The One Project: Danger or Blessing?
By Nathaniel Tan and Marcos Torres
A few weeks ago I (Marcos) had the opportunity to attend a One Project gathering here in Perth, Western Australia along with pastor and friend Nathaniel Tan. We were both excited to be at the One Project for various reasons.
First, we are passionate about communicating the message of the Adventist movement in relevant and innovative ways. Second, we both have experienced Gods conviction to be apostles to the post-moderns, and part of that work involves new and creative ways of doing ministry. Third, we are both in love with the distinctive Adventist message as seen “in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary.”[i] And fourth, both Nat and I recognize the urgent need for Adventists to proclaim truth. Not Bible facts or "right" answers as we have so often done, but truth – truth as it is in Jesus.
What We Had Heard About the One Project
But there was another reason why Nat and I were excited to go to the One Project. Over the years we have heard good and bad reports about this gathering. Those who say it is good insist that it is a powerful, Christ-centered experience.
Those who say it is bad insist that the One Project diminishes the importance of doctrine and,- has an emergent/ ecumenical undercurrent; they criticize the involvement of non-Adventist speakers and the promotion of emergent authors. (A recent gathering in Seattle featured Leonard Sweet, a popular proponent of emergent, New Age, and ecumenical agendas.)
Innovative and non-traditional as Nat and I may be, there are few things as unattractive to us as ecumenism, New Age/mystical spiritualism, and the emergent church. Scripture tells us that we are to "contend for the faith that was once for all entrusted to God's holy people" (Jude 1:3) and this is an admonition that we take very seriously.
What follows is our reaction to the One Project as we experienced it here in Perth and through the book For the One: Voices from the One Project, a compilation of One Project presentations that capture their vision and passion.
It is our intention to be both objective and balanced, avoiding speculations and accusations that require gathering random facts like puzzle pieces only to place the puzzle pieces together in a biased way.
Nevertheless, we do not claim to be apologists for this ministry. There are questions only the leaders of the One Project can satisfactorily answer. In addition, we are not here to suggest that the One Project or its leaders are perfect. Our intention is therefore simple: to analyze what we have experienced in the light of the Bible and the writings of Ellen White and to present our thoughts in one voice through this article.
What We Experienced at the One Project
When I (Marcos) first arrived in Western Australia I had no intention of attending the One Project. I couldn’t afford the registration but more importantly, the rumors had gotten to me, and quite frankly I wasn’t willing to go out of my way in order to attend. But as providence would have it, my wife and I were offered tickets our first Sabbath back.
I gladly accepted the offer though a sense of trepidation remained. Nathaniel expressed the same concerns to me as we dialogued about the One Project and the concerns presented to us. However, being familiar with those who argued that we stick to the "old landmarks”[ii] in 1888, we were not willing to embrace a position that would find us fighting against God.
Reflections and Recalibrate
The weekend came and went and I (Marcos) would have to say that the One Project is one of the best experiences I have ever had as a Seventh-day Adventist. Message after message spoke directly to my heart and challenged me to “place my feet on higher ground.”[iii] I experienced conviction of sin and was challenged to “press on toward the mark that is in Christ Jesus” (Phil. 3:14). The Holy Spirit spoke to me in such a way that I honestly felt shell-shocked when I left and was unable to even talk about the event with my wife when I got home until about an hour had passed and the shock had worn off a bit. I was amazed how the speakers were able to include so much depth in their short 15-minute sermons known as “Reflections.” Not one sermon was shallow or, as my conservative buddies like to say, “wishy-washy.” Each sermon challenged, rebuked, exhorted, and best of all, uplifted the crucified and risen Saviour as the only hope for humanity.
After each presentation a 10-minute time period called “Recalibrate” was given for open discussion (we all sat at round tables) about the sermon. There was so much depth in each presentation that 10 minutes was not enough to chew on what we had heard. The 10 minute sessions over the two days with new people who've just met was hardly the atmosphere where one would feel 'safe' to be transparent. While conversations around the tables might have been both interesting and eye-opening to many, we felt that they could have gone on for a good 20 minutes, depending on the discussions that were happening at the tables. Apart from the shortcomings of the 10 minute Recalibrate sessions, we found the "Reflections" and "Recalibrate" sessions refreshing.
Another aspect of the gathering that we really liked was a series of segments spread throughout the weekend called 32One. The objective of 32One was to have a speaker present one of the 28 fundamental beliefs. The speaker had 3 minutes "2" point to the One – hence, 32One. The Sabbath, Stewardship, and the Sanctuary Message (Investigative Judgment) were brought up in the 32One segments and communicated in relevant, Christ-centered ways along with other fundamental beliefs.
Kicking off each session was a worship band comprised of musicians and singers from across Western Australia. The worship band was absolutely fantastic. The musicians were very skilled and each song was sung beautifully. Having attended churches that lack in contemporary christian music for so long I (Marcos) was refreshed to finally be immersed in the music of my heart.
Nevertheless, it would be all but impossible to deny that a majority of the attendees did not appear to be connecting. As we looked around we witnessed a hall that was filled with worshipers who were standing up, expressionless, as they stared at what was happening up front. Of course, people worship differently. Not everyone will express their praise by raising their hands and having a huge smile on their face but in our experience as worshipers and worship leaders we are convinced that there is a difference between worshiping quietly and looking uninterested.
We are not entirely certain what can be done to remedy this. Worship is a very complex phenomenon that involves the worship leaders and the worshipers in an intimate connection with God. Thus to suggest that the worship vibe was lacking because of one thing or another would be unfair. In the spirit of practicality we will suggest that while the band at the One Project was wonderful the song selection was composed mainly of contemporary worship songs. This failure to celebrate the worship traditions of the ancients may have been one of the missing keys. Of course, this cannot be said to have been the only reason why some people appeared uninterested. Culture, familiarity, experience, taste, conviction, and a new setting can all contribute. Nevertheless, this is a complex issue that goes beyond the scope of this article.*
Result of the Gathering
So what was the result of the One Project? Although we cannot speak for everyone we can say this: when we left the One Project we were more proud to be Adventists then when we arrived. The entire program was un-apologetically Adventist. One would not confuse the One Project gathering for a Baptist or non-denominational gathering. It was clearly an Adventist gathering – one that did not shy away from Adventist history, Adventist doctrines, or the writings of Ellen White. It was, in our humble opinion, “full-on Adventist.”
Nevertheless, there were certain elements that caused us to wonder and sympathize with the critics. At times the temptation to speculate, read between the lines, and take what we had heard to unfounded conclusions was there. Therefore, after the event we put our minds together and wrestled with some of these concepts. While we cannot say that we have had all of our questions answered the rest of this article represents the conclusions we have come to thus far.
What About the Criticisms?
We will begin by dealing with the criticisms regarding anti-doctrine, ecumenism, and emergent agendas. As we stated before, we are not One Project apologists. Only the One Project can fully answer those difficult questions. However, I (Marcos) will say this: If the One Project has an ecumenical and emergent agenda they are doing a lousy job at promoting it. When I left the One Project I was so thankful for the uniqueness and distinctiveness of Adventism that I now view ecumenism and emergent ideology as less attractive than I already did. In other words, I am less likely to support ecumenism, the dissolution of doctrine, or the emergent movement since having attended the One Project than I was before attending – and that is coming from someone who has never even liked those ideologies. Jesus was lifted up through Adventist doctrine in such a beautiful way that I walked away thinking, this is why Adventism is so beautiful.
The "Ecumenism" Charge
However, Nat and I can certainly sympathize with those who have expressed concerns about the One Project. While Adventists have historically used doctrine to needlessly separate themselves from others and unwittingly divorced it from Jesus, the One Project is placing the emphasis on allowing doctrine to bring us closer to others, to tear down divisions, and to see Jesus as the ultimate foundation and objective of each of those doctrines. This emphasis is so strong at times that it appears to be birthing a reactionary response and it was this emphasis that tempted us, at times, to "read between the lines."
For example, in his presentation Sam Leonor emphasized how the early Adventists were divided on many doctrinal issues and yet united in their common desire to see Jesus return. They were, as he put it, a “one-doctrine movement.”
In the book, For the One: Voices from the One Project this theme comes up repeatedly as well. For example, on page 12 Tim Gillespie writes, “Is the overflow of your heart Jesus or have you spent the majority of your time talking about church and its ecclesiology?” On page 15 he writes, “rather than spend our time doting the bridegroom (a metaphor to obsessing over Jesus), we are spending our time concerned about the wedding dress (a metaphor to obsessing over doctrine). We are in danger of becoming obsessed with looking at ourselves in the mirror. And when narcissism leads to excluding those we deem unworthy of the grace of God, we are in danger of telling the Bridegroom whom He can and cannot love.” And finally on page 17 he writes, “We will live different lifestyles. We will prioritize different things because we are different people, built differently from the DNA up. But we have this tie that binds and His name is Jesus.” This thought pattern continues throughout the book.
On page 20 Sam Leonor writes, “He [Jesus] didn’t—and doesn’t—call people to follow a religion, a denomination, a congregation, a preacher, a cause or a movement. He calls them to Himself.” And on page 38 Lisa Clark Diller writes, “We don’t always have to choose between having Jesus and being right. But we should be sure which one is most important to us.”
With this in mind, we can see how those who value Adventist doctrine would be concerned. After all, doesn’t this come awfully close to ecumenism and the relativism inherent in emergent philosophy? To diminish the importance of doctrine by claiming that it’s all about Jesus and not our distinctiveness is a scary thought for many of us. And indeed it should be. Paul warned the Ephesian church stating "I know that after I leave, savage wolves will come in among you and will not spare the flock" (Acts 20:29). These savage wolves have existed in every generation of the church's existence and will continue until the end of time (Matt. 13: 24-30) and as much as I hate to talk about it (I have been burnt out on "alarmism" by my conservative Adventist background) the Bible does say that we cannot afford to be gullible in matters of faith.
Nevertheless, we must be fair. Preaching unity in the midst of diversity and calling for a more Christ-centered approach to our faith is a far cry from ecumenism and emergent theology. Ellen White in Evangelism states that we should not “build up unnecessary barriers between us and other denominations” (573) in the context of engaging other denominations in love so as to prevent ourselves from creating a “combative spirit” that “closes ears and hearts to the entrance of truth” (574).
The approach of immersing ourselves in Christ to be able to reach those seeking Christ makes total Biblical sense and is rightly advocated. We are called to uplift Christ, through the lens of the three angels’ messages which forms the doctrine we hold on to, not to uplift doctrine in place or in the hope that Christ is uplifted. In addition, Ellen White advocated that Adventist ministers come near ministers of other denominations. In Testimonies for the Church 6 she writes "Our ministers should seek to come near to the ministers of other denominations. Pray for and with these men, for whom Christ is interceding. A solemn responsibility is theirs. As Christ’s messengers, we should manifest a deep, earnest interest in these shepherds of the flock" (78). In The Review and Herald she counseled, "let the ministers ...call the attention of the people to the truths of God’s Word. There are many of these which are dear to all Christians. Here is common ground, upon which we can meet people of other denominations; and in becoming acquainted with them we should dwell mostly upon topics in which all feel an interest, and which will not lead directly and pointedly to the subjects of disagreement (June 13, 1912).
Ellen White's thought is directly in line with scripture here. Jesus was clear that "I have other sheep that are not of this sheep pen. I must bring them also. They too will listen to my voice..." (John 10:16). And in Johns vision of the fall of Babylon we read the angel say "Come out of her, my people, so that you will not share in her sins, so that you will not receive any of her plagues..." (Rev. 18:4). It is interesting to note that, 1) The angel refers to those in Babylon as "my people" before they leave Babylon and, 2) is inclusive (not exclusive) in his appeal to come out of Babylon. The message is therefore clear, as Adventists we are not meant to reject relationships with people of other denominations in the name of doctrinal purity. Nicholas Miller said it best in his article "Adventism and Ecumenism" when he wrote, "...there is a positive ecumenism and a problematic ecumenism. The positive is about practical, on-the-ground, issue-oriented fellowship, support, and caring between Christians. The negative is a more formal, ideological search for doctrinal and institutional unity."[iv]
The evidence therefore suggests that Ellen White supported the positive ecumenism and rejected the problematic. Japhet De Oliveria summarized it best when he wrote, "We should be ecumenical in community but not in theology."[v] The One Project appears, in our estimation, to follow in that same tradition of promoting the positive ecumenism not the problematic.[vi]
And while questions remain the consistent message we hear coming from the One Project simply is not compatible with ecumenism (the problematic) or emergent philosophy (which is extremely relativistic).
For example, on page 23 of For the One: Voices from the One Project Sam Leonor writes “The Desire of Ages book had a pivotal effect on us. For one thing, this line, “For in Christ there is life eternal, unborrowed,” finally settled the Arianist question.”
This is a very anti-relativistic statement and I don't see how such absolute truth could ever be amalgamated with emergent philosophy, which constantly questions Christology.
On page 56 Emily Whitney writes, “Because men and women risked such depths, we have the truths we follow today. Because they ventured into the deep of scripture, we have this great belief called ‘present truth,’ meaning we have the expectation that there is always more of Jesus to be revealed and to experience” (see end note: More of Jesus).
On page 57 Whitney adds, “What if as a church we didn’t have mothers and fathers of the faith who dug deeper into the Word of God? What if we never wrestled with righteousness by faith?”
On page 61 Mark Wittas presents the message of the little horn, pointing out that “[i]t wasn’t long before the church warped and perverted Gods character.” He then proceeded to trace the ways in which the church did this by critiquing the doctrines of eternal hell, confession to a priest, Mary as mediator, and the veneration of dead saints. Wittas also adds that the church apostatized when “[t]hey elevated human teachings and traditions above the will of God as written in the Holy Scriptures.” On page 65 Wittas adds, “The primary purpose of [Adventism] is to tell the world the truth about God—to dispel the false picture of God that the church has saturated the world with for centuries.” And he tops it off on page 67 by writing, “I believe that each doctrine this church holds dear is a wonderful revelation of God’s character.”
Though there is much more, by now we can easily see the trend in the One Project. It is not, in our humble opinion, diluting doctrine or cunningly bringing in ecumenical or emergent ideologies. To do so would mean that the leaders of the One Project are conniving and unethical, because the message they are proclaiming now is simply not compatible with either of those ideologies. They would literally have to flip the script in order to make their message compatible with these deceptions, and we are not willing to believe that they lack the ethical and moral back bone to knowingly mislead the church in one direction, only to later go in a different pre-planned direction. If this were ever to happen we would say it took place because they lost their way - not because they had planned it all along.
The "Emergent Agenda" Charge
I (Nat) had the privilege, along with the other pastors in the Western Australia Conference, of sitting down with the One Project leaders. The Western Australia Conference had taken the concerns and accusations against the One Project seriously, and its pastoral team met with the One Project's Japhet De Oliveria and Alex Bryan to talk about them.
During the meeting, Alex Bryan was questioned over the video of a sermon he preached that went viral - Bryan had preached the sermon in total darkness. The assertion was that Bryan was teaching that one could find God by isolating oneself from the world - entering darkness. Bryan explained that he darkened the hall during that sermon to emphasize how how the simple act of closing one's eyes (and "entering" darkness) immediately cuts off distractions that we are bombarded with, and for some, helps to better focus attention on God. In short, the darkness was used as an object lesson and the point of the sermon was that we can experience God better without distractions. Bryan denied that the sermon was intended to promote some kind of mystic theology and even went as far as to deny the "contemplative spirituality" charges so often made against him.
The meeting covered other questions, including the association with Leonard Sweet and the One Project. While Leonard Sweet is known for his new age theology, little is known about his retraction of his early writings and beliefs. A quick read of Sweet's statement on his website (title “A Response to the Critics" in which he asserts “for me, New Age rhymes with sewage") would reveal that though many of his earlier books are no longer in print, they are still circulating and come back to haunt him.
Reading the statement satisfied the team, together with the responses to all other issues brought up in regard to the One Project. As concerned Adventists we need to be willing to look at all the evidence. Are there One Project statements that seem to promote ecumenism and emergent ideologies? Sure. But only when they are read in isolation of the statements that promote the solidity of doctrine and truth. When both statements are considered we find it very difficult to believe that this is their agenda.
Does this mean that the issue is settled and that there are no questions left to ask? Not at all. But what it does mean is that we have a strong foundation of trust from which to ask those questions instead of a foundation of speculation, accusation, and suspicion.
And what of Leonard Sweet, the emergent, ecumenical, New Age promoter? Interestingly enough Sweet recently published "A Response to the Critics" in which he asserted, "...for me, New Age rhymes with sewage. I have such a low threshold for Gaia worship that in the middle of the movie 'Avatar' I had to take a break, so severe was my attack of Gaiarrhea. In fact, I have challenged 'new age sensibilities' (which now are known as 'integral spirituality' or 'Enlightenment,' not 'New Age') for the way in which they goddify the self and expect others to orbit in a Youniverse that revolves around them as if they were a god. 'The Secret' of the universe is not that you can have life your way. 'The Secret' is that Jesus is The Way (Colossians 3)." Further down in the document he states that "I am under attack for being Emergent or a leader in the 'emerging church' movement when I am known in emerging church circles as one of its severest critics.... In panel discussions I have looked Brian McLaren in the eyes and lamented 'The Unbearable Wrongness of Brian.'"[vii] But, some may ask, what are we to make of Sweet's books such as "Quantum Spirituality"? According to Sweet, he wrote that book specifically for people in the New Age movement. In order to reach them he used a language they would understand. In doing so he employed phrases such as "Christ consciousness" and others. His attempt was to present the gospel to them in terminology they could easily grasp. However, he admits that this was not wise and that if he were to write the same book today he would not use that method. It appears then, that if we are to criticize the One Project for inviting Leonard Sweet to speak at their Seattle gathering we may be walking on shaky ground. (For those who would like to read his entire "Response to the Critics" you can access it in the footnotes below.)
The "Promotion of Emergent Authors" Charge
Another accusation that has been made against the One Project is the use of quotations and statements made by emergent authors. The same accusation has been made against Leonard Sweet, and in his "Response to the Critics" document, he provides an answer that we believe is relevant to the One Project's use of these authors.
By quoting and referencing people outside the faith, I am doing nothing more than Peter, Paul and Jesus himself did. Paul circumcised Timothy and made a vow in the temple. Some Christians could have easily interpreted these actions as proof that Paul was a legalist. But he was simply being "a Jew to the Jew," speaking their language to get their hearing, yet not compromising the gospel at the same time. Because I quote someone does not mean I agree with everything that person ever wrote. Paul quoted pagan philosophers in the Book of Acts.... The key consideration to whether I quoted someone was not "Do I agree with them?" but "Does this quote energize the conversation?" "Guilt by association" is intellectually disreputable and injurious to the whole body of Christ. (emphasis added)
AW Tozer, an American Christian Pastor whose works have been highly influential in the evangelical world, has also been criticized for the same thing. In thebereancall.org, website to The Berean Call (TBC): A Ministry of Biblical Discernment, the question was posed: "You have promoted books by A.W. Tozer, yet Tozer constantly quoted from Catholic mystics, and some have said that he even practiced 'Lectio Divina.' In view of your warnings regarding the Contemplative Movement, how could you offer his books, knowing of his practices?" This is a relevant question for The Berean Call for this ministry takes a very strong stance against the mystical practices that emergents promote. Their response was clear,
To quote someone does not necessarily include recommending him. Yet, we would take issue with Tozer regarding some of the people he quotes.... the gospel that Tozer preached and wrote about so well couldn't be more contrary to the gospel and dogmas of Catholicism.... TBC does not condone Tozer when he quotes those with whom we have serious theological disagreement (and with whom, we are sure, he would also disagree).(emphasis added)
TBC then finalizes their response with wise counsel:
The Scriptures warn us to fully discern the truth of a matter. Discernment is more than suspicion. We are cautioned in the scriptures against "evil surmising" (1 Tm 6:4), which today might be called "evil suspicion." To establish Tozer as a "Catholic mystic" cannot be done objectively, without exaggeration, and with only selective use of evidence.[viii] (emphasis added)
In the same vein we propose that to establish the One Project as an emergent movement simply because they quote emergent authors is disingenuous. The most any of us could say is that they, as AW Tozer and Leonard Sweet, are not being wise in choosing to quote from such controversial figures. But to label them as emergent for doing so is without merit.
The "Jesus. All. Diminishes Doctrine" Charge
Interestingly enough, another criticism labeled against the One Project is its Christ-focus, as seen in the slogan "Jesus. All." The criticisms tend to hover around the question "Is 'Jesus. All.' enough?" This question is answered well one the One Project website under the FAQ section (see end note: Is Jesus. All. enough?). In our estimation Jesus. All. is more than enough provided the statement is used in its "fullest sense" and not in a way that subverts the importance of propositional truth under the guise of "Jesus. All." (see end note: Fullest Sense).
We must also remember as Adventists that this anti-Jesus-only thought pattern, this “suspicion” of doctrinal dissolution in the name of “Christ-centeredness,” is exactly what took place during the 1888 crisis. Those who opposed the message that Jones and Waggoner were preaching did so partly because they felt that it was a threat to Adventist identity and to embrace it would result in widespread compromise on the truth that God had given the church. Their arguments were pious. They sounded righteous. They sounded firm and grounded in the truth. And they were wrong. Dead wrong.
It is from this crisis that the One Project appears to build some of its philosophy. Many of its statements actually reflect the thought pattern of Ellen Whites life-long ministry, especially the ones she made following the 1888 crisis (though certainly not confined to those). For example, with regard to the Christ-centeredness of doctrine (which seems to be the One Project’s only “agenda”) Ellen White wrote,
You will meet with those who will say, “You are too much excited over this matter. You are too much in earnest. You should not be reaching for the righteousness of Christ, and making so much of that. You should preach the law.” As a people, we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that had neither dew nor rain. We must preach Christ in the law, and there will be sap and nourishment in the preaching that will be as food to the famishing flock of God. We must not trust in our own merits at all, but in the merits of Jesus of Nazareth (1888M 560.5, emphasis added).
The sacrifice of Christ as an atonement for sin is the great truth around which all other truths cluster. In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption—the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers (GW, 315—1915, emphasis added).
Encouragement for the One Project
The experience that was created for attendees of the One Project was truly second to no other event that our church has had for decades. From the registration, decor, ambiance, worship, messages presented and the overarching theme of "Jesus. All", it was one well-oiled machine that did it's job remarkably well.
The caveat is "machine". It inevitably is an event, and one of the main dangers of events like these is the inevitable need to up the ante, to make the next event more polished, exciting, and memorable. While there is nothing wrong in the creation and running of a slick event, the One Project needs to be reminded that it is "Jesus. All" not "The One Project. All." We'll never be able to compete with what the world has to offer in terms of entertainment, memorable events, ambiance, decor and such, but we'll always have something that the entertainment world doesn't have to offer: Jesus. All.
The One Project should also explore the possibilities of encouraging intergenerational discipleship/mentorship that keeps small groups of three or four accountable to God and one another, while creating a 'safe' space for people to talk about Jesus all year round instead of just a yearly program that is not the cheapest to attend.
The One Project could then perhaps consider using its yearly event as an opportunity to encourage and empower these small groups to encourage each other while being encouraged by presenters who present the Word to them. It doesn't have to be a super polished program, just a super honest one - God wants our hearts, not just a nice program held for Him. We believe that this is a concept that the One Project is well aware of and therefore encourage them to continue on that path.
Leroy Moore says it best in his book “Adventist Cultures in Conflict” when he speaks of the paradoxical nature of truth. Truth, he argues, is by its very nature a paradox. This means that each truth has two opposing poles that appear to contradict one another but that, in reality, complement one another. A perfect example is law and grace. Law and grace form a paradox. One pole is law and the other pole is grace. At first, they appear to contradict each other but when studied carefully we discover that they actually complement one another. Truth is lost when only one pole is emphasized. For example, those who emphasize only the law are legalists. Those who emphasize only grace are antinomianists. In order for the truth to be seen both poles need to be affirmed. However, it is not enough to simply affirm both poles. Instead, both poles must be affirmed in a right relationship to one another. For example, in conservative Adventism it is common to affirm both grace and law, but law is emphasized so much that it actually subverts grace. Thus, while grace is never denied it is subordinated to law and the end result is legalism. In order for truth to be properly understood it is imperative that we not only believe in both poles, but that they be in a proper relationship to one another. This is how we maintain balance in faith.
But here is the main problem. Many people focus on part truth. And by focusing on part truth they invite other people to focus on part truth. The man who focuses only on law invites another man to focus only on grace. The end result is division of the deepest kind. Both men are fighting for truth and yet neither of them realizes that they are both right in what they affirm and wrong in what they deny. Focusing on part truth always invites others to focus on part truth and this always leads to more division.
It is no lie that Adventists have historically misused doctrine. We have used it to divide, to criticize, to isolate, and to puff ourselves up. We have not always seen the truth as it is in Jesus. We have not always realized that Jesus is the point of all doctrine; that it is all about Him. For this reason, I am thankful that the One Project exists. It exists to bring us back to where we are meant to be – in Christ. It exists to remind us that the purpose of doctrine is not elitism (we are better than those people), division (if you disagree with me I hate you), or exclusiveness (stay away from those people) but humility (we are privileged to have unique truth), unity (I still love you even if we disagree), and inclusiveness (why don’t you all come join us?). However, I would like to encourage the One Project to remember the words of Leroy Moore: “When we focus on part truth we invite other people to focus on part truth.” Thus, the end result is more division instead of the unity that the One Project seeks to foster. While we are thankful for the emphasis the One Project is placing on inclusiveness an over-emphasis on this, without a proper emphasis on the validity of doctrine and the danger of false teachings and apostasy, will cause those who value doctrine to begin over-emphasizing what you are failing to emphasize.
This is bound to happen for as Ellen White herself said, "Not all comprehend things in exactly the same way. Certain Scripture truths appeal much more strongly to the minds of some than others."[ix] A failure to recognize this natural human tendency and to consequently make efforts to avoid exacerbating it by focusing on part truth will result in failure to secure the unity you so clearly want to foster. Do not focus on part truth. Focus on all truth and thus we can avoid the reactionary responses (mentioned earlier) that seem to be currently taking place.
In conclusion, we affirm and support the mission and vision of the One Project and we understand that mission and vision to be incompatible with ecumenism, emergent theology, and mysticism. We see in the One Project an enormous blessing for the Seventh-day Adventist church. We sincerely hope that it continues to grow and lead the church toward a more Christ-centered expression of our faith without the negation of the pillars that make us who we are. We hope that our encouragement toward paradoxical balance in truth is well received and we pray the leaders of this amazing movement will be filled with the Spirit and truth.
Originally from New Jersey, Marcos now lives in Australia with his wife and children. His dream is to share the story of Jesus with the post-modern culture that pervades the continent. Marcos’ greatest passion is to help others realize that Christianity is a passionate and committed relationship with God, not a religion. He is also the host of this blog.
Nathaniel Tan, a pastor/singer/songwriter, loves his family, asian food, cycling, the occasional blog post, and currently serves as the associate pastor of Livingston Seventh-day Adventist church in Perth, Western Australia. Listen to his music at www.nat-tan.bandcamp.com
* It has been brought to our attention that this section of the article is unfair in that it seeks to interpret worship intentions though mere outward expression. As a result, Nat and I have thought it necessary to supply this footnote in order to clarify what we meant without taking attention off the main point of this article which has to do with the One Project as a ministry and not the worship experience at Perth, WA. We would first like to begin clarifying that it is not our intention to judge or criticize the sincere worship expression of anyone. Just because someone looks uninterested does not automatically mean they are not worshiping. Neither do we want to encourage a culture of fake enthusiasm so as to not be viewed as "dead." However, we stand by our thesis that much can be said regarding our lack of enthusiasm at worship settings that is often present in other non-worship settings. As pastors and experienced worship leaders we have the responsibility to encourage introspection and conversation with regard to these topics. We invite the readers to therefore consider our point of view as an addition to the conversation to be explored and not as an absolute judgment or theory.
[i] White, Ellen G. Ev, pg. 190.
[ii] The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials (pp. 187, 323, 403, 518, 841).
[iii] Oatman, Johnson Jr. “Higher Ground” (song lyrics).
[iv] Miller, Nicolas. "Adventism and Ecumenism." [web: https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2013/04/adventists-and-ecumenism]
[v] De Oliveira, Japhet. email to author. August 14, 2014.
[vi] For more see: a) Knight, George R. "Another Look at Babylon" [web: https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2002/04/another-look-at-babylon.html]
b) Weber, Martin. "How Adventists Are Blessed by Other Christians" [web: http://sdaforme.com/_blog/SDA_For_Me_Blog/post/How_Adventists_Are_Blessed_By_Other_Christians/] c) Johnson, William G. "Seventh-day Adventists and Other Churches" [web: http://www.adventistreview.org/2013-1517-p16]
[vii] Sweet, Leonard. "A Response to the Critics" [Web: http://www.leonardsweet.com/article_details.php?id=63].
[ix] White, Ellen G. CT, pg. 432
More of Jesus.
Some may take issue with the idea that present truth is progressive resulting in "more of Jesus" to be revealed. In some Adventist circles it is orthodox to believe that present truth is fixed and non-progressive. The idea that there is more of Jesus to be revealed is viewed as an invitation to apostasy. However, this point of view is contrary to scripture (Dan. 12:4, John 16:12-13), the history of Christianity, the development of Adventist doctrine, and Ellen Whites own belief. She wrote, for example:
There is no excuse for anyone in taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed, and that all our expositions of Scripture are without an error. The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people, is not a proof that our ideas are infallible. Age will not make error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair. No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation.
We are living in perilous times, and it does not become us to accept everything claimed to be truth without examining it thoroughly; neither can we afford to reject anything that bears the fruits of the Spirit of God; but we should be teachable, meek and lowly of heart. There are those who oppose everything that is not in accordance with their own ideas, and by so doing they endanger their eternal interest as verily as did the Jewish nation in their rejection of Christ.
The Lord designs that our opinions shall be put to the test, that we may see the necessity of closely examining the living oracles to see whether or not we are in the faith. Many who claim to believe the truth have settled down at their ease, saying, “I am rich, and increased with goods, and have need of nothing” (CW 35-36, emphasis added).
Whenever the people of God are growing in grace, they will be constantly obtaining a clearer understanding of His word. They will discern new light and beauty in its sacred truths. This has been true in the history of the church in all ages, and thus it will continue to the end. But as real spiritual life declines, it has ever been the tendency to cease to advance in the knowledge of the truth. Men rest satisfied with the light already received from God’s word, and discourage any further investigation of the Scriptures. They become conservative, and seek to avoid discussion (CW 38.3, emphasis added).
Is Jesus. All. enough?
This question is posed with sincerity and with an inquisitive spirit. At times it has been posed with anxiety that the Jesus conversation held within the One project is somehow ignoring the two other entities included in the Trinity. Perhaps, it feels that if we focus so laser-like on Jesus that we will ignore so many other aspects of God, the Holy Spirit, and his church.
However, we believe there is biblical precedent to see Jesus as the full revelation of God in the world. (Hebrews 1:1-2, Colossians 1:15-23) And as that full revelation, when we speak of Jesus we are clearly speaking of God the father. Jesus, fully present in creation (John 1:1), and fully present in the plan and execution of our salvation (4 gospels), and fully present at the second coming (1 Thessalonians 4:13ff, Revelation) encompasses all that God is. When we see Jesus, we see the Father (John 14:9). Therefore, in every conversation about Jesus, there is an embedded conversation about God the Father. You cannot speak of one without speaking of the other, as their perichoretic relationship implies. One IN the other. An interweaving of God the father and God the son. (John 14).
In much this same way, the function of the Holy Spirit; sometimes called the “shy” member of the trinity, is to bring people to a greater recognition of Jesus. (John 16:13-14; Acts 4:8-12; 1 Corinthians 12:3). As such, if we are speaking of Jesus, it is the Holy Spirit that has led us to the speaking, to the recognition of Jesus as God, and in the speaking of Jesus we reveal who God is to the world. As Emil Brunner states: "The Spirit filled person, the spirit filled church, is the church; is the person, for whom Jesus is the most central and Present."
Having said all this, it is our contention that when we speak of Jesus it is a trinity-conversation. A Jesus-drenched conversation can be called a Spirit-Drenched conversation, or a God-Drenched conversation. It is a continual process of discovery, regardless of the entry point to whom God is, in all his three revelations (https://the1project.org/about/faq).
We are told that the people of these countries will be pleased with our discourses if we dwell on the love of Jesus. Of this they never tire, but we are in danger of losing our congregations if we dwell on the sterner questions of duty and the law of God. There is a spurious experience prevailing everywhere. Many are continually saying, “All that we have to do is to believe in Christ.” They claim that faith is all we need. In its fullest sense, this is true; but they do not take it in the fullest sense. To believe in Jesus is to take Him as our redeemer and our pattern. If we abide in Him and He abides in us, we are partakers of His divine nature, and are doers of His word. The love of Jesus in the heart will lead to obedience to all His commandments. But the love that goes no farther than the lips is a delusion; it will not save any soul. Many reject the truths of the Bible, while they profess great love for Jesus; but the apostle John declares, “He that saith, I know him, and keepeth not his commandments, is a liar, and the truth is not in him.” While Jesus has done all in the way of merit, we ourselves have something to do in the way of complying with the conditions. “If ye love me,” said our Saviour, “keep my commandments”(MTC 182.1, emphasis added).