Needle in a Haystack: True Story

You’re about to read an amazing true story of an incredibly unlikely set of circumstances that saved a friend of mine from suffering, separation and loss. So unlikely that it gives me reason to believe in an unseen hand guiding the affairs of our lives. You can have confidence in the story because I was directly involved, wrote down the details shortly after it happened, and know several others who can also verify details of what happened.

Have you ever tried to find one person among millions? Source: limenika-nea.blogspot.gr

Have you ever tried to find one person among millions? Source: limenika-nea.blogspot.gr

Joe[*] was deeply distressed. He had tried his hardest to be the best Christian he knew how to be, but felt that God did not accept him.

Joe was a reclusive young fellow. He’d previously been involved in dark satanic arts and rituals. He struggled with depression and anxiety. But he was most earnest.

A few years ago, Joe reached the point of despair. The Christianity he was pursuing was not working for him. He reached a very private personal crisis that only he knew about. Feeling unable to talk to anyone, he devised a plan to bring resolution. At least he hoped it would resolve his struggles.

He would leave everything he knew and go back to work in the satanic music store in another state where he had previously worked.

He left work early that afternoon, then gathered his most important possessions. He dyed his blond hair black, shaved part of his head, and put on black clothes, sunglasses and boots. He was making a definite departure from his search for light to go back to the darkness he knew. He wanted nobody to recognise him or to intervene.

He got in his car and drove to the train station near the church he had been attending. He scribbled a note to say goodbye. He left the note on the car seat, and left a loaded gun in the car boot. He grabbed his bags and caught the train to Sydney’s Central station where he would then catch the overnight train that was due to leave at 7pm.

His family noticed that he didn’t come home at the usual time so started to make some enquiries. They realised something was not right with Joe so quickly became worried. They thought perhaps he had gone to a midweek church meeting so went looking there. They found his car and saw his note.

Their hearts started racing. What had happened to their beloved Joe? The note was brief and gave no indication of whether he was leaving or … They did not want to think.

Then they opened the boot, saw the loaded weapon, and their worst fears flooded over them.

They quickly called some of Joe’s friends to try to trace him, hoping he had not harmed himself. But nobody knew anything of Joe’s movements that afternoon.

Joe had been a member of the youth group in an active and growing church, and so he had a couple of close friends with whom he sometimes socialised. These two young men embarked on a city wide search for their friend.

But it was like finding a needle in a haystack. Finding one missing person in a city of 4 million seemed futile. Joe left no clues as to where he was going or what he intended to do.

His friends and family asked the whole church to pray for Joe, that he would be protected from harm and restored back to his family.

The message to pray for Joe reached me at the University of Technology that evening. I had an evening class and was heading home a little after 7pm. I prayed silently for Joe as I was walking back to the train station to go home.

As I was hurrying through Sydney’s Central station to catch my train, I thought I recognised a vaguely familiar figure in the corner of my eye.

Country link train on Central's Platform 1. Source: mjtravlife.blogspot.com

Country link train on Central’s Platform 1. Source: mjtravlife.blogspot.com

There was Joe, sitting on a bench on Platform 1, waiting for his interstate train.

I almost walked right past him. He was barely recognisable.

He tried to avoid my eyes. I did a double take, called his name. It was Joe alright!

He was shy, embarrassed, but most important was still alive and well! The lost needle had been found in the haystack the size of Sydney!

Joe told me of his plan to go and work at the satanic music store. I was so happy to have found him, but so sad for his desperation. I pled with him to stay with us. “We love you, Joe. God loves you.”

Joe was a little bit cautious and reserved. I assured him that his parents were really worried for him, and truly loved him. He hesitated. I continued to plead with him.

After a couple of minutes he decided not to leave Sydney. He would come back home with me! What joy and relief!

As we were leaving Platform 1 to go buy Joe a ticket to get the train back home instead, the overnight interstate train pulled onto the platform. It was half an hour late!

I went with him all the way back to his car parked near our church. On the way he showed me what he had packed in his bags. He showed me a couple of clubs covered with spikes that he had prepared to use as weapons. I was shocked but happy to have Joe back safe and sound.

I believe in a loving God who was looking out for Joe that night.

There was a board meeting at the church that evening. They were all praying for Joe. Imagine their surprise and joy to see the direct answer to their prayers.

Joe’s parents were filled with relief to see their boy back home. The whole ordeal was over in just a few hours, without the need for any emergency services.

How much worse it could have been for Joe, his family, and his friends.

Praise God for the safe and happy ending to the day’s drama.

***

Just think about all the things that happened that evening, and ponder with me the probability that all of this just happened by random chance.

Joe had maybe about 50 people praying for him, and just a handful actively looking for him: his family and his two mates. He was one person lost in a city of 4 million, and on his way to another city.

I had prayed for him but had no idea that he would be anywhere near me on my route home from university. I was definitely not looking for him. Joe normally lived and worked about an hour from where I was studying.

Normally closed passageway to enter via Platform 1. Source: Google Streetview

Normally closed passageway to enter via Platform 1. Source: Google Streetview

I was catching a suburban train at Central. Joe was catching an interstate train. He was already on his platform waiting for his train that arrived half an hour late. Had it been on time, or just a bit less late, our paths could not have crossed.

And what was I even doing on an interstate platform? Occasionally I did enter the station that way, but I usually went the way most people do, via the Devonshire St tunnel that links Broadway directly to the suburban train platforms.

Sometimes I would take the above ground route. And rarely, I would enter an opening in the wall at Platform 1. If you go to Central you will find this opening is usually closed. Entry is not permitted. For some reason, that evening, I went via Platform 1.

My normal route to catch my train would not normally lead me to where Joe was waiting for his train. Source: Google Maps

My normal route to catch my train would not normally lead me to where Joe was waiting for his train. Source: Google Maps

Even still, Central is a very busy station and Platform 1 was crowded with people waiting to board that train. The chances of me seeing Joe that evening were vanishingly slim.

It all makes sense looking back. God was in control. These were not mere random coincidences.

We have a God who loves and cares for each of us deeply. But He doesn’t force Himself on anyone. He doesn’t even provide incontrovertible evidence that He exists, because He wants people to freely choose to love Him back. But He provides enough evidence on which to solidly base our faith. This story is one such example.

As I look back in my life the evidence of His love for me and for all of humanity is overwhelming. We have an amazing God of love and grace!

[*] Not his real name

Atheism solves superficial problems but introduces fundamental problems

In today’s modern Western world atheism is popular. On the surface, it solves several problems:

  • Scientific understanding of reality
    • Age of the earth and the geologic record
    • Natural selection and evolution
  • Social and moral ‘problems’
    • Religious wars
    • Antiquated views on gender roles, marriage, etc
    • The problem of evil (“good God, bad world”)
  • And many more

But taking on an atheistic worldview introduces a plethora of new, more fundamental problems:

  • Accounting for free will
  • Accounting for information, logic, the presence of matter and uniform physical laws and a finely tuned universe
  • Abiogenesis – accounting for life. “Extraordinary claims require extraordinary evidence” is a useful maxim here. The Miller-Urey experiment (or any other materialist explanations for abiogenesis) don’t come anywhere near the “extraordinary” criterion in my estimation.
  • Consciousness – accounting for the mind and personality
  • Morality – accounting for human consciousness of good and evil
  • Providing any insight into meaning, purpose and destiny.

The present popularity of atheism reflects our current obsession with advances in the physical sciences, technology, wealth accumulation, and freedom to do as I please.

Once these obsessions wear off, and I don’t think it will take many more decades, I predict a fundamental shift away from atheism.

Free will cannot exist in a material world

As far as I understand it (and I admit my understanding has limits), an atheistic worldview is an entirely physical/material worldview. In this worldview, everything behaves in a deterministic way. Every effect has a cause. Even chaos theory recognises determinism, just that due to the limits of human observation the approximate present does not determine the approximate future.

Let’s just imagine, for a minute, that the human powers of measurement and observation approached perfection. Or if not human, then something somewhere had that ability. And all physical mechanisms were perfectly understood. Then the future state of everything could be perfectly predicted, including your and my choices, assuming that consciousness was a part of the material universe and conformed to physical laws.

Therefore in a materialist (atheist) worldview, everything is known or determined (even if humans do not yet have insight into the future). There is no freedom. No choice. Just the illusion of it. It is in this (atheist) worldview that I have to conclude that my choices are pointless, that there is no free will, and that everything that was going to happen is already determined. The script is already written.

Atheist William Provine understood that human free will cannot exist as one of five fundamental consequences of naturalistic evolution.

Yet we experience what we believe is freedom of choice, free will. As I have written previously, that freedom is awesome! Atheism cannot adequately account for it. Perhaps we need to reconsider theism, even though, I agree, accounting for a future-knowing God and free will also presents challenges to our human powers of reason.

Perhaps the new atheists of our day do not yet understand the problems created by choosing not to believe in God.

Easter 2016: God loves the world, but not them!

The Christian world has condemned the deadly Brussels attack by ISIS

The Christian world has condemned the deadly Brussels attack by ISIS

Sydney’s Anglican Archbishop used his Easter Sunday sermon to condemn last week’s Brussels attacks. But Jesus gave His strongest rebukes to His own people.

At this time of year 2000 years ago, Jesus’ Easter messages were quite different to what we would expect. Instead of criticising Roman oppression or the annoying Samaritans, Jesus went to His own temple and drove out the religious leaders who were making money out of the temple services. Not once but twice. Both at Easter (the Jewish Passover).

The Samaritans were to Jesus what the Muslims are to Christians today. They were distant relatives, but most of the religious people hated them. Samaritans were part pagan, and part worshipers of the God of Israel. They were not unlike the extremist Islamic terrorists of today, hanging around creating a real nuisance.

Surely Jesus could have used His Easter (Passover) messages to criticise the Samaritans!

Or at least the Romans.

Yet Jesus effectively told a story of a ‘Good Muslim‘ who stopped to help a wounded Christian when other Christians wouldn’t. It was called the parable of the Good Samaritan back then. In our day it would be the Good Muslim.

Jesus could have gone to the Samaritan temple to tell them they were doing it wrong. But He didn’t. He went to the temple of His own people and told them they were missing the point.

So today He wouldn’t go to the mosque to sort out the Muslims. He goes to the Christian churches – the ones who claim to believe in Him – to challenge their message.

Jesus continually said good things about Samaritans. He was a friend of the Samaritan; and a friend of the Muslim today.

The Samaritans were the equivalent of modern day Muslims. Yet somehow Jesus seems to ignore the hostility of a few of them and focus on the hypocrisy of His own chosen people.

It’s noteworthy that the Bible has very little to say about religions not based on the Bible. You’d think the Bible would focus its warnings on people that don’t profess belief in it:

  • Muslims
  • Terrorists
  • Hindus
  • Chinese
  • Communists
  • Atheists

But the Bible has very little to say about any of those nations or belief systems – or lack of belief systems. Except that God loves them, too!

So for us Christians to get up on our high horse and condemn those on the other side of our fence is not consistent with the Bible’s message. The Bible’s message is that we need to understand God’s character of love and forgiveness. This starts with us – the people who claim to be Bible followers.

God wants to protect us all from our distorted picture of who God is. No matter what club we belong to. Whether we’re part of this church or that church, or atheist, or Muslim, or Hindu.

God is especially concerned about the false pictures that His own professed people paint. He’s not so concerned about correcting the teachings of ISIS, because that’s not deceptive. Most of the world naturally recoils from that. He’s not so concerned that they are preventing people from understanding His character. People are only drawn to that as a seemingly viable alternative because the so-called Christian West is so corrupt and selfish.

The people that can do the most damage to the way people picture God are His professed followers.

That’s why Jesus’ Easter message was to clean up the Jewish temple – His own people! He didn’t worry about going to the Samaritan temple at Mt Gerizim to clean it up. But He cleaned up the Jerusalem temple – twice.

For many today Easter is just a long weekend holiday. An excuse to eat lots of chocolate, as much as we can get hold of.

But it’s more than that. It’s an opportunity to understand the truth about Easter and to appreciate God’s love for not only us, but the rest of the world too.

The Story of the Good Muslim

Muslims protecting Christians as they worship in Pakistan

Muslims protecting Christians as they worship in Pakistan

 

This is a modern-day adaptation of the parable Jesus told about the Good Samaritan, recorded in Luke 10.

The Jews of Jesus’ day hated Samaritans whom they regarded as terrorists. Extremist Samaritans occasionally committed inflammatory acts of violence and vandalism.

To whom would Jesus direct His strongest criticism in today’s world? Given that He spoke kindly towards Samaritans back then, and rebuked His own Jewish leaders, I propose that He would direct His strongest criticism today toward corrupted Christianity.

Here’s what the parable of the Good Samaritan might like like if Jesus was on earth in our time:

30 Then Jesus said to a lawyer: “A certain man travelled from New York to Paris, and not knowing the area, fell among criminals, who robbed him and left him half dead.

31 Now by chance a priest came down that road. And when he saw him, he passed by on the other side.

32 Likewise a pastor, when he came to the place, came and looked at the victim, then passed by on the other side.

33 But a certain Muslim, as he was walking to the train station, came where the wounded tourist was. And when he saw him, he had compassion.

34 So he went to him and bandaged his wounds, and gave him medicine; and took him by taxi to the nearest hospital and stayed with him overnight.

35 On the next day, when he departed, he took out two hundred Euro, gave it to the nurses, and said to them, ‘Take care of this tourist; and anything more you spend, when I come again, I will repay you.’

36 So which of these three do you think was neighbor to him who fell among the thieves?”

37 And the lawyer said, “The one who showed mercy on him.” Then Jesus said to him, “Go and do likewise.”

There have indeed been true stories just like this, where Muslims have been good Samaritans to Christians. Here are a couple of recent examples:

  • Muslims and Christians were travelling together on a bus in Kenya when held up by extremists, who intended to kill all non-Muslims. The Muslims on the bus shared their Islamic headscarves with the Christians, who wore them, saving many lives.
  • And in Pakistan, hundreds of Muslims formed a human wall of protection around Christians who gathered to worship at their church soon after a deadly attack on fellow Christian worshipers.

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The truth about Caitlyn Jenner

Caitlyn Jenner, arguably the most famous transgender person in the world right now, has attracted worldwide attention for saying she’s now more interested in dating men.

I prefer bananas over mangoes. I’ve also changed my hair colour from blond to black. Well, a couple of strands, anyway.

Does any of that determine my identity?

The truest thing about Caitlyn Jenner has little to do with her sexual identification or sexual preference. It is that she is created in God’s image, and is loved by the Creator of the universe!

God loves Caitlyn Jenner so much that He gave His Son Jesus to die in her place so that she, Caitlyn, can live forever in perfect freedom, love and happiness.

Such a wonderful gift of an infinite and perfect future is freely available to anyone who chooses to accept it. Amazing love!

 

Twenty-three hundred… and now only three minutes to midnight!

Here’s an interesting way to remember the significance of the Bible’s 2300 day prophecy. This is by no means the prophet Daniel’s intended interpretation. But noteworthy nonetheless.

doomsdayclock

The Doomsday Clock. Source: phys.org

It relates to the doomsday clock, by the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists. According to these eminent scientists, the threat of human caused global catastrophe due to nuclear weapons and climate change is so high that they characterise it using the time 23:57.

The closest we have come to midnight by this clock was 23:58, at the height of the Cold War.

As that threat receded the doomsday clock wound back as far as 23:43 but has since climbed back to 23:57 in 2015, and stayed there notwithstanding the recent Paris climate agreement.

Pretty precarious times, these.

Now, back to the 2300 day prophecy. Let’s ignore the units and the start period of the 2300 day prophecy for a moment.

What does “twenty-three hundred” bring to mind?

One hour to midnight? If so, good! As they say about great minds… Never mind. Just let me say I think this provides a helpful way to remember the significance of the prophecy, even if not its intended interpretation.

According to Daniel 7, 8 and 9, the 2300 day prophecy brings us to within the period of time we know as the “time of the end.” We could metaphorically call this stage of Earth’s history the time approaching midnight.

Now, if the 2300 days does indeed bring us to 1844, and a day does indeed represent a year, when would midnight be? Simple extrapolation brings us to the denouement of World War II. The year 1944 included one of the last major turning points in Europe: D-Day. But there were bigger turning points in the preceding 3 years, where the threat of Third Reich global domination was largely averted.

Needless to say, we sailed perilously close to midnight during World War II, even before the Doomsday clock started plotting our situation from 1947.

And we have flirted with midnight for quite some time, now.

The progression toward midnight has not been uniform at all. It is as though there are opposing forces driving us both toward and away from disaster.

It reminds me of Bible passages that talk about God holding back the “four winds” of strife, and that there appears to be a delay in His return. All for the sake of not allowing any to perish without having the chance to be rescued.

Even if not the original intention, I find the “twenty-three hundred” nomenclature significant in highlighting how close we are to the end. The Bible and the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists have common ground on this point. But only the Bible presents a glorious rescue plan and future for humanity, if we choose it.

For other recent posts on the Investigative Judgment, see:

What’s the big deal about Adventism’s Investigative Judgment?

scalesofjusticeI believe the Seventh-day Adventist teaching on the Investigative Judgment (IJ) for several reasons.

The Great Controversy Narrative

The IJ makes sense as part of the over-arching Great Controversy narrative of God’s transparent interaction with His created intelligent beings and His character of love and freedom. It contributes to my appreciation of the awesomeness of God’s character of love.

It is the Logical Outcome of Soul-Sleep and Arminianism, without Compromising Assurance

The IJ is the natural outworking of our unique Adventist position on soul sleep, the Great Controversy narrative and our understanding of freewill and how that plays out in salvation.

Any attacks on the IJ as though it undermined assurance are really fundamentally an attack on our Arminian understanding of salvation – appealing to either Calvinism or a hybrid form where we have some freewill of once saved always saved. Or they are a straw man attack.

A common criticism is that the IJ doctrine undermines assurance. “You have a 7 year old wake up with nightmares about the judgment and wondering if he is going to be with his Saviour in heaven.”

The theology change necessary to remove this criticism is not changing the timing or manner of any judgment, but a change in basic understanding of salvation and/or freewill. Either the child needs to understand that salvation is not dependent on his own keeping of the commandments (legalism) but on Christ’s righteousness, or salvation needs to be independent of freewill altogether.

The Adventist church has always taught that salvation is by grace through faith. Christ is our righteousness. The part we play in our own salvation is to choose whether or not to believe in the good news of Jesus. This belief is not contradicted by the Adventist teaching on the Investigative judgment; although many have misunderstood salvation and/or judgment and become confused as to the significance, implications and interrelationship of the teachings.

Adventists have not always presented our doctrines in a Christ-centred way; so the misunderstanding is somewhat understandable and definitely unfortunate.

But if our salvation is understood as being dependent on Christ’s righteousness and not our own, then the next logical option for the above 7 year old is not to question the doctrine of the investigative judgment but to question our basic understanding of human freewill. We should soon realise that any doctrine of the investigative judgment has little to do with the question of assurance. Any lack of assurance is because we either misunderstand Christ’s role in our salvation and take our eyes off Him, or because we can’t accept that our role of choosing our destiny, based on human freewill, remains. This is independent of any doctrine of timing or transparency of pre-Advent judgment.

If we remove freewill, then there are two broad options. Salvation would either not depend on one’s choices but on an arbitrary decree of God (Calvinism) or be applied to everyone regardless of their preference (universalism). Or some hybrid (e.g., once saved always saved).

The hybrid is an interesting one. In attempting to provide assurance by providing the “best” of both Calvinism and Arminianism, ‘once saved always saved’ actually delivers the worst. It removes freewill without satisfactorily improving assurance. Assurance isn’t guaranteed because it is always humanly possible to doubt whether you’ve ever crossed the line into salvation. Even in Calvinism, the nightmares should really become worse because we can never quite be sure whether we are among the predestined elect or not.

A useful analogy here is a high school student having nightmares about whether her exam scores are good enough to get her into studying medicine. The solution to removing the nightmares is not a change of the method, transparency or timing of the marking process. The solution would have to be one of changing or relaxing the entry requirements to remove the anxiety. The equivalent of simply removing the IJ doctrine but keep every other doctrine the same is to do instantaneous exam marking by a super-computer in the split-second before ATAR scores are published. It should be obvious that such a change would actually do nothing to prevent the anxious student’s nightmares.

It Resonates with Human Experience

A lot of the internal critics of the IJ complain that people who have questioned the teaching of the IJ have been silenced without a proper hearing. Their ideas and questions, they feel, were not given the light of day they deserved.

I resonate with their desire for open, transparent dealings with contradictory ideas and the people who hold them. That seems like a better application of the Golden Rule than simply shutting down dissent and excluding dissidents.

The interesting thing is that the IJ under question is actually all about providing just what the human heart desires: open, transparent and fair dealing. From the God of the universe, no less. He could simply annihilate all opposition. Instantaneously. But the beauty of His character is that He takes time to allow rebellion to demonstrate its true character and results for all to see. He also takes His time in investigation and judgment.

You may ask how and why does an open and transparent process that’s happening entirely outside of my present observations resonate with me? Let me go back to the above illustration of a high school student and exam marking. Does she have any visibility of the exam marking process between when it starts and when the ATAR scores are announced? No. Does she care that the process is open, transparent and auditable? Yes; she would be far less satisfied if the marking was done instantaneously by a ‘black-box’ supercomputer immediately before ATAR scores are announced. Especially if there was a background of accusations about the fairness of the supercomputer.

So in the context of Satan’s accusations about God’s fairness, the transparency of God’s judgments matters to us personally, even if our access to that transparency is not until after the judgment is pronounced.

Circumstantial & Prophetic Corroborating Evidence

There are too many serendipitous features regarding the way that the understanding of the IJ came about for me to regard it as a convenient cover-up of human devising for mistaken date-setting of the Millerite Adventists. These include:

  1. The prophecy of Revelation 10-11.
  2. The typology of the Old Testament feasts and what they represent. No better fit for the fulfillment of the Old Testament Day of Atonement has been put forward.
  3. An understanding of early SDA church history, and the characters involved.
  4. Overwhelming evidence that Ellen White was given special revelation from God, and her inspired corroboration of our pioneer’s conclusions from Bible study as to what was signified by the prophecy of Daniel 8. There are numerous pieces of evidence that Ellen White had special revelation. Any cursory study of her life story is sufficient to reveal that. But lest anyone accuse her ‘believers’ of rewriting history to paint her in a favourable light, there is one area alone that settles it for me: her amazingly accurate insights on healthful living over 100 years ahead of her times.

What the Bible Actually Says

My own understanding of the relevant Bible texts leads me to believe the Adventist teaching on the IJ. Now I don’t have personal in-depth understanding of the original languages, nor all the Hebrew culture and meaning attached to the Sanctuary. But from my limited knowledge, the traditional SDA teaching on the IJ does make more sense than alternatives that I’ve investigated.

Nonetheless, some of the alternative ideas do appear to have some grounding; thus their conclusions appear to have some legitimacy. However, they don’t have enough of a ‘smoking gun’ for me to decide to either reject our teaching and follow the ‘majority’ view (of Christianity at large), nor to motivate me to become enough of an expert in linguistics or systematic theology to be able to decide what the teaching should be for myself from first principles.

I happily trust the Bible’s promise of God’s Spirit to lead me into all truth (John 16:13) as I follow His leading (John 7:17).

Going back to the in-depth theological evidence, however, as it is also important to be true to the text (Acts 17:11). While we need not all become world-leading experts on every question (that would be impossible), there is a time and place to defer to experts.

For example, we’re not all experts on global warming. Yet we’ve decided, using a mixture of our understanding of the facts and our personal values, which “experts” to believe. Ditto for vaccination. Ditto for, let’s face it, most things that we believe in, or choose not to believe in. This includes electricity, CT scans, evolution, the age of the earth, etc. I don’t know anyone who refuses to believe something until they personally become an expert in that particular field. Most of us even choose to believe something other than the majority of experts in the field for at least one of their beliefs. None of us are strict slaves to empirical epistemology as revealed in peer-reviewed scientific literature.

So I’m happy to look at what the relevant experts have to say about the Investigative Judgment. Which experts do I choose? I let both my existing knowledge and values, guided by the Bible and the Holy Spirit, determine which experts are worth consideration. My Dad is one of those whom I consult in this particular field, although we see things differently in a number of fields. In this case, I do believe his arguments on Daniel 8 are worthy of consideration. His doctoral dissertation was on Daniel 8:14 (from UNE) and he has since deepened his appreciation of the case for the Investigative Judgment by broadening the hermeneutical undergirding through principles from degrees in Linguistics and Philosophy. I have posted a recent article which shares some of his insights in a more lay-readable, or at least educated lay-readable, format.

The Implications of the Choice

The implications of giving up my belief in the Adventist teaching on the investigative judgment would be profound. I would necessarily need to give up my belief in Ellen White, and in the Divine origin of the SDA movement. To avoid being hypocritical, I would also need to not regard our church or our teachings as any more valuable than the rest of Protestant Christianity except that in some areas we may happen to be more biblical than some others. But that would be true for any group.

To be fair to the church, I would have to declare these significant deviations in my belief system before taking up any leadership or teaching/preaching appointment.

This “risk” or “cost” cannot be justification for holding onto a weak or errant belief system; but I believe counting the cost is important and requires full consideration of the implications. Sitting on the fence and trying to have the best of both worlds is not fair to either one’s self or to others.

But the benefits of holding onto this teaching are that it gives us certainty of the nearness of the Second Coming and thus focus for our message and mission. The first angel’s message makes sense: “Fear God and give glory to Him, for the hour of His judgment is come” (Rev 14:7).

Does Seventh-day Adventism Hang on One Word?

Guest post by my dad, Dr Eric Livingston, who has studied multiple postgraduate degrees regarding this “one word.” I provide my own thoughts and introduction at another post.

Abstract

It is claimed that “cleansed” in Daniel 8:14 is a mistranslation and that it should be “justified” or similar and does not link to Leviticus 16 where the ‘cleansing of the sanctuary’ has a different word. Also, the ‘Little Horn’ context, it is asserted, does not support a sanctuary ‘Investigative Judgment’ of believers. Should these repeated claims be sustained, Seventh-day Adventism would have taught wrongly for 170 years. We will suggest that the critics misunderstand how words work, that the ‘cleansed’/‘justify’ association and interrelationship renders “cleansed” a legitimate translation, and that the context does support a judgment of professed believers. Being some of the most prominent and sustained objections of critics, should their assertions be found lacking in the appreciation of the Daniel 8 context, in linguistic method, and regarding the ‘cleanse’/‘justify’ connection, their case would lose much credibility.

scalesofjusticeA former Seventh-day Adventist lecturer wrote: “Why do Adventists use a mistranslation such as ‘cleansed’ for the basis of their judgment doctrine? Why do Adventists ignore the context of Dan. 8:14 . . .?”[i]

More recently the critic’s biographer asserted: “He [Ford] explained the SDA habit of taking Daniel 8:13 and 14 out of context . . . .. The word ‘cleansed’ (Daniel 8:14), he added, is a poor translation and has no linguistic link to the description of the Day of Atonement service (Leviticus 16).”[ii] The assertion is that the Hebrew word (sdq) in Daniel 8:14 is a legal word that means ‘justified’, ‘restored’, or ‘vindicated’, while the unrelated sanctuary word for ‘cleansed’ (thr) in Leviticus 16 has to do with purification.[iii] In 2016, Des Ford is still pressing his questions about the Investigative Judgment and this translation issue.[iv]

If correct, this undermines the Danielic basis for the Day of Atonement typology of the ‘cleansing of the sanctuary’ as the end-time judicial review. That vital judicial investigation-review assesses three major issues in the universe: the destiny of professed believers (why these and not others are genuine and safe to pluck from sin’s infestation), the principles of good and evil (considered the ultimate cosmic perplexity, raising questions about the efficacy of God’s mode of governing the universe), and God’s character (the justice-mercy and law-love interrelations tied to the foregoing)—all seen through Seventh-day Adventism’s most distinctive teaching, the Investigative Judgment.

A number have succumbed to the critics and left Adventism in body or mind, some slipping into atheism, more into mere ‘church club’ socialisation. Have they made a tragic mistake in believing the glib assertion that it is simplistic to accept the KJV “cleansed” translation in Daniel 8:14 and link it to the Day of Atonement ‘cleansing of the sanctuary’ in Leviticus 16? Is our foundation so poorly laid in outdated, non-scholarly, “flimsy assumptions”[v] via proof-texting with a mistranslation?

We could say, “I’ll just keep things simple. If the good old KJV and some recent translations have ‘cleansed’ that is sufficient.” To such simplistic escapism, thinkers will respond as one former pastor: “We are expected to leave our brains at the door when we enter church.” It is actually in a judicial lawsuit passage that God says, “‘Come now, let us reason together …’” (Isa 1:18). God created us with minds that reason.

I would propose that biblical evidence and linguistic method abundantly support the translation “cleansed” and that the Daniel 8 context surely does link to Leviticus 16 and ‘the cleansing of the sanctuary’. The keys to the issue are context, semantic (or meaning) flexibility in word usage, and the fact that the concept of righting or restoring can be expressed by seemingly unrelated words, such as the legal term ‘justify’ and the sanctuary purification word ‘cleanse’. We will first view context, then the “cleansed” word.[vi] 

The Witness of Context

In the wider context, Daniel 7 and 8 are recognised as closely parallel for decisive reasons: They commence in the same way: “In the first year” (7:1) and “In the third year” (8:1) of King Belshazzar, with 8:1 referring back to the chap. 7 vision/dream. They continue with similar formulaic introductions to their visions (7:2; 8:2). They conclude in similar fashion with a perplexed prophet (7:28; 8:27). Their literary layout is identical (first half vision, second half interpretation). Both chapters are historical apocalypses with animal symbols. Finally, each chapter prominently features an arrogating Little Horn power that follows earlier nations and takes the reader into the final judgment (Dan 7) or the ‘cleansing/righting of the sanctuary’ in the end time (Dan 8; cf. vv. 14, 17, 19, 26).

Within this close connection, Daniel does give a notable contrast by moving from the ferocious, unclean beasts of Daniel 7 to the clean, sacrificial animals of the ram and goat in Daniel 8. This ‘contrast within correspondence’, together with other sanctuary references, sharply focuses the sanctuary as the counter to the Little Horn in Daniel 8. The vision climaxes with the ‘cleansing’/‘righting’ of the sanctuary reversing the work of the Little Horn power.

While evident that the cleansing/righting of the sanctuary is Daniel 8’s answer to the Little Horn and in Daniel 7 it is the judgment, Daniel 7 should be noted for its repetition and decisiveness. Three of the four times when the Little Horn is described in chapter 7, a judgment scene immediately follows (v. 8–>9-10; 20-21–>22; 24-25–>26). The one other depiction of the Little Horn in Daniel 7 implies that it is active during the Investigative Judgment and/or its activities are relevant to it (v.11a between vv. 9-10 and 13-14).

It would be expected that the closely paralleled chapter 8 would similarly connect the Little Horn with judgment, particularly as the context calls for judicial redress of the Little Horn (8:10-12). Compare the parallel from a non-Adventist scholar:

The trampling down of the sanctuary . . . does have a term set to it [the 2,300 evening-mornings/days = years]. The forensic metaphor of judgment being given for the holy ones on high (7:22) reappears as the vision promises that the sanctuary will ‘emerge in the right’ ([sdq]), ‘be vindicated’.[vii]

So both the immediate context of Daniel 8 and the broader Daniel 7/8 context support the idea of a judgment coming upon the Little Horn’s activities. But how does this relate to professed believers? This Little Horn power claims religious rights (7:20-22, 25), displacing “the Prince of the host,” “the daily/continual” provisions of the Prince, “and the place of his sanctuary” (8:11) and persecutes “the saints” (7:25) or “the host”/“holy people” (8:13, 24). These are all religious activities or preoccupations, strongly suggesting that the context is dealing with those professing to be believers. Consequently, the “judgment” distinguishes “the saints of the Most High” from “the same horn” pretender who “made war with the saints” (7:21-22).

A related thought is that this judgment reveals to the universe a concrete picture of what Lucifer, if not evicted, would have perpetrated in heaven as the initial “man of sin” sitting “as God in the temple of God” (2 Thess 2:3-4; cf. Isa 14:12-14). Principles of good and evil, and God’s wisdom and character, are reviewed in the Arch-Deceiver’s ecclesiastical Little Horn/Man of Sin representative facing off against true believers.

So the context supports a judgment between professing believers, just as the Day of Atonement ritual prefigured through the earthly ‘cleansing of the sanctuary’. Then, the likes of Israel’s pretenders, such as the Nadab, Abihu, Korah, Dathan and Abirams, would come to justice. But what of Daniel’s use of a word (Hebrew root sdq) that normally is translated as “justified,” “restored,” or “vindicated,” and is not the verb used in Leviticus 16?

Words –> Meaning or Meaning –> Words or Both Directions?

The tendency of ‘cleansed’ critics is to take a sole ‘Words –> Meaning’ dictionary approach, treating words as the pre-packaged containers of meaning and unconsciously override historical, cultural and literary context. This is called the ‘Container Method’ or ‘Determinacy’ and is often implemented even when a writer professes to know better.

Such Lexical (or Word) Determinacy misunderstands how we conceive and express concepts. We typically do not lock in to one or more preconceived dictionary definitions (though they have their place, as do etymology and cognate languages). Rather, prior usage gives meaning potential that may be employed in varying ways, sometimes accenting one aspect relating to its semantic range, other times another, or occasionally a quite creative usage that the context shapes.

As we speak or write we are following a train of thought and our mind consults our store of words to structure the concepts being communicated. This is an ‘online process’ in which the flow of thought calls upon our mental lexicon or encyclopedia for words to express the concept at hand. It is the ‘Encyclopedic Method’ that is based on previous usage of terms, but, most importantly, permits the present context to direct usage, sentence structure and associations so that the intended meaning of the speaker/writer is ultimately context-determined.

We will give four positive examples bearing on our topic. The first reveals the shift in concepts within the usage of the same word; the other three illustrate the interchange of words and settings to express the same concept. The first manifests the flexibility in the semantic range of a word; the other three show how the same concept can be expressed by seemingly unrelated words taken from different realms of experience, literature and cultures.

The first example: The Hebrew verb ‘see’ (r’h or ra’ah in its simple active form) classically denotes physically looking with the eyes, visual sensory perception. This primary usage is sometimes called the ‘core’ or ‘basic meaning’ in a semantic range. Contexts of speech/writing, however, show that a great many of the 1300+ usages of ‘see’ (r’h) in the OT have called for a translation that reflects the faculty of understanding; e.g.: “And Abimelech said to Abraham, ‘What were you thinking [r’h] of, that you did this thing?’” (Gen 20:10, RSV, NRSV; CEB similar); “‘What was your reason.. .?’” (NIV); “‘have in mind’” (NABRE).

Given this figurative shift into conceptual perception, if the context called for the idea of evaluating, investigating, examining, then the verb ‘see’ could be utilised. So: “The priest shall examine [r’h] the disease on the skin of his body, . . . after the priest has examined [r’h] him …” (Lev 13:3; NRSV, NIV, etc.). “then the priest shall make an examination [r’h], . . . pronounce him clean [thr]” (v. 13, NRSV; ‘examine(s)’ in NIV, NLT).

These translations of r’h move from ‘see’ to ‘examine’ simply because the context required the idea of examining. The concept, utilising prior usage and the present setting, determined the translation. Likewise, sdq can move from ‘justify’ to ‘cleanse’ in the context of the righting of the sanctuary (Dan 8:14). We will now move to the New Testament (NT) to illustrate direct substitution of words for the same concept.

The second example: Gordon Wenham briefly states, “According to Paul we are justified by Christ’s blood; according to John we are cleansed by it.”[viii] Paul characteristically uses Greek words with the dik– stem that come from the language of the law court and translate as ‘justify’, ‘just/righteous’ ‘righteousness’. So: “… being now justified (dikaiothentes) by his blood (Rom 5:9; cf. 3:25-26). When John expresses the same concept of righting or justifying by Christ’s blood, he employs the sanctuary vocabulary of cleansing: “. . . and the blood of Jesus his Son cleanses (katharizei) us from all sin” (1 Jn 1:7; cf. v.9).

The analogy with Daniel 8:14 of the sanctuary and its adherents being ‘justified’ (sdq), and with Leviticus 16:19, 30 where the sanctuary and its adherents are ‘cleansed’ (thr) is clear. The same idea of righting or restoring is the meaning being conveyed by both expressions, by the legal term ‘justified’ and by the sanctuary purificatory word ‘cleansed’. The concept of righting/restoring is central. Moreover, when the context of sdq is the sanctuary, the translation ‘cleansed’ is quite appropriate.

The third example, from anthropology, manifests the same interchange of ‘legal’ and ‘cleanse’ terms and ideas to express the shared concept of righting or restoring. Discussing the characteristics of worldviews, Paul Hiebert lists three cultures with their varying “Images of Moral Order.”[ix] We will concentrate on two, to represent the West and the East. In this oversimplification we can understand that right relationships, shame, etc. would also feature in different sections.

Focus Legal Order Cleanliness
Response Guilt Repugnance
Salvation Punishment,
Restore Moral Order
Washing, Purification,
Restore Cleanliness
Image Righteousness Holiness, Purity
Example United States India

So we have two cultures seeking the same righting/restoring outcome through different paradigms. Righting is accomplished through both the Legal focus (cf. sdq ‘justified’ Dan 8:14) and through the Cleanliness focus (cf. thr ‘cleansed’, Lev 16).

When we think of the diversity of atonement metaphors in the NT (legal, ‘cultic’ [a technical term for religious ritual and worship, as in the sanctuary], ransom, victory, redemption, adoption, exemplarist, etc.), the inclusive double approach of justify/cleanse should not surprise. It reaches into varying literary, metaphorical and cultural backgrounds through the different associations and connotations linked to the complementary sdq/thr concepts.

Since atonement (kpr) and cleansing (thr) overlap in Leviticus 16 (see vv. 18, 20: kpr; v. 19: thr; cf. v. 30) and since, even though in a neutral setting, Daniel associates atonement and righteousness (Dan 9:24: kpr and a sdq noun form), the connection of righting/cleansing with atonement is pertinent. The NT (and OT) atonement metaphors coalesce around the legal and the cultic/sanctuary (which two are actually more analogical than metaphorical)[x]:  The “cultic and legal images must be regarded as providing the objective foundation of a doctrine of atonement,” “the objective core.”[xi] This is seen in the OT: e.g., Isa 53: sanctuary expiatory sacrifice (v. 10) immediately following by the judicial act of justifying (sdq, v. 11); and in the NT: Rom 3: the sanctuary idea of propitiation through sacrificial blood (v. 25) in the midst of legal language involving overt justice (vv. 24, 26).

It could be said that Hebrews and any Bible students with a tendency to left-brain activity would grasp the more propositional sdq; others with right-brain activity would gravitate to the thr sanctuary symbolism. However, they should be allowed to complement and fortify each other whatever personal tendencies we have. The “sacrificial and judicial … have a special relationship to the event they interpret.”[xii]

Our fourth example is one of Scripture’s interchanges. We now compare Leviticus 13 (priestly laws regarding a scale, leprosy-like disease) with Ezekiel 18 (regarding individual responsibility for right doing, moral accountability)—two differing topics in different genres (types of literature), but each approach having the same idea: investigation to determine fitness:

Leviticus 13: Investigation of physical fitness for sanctuary ritual/spiritual life in the community, leading to the declaration: “He is clean (thr) / unclean (tm’).” See Lev 13:13, 17, 37; cf. vv. 6, 23, 37: “and the priest shall pronounce him clean.”

Ezekiel 18: Investigation of moral fitness for moral and spiritual/sanctuary life in the community, leading to the declaration: “He is just (sdq) / wicked (rš‘).” See Ezek 18:9.

The list of virtues in verses 5-9 of Ezekiel 18 “is patently an elaboration of what ‘righteous’ means.” This calls to mind Psalms 15 and 24 and “a liturgical ceremony conducted at the sanctuary gate . . . the declaratory verdict ‘He is righteous [sdq]’ pronounced by the priest after the pattern of similar such declaratory pronouncements in Leviticus 1:17, 2:15, 13:3 [sic., assume v. 13].”[xiii] “Ezekiel’s ‘mirror of virtue’ ends with a declaratory formula of priestly vintage: he is righteous [sdq], he will surely live.”[xiv]

The important point for Daniel 8:14, is that the ‘justify’ (sdq) – cleanse (thr) conceptual interchange seen here is made in sanctuary contexts of investigating/examining the fitness or right standing before YHWH at the sanctuary. Space forbids listing other scriptural examples of a cleanse/sdq interchange, save an abbreviated footnote,[xv] but it is significant that quite often this happens in the context of investigation, reflecting Daniel 7 and 8. As Blocher affirms regarding the atonement images which

exhibit the same structure (isomorphism), so that they naturally translate into one another—hence the intertwining in so many passages. As soon as one discerns that cultic holiness can be translated ‘righteousness’ in the ethical-juridical sphere, one understands that the danger of the Presence’s devouring fire, the danger of being struck dead by sacred intolerance [such as sanctuary presumption: Lev 10:1-11; 16:1-2ff], is the danger of being condemned and punished by divine justice. With the biblical God (not any numen [non-personal divine spirit/power]), what is the stain to be covered or wiped out if not the guilt incurred by sinning?—actually ‘sin’ and ‘sin-bearing’ belong to both sacrificial and judicial languages.[xvi]

Blocher adds how the spotless “slaughtered animal . . . together with the priest. . . satisfies the demands of justice,” and “the worshipper . . . declared to be in the right by him who judges justly.”[xvii] The worshipper being declared to be in the right by One who judges justly is quite applicable in the context of Daniel 8 where the ‘religious’ Little Horn subjugates the true people of God, eliciting the cry “How long . . . ?” (v. 13). We have just seen in Leviticus, Ezekiel and Psalms that “cultic holiness [with its ‘cleansing’] can be translated ‘righteousness’ in the ethical-juridical sphere,” so with Daniel 8:14 (sdq) and Leviticus 16 (thr). 

Conclusion

In sum, the immediate and wider contexts of Daniel 8:14 call for judgment on the Little Horn power. Since this symbol represents a religious body that persecutes the saints, Daniel and Leviticus reassure us that there comes a time when all will be righted through the Investigative Judgment and its verdicts.

Linguistics explains how lexical meaning is not to be pre-determined. There is far more flexibility. We gain the sense of words by noting the context in which the ‘on-line’ production of the speaker/writer is communicating. The setting sparks or drives a person to seek a word from their mental encyclopedia–the ‘Encyclopedic Method’–to best portray the sense intended, rather than resorting to a mere dictionary ‘Determinacy’ approach. It is a combination of previous usage plus present context, with the context being the final determinant of meaning.

We noted the interchange between the word used in Daniel 8:14 (sdq) and that used in Leviticus 16 (thr), and most importantly the sharing of the same concept of righting/restoring in order to be able to freely make the interchange. It is connected, concurrent and complementary, rather than oppositional, thinking. In Daniel 8:14 the sanctuary context naturally takes us to the ‘righting’ or ‘cleansing’ of the sanctuary that engages the symbolic Day of Atonement ritual of Leviticus 16.

Footnotes

[i] Desmond Ford, Daniel 8:14: The Day of Atonement and the Investigative Judgment (Casselberry, FL: Euangelion Press, 1980), 312.

[ii] Milton Hook, Desmond Ford: Reformist Theologian, Gospel Revivalist (Riverside, CAL: Adventist Today Foundation, 2008), 228. See also pp. 230, 254, 357-358, 378. Hook quotes a 1971 Ford article acknowledging that this “key word of the text” links to judgment (123), but soon quotes another claiming “cleansed (wrong translation)” (125).

[iii] Cf. Ford, Daniel 8:14…, 63, 292.

[iv] Ford asks: “Why is this controversy important? Firstly, it strikes at the very vitals of Adventism.” (Desmond Ford, The Investigative Judgment and the Everlasting Gospel: A Retrospective on October 27, 1979 [n.p., 2016], 6). Ford then lists AD1844, Ellen G. White writings (which connect Daniel 8:14 with the Leviticus 16 ‘cleansing of the sanctuary’; e.g., GC 409–436) and Historicism. In this 2016 compilation with brief update comments, Ford reproduces his 1979 PUC forum talk that includes, “On the basis of that word, our pioneers linked this prophecy with Leviticus 16, but the word isn’t there. You say, ‘Of course it’s there.’ No, it’s not there. The KJV is a mistranslation. The word translated ‘cleanse’ there is not found in Leviticus 16. It’s a different word altogether. That’s why almost all modern translations do not use ‘cleanse,’ and therefore, from all other translations, you are crippled as a way of getting back to Leviticus 16. Now let me state it again. Adventists have traditionally jumped from Daniel 8:14 to Leviticus 16 on the basis of the word ‘cleanse.’ ‘Then shall the sanctuary be cleansed.’ The point is, the word ‘cleanse’ isn’t there. It’s a mistranslation” (ibid., 12).

[v] Hook, 288. Hook’s assertions seem prejudiced by his disdain for what he calls “the fabricated doctrine of the Investigative Judgment” (224; cf. 215-217, 223-231, 238, 241-244, 345-346, 379). Even the liberal Spectrum blog questioned Hook’s caricaturing (David Larson, “Why Does Desmond Ford’s Biographer Lament our Wesleyan Heritage?,” Spectrum, 15 September , 2008; http://spectrummagazine.org/article/column/2008/09/15/why-does-desmond-ford%E2%80%99s-biographer-lament-our-wesleyan-heritage; accessed 25th Oct, 2015). The narrowed justification/forgiveness truncated ‘gospel’, particularly proclaimed within Western SDAsm since the 1970s, has been re-broadened in the wider Evangelical world by the influence of the New Perspective on Paul (NPP). Despite the flaws and excesses in NPP, the way has been opened to return to a biblical gospel that is inextricably tied to obedience and a final judicial review: Rom 2:12-16; 10:16; 14:1-12; 2 Thess 1:5-8; 1 Pet 4:17-19.

[vi] This essay can only include a fraction of available evidence. There is (or was!) an academic publisher waiting for a longer version, but continued agitation calls for a brief response on a more popular level.

[vii] John E. Goldingay, Word Biblical Commentary, Volume 30: Daniel (Dallas, Texas: Word Publishing, 1987), 212.

[viii] G. Wenham, “The Perplexing Pentateuch,” in Vox Evangelica, 17 (1987): 18.

[ix] Paul G. Hiebert, Transforming Worldviews: An Anthropological Understanding of How People Change (Grand Rapids, MI: Baker Academic, 2008), 62.

[x] Henri Blocher, “Biblical Metaphors and the Doctrine of the Atonement,” in Journal of the Evangelical Society 47/4 (December 2004), 643, in relation to the judicial language of atonement, “probably the least metaphorical of all” (645).

[xi] Nico Vorster, “The Nature of Christ’s Atonement. A Defence of Penal Substitution Theory,” in Strangers and Pilgrims on Earth: Essays in Honour of Abraham van de Beek, ed. E. Van der Borght and P. van Geest (Leiden and Boston: Brill, 2012), 140, 146. Compare the Reformers generally and Calvin specifically (130-131). “Why, then, does Paul use legal and sacrificial terms more often than family ones? Probably because of the deeply-ingrained Pharisaic [and biblical: Zech 3; Dan 7] notion of an afterlife lawcourt. Judgment Day is a compelling metaphor for Paul . . .” (Stephen Finlan, The Background and Content of Paul’s Cultic Atonement Metaphors [Atlanta: Society of Biblical Lierature, 2004], 158; cf. 190, 229: “The significance of the Messiah’s martyrdom is interpreted through cultic metaphors; even justification and reconciliation emanate from the place of sacrifice”).

[xii] Blocher, 641, where the writer is suggesting their elucidating the meaning of the death of Christ. So, too, we will see how they interact around the concept of investigation in our next example.

[xiii] R. M. Hals, “Methods of Interpretation: Old Testament Texts,” in Studies in Lutheran Hermeneutics, ed. John Reuman (Philadelphia, PA: Fortress, 1979), 272.

[xiv] Joseph Blenkinsopp, Ezekiel (Louisville, KY: John Knox Press, 1990), 83.

[xv] For example, Job 15:14-16 with 25:4-6 that relate sdq to the ‘cleanse’ field of words, this time through zkh, a synonym of thr. What is striking is the threefold relationship: by substitution between the passages and speakers, by synthetic parallelism, and by a chiasm between the passages. Also, more generally, see Elias Brasil de Souza, The Heavenly Sanctuary/Temple Motif in the Hebrew Bible: Function and Relationship to the Earthly Counterparts, ATS Dissertation Series (2005), 446-450, 464 (drawing on H.T. Fletcher-Louis), regarding sanctuary imagery of fire and clouds and the Son of Man as a priestly figure in Daniel 7:9-14 paralleling, with Day of atonement imagery, 8:9-14; and the interweaving of judicial and cultic elements and procedures in Zech 3:1-10 and Lev 16 (deferring to R Gane) (328).

[xvi] Blocher, 643-644 (Blocher’s italics).

[xvii] Blocher, 644.

Soul Mortality Doctrinal Cluedo

The original lie of Satan was “You shall not surely die” (Gen 3:4).

The lie has been believed by billions of people and the myth remains alive and well today.

Immortality of the soul gained popularity in Christianity thanks to the popularity of Greek dualism. The traditional view of eternal torment remains the dominant view throughout Christianity, leading many to discard belief in a ‘tyrannical’ God.

Yet there is an awakening among thought-leaders to rediscover the truth of annihilationism, including none less than world renowned theologian John Stott.

Here is a starting guide that I put together for anyone wanting to go back to the relevant Bible passages and assess the evidence. Feel free to add to or change this. Leave your feedback.

I’m not afraid of learning more about God’s character of love, so don’t hesitate to challenge my framework. A deeper understanding of this truth reveals an amazing and perfectly good God.

Doctrinal cluedo for the state of the dead (by the author)

Doctrinal cluedo for the state of the dead (by the author)