything that it is said to
It was Charles Darwin who noted that “Geology as- be, it does present an interesting proof of the trend that is
suredly does not reveal any such finely graduated organic as clear today, if not clearer, than it was during Darwin’s
chain [of intermediate varieties between different groups time: Intermediate varieties remain rare when they should
of organisms]; and this, perhaps, is the most obvious and be abundant. This is what makes these uncommon finds
gravest objection which can be urged against my theory.”1 so newsworthy. If the fossil record really is imperfect, it
Most likely the term “missing link” is derived from this seems to be imperfect in a remarkable way that strongly
observation. From a Darwinian perspective there should militates against fossilization of missing links. In the
be many links in the “organic chain” connecting all living case of fish, it is incredible that just one kind of fish
things, but their absence in the fossil record renders them would evolve onto land and only in the Upper Devonian.
“missing links.” This absence of intermediate varieties Why are there not fish to land-animal missing-links in
Darwin attributed to imperfection in the fossil record. Mesozoic or Cenozoic rocks? Since the formation of the
After almost 150 years of diligent exploration, the Devonian rocks in which Tiktaalik was found, hundreds
pattern evident during Darwin’s day continues. The more of millions of years are supposed to have past with no
distantly related organisms are, the more links there should fish evolution onto land. Evolution from fish to tetrapods
be between them and yet the fewer putative links have been appears quite capricious rather than law-like. Interest-
found in the fossil record. Thus the excitement about the ingly, little seems to be made of those fish living today
discovery of a creature that might be a link between fish that exhibit traits similar to those found in land-dwelling
and vertebrates that walk on land--the tetrapods--is reason vertebrates. For example the Sargassum fish has hand-
for rejoicing among promoters of Darwinism. Recently, like fins and mudskippers are well adapted to life both
just such a “missing link,” named Tiktaalik roseae, was in and out of water.
Page 4 Reflections — A BRI Newsletter October 2006

Ultimately, while Darwinists cling to extremely about).”3 David Basinger, however, more specifically
atypical fossils which appear to be exceptions that prove characterizes the openness in the following terms: “(1)
the rule when it comes to rarity of intermediate varieties, God not only created this world ex nihilo but can (and at
creationists may embrace the huge variety of creatures times does) intervene unilaterally in earthly affairs; (2)
that show little or no change from the ancient past to the God chose to create us with incompatibilistic (libertarian)
present. Ironically this would include the coelacanth fish freedom—freedom over which he cannot exercise total
which is thought to belong to the same group as Tiktaalik. control; (3) God so values freedom—the moral integrity of
These remarkable lobe-finned fish are found in ancient free creatures and a world in which such integrity is pos-
rocks then go missing in strata above the Cretaceous, and sible—that he does not normally override such freedom,
yet are found at present swimming happily around the even if he sees that it is producing undesirable results; (4)
Comoros Islands and Sulawesi. To date none have been God always desires our highest good, both individually
discovered developing walking skills on the sea bottom or and corporately, and thus is affected by what happens in
crawling out onto beaches. our lives; (5) God does not possess exhaustive knowledge
Timothy G. Standish, of exactly how we will utilize our freedom, although he
Geoscience Research Institute may well at times be able to predict with great accuracy
the choices we will freely make.”4
Open theism then represents a new way of framing
C. R. Darwin. 1859. “On the Imperfection of the Geological Re- God’s relation to reality in an open way that is ‘supposed’
cord.” Chapter IX in On the Origin of Species by Means of Natural to be different from the two main existing paradigms:
Selection, or the Preservation of Favoured Races in the Struggle for
classical and process.5
Life, first edition from
E. B. Daeschler, N. H. Shubin, and F.A. Jenkins Jr. 2006. “A De-
vonian Tetrapod-like Fish and the Evolution of the Tetrapod Body II. Why Pave a New Way?
Plan.” Nature 440:757-763, and N. H. Shubin, E. B. Daeschler, F. Looking at the way open theists frame the notion of
A. Jenkins Jr. 2006. “The Pectoral Fin of Tiktaalik Roseae and the openness, one detects an effort, on the one hand, to some-
Origin of the Tetrapod Limb.” Nature 440:764-771. what restrict God’s
sovereign rule and, The central issue in the contro-
on the other hand, versy is the interface between
Open Theism—A Review of the Issues a desire to enhance divine sovereignty and human
human freedom. But freedom.
One of the controversies that have created a bit of a stir what motivates this
in evangelical theological circles in recent times is the de- move on the part of open theists? Keeping in mind that the
bate over what has come to be called, among others, “open central issue in the controversy is the interface between
theism.”1 The term “open theism” is noted to have been divine sovereignty and human freedom, open theism has
introduced in 1980 with the publication of Seventh-day come to the conclusion that traditional theism does not
Adventist theologian Richard Rice’s Openness of God. The make room for true human freedom. In other words, tradi-
issue was not broadly discussed, however, until 1994 when tional theism is regarded as unable to integrate real, open,
five essays were published by five Evangelical scholars, historical free human choices. Human freedom is at the
including Rice, under the title The Openness of God.2 center of this controversy. For open theists true freedom
is libertarian freedom which is the power “to choose to
The complexity of the subject compels us to limit
perform action A or choose not to perform action A. Both
our presentation in a manner that can be concise and still
A and not A could occur; which will actually occur has
helpful. Only an overview may be attempted here, and
not yet been determined” (emphasis supplied).6 Libertarian
even then this discussion intends to touch mainly on the
freedom is a powerful concept because it means that when
key issues at stake in the controversy.
a deed is carried out “agents themselves are the ultimate
explanations of their own free activity . . . We thus need
I. What Is It? not assume that there is also a divine reason explaining its
What is open theism? As the label implies open the- occurrence.”7 For open theists, then, “libertarian freedom is
ism is a view of God and His relationship to reality that is incompatible with the claim that God’s will is the ultimate
characterized by openness. What does it mean for God to explanation for someone’s choosing as he did.”8
be open to reality? The critical issue is what is entailed in In sum, open theists are paving a new way because they
the caption “open” or “openness.” Gregory Boyd, a key feel that compatibilistic freedom (the classic view) is not
advocate of this view describes the openness in this way: genuine freedom. Compatibilistic freedom says that one
“Open view theists believe that the future exists partly as can harmonize the view that God is the final explanation
actualities (future events that God sovereignly determines of everything that happens while at the same time holding
to bring about) and partly as possibilities (aspects of the people responsible for their free actions. But on what is
future which God sovereignly allows his creatures to bring the critique by open theists based?
October 2006 Reflections — A BRI Newsletter Page 5

III. Why the Classical View of Freedom is Critiqued buttress their respective views of God.15 This phenomenon
The classical view of human freedom is challenged as points us to the underlying philosophy in both positions.
being unreal because of the understanding of the nature of Geisler is correct in noting that both views are based on
God that is held by classical theists. The God of classical different philosophies, although open theists deny their
theism, according to open theists, is static, insensitive, and dependence on process philosophy. Be that as it may, the
unresponsive. Since such a view of God can only permit problem with both positions seems to be that there appears
an “I-IT relation,” it would mean that God has not given to be some incoherence between the respective views of
humans the “room to be genuine.”9 The classical view of God and doctrines that are developed. It is difficult to rec-
God, open theists allege, has its source in Greek philoso- oncile a Platonic view of God with such biblical doctrines
phy rather than in the Bible.10 Richard Rice provides a as Christ’s atonement, human freedom, and revelation-
summary of the essence of classical theism and contends inspiration (classical view). On the other hand, it is not
that it “does not reflect faithfully the spirit of the biblical easy to define a biblical doctrine of human freedom and
message, in spite of the fact that it appeals to numerous the other issues that are of interest to open theists without
biblical statements.”11 a clearly defined ontology on which their doctrine of God
To summarize, the open view places a high premium rests.16 This is why the charge of dependence on process
on freedom which is premised on a give-and-take relation- philosophy seems plausible against open theists. So where
ship between divinity and reality. The God of classical do we go from here?
theism cannot truly facilitate a dynamic relationship and
hence needs to be criticized. This is not only so because VI. Where Should Seventh-day Adventists Stand?
classical theism simply does not meet the requirements of We have seen that the issue of freedom is central to the
open theism, but also primarily because according to open controversy reviewed above. It has become quite clear that
theists classical theism is Hellenistic and unbiblical. the question of free-
dom quickly leads On the issues between classical
IV. Why Classical Theists Are Concerned to the one about the theism and open theism, just as
Classical theists are concerned about what they nature of God. So on all other issues, we should
perceive as open theists’ revisionism for several reasons. the main question stand on the biblical founda-
First, they raise the counter charge that it is rather open the- being asked here is tion without any philosophical
ism that is unfaith- where Adventists footings.
The biblical God does not have ful to Scripture and should stand on the
to be in process to be dynamic, dependent on an nature of human freedom. Are humans genuinely free? And
sensitive, and responsive. unhelpful philoso- what does that mean for the nature of God? Seventh-day
phy, specifically the Adventists can only build on biblical evidence; and there
process thought of Alfred North Whitehead.12 In particular is substantial evidence that clearly points to a God who
the following redefinitions of classical theism by open the- knows the past and the future; one who indeed knows how
ism are noted as problematic: God is vulnerable and open the future is going to unfold (Dan. 2, 7, 8; Rev. 12-14 etc.).
to the failure of some of His intentions; God is sometimes The Adventist Great Controversy motif falls flat without
mistaken in His beliefs about what will happen; God is presupposing this kind of God. At the same time, the Bible
not omnipotent in the traditional sense, and His efforts substantively points to human responsibility and account-
are sometimes defeated.13 Second, classical theists are ability for action taken, implying that those actions were
concerned about the immense theological ramifications taken in freedom (Acts 5:4). Of course there are pieces
that the above revisions of God will have:14 (1) on the of evidence that seem to point in the direction of God’s
doctrine of God—since Christ as God incarnate is the overweening control of events; but it is important to take
fullest revelation of God, and the attributes of Christ on into consideration the whole picture presented in Scripture.
earth reflect the ultimate character of God himself; (2) on Otherwise the biblical text is subjected to predisposing
soteriology—since God did not foresee the fall of man- philosophical factors.
kind, God had not planned for Christ to die for the sins of Adventists can believe in both divine, sovereign
mankind; furthermore, the cross is not a penal offering; (3) providence and genuine human freedom (as we see in the
on pneumatology—since God’s work is often thwarted by Bible, e.g., Gen. 45:5-8) without contradiction. We can
free agents, and the Holy Spirit’s ability to work is affected do this because we are not obliged to refract the bibli-
etc. In short a finite God, as classical theists see it, is a cal God through the lens of a Greek timeless concept by
risky proposition for evangelical theology. virtue of which thought and action would be inseparable.
Divine foreknowledge does not have to rule out human
V. Are There Difficulties with Both Positions? freedom; not if we preclude divine timelessness. This is
The truly remarkable phenomenon is how both classi- the dilemma of classical theism. At the same time, we can
cal theism and open theism are able to amass biblical data to endorse genuine, free human actions without succumbing
Page 6 Reflections — A BRI Newsletter October 2006

to the seeming finite god of process thought. The biblical thwart or hinder the accomplishment of His purposes; His relation
God does not have to be in process to be dynamic, sensi- to the world is one of mastery and control; immutability is one of
His central characteristics; He is timeless, and utterly changeless in
tive, and responsive. He comes across in the Bible as both
His nature, plans, and intentions; and the past, present and future
transcendent and immanent. appear alike before Him. Ibid. 12-15.
So where should Adventists stand? On the issues 12
Norman L. Geisler, Thomas Aquinas: An Evangelical Appraisal
between classical theism and open theism, just as on all (Grand Rapids: Baker, 1991), 21-22, observes that “Aquinas can
other issues, we should stand on the biblical foundation provide a philosophical answer to the growing influence of the finite
without any philosophical footings. god of process theology. There is no better philosophical system
Kwabena Donkor, BRI capable of answering the threat raised by process theology and de-
fending the traditional theistic and biblical view of God as eternal,
unchanging and absolutely perfect Being.”
Robert E. Picirilli, “An Arminian Response to John Sanders’ The
During the November 2002 annual convention of the Evangelical
Theological Society (Toronto, Canada), a founding member of the God Who Risks,” JETS 44 (2000):483.
society challenged the membership status of Drs. Clark Pinnock and
See A. Boyd Luter and Emily H. McGowin, “From Bad to Worse,”
John Sanders based on their open theistic views. Other labels that Criswell Theological Review 1/2 (2004):150-166.
have been affixed to this theological proposal include the follow-
For texts in support of Open Theism see Rice, 12-15; for texts in
ing: ‘open view of God,’ ‘openness of God,’ ‘neotheism,’ free will favor of Classical theism see Norman Geisler, Creating God in the
theism,’ ‘creative love theism,’ ‘relational theism,’ and ‘consistent Image of Man? The new “Open” View of God—Neotheism’s Dan-
Arminianism.’ gerous Drift (Minneapolis: Bethany, 1997), 75-91.
See “Open Theism” Wikipedia, The Free Encyclopedia at
See Fernando Canale, “Evangelical Theology and Open Theism,” Journal of Adventist Theological Society 12/2 (2001):27-30.
Quoted from Boyd’s website in Glenn R. Wittig, “Open Theism: A
Selective and Annotated Bibliography,” Criswell Theological Review
1/2 (2004):215. Other noted key proponents of open theism include Focus on Scripture
David Basinger, William Hasker, Clark Pinnock, Richard Rice, and
John Sanders; see ibid. 216. Is Jesus Breaking the Sabbath?–John 5:18
David Basinger, “Practical Implications,” in The Openness of
God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Understanding of God, John 5:18 contains a statement not found in this form
edited by Clark Pinnock et al. (Downers Grove, IL: InterVarsity in any of the Gospels or other parts of the New Testament:
Press, 1994), 156. “For this reason therefore the Jews were seeking all the
Open theists deny that the view of God they present is shaped by more to kill Him, because He not only was breaking the
the principles of process philosophy. However, to the extent that
Sabbath, but also was calling God His own Father, making
process theology, which is derived from process philosophy, is used
broadly to describe any theology that emphasizes an active, ongoing, Himself equal with God.” This statement is puzzling to
and dynamic relationship between ‘God’ and creation, yet limits some and seems to contradict other texts in the Gospels.
God in one way or another, the difference between process theology Was Jesus breaking the law or not?
and open theism seems to be blurred. Technically, however, process
philosophy as pioneered by Alfred North Whitehead, employs an I. The Context
empirical, that is, naturalistic methodology. From this perspective,
Jesus’ healing of the man at the pool of Bethesda
process theology may be distinguished from open theism. Open
theism claims to discover God’s relatedness to all reality from the (John 5:1-15) triggered a negative response by the Jews
Bible instead of from philosophy. (John 5:16-18). They were not only hostile toward Him,
David Basinger, “Middle Knowledge and Classical Christian but also attempted to kill Him. For them the immediate
Thought,” Religious Studies 22 (1986), 416. problem was the healing of a man on the Sabbath day,
Gregory Boyd, Satan and the Problem of Evil: Constructing a who had been sick for thirty-eight years, and Jesus’ com-
Trinitarian Warfare Theodicy (Downers Grove, Il: InterVarsity
mand to this individual to pick up his bed or mat and
Press, 2001), 19.
Mark R. Talbot, “True Freedom: The Liberty that Scripture Por- walk. In the subsequent discussion with the Jews and as
trays as Worth Having,” in Beyond Bounds, edited by John Piper, His defense Jesus pointed out that God was working on
Justin Taylor, and Paul K. Helseth, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, the Sabbath, at least to the extent that He was maintain-
2003), 80. ing the universe. This was acknowledged by the rabbis.
Ibid., 81. However, their problem was that Jesus claimed God to
For a concise reflection on open theism’s critique see Chad O.
Brand, “Genetic Defects or Accidental Similarities? Orthodoxy and
be His Father, not in the sense that Israel had a Father in
Open Theism and Their Connections to Western Philosophical Tradi- heaven--which was acceptable--but in the sense that He
tions,“ in Beyond Bounds, edited by John Piper, Justin Taylor, and had an intimate relationship with God surpassing all hu-
Paul K. Helseth, (Wheaton, IL: Crossway Books, 2003), 43-73. man relationships with the deity and that He was allowed
Richard Rice, “Biblical Support for a New Perspective,” in The to do what the heavenly Father did, which included to
Openness of God: A Biblical Challenge to the Traditional Under-
perform certain types of work on the Sabbath that were
standing of God, edited by Clark Pinnock et al. (Downers Grove, IL:
InterVarsity Press, 1994), 15. The essence of classical theism outlined not allowed to humans.1
by Rice includes the following: God’s will is the final explanation Thereby the issue shifted from a perceived breaking of
for all that happens; His sovereign will is irresistible; nothing can the law in reference to the Sabbath to an even more serious
October 2006 Reflections — A BRI Newsletter Page 7

crime in Jewish eyes, namely blasphemy, and this is what (Matt. 19:16-19; Mark 10:19). Tithe should be given (Matt.
verse 18 is concentrating on. Still the question remains 23:23). According to Matt. 24:20 He called His disciples
to be answered, how should the statement that Jesus was to pray that their flight from Jerusalem would not have to
breaking the Sabbath be understood? take place on a Sabbath. Finally, Jesus’ prosecutors had a
hard time to find any evidence against Him that would al-
II. The Greek Term low them to condemn Him (Matt. 26:59-60). The evidence
The Greek term translated “breaking” is luō. It can be is overwhelming that Jesus supported the law including
rendered as “to loose,” “to untie,” “to release,” “to set free,” the Sabbath.
“to break,” “to set aside,” “to destroy,” or “to allow.” How
should it be understood in this verse? Is Jesus setting the Sab- IV. The Accusations Against Jesus
bath free, breaking the Sabbath, or destroying the Sabbath? Therefore, it seems that the phrase “He was . . . break-
The term is used six times in the Gospel of John. ing the Sabbath” is not a comment by the Gospel writer but
In John 1:27 and 11:44 it refers to untying sandals and an accusation of the Jews against Jesus. Two accusations
wrappings. However, in John 2:19; 7:23; 10:35 it should were leveled against him: (1) Jesus broke the Sabbath,
be translated with the English terms “to destroy” and “to and (2) Jesus made himself equal with God. The first was
break:” The temple will be “destroyed,” but Scripture wrong in any case. Jesus may have broken the Sabbath as
cannot be “broken.” some Jewish circles understood and interpreted it, but actu-
John 7:23 is quite important, because the text contains ally He did not break the Sabbath. Rather in His ministry
parallels to John 5:18: “If a man receives circumcision on He elevated the law to a new level and summarized it in
the Sabbath so that the Law of Moses will not be broken, the commandments of love toward God and the neighbor
are you angry with Me because I made an entire man well (Mark 12:28-34).
on the Sabbath?” In both verses the Sabbath, the verb luō, The second was most probably wrong too. Although
and behind them the concept of the law and healing on the Jesus claimed to be one with the father, He did not strive
Sabbath occur. In this case the verb luō must be translated for equality with God in the way Satan did. Borchert notes:
by the term “to break.” Therefore, John’s usage of this “Jesus did not claim to take the place of God or be an alter-
term seems to suggest that also in John 5:18 luō should be native to God, which is what the Jews meant by ‘making
translated “to break.” Consequently, this text claims that himself equal with
Jesus broke the law. “Jesus is not abolishing the God’. . . What Jesus,
Sabbath; he is reinterpreting it as the One and Only
III. Jesus and the Law in terms of his relationship to Son of God (1:14,
Yet this understanding seems to create a problem, the Father.” F. J. Moloney 18) claimed was to
because in other places Jesus cannot be charged with be sent by God, in
antinomianism. According to John 10:35 Jesus held that mission for God, doing the works of God, obedient to God,
Scripture cannot be broken which would also include its and bringing glory to God. That is not the role of one who
law. In chapter 8:46 John reported that Jesus challenged displaces God but one who is a representative or emissary
His audience to convict Him of sin. Obviously they were of God.”2 Although Jesus was God, as John points out in
not able to do that. He called his disciples to keep His com- many places, He remained subordinate to His heavenly
mandments as He had kept His Father’s commandments Father. In verse 19 Jesus stated that “the Son can do nothing
(John 15:10). Thus, the Gospel of John makes it very clear of Himself, unless it is something He sees the Father doing;
that Jesus did not abolish the law. for whatever the Father does, these things the Son also does
A brief look at the Synoptic Gospels confirms that in like manner.” This includes the ability to resurrect the
Jesus regarded the Ten Commandments as binding. In the dead and judge humanity (John 5:21-30).
Sermon on the Mount He stated that He had not come “to Beasley-Murray seems also to understand the second
abolish the Law or part of John 5:18 as “Jewish objection to Jesus,”3 while
The evidence is overwhelming the Prophets, “but Keener states: “The claim that Jesus annulled the law is
that Jesus supported the law to fulfill” (Matt. not his but that of his opponents.”4 The Catholic scholar
including the Sabbath. 5:17). The passage Moloney summarizes the issues well by saying: “The
following this state- Greek verb translated by ‘was breaking’ (elyen) has a pri-
ment and dealing with the law shows that for Jesus the mary meaning of ‘loosened’ or ‘broke.’ However, it could
Ten Commandments were binding. He wanted the com- also mean ‘did away with’ . . . If this were the meaning,
mandment to honor father and mother to be kept and not ‘the Jews’ would be wrong. They are correct in suggesting
replaced by their traditions (Matt. 15:3-6; Mark 7:7-13). that he broke their understanding of the Law. Jesus is not
The Pharisees were told that divorce and polygamy are abolishing the Sabbath; he is reinterpreting it in terms of
against God’s will (Matt. 19:2-9; Mark 10:7-9). The rich his relationship to the Father.”5
young ruler was challenged to keep the commandments Ekkehardt Mueller, BRI
Page 8 Reflections — A BRI Newsletter October 2006

Revelation 20:1-3: An angel will bind Satan with a

Cf. Gerald L. Borchert, John 1-11, The New American Commentary chain for one thousand years. Satan will not be able to
(Nashville: Broadman and Holman Publishers, 2002), 235-236; deceive anybody during this period. The chain has to
George R. Beasley-Murray, John, Word Biblical Commentary 36, be understood symbolically: Satan is restricted in his
second edition (Nashville: Thomas Nelson Publishers, 1999), 74; activities, because the earth is depopulated (see Rev.
F. F. Bruce, The Gospel and Epistles of John (Grand Rapids: Wm
B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1983), 127.
19 and 1 Thess. 4:15-17).
Borchert, 236; cf. Leon Morris, The Gospel According to John, • John’s attention now turns to the believers.
The New International Commentary on the New Testament (Grand Revelation 20:4, 6: Christ’s followers will reign with
Rapids: Wm B. Eerdmans Publishing Company, 1971), 310. Him for a thousand years and will participate in the
Beasely-Murray, 74. judgment (1 Cor. 6:2-3). An important aspect of the
Craig S. Keener, The Gospel of John: A Commentary, two volumes final judgment is the vindication of God’s character
(Peabody: Hendrickson Publishers, 2003), 1:646.
Francis J. Moloney, The Gospel of John, Sacra Pagina, Vol. 4 (Col-
and the revelation of His love and justice.
legeville: The Liturgical Press, 1998), 174. • In the middle of his depiction of the righteous John
performs a mental leap asking himself what would
happen to those that are lost and reports that they will
Scripture Applied–A Bible Study remain dead during the Millennium. Starting with v.
7 the focus is on the lost and on Satan.
The Final Judgment (Rev 20)
Most people do not want to appear in court. Although IV. Events after the Millennium
some criminals manage to go unpunished by earthly tri- • After the Millennium the lost will be resurrected.
bunals, they will not escape God’s judgment (2 Tim. 4:1). Therefore, Satan will be able to lead them astray (Rev.
The final “reward” is inevitable. 20:5a, 7, 13a).
• Being deceived again they will attack the New
I. The Context Jerusalem which has come from heaven in the mean-
In Revelation 19 Christ’s second coming is described time (Rev. 21:2). The greatest war of all times is sup-
in symbolic terms (v. 6-11). Those who do not belong to posed to be fought.
Jesus will perish (v. 12-21), while Christ’s followers will • However, suddenly the unbelievers and Satan will find
be resurrected and/or transformed and will be with Jesus (1 themselves in front of God’s throne and will be judged
Thess. 4:15-17). After the Second Coming a period of one (Rev. 20:11-13).
thousand years (the Millennium) follows, which in turn will • Finally, the verdict will be executed (Rev. 20:9b, 10,
be superseded by a new heaven and a new earth (Rev. 21). 14, 15).

II. An Outline of Revelation 20 V. Questions

Revelation 20 can be divided into two parts. The sec- • Who will be judged during and after the Millennium?
True followers of Christ are participants of the judg-
Events before and during the Millennium ment activity, not defendants (see John 5:24). The final
judgment will be dealing with the unrighteous and the
satanic agencies.
V. 1-6
Satan bound, the fate of • What are the criteria used during the judgment?
believers and unbelievers Salvation is by grace, but judgment includes the
issue of works (Rev. 20:12, 13). Obviously, the
Events after the Millennium sentences and the degrees of penalty will differ
depending on what people and angelic beings have
V. 7-10 done and how they lived, although all enemies of
V. 11-15 God will die.
The last battle and
The final judgment
Satan’s defeat • “They will be tormented day and night forever and
ever.” Does this statement point to an ever burning
ond part has two subsections which are parallel, portray hell?
the situation from different perspectives, and complement The term “forever” or “everlasting” has different
each other. shades of meaning in Scripture depending on the
III. Events before and during the Millennium nature of that to which it is applied:
• At the end of Revelation 19 the death of the unbeliev- (1) without beginning and end (in connection with
ers is described. God)
• In the beginning of Revelation 20 John deals with the (2) with beginning but without end (the eternal life of
question: What will happen to Satan? the believers)
October 2006 Reflections — A BRI Newsletter Page 9

(3) with beginning and end (e.g., Jon. 2:7; Exod. are written in an irenic, friendly tone attempting to built
21:7) bridges to those who hold different views.
The context of Revelation 20 suggests that the torment Obviously, the authors try to help their audience to
will not be forever, because fire will devour God’s enemies understand that with regard to creation and flood there
(v. 9). Their annihilation is called “the second death” (v. are many unresolved questions, in which--according to
14). It is not the punishment which will continue forever, their view--sometimes an evolutionary approach seems to
the results of rejecting Jesus will. God does not enjoy make better sense. They suggest: “One should not base a
people to be tormented forever. belief in Scripture on scientific evidence, because that puts
• What about the time after the final judgment? science above the Bible and reason and sense perception
Jesus promises a wonderful new earth without sin, above revelation, tempting us to discard the Bible when
suffering, and death. The redeemed will live there in close the scientific evidence is found to be incompatible with
fellowship with God. our understanding of Scripture” (p. 62).
The Millennium is not a period of peace on earth in The authors’ methodological approach comes to the
which people still can make a decision for God. Such an fore in a number of places. It is this approach which may
idea is not only foreign to Scripture but also dangerous, raise serious questions among the readers and keep them
because it indirectly encourages people to put off their puzzled:
decision for God to a time, when it will be too late. The (1) They present different options with regard to cre-
Millennium is the time of God’s final judgment. However, ation and time models from which their readers can freely
God’s children do not need to be afraid, because God in- choose whichever they prefer (cf. p. 75). Also, the authors’
tervenes for them. The choice is ours. first principle of interpreting biblical texts that deal with
Ekkehardt Mueller, BRI nature lists the use of “metaphor and simile” (p. 14), but
does not point out where in Genesis 1 and 2 it is used and
Book Notes how that would influence our understanding of the two
chapters. Readers may conclude that it is sound to interpret
Ben Clausen and Gerald Wheeler. The Book of Beginnings: Genesis 1 and 2 in a non-literal way.
Creation and the Promise of Redemption. Hagerstown, (2) Statements such as, “No clear answer as to exactly
MD: Review and Herald Publishing Association, 2006. what kind of death sin brought into the world exists, so
160 pp. US$10.99. perhaps different individuals can reasonably have differ-
This book is not only written by two authors, but also ent opinions” (p. 48), and “I realized that life issues of the
consists of two parts. The first six chapters deal with Gen- greatest importance don’t have geometry-type proofs” (p.
esis 1 through 11:26, while the remaining seven chapters 48), may be partially true, but seem to lead toward doctrinal
cover Genesis from 11:27 onward. Ben Clausen works as and theological relativism and pluralism (cf. p. 36) and a
a scientist at the Geoscience Research Institute in Loma denial of what could be called objective truth (cf. p. 11).
Linda, while Gerald Wheeler it the head book editor at the (3) This impression is heightened by the repeated affir-
Review and Herald Publishing Association. In style these mation that persons are more important than doctrines and
two parts are completely different. “being right,” and that winning people is more important
The second part takes the readers through the biblical than winning arguments (cf. pp. 8, 70, 79).
text. Although many biblical chapters are dealt with only (4) Repeatedly, the evolutionary approach to origins
briefly because of space limitations, the authors manage seems to be portrayed as superior to the creationist ap-
not only to retell the biblical story, but also to provide proach or as the only reasonable approach so far, and
helpful exegetical insights and background information. creationists are blamed directly or indirectly for not being
They point to the structure and parallels of biblical pas- honest with the data (cf. pp. 45, 57-61, 76). There seems to
sages and here and there apply the text to our present be a certain incongruity in so far that evolutionists are not
situation. Over all, this part is well done and profitable subjected to the same verdict, although it is acknowledged
to read. that both positions have their problems (cf. p. 11).
The first part does not directly lead the readers through (5) Most serious, however, is that the authors seem to
the biblical text but discusses various topics from a scien- perceive an almost unbridgeable dichotomy between faith
tific and sometimes philosophical perspective. It uses the and science, between the work of a scientist and a Christian
biblical text as a springboard to deal with God, humanity, who believes in Scripture (cf. pp. 8, 80). A leap of faith
creation, theodicy, the flood, and the issue of certainty. is required to get from a purely scientific methodology to
It covers among other items ancient creation and flood the data of Scripture, from one realm to another, while
stories, the question of how biblical texts about creation the two have not much, if anything, in common. In this
should be interpreted--especially the issue of time. At the sense the authors have left us with nothing apart from an
end of each of the first six chapters a short theological insurmountable chasm between science and faith. This is
section follows the scientific explanations. These chapters the major weakness of The Book of Beginnings.
Page 10 Reflections — A BRI Newsletter October 2006

The problem is not only with what the book says, but illustrates how God’s grace works in our world in the same
also with how it is said, what is not said, and the underly- way it did in biblical times. This reviewer found the section
ing philosophical approach. Although it contains good on “Responses to Grace” (worship, remember, and obey)
material, due to the methodology employed in the first six particularly insightful.
chapters its usefulness for the Adventist readers in general Dybdahl does not claim to answer all the questions
is limited. It raises legitimate questions, but does not suf- about the Old Testament. “I don’t know all the answers,”
ficiently reaffirm faith and may create an atmosphere of he says. “Learning to live with questions may in the end
uncertainty. More helpful are without doubt Ariel Roth’s, be more fruitful than arriving at final answers. I won’t ever
Origins: Linking Science and Scripture (Review and Her- know how to explain fully why God seems to have behaved
ald, 1998) and the volume by Leonard Brand and David C. as He did, but He’s God, and I’m man. I don’t think He
Jarnes, Beginnings: Are Science and Scripture Partners in minds my asking, but I do believe He may not expect my
the Search for Origins? (Pacific Press, 2006). human mind to fathom it all” (p. 130). While the reader
Ekkehardt Mueller, BRI may not agree with everything the author says, pastors
and church members alike will be blessed by a thoughtful
Jon L. Dybdahl, A Strange Place for Grace, Nampa, ID: reading of this volume.
Pacific Press, 2006. 143 pp. US$12.99. Gerhard Pfandl, BRI
The author of this book, the theme of which is ex-
pressed in the subtitle “Discovering a Loving God in Tyner Stuart. Searching for the God of Grace, Nampa, ID:
the Old Testament,” was for many years a missionary Pacific Press, 2006. 303 pp. US$17.99.
in Singapore and Thailand, professor of world mission This is a useful book for anyone interested in what
at Andrews University, and more recently president Tyner has correctly identified as the center of both biblical
of Walla Walla College. Apart from the introduction theology and the Christian life. Stuart Tyner is one of the
and chapter one, in which Dybdahl raises the question pastors at the La Sierra University Church in Riverside,
whether God has a split personality, the author divides California. He traces the presence and history of God’s
the book into six sections: (1) Grace in Old Testament saving grace beginning with the OT, through the NT, and
Stories; (2) Grace in Institutions, Rituals, and Symbols; in the history of Christian thought. He rejects any Mar-
(3) Grace in Texts and Words; (4) Responses to Grace; (5) cionistic view of grace and maintains that both Testaments
Objections to Old Testament Grace; and (6) a conclud- proclaim salvation by grace. He describes the conflict be-
ing chapter entitled “What New Testament Christians tween legalism and grace in Christian history and how the
Can Learn About Righteousness by Faith in the Old saving power of grace was obscured and even rejected by
Testament.” the Christian church. The book also describes his journey
In the introduction Dybdahl offers the reason for this as an Adventist from legalism to grace. He is primarily
book. Many Christians consider the Old Testament to be a writing for Adventists who never understood what saving
book of laws rather than of grace. In this book, the author grace is and who are allegedly afraid of it. His discussions
supplies the reader with a pair of glasses that provide new on saving grace in the writings of E. G. White is a good
ways of looking at the Old Testament. He endeavors to introduction to the topic.
show that not only the New Testament, which portrays His emphasis on salvation by grace alone, through
Jesus as a loving, forgiving Savior, but also the Old Testa- faith alone, and through Christ alone is welcomed. It would
ment with its judgments on the nations of Canaan as well have been good for Tyner to explore in more detail and
as on some Israelites, e.g., Nadab, Abihu, and Uzzah, is a with a little more theological precision what grace is. Here
revelation of God’s grace. is one of the weaknesses of the book: It repeats again and
Those who have struggled to see how all these stories again that salvation is by grace, without any contribution
fit together to give us a consistent picture of a God, who is from us, but it does not explore how that grace saves us.
worthy of our worship, will find this book very helpful. For He is working with an understanding of the atonement that
example, the way Moses in the Pentateuch records the history is never clearly articulated leaving the reader wondering
of the patriarchs and of Israel teaches a very important truth and disoriented concerning his underlying assumptions.
– grace always precedes duty. “God always begins in love He is clear on what grace is not: It is not salvation through
and grace and saving – not in requiring. The requirements of our works and neither is it a combination of salvation by
God can be understood only by those already experiencing grace supplemented by our good works. But what is it?
the saving grace of God. Only freed slaves can offer the kind How does God’s grace save us? There is no serious attempt
of obedience desired by a loving God” (p. 27). to address that extremely important concern. Because of
Dybdahl honestly wrestles with some of the difficult that limitation one could be led to conclude that grace is
texts in the Old Testament (e. g., the wars of Israel and divine sentimentality lacking any serious concern for di-
the sins of David) and finds God’s grace shining through vine justice and integrity. That does not seem to be what
them all. Each chapter also includes a modern story that Tyner is promoting.
October 2006 Reflections — A BRI Newsletter Page 11

Missing in the book are three other important issues the two indicating that obedience is not instrumental in
related to salvation by grace in Adventist thinking. The salvation. What I could not find was a systematic analysis
first one is judgment. We can hardly avoid discussing of an issue that is located at the heart of the Adventist mes-
saving grace independent of a human contribution without sage and theology. While Protestants emphasize grace we
at the same time dealing with judgment by works. This is proclaim grace and obedience to God’s eternal law. We do
probably the most serious challenge to salvation by grace not see them as incompatible and neither do we consider
in the mind of some Adventists and among many other obedience to be against salvation by grace alone.
Christians. Somehow Tyner missed it. It would have been The third issue absent in the book is related to the
good for him to raise the issue in his brief discussion of limits of God’s grace. This is also important in Adventist
the origin of the Adventist movement in 1844. He chose thinking. Although grace is totally free and reaches us as
to tip toe around the prophetic origin of the Movement a gift from God, a Christian can fall from grace. We reject
and never raised the issue of the investigative/pre-advent predestination or the idea “once saved always saved.” We
judgment. He did refer to the concept of judgment among also talk about the eschatological end of God’s mercy and
the Egyptians and interpreted it as a pagan example of grace toward unrepentant sinners. How does that relate to
salvation through human works. His silence on the subject a grace that is totally free and always available to sinners?
is surprising to me. Most of the theological depth of the topic still remains
The second issue absent in the book is a serious discus- untapped. This book helps, but it is not yet a full exposi-
sion of obedience to the law and grace. The discussion is tion of an Adventist biblical view of it. It is closer to the
not totally absent from the book. There are several places traditional evangelical view.
in which Tyner makes a clear and valid distinction between Ángel M. Rodríguez, BRI

Biblical Research Institute

General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists
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Webpage:; phone: 301-680-6790
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Editor: Ekkehardt Mueller, Th.D., D.Min.
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