Posts tagged Federalism
The Hole in Adventism (part 7)


In the previous post we explored Adventisms (ADM) Meta and Macro narratives in more detail and looked at how ADM's presuppositions impact the way in which the narrative progresses. In today's post we will close the series by putting all of these elements together into the Micro-narrative and seeing how they impact ADM's covenant thought. In the end, it is my hope that the reader will have a greater knowledge of ADM's continuity with traditional protestant covenantal thought and also of the unique elements it brings to the table.

MICRO-NARRATIVE
The Micro-Narrative is the narrative that deals primarily with local events on the earth. Of course, it is not divorced from the Meta and Macro. Instead, it's events can only be understood through the Meta and Macro. However, this is not to be misconstrued to mean that there are three cannons within scripture or that a Meta theme can interpret Micro eventualities with carelessness. Rigorous exegesis is still required and each doctrinal point must make sense on its own before being subjected to this interpretive lens. In other words, if the Micro clearly teaches the abrogation of the law, ADM does not propose we ignore such clear teaching because it supposedly contradicts a Meta theme. However, the opposite is true. We cannot carelessly interpret verses in the Bible as though they did not belong to a literary or cultural context (micro), a universal conflict context (macro) or an ontological context (meta). Rather than viewing this system as a dictatorship where the Meta imposes itself upon the Macro and Micro, it should be viewed as a balance where each narrative is meant to be in harmony with the other in order to arrive at the clearest picture possible. Finally, because all three narratives depend on revelation ADM takes a very strong stance on Sola Scriptura and holds to a thought-inspiration model of divine revelation.


Edenic Covenant: The Micro-narrative of scripture begins at creation and materializes into the Eden story. It is here that 2LBC proposes a Covenant of Works for Adam and Eve. As seen in the fourth installment, while ADM has never used this categorical label (along with covenant of redemption) both are nevertheless inherent in its system of thought. During this Covenant of Works Adam and Eve were to retain eternal life by demonstrating allegiance to God alone. ADM has traditionally referred to this as a probationary period for Adam and Eve in that their loyalty was being tested. Through obedience, Adam and Eve would be granted eternal life. Through disobedience, they would inherit death. Of course, God already knew the outcome else a Covenant of Redemption would not have already been made.

However, due to ADM's Meta and Macro, this Covenant of Works cannot be understood as an arbitrary, peremptory or imperious agreement as if God was sitting in heaven demanding immediate obedience of infant intelligences on the threat of death. Earthly parents who act this way toward their children are seen as authoritarian and exacting and the results of rebellion in their children are often guaranteed. Did God, through a hard-line approach with Adam and Eve, actually set them up to rebel? Did he push them into Satan's trap? Of course not. And the strongest evidence of this is via one of the pre-fall applications of the law of love: The Sabbath. With the finalization of creation day seven brought with it Sabbath rest. In Eden, Sabbath was not a command as we understand it today. Truly, no law in Eden was. Only one "do not" existed, and it was in regards to the forbidden tree. All other laws were positive in nature for God's law of love is naturally such. Likewise, the Sabbath was an invitation for Adam and Eve to enter into Gods rest. They had not created anything, yet they rested. They were not tired, yet they rested. And by resting in Gods finished work - none of which they had either seen nor participated in - Adam and Eve were declaring faith in God as their maker. All of creation had been made for them and now, rather than work or toil, God gifted them with rest that they might enjoy all he had made. God's command to stay away from the tree of knowledge of good and evil was not set in the context of emperor to subject but in the context of loving father to beloved children. God had made them for his love, therefore, his required obedience for their eternal security is to be understood as an act of grace, not oppression.

Additionally, it is here that the Great Controversy is introduced into the Micro-Narrative. Satan tempts Eve and does so by questioning God's goodness via insinuating and then accusing God of being an arbitrary and untrustworthy being (Gen. 3). We can refer to Satan's accusations about Gods character as his "Counter-Narrative" in that it seeks to counter the true Meta-Narrative of God. This Great Controversy over the character of God is seen all throughout scriptures covenantal progression


Adamic Covenant: Once man fell into sin the Covenant of Redemption, which ADM generally refers to simply as the "Plan of Redemption", came into effect and was immediately revealed to man (Gen 3). Man did not immediately die because God had a substitute for their sin, namely Christ. The promise of an offspring who would crush the serpent's head is scriptures first prophetic utterance. This promise was fulfilled in Christ. The Adamic Covenant thus points us to the Covenant of Redemption which is an outflow of the Eternal Covenant (Covenant of Grace).


Eternal Covenant (Covenant of Grace) is God's eternal posture toward creation
Results in Covenant of Redemption for humanity prior to their fall
Is revealed to man via the Adamic Covenant in Genesis 3

However, the Covenant of Redemption is about more than redeeming man (Cristo-centric and Anthro-peripheral presuppositions). Rather, it is about destroying the Counter-Narrative by restoring the truth about who God is and what he is like. Thus, the plan of salvation involves a revelation of the character of God to the fallen world and the heavenly intelligences.


Noahic Covenant: After the wickedness of men increased on the earth God acted to preserve a holy people through whom the messiah would come by destroying earth's inhabitants with the exception of one family through whom he would start anew. The Noahic Covenant promised that God would never destroy the earth again with a flood demonstrating that Gods ultimate desire is to redeem, not destroy, mankind.

In the Noahic Covenant, the severity of the Great Controversy comes to the fore. Satan is never mentioned in this narrative, but his activity on the earth is clear in that the entire planet has entered a state of severe degradation. The thoughts of men's hearts are only evil continually demonstrating a complete moral departure from creations parametric design. Thus, the flood is not about an angry deity lashing out against disobedient humans but a loving God seeking to preserve an avenue through which his Covenant of Redemption can be ultimately ratified resulting in the salvation of the human race. Satan, as usual, has taken occasion of the event to push his Counter-Narrative even more and thus malign Gods character and present him as a dictatorial and evil deity.

Abrahamic Covenant: The earth was soon full of wickedness once more and the promise of redemption given to Adam was all but forgotten. Satan's attempt to introduce a Counter-Narrative appeared successful. Lies about God spread. Religions centered on man's works developed. And mankind came to wholly distrust God and despise his law and his government. Thus, God chose Abram as the man through whom his narrative would be preserved upon the earth and through Abram God raised a nation for that very purpose. To them "were given the oracles of God" (Rom. 3:2), his law, and his plan of salvation. As a people they were to preserve the truth about God and as other nations came into contact with them they were to see a nation governed by a God of love, wholly distinct from all the others. At last, the promised offspring through whom the nations of the earth would be blessed was to arrive and ratify the promise to Abram by the shedding of his own blood on behalf of fallen man.

But, once again, this was about much more than fallen man. This was about the vindication of God's character. Once lies about God have been spread the only adequate response of love is revelation. God would not respond with shows of power, not because he is a master at PR campaigns, but because it is not in his nature to do so. It was through revelation that God would restore the truth about himself and spread it throughout the earth. The culmination of that revelation is the gospel. In the gospel Gods character, law, and government are vindicated and restored in the hearts of believers before the recreation of the universe.


Mosaic Covenant: After nearly 400 years of Egyptian captivity the children of Abraham had lost sight of Gods law and holiness which led them, in their ignorance and self-reliance, to promise to God that they would keep all of his laws. God would not preserve the truth of himself through a self-dependent nation, thus he brought them under the Old /Mosaic Covenant which was to lead them to recognize their need for a savior. Then, embedded in the center of the Old Covenant God revealed his entire plan of salvation like never before via the Sanctuary system. While God had heretofore revealed the plan of salvation through the death of a lamb on an altar, the sanctuary system revealed all of the promises of the Covenant of Redemption which involved not only personal forgiveness and reconciliation but the complete judgment of and eradication of sin from the universe. This entire system was centered in Christ and by daily/ yearly enactment the children of Israel were to have their hopes turned to Jesus as their only hope, not their promises or resolutions. This hope was not simply one of personal salvation but of the complete restoration of all things.


Through the Mosaic Covenant, God led his people to a realization that they needed a savior but he also led them to a realization of how beautiful his law and government are as extensions of his character of love. Thus, those who understood the narrative (such as King David and Paul) could speak romantically of the law of God and of the principles of his government. However, the beauty of Gods law was used as a means of revealing how desperately men needed a savior for, even after recognizing its attractiveness, the Israelites were repeatedly unable to enter into harmony with it. The law, which was good, thus became the means of death to them. Life could only be granted via the sacrifice. This was the purpose of the Mosaic Covenant thus leading men to love Gods law, despair at their inability to keep it, and thus cling to the Savior as their only hope. When Jesus came, this schoolmaster was no longer needed because it was meant to lead men to him. Thus, the entire covenant was done away with. Nevertheless, because the law (Meta-narrative) far transcends the Mosaic Covenant (Micro-narrative) it remains forever.

Before moving on, however, it is important to appeal back to some elements of ADM's biblical presuppositions and its Meta and Macro without which the Adventist mind cannot be fully understood. And that is that while WCC and 2LBC tend to view the law of God as arbitrary and strictly legal ADM has an entirely different view. This arbitrary and legal understanding of the law then leads proponents of CDM and NCT to reject the law altogether. From interacting with these systems of covenant thought one gets the impression that the law is a negative thing from its inception. Thus CDM and NCT proponents tend to be very passionate about their rejection of the law's perpetuity. ADM on the other hand sees the law, not as arbitrary or legal but as reflective and celebratory. For example, ADM - being inherently Arminian - recognizes the love of God as the primary essence through which we can understand him. His law is simply an extension of his character of agape love. This is true of both natural (laws that governed the natural world) and moral law (laws that govern the moral nature of sentient beings). All of them reflect God's agape love. Realities parametric design is thus in harmony with his character. So to the Adventist mind, the law of God is not arbitrary. And while it does retain a legal function it is not summarized in this. The law can be best understood as an extension of God's love. Thus, according to ADM, there is never a view of the law that is negative and there is never a repelling relationship between grace and law. Grace is not seen as that which rescues us from law but as that which brings us back into harmony with law thus restoring within God's children the love-law that God originally created us with. Without this understanding of ADM's view of law students and critics will fail repeatedly at a proper understanding of the Adventist mind. Accusations of legalism fly right over our heads and theologies that take an inherent negative slant on the law have little chance at being taken seriously. ADM takes a high view of Gods law, once again - not in an arbitrary sense - or in an exclusively legal sense. Rather its high view goes right back to its Arminian conception of the nature and character of God, his creation motive and his parametric design of reality.

Davidic Covenant: In the midst of this Mosaic covenant God made another promise to King David that his descendant would sit on the throne forever. This promise pointed forward to the Savior and has been fulfilled in Christs heavenly enthronement. However, here again, the Great Controversy over Gods character comes to the fore. Satan had long accused of being a power hungry and oppressive deity. God promises David that his descendant would always sit on the throne. The Jews - who had been led astray by the Counter-Narrative, expected a messiah who would take the throne by force and rule with power - exactly how Satan painted God to be. However, the coronation of Jesus begun, not with power, but with a crown of thorns placed upon his head. His obedience unto suffering and death is given as the foundational reason why God has exalted him above all others and given him a throne. Thus, the Davidic Covenant, fulfilled in the coronation of Christ, is yet another revelation of Gods self-sacrificing agape love character.


New Covenant: Christ's death and resurrection have ratified the Abrahamic covenant and brought it into full effect. The Old Covenant was done away with and the promise of the offspring made to Adam and Abraham was fulfilled. Likewise, the entire ceremonial system of the Old Covenant, which pointed forward to the death of Jesus, has met its end in Jesus. Sin has been atoned for. Redemption is accomplished. And man can now experience the full assurance of salvation through the finished work of Jesus on the cross - a work which guarantees eternal redemption to those who receive it by faith.

However, the battle is far from over. Lies about God still exist. Sin still runs rampant. And Jesus work of redemption continues. Thus, the church was instituted to be the main weapon of warfare against lies about God. Through the proclamation of the gospel, we are to reveal to those in darkness the truth about God and as they come to see his love they are to be drawn to it in full surrender. Just as Israel was once responsible for preserving the narrative of God, his law, and his promise so the church is to do so in the new dispensation. Because ADM sees the church as the continuation of Israel it understands that the church has always existed. In the OT it was spiritual Israel within national Israel. In the NT it is no different. The church is composed of those who are true people of God and false people of God. And in the end, the remnant of the church - those who are true people of God - will be the ones responsible for lighting the world with the truth of God's character of love.

Through the remnant church, composed of those who are truly in love with God, God shines the light of Jesus through the world. However, this testimony is only effective if it is authentic. Thus, for ADM, sanctification and cleansing from sin are very important. In other words, Jesus is actively involved, through the plan of redemption, in bringing each of his people into harmony with his law of love. Jesus did not come simply to forgive but to heal our fallen condition. Thus, he is currently working to remove sin from our lives and give us freedom from that which places us at odds with selfless love. This concept cannot be separated from the Great Controversy motif which posits that the central aspect of the story is Christ and not man. When kept as the foundation, the process of sanctification in the Christian life resumes its relevance in the cosmic battle over Gods character[11].

Eschatology: Using the Historicist method of interpreting apocalyptic prophecy inherent in Classic Covenantalism, ADM arrives at conclusions in the prophecies that are both in keeping with its system of thought and unique in the Christian world. Those conclusions are: 1) The battle over the character of God continues post-Calvary. 2) Satan uses the church to spread lies (a counter-narrative) about God and through it he masterfully re-writes the gospel turning it into a system of salvation no different from the pagan religions of the world (Dan. 7-8, Rev. 2-6). 3) Gods pre-advent judgment begins which cancels out the counter-narrative and uplifts the cross before a world deceived by its lies (Dan. 9, Rev. 14)[12, 13]. A final battle over the law of God takes place in which the revived medieval church unites with apostate Protestantism and all other false systems of man-centered religion (Rev. 12-13). It is in this context that ADM sees the emergence of a "remnant" church and a renewed emphasis on the relevance of Sabbath[14, 15]. According to ADM, Sabbath celebrates grace. The medieval church which developed a counter-grace system of salvation (a further development of Satan's Counter-Narrative) naturally changed the law which celebrates Gods eternal covenant of grace in both a pre and post-fall world. However, the medieval church cannot be oversimplified as a law-changer when it is, at its very core, a philosophically sophisticated alternate system of salvation. Thus, this final battle over Gods law is not to be understood as a war against arbitrary commands but as a war against Gods parametric design which testifies of his love and which Satan wants to erode. 5) This battle ends with the visible return of Jesus followed by the Millennium and the Great White Throne judgment which forever puts an end to sin and sinners (Rev. 20). The vindication of Gods character is complete and "every knee bows and every tongue confesses" the Lordship of Jesus Christ who is, in himself, the vindication of God. ADM holds to an annihilation view of the fate of the wicked on the basis of God's sovereignty and character. 6) With sin forever removed from reality, God restores the entire universe to perfect harmony with his law of love.
One pulse of harmony and gladness beats through the vast creation. From Him who created all, flow life and light and gladness, throughout the realms of illimitable space. From the minutest atom to the greatest world, all things, animate and inanimate, in their unshadowed beauty and perfect joy, declare that God is love[16].
Conclusion
The narrative we have just reviewed is a brief overview of ADM's system of thought. In the future, it is my hope to expand on each of these views in book format. Nevertheless, at this juncture, we have discovered several things. First, covenantal thought is divided into two camps - those who affirm the perpetuity of the law and those who do not. Second, ADM fits within the first category, Category A: Covenantalism - and is most closely aligned to the theology of 2LBC. This alone nullifies any accusations that ADM has a system of covenantal thought wholly distinct from the Protestant traditions and that our Sabbatarianism makes us legalists. Third, ADM is nevertheless unique in that it is inherently Arminian and Historicist. These unique features are enough, I would argue, to place ADM in a separate category of covenantal thought altogether. While it matches Category A in that it too believes in the perpetuity of the law, and matches 2LBC in its understanding of scriptures covenantal progression, its overall narrative has enough distinctions to introduce a Category C. This category could be best described as Arminian-Federalism in its understanding of redemptive history and a Historicist approach for eschatology places it closer to the classical camp (as opposed to the modern which is Preterist). Therefore, I would like to introduce the term "Classical Arminian Federalism"[17] as a new system of Covenant Thought and sub-categorize Adventism - with all of its unique elements - under this banner.





While there is much for our Protestant brothers and sisters to disagree within ADM's system of thought I believe this presentation provides us with an intelligent outline that invites thoughtful critique and consideration. This framework is also helpful in discussing the elements of ADM that often confuse non-Adventists and have been the subject of undue criticism (ie. Investigative Judgment, Sabbath seal, Mark of the beast, Spirit of Prophecy, Remnant church theology, End time events, etc.). Placing our theological worldview within a covenantal system of thought that recognizes the broad spectrum of ADM's narrative will make those concepts much easier to discuss and explain. Therefore, I conclude by offering this system of covenantal thought to the Seventh-day Adventist church as having apologetic and evangelistic value. I also offer it to the wider community of Christian faith as a tool for understanding the Adventist mind.

_____________


[11] This does not imply perfectionism - a theology that claims one must be sinless in order to be saved, that one can be sinless this side of heaven, or that God is dependent on human sanctification in order to vindicate himself. Rather, it shows that God is actively working to restore all things to perfect harmony with his agape love and that such a task has evangelistic and theodical value in God's redemptive plan. Groups within ADM who tend toward perfectionism often deny the Christo-centric and Anthro-peripheral presuppositions thus making God dependent on man and his victory over sin in order to finalize the atonement. As a result these groups tend to make sanctification a condition of justification which ADM unequivocally rejects. For more information See "Sin and Salvation" by George R. Knight and visit the following: a) http://www.pomopastor.com/2013/07/never-good-enough-close-of-probation.html; b) http://www.pomopastor.com/2013/08/reclaiming-adventism-response-to.html; c) http://www.pomopastor.com/2013/04/the-sda-gospel-is-legalistic-isnt-it.html

[12] For more on the Pre-Advent Judgment see the series "The Pre-Advent Judgment" at http://www.pomopastor.com/search/label/IJ 

[13] http://www.pomopastor.com/2016/01/why-critics-of-investigative-judgment.html

[14] http://www.pomopastor.com/2014/02/the-remnant-church-denominational.html

[15] http://www.pomopastor.com/2014/03/the-sabbath-as-seal-grace-alone-my.html

[16] ibid., p. 678.
[17] "Classical" - reflecting the original views over against contemporary adaptations. "Arminian" - reflecting the thought of Jacobus Arminius, John Wesley, and Ellen G. White as it relates to scriptures Meta-Narrative. "Federalism" - reflecting the covenantal progression of the 2nd London Baptist Confession also known as 1689 Federalism. For more information see: thearminianfederalist.blogspot.com.au/ 
The Hole in Adventism (part 6)


In the previous post we began exploring the uniqueness in Adventism (ADM) beginning with its presuppositions. In this post we will look at how those presuppositions impact the way in which ADM understands the narrative of scripture. We will focus on the Meta and Macro-narratives today. In the next and final post we will bring it all together into the Micro-narrative.


META-NARRATIVE
Now that we have explored some of the presuppositions that influence ADM's hermeneutic we can now turn to a brief overview of ADM's theological landscape beginning with the Meta-Narrative. Once again, we return to the concept of the Character of God.


Character of God: ADM's story begins with John's simplest description of God's essence "God is love" (1 Jhn 4:8). While God is infinitely mysterious scripture presents him here as unequivocally simple. John's use of agape to define the quality of this love further speaks to the character of God as one who is, at his very core, other-centeredness in its purest form. Indeed, this is scriptures definition of agape love - "it is not self-seeking" (1 Cor. 13:5). This concept of an other-centered agape God is the foundation upon which the rest of ADM's narrative is based.


Mystery of God: God's simplicity, however, paves the way to God's mystery. Because agape love is not "self-seeking" and God is agape love then he is by definition not "self-seeking". Nothing God does is for himself, but always for the other. However, the declaration that "God is one" (Deu. 6:4) presents a logical fallacy. How can an other-centered being exist in a singular state? If God were a strict singularity then we could say he is "loving" toward his creation from the moment he brought it into being. But we cannot say he is "love" for that would imply other-centeredness from before creation which would demand a plural existence, not a singular one. And it is out of this agape love foundation that the mystery of the Trinity emerges with beauty and relevance. While ADM does not pretend to fully explain such a mystery the concept of a being who is a singular plurality reinforces the truth that God is "love" and has forever existed as an eternal community of other-centered love. It is from this foundation that ADM relates to and understands the attributes of God[7].

Law of God: According to ADM the law of God is based on his character of agape love[8]. Thus, creation is designed to operate in harmony with other-centeredness. God's law is a law that reflects and celebrates his love with creation. It is not arbitrary or coercive, for those are not compatible with agape love. Rather, his law is the natural order of things, the rhythm he has placed in his creation, to glorify himself - not in an egocentric sense but in an other-centered sense. By glorifying himself his creation can grow in the intensity of this love for eternity.

Eternal Covenant: This view leads into ADM's understanding of an "Eternal Covenant" in which God's desire to shower grace upon his creation is as eternal as God himself. In other words, God never had in mind to create in order to control, manipulate, coerce, or arbitrarily force his will upon lesser sentient beings. Rather, his desire to create is parallel to his desire to shower his creation with gift upon gift. This is why, for ADM, the Sabbath is seen as such a gift. In Eden, there was no tablet of stone upon which was written: "Thou shalt honor the Sabbath". Rather, the Sabbath was a gift along with everything else God made in creation week. It has ever been God's desire to interact with his creation in this way. The fall of man saw a demand for a negative law that clearly spelled out the conditions for life but before the fall it was not this way. Likewise, in the New Covenant, with the law being written in our hearts, a return toward the way of Eden begins in which the law increasingly becomes a part of our natural state once more so that we are not dependent on "tablets of stone" but on the "indwelling Spirit" which brings us into harmony with God's design (law of love). This journey culminates with the parousia in which the redeemed are forever liberated of their fallen nature and thus return to a state of holiness that responds selflessly to God's gifts and is no longer in need of a negative law even though the law continues to exist as the eternal order of nature based on the character of God.

According to ADM, it was also in this eternal state that the Covenant of Redemption was made for fallen man. God foreknew this fall and before the foundations of the world had already formulated a plan of salvation to redeem the human race. However, recall ADM's Sanctuary hermeneutic which has, at its core, both a Christocentric and anthro-peripheral presupposition. This hermeneutic influences ADM's view of the Covenant of Redemption and the atonement. For ADM, redemption history is not centered on man's salvation but on the character of God and the full restoration of all of creation to God's original design. Thus, ADM sees the Sanctuary in heaven as the story of salvation pointing not simply to the cross but to the entire and complete vindication of the character of God and the redemption of the entire universe. The sanctuary on earth is, therefore, a Micro version of the Sanctuary in heaven which is connected to the Covenant of Redemption of the Meta-narrative. We will revisit this concept when we discuss the Micro-Narrative in the next post.

Creation Motive: Due to the Eternal Covenant which reveals God's grace centered relation to all of creation, his motive for creation must be divorced of any self-seeking ideology. His aseity is absolute and his other-centeredness is infinite. He did not create us because he was lonely for he was not (Trinity), to worship him as some egotistical being for he does not need our approval or adoration as though his self-esteem was low, to serve him as though he were tired and needed slaves, or to do anything for him whatsoever for God "is not served by human hands, as if he needed anything" (Acts 17:25). God is self-sufficient and self-existent. Therefore, if God did not need creation the only logical conclusion is that he created it, not to receive something from it, but to give something to it. Being that ADM's view of the Eternal Covenant shows God to exist with a desire to give that is as eternal as himself, the idea that God created in order to give rather than to receive is not seen as an afterthought on Gods part but as his eternal desire rooted in his agape love essence. It was this agape love essence that existed forever within Gods singular plurality that he willed to share. Thus, all of creation was brought to be "for his glory" (Isa. 43:7) which is his character of agape love. We exist to be the recipients of that love, not to earn it, but to receive it as a gift. This is the creation motive which is revealed in the Eternal Covenant.

MACRO-NARRATIVE
The Macro-Narrative deals mostly with the angelic realm and the battle between good and evil. However, as will soon be evident, the Macro-Narrative cannot be understood independently of the Meta. Rather, the Meta is the interpretive lens through which we understand the Macro.

Parametric Design: Because God is love and he created in accordance with his love God is understood to be sovereign over all creation in love. In other words, love is the foundation of reality. God's sovereignty is not understood to be coercive, manipulative or deterministic. Rather, it is understood to be the supremacy of his love reflected in his Eternal Covenant of Grace with all of creation. As a result, the law of God is not an arbitrary law created in order to control or "Lord" over creation. Rather, the law of God can be understood as a law of parametric design. In other words, reality was created to celebrate agape love and it operates based on the other-centered parameters that such a law contains. However, this Eternal Covenant and parametric design is not for mankind only but for all creation, including angelic beings and any other intelligences that God has created. All of creation testifies - in natural and moral law - of the infinite love of God.
“God is love” is written upon every opening bud, upon every spire of springing grass. The lovely birds making the air vocal with their happy songs, the delicately tinted flowers in their perfection perfuming the air, the lofty trees of the forest with their rich foliage of living green—all testify to the tender, fatherly care of our God and to His desire to make His children happy[9].
Freedom of the Will: Determinism is simply incompatible with ADM's central emphasis on God's character of other-centered (agape) love. Thus, ADM is naturally an Arminian-Wesleyan approach to scripture. According to ADM, in order for God to have a universe that operates on a law of love that universe must be free for love cannot be coerced, forced, programmed or manipulated. Love, in order to be true, must be free to develop. Consequently, God's creative act is, in human terms, a risk. There is room for rebellion to take place in a universe governed by God's love which by definition grants moral freedom to its inhabitants.

Mystery of Iniquity: Nevertheless, freedom of will does not of itself explain the origin of sin and evil. These, ADM maintains, remain a mystery for which no explanation can ever be given. Rather, what the character of God, his creation motive, his parametric design, and creaturely freedom do is enable men to know that God is not morally responsible for the entrance of sin. However, to attempt to fully explain its origin is almost to find justification for it.
It is impossible to explain the origin of sin so as to give a reason for its existence. Yet enough may be understood concerning both the origin and the final disposition of sin to make fully manifest the justice and benevolence of God in all His dealings with evil. Nothing is more plainly taught in Scripture than that God was in no wise responsible for the entrance of sin; that there was no arbitrary withdrawal of divine grace, no deficiency in the divine government, that gave occasion for the uprising of rebellion. Sin is an intruder, for whose presence no reason can be given. It is mysterious, unaccountable; to excuse it is to defend it. Could excuse for it be found, or cause be shown for its existence, it would cease to be sin[10].
Thus, ADM affirms that while freedom of will may provide a permissive pathway for rebellion, freedom of will cannot, in and of itself, be used to explain the entry of sin. God created a perfect universe and every gift for goodness was given to its creatures via his Eternal Covenant. There was no loophole or defective blueprint that led to the entrance of that which can only be properly described as the absence of God. And yet this is exactly what we find in Revelation 12, Isaiah 14, Ezekiel 28 and Genesis 3. An angel named Lucifer chose to rebel against God and his government. He became proud and sought to overthrow the throne of God by usurping his place. This creature managed to convince a third of the angelic host to side with him in rebellion and thus began the great war in heaven which has since relocated to the earth. At the center of this war is the character of God himself. 

This truth is most clearly seen in Genesis 3 where, in order to lead man into rebellion, the serpent casts doubts upon the goodness of God and goes so far as to lie about him. This deceptive act on Satan's part is what led to man's fall. Once the picture of God was marred and lies about him were embraced, man had no chance against the devil. The creation, founded on the law of other-centered love, can only operate in harmony with love. But once love was broken, the result was a planet ever tending toward greater depths of depravity, selfishness, and darkness. Is it no wonder that Jesus came to reveal to us the father? Healing begins, not at the cross, but in the manger. There the heart of a defamed God begins to cry out to its creation with tender love. And all throughout the life of Jesus, it was this other-centered love that is exemplified over and over until it culminated, in its greatest demonstration, with his selfless sacrifice on behalf of man upon Calvary's cross - a substitutionary atonement for a fallen race.


Vindication of God's Character: This, ADM believes, is why Jesus is so central to the entire story of scripture. From the animals sacrificed after mans fall in Genesis 3, to the ram provided to Abraham in the place of his son, to the sanctuary services in the Hebrew temple, to the tearing of the veil upon Jesus death and the outpouring of the Spirit for the proclamation of the gospel to all men - all of it testifies of Jesus. Why? Because Jesus is the vindication of God's character. In Jesus, we discover what God is truly like. In Jesus, the lies of Satan are dispelled. In Jesus Satan's accusations meet their end. In Jesus, sinners find their refuge and strength and in him, all of scripture converges with explosive power. Jesus, God-made-man, is the only one equal with the father who has condescended to humanity. He is Jacobs ladder - the ladder between heaven and earth. He is the bright and morning star, the culmination of the OT narrative and the fulfillment of all of its ceremonies and laws. Jesus is the answer to the question over the fairness of God's character. In him we discover the truth - that God truly does love others more than he loves himself.

The Great Controversy: This entire drama is what ADM refers to as "The Great Controversy". It is the battle between good and evil that began in the angelic realm and now infects the earthly. This entire battle is centered on the character of God and the fairness of his government. Thus, for ADM the most important truth to discover is the heart of God. What is he really like? Satan's war against God has never been about power. If it were, the war would never even have materialized. There is no doubt that God is sovereign and omnipotent over all creation. The war is about God's goodness. Were God to destroy Satan the moment he began charging him with unfairness simply because he is all powerful would have broken the law upon which reality had been designed. Moreover, he would have acted against his own character and for a God who "changes not" (Mal. 3:6) the immediate destruction of a rebellious angel would be illogical. Thus, the very agape-character of God, which was the foundation for the laws of the created order, meant God would naturally give Satan time and a voice. As a result, God's defense, rather than based on power, would have to be based on revelation. Satan and his angels continued to reject God's revelation until the war in heaven was lost and they were cast out. But Satan did not give up. His war continued and spread to the earth. With the deception of Adam and Eve, Satan claimed ownership of our world (Job 1) and continued to spread lies about God throughout the nations. All of mankind is buried in darkness over the character of God. What is he really like? While the Meta-Narrative answers that question, the presence of evil casts doubt upon it. Thus, the Macro-Narrative is the means by which the presence of evil is explained, and together with the Meta, they form the interpretive lens to understand the Micro-Narrative.


In the next post we will bring all of these elements (presuppositions, Meta and Macro-narrative) together and explore how these impact ADM's covenant thought.
_______________


[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Attributes_of_God_in_Christianity
[8] http://www.perspectivedigest.org/article/31/archives/16-1/the-ten-commandments-and-the-character-of-god
[9] Ellen G. White, "Steps to Christ", p. 10.
[10] ibid., pp. 492, 493.
The Hole in Adventism (part 5)


In the previous post, the theological landscape of Adventism (henceforth ADM) was placed within a covenantal thought framework. This was done in order to identify where ADM fits regarding the continuum of covenantal thought. The conclusion placed Adventism closest to the views espoused by the 2nd London Baptist Confession, a covenantal framework that falls under the tradition of the Presbyterians, Congregationalists, and Baptists known as "Covenantalism". The post concluded by sharing some points on how this identification is helpful for the church.


As we launch into the final posts of this series I will re-introduce some of the concepts mentioned before in order remind the reader of the important elements before moving forward. The first concept was introduced in the second installment of this series and identified a categorical distinction regarding covenantal thought in the Protestant world. Covenantalism falls under Category A leaving the other two systems in Category B. The significance of this lies in the fact that the views under Category A all teach the perpetuity of the law, while the views under Category B reject said perpetuity.


Category A
Category B
Covenantalism
1) Westminster Confession
2) 2nd London Baptist Confession
(Embrace Perpetuity of Law and Sabbath)
Alternate views to Covenantalism
1) Dispensationalism
2) New Covenant Theology
(Reject Perpetuity of Law and Sabbath)

Below I have also included the chart which summarized the last post.




In today's post, the objective is to return to the start of our discussion on the narrative of Adventism and focus more on that which makes its narrative unique in the Christian world. Below is a visual of how that narrative was introduced in the first post. For a recap re-read the first post here.

META-NARRATIVE
(Big Story - God)
MACRO-NARRATIVE
(Middle Story - Universe)
MICRO-NARRATIVE
(Little Story - Earth)


In the first post, the question explored was "Why do Adventists seem to ignore covenantal thought?" The above breakdown was given on how Adventists generally understand the story of scripture followed by the following chart.


META-NARRATIVE
(Big Story - God)
MACRO-NARRATIVE
(Middle Story - Universe)
MICRO-NARRATIVE
(Little Story - Earth)
Who is God?
What is he like?
What are his attributes?
What is his essence?
(Arminianism)
Why is there evil?
Where did sin originate?
Is God responsible for pain?
Vindication of God's character.
(The Great Controversy)
How did man fall into sin?
How can we be saved?
How does God relate to us?
Where is our world headed?
(History/ Covenants/ Prophecy)

Because Adventists generally focus more on the Meta and Macro narratives we have tended to place less emphasis on the covenantal progression in scripture[1]. In today's post, I would like to briefly introduce the totality of Adventist thought within a covenantal framework and offer this framework to the Christian community to which we belong for their consideration. It is my hope that in doing so Adventist theology will make a bit more sense to those whose theological traditions differ from our own.


Before beginning a few disclaimers must be made. 
1) Please recall that these articles are brief and cannot include every detail.
2) Remember that ADM is not monolithic and does not hold to any confession or creed that delineates exactly what an Adventist must believe. 
3) In this particular post, I will be presenting ADM from the centrist/ mainstream perspective. Again, in the absence of a creed doing so is tricky. It is my task to present Adventist thought without injecting personal concepts along the way. Nevertheless, while everything mentioned in this post will be entirely consistent with the centrist camp it will be expressed in language that is unique to this author.

PRESUPPOSITIONS

The discussion begins with a brief overview of certain key presuppositions inherent in ADM. Because our presuppositions impact our hermeneutic which in turn impacts our theology it is important to introduce these before moving into an exploration of our world view. This overview is, once again, brief in that it touches lightly on hermeneutics - a hotly debated topic within the Adventist church[2]. Nevertheless, the points mentioned here are basic and necessary as we move forward in our exploration.

Sola Scriptura: While ADM adheres to all 5 of the principles of the Protestant reformation it holds Sola Scriptura higher than the others for without it we would have no concept of Sola Fide, Sola Gratia, Solus Christus, or Soli Deo Gloria. Thus, ADM seeks to base its entire worldview on that which is revealed in scripture and aims to be faithful to its teachings alone[3]. As a result of this approach, ADM has inherited and developed other presuppositions which we will now explore below.



Character of God: The Bible alone is our rule of faith and practice and its central theme is a revelation of Gods character of love - a picture of who he is and what he is like. For Adventists, the narrative of scripture cannot be properly understood with a wrong picture of God. Scripture is, without a doubt, full of stories and eventualities that are difficult to make sense of. But there can be no hope of discovering truth, if we approach these with a wrong picture of God. For an Adventist, Gods character of love has interpretive priority over any scriptural theme. One way of understanding this is illustrated below:









Mystery
METANARRATIVE
(Big Story - God)

Simple. No variables.
Complexity





MACRONARRATIVE
(Middle Story - Universe)

Complicated. Variables introduced.
MICRONARRATIVE
(Little Story - Earth)

Complex. Endless variables.



According to this chart, while the Meta-Narrative is the most mysterious theme in scripture in that our mortal minds can hardly fathom its depth, scripture nevertheless gives us an extremely simple descriptor of it when it declares that "God is love". This metaphysical declaration is so simple and clear that it is presented without any variables. God is love. Pure and simple. From there, we can see scripture introducing us to a Macro-narrative which Adventists refer to as the Great Controversy. This story is more complicated than the meta in that more variables are at play (creaturely free will decisions etc.) though it's not as mysterious. We have more information about it and our mortal minds can grasp it with more depth because this story deals with creation and the battle between good and evil in the universe. The Micro-narrative, on the other hand, is the least mysterious. It deals primarily with our world and as such, we can sink our teeth into it quite deeply. However, it is also the most complex for it interacts with endless variables (free will decisions, butterfly effect, chaos theory etc.). As a result, one cannot interpret the meta based on something that takes place in the micro. For example, God ordering the Israelites to slaughter the Canaanites is a complex micro event that can only be fully understood when a significant number of its variables are considered and thus cannot be used to redefine the simple, variable-free Meta-Narrative: "God is love".

Since the character of God is the Meta-Narrative ADM gives his character interpretive priority over Macro and Micro eventualities. As previously mentioned, this is one reason why, for Adventists, the covenants can never be understood to abrogate the law of God. If God's law is an expression of his character of love we cannot use a Micro-Narrative (covenants) to do away with a feature of the Meta-Narrative (love) for such an act would be illogical. This is why Jesus said, "It is easier for heaven and earth to disappear (Micro) than for the smallest point of God's law to be overturned (Meta)" (Luke 16:17). Thus, while a proper exploration of the covenants is still necessary in order to make sense of redemption history, God's requirements of his people today, and the way in which the Meta has interacted with the Micro, most Adventists are content to never question the place of God's law either in time or eternity so long as its in a right relationship to the gospel. Once again, this is one reason why many Adventists simply overlook the covenantal progression of scripture - a posture which I have argued against in this series. For them, so long as the law is in a proper relationship to grace they are content to put most of their emphasis on the character of God.

Sanctuary Narrative: ADM also approaches scripture with the view that God is within time. While ADM does not deny the eternality of God and holds that God exists outside of time, it does not attempt to define or explain this mystery on the basis of scriptures silence. Additionally, while ADM is compatible with an exploration of the philosophical implications of a timeless deity it does not use those implications to form a theology. Rather, ADM approaches scripture with a God-in-time motif which is referred to as a "Sanctuary Hermeneutic"[4]. Because scripture always presents God as acting and interacting within time ADM uses this principle, as opposed to a timeless view of God, to approach the narrative. The creation story, Sabbath day, theophanies, OT sanctuary, (which God instructed the Israelites to build so that he could "dwell among them"), incarnation of Christ, church, Holy Spirit, judgment process, and the New Jerusalem (located in earth, Rev. 21) all proclaim that God is not a distant, frozen, or aloof deity that cannot be impacted by the decisions of men but a present, intimate, and relational being who, while eternally sovereign, condescends to humanity. This presupposition is reflected in ADM's "Historicist" approach to Bible prophecy, in its concept of "present truth" (meaning God always has new truth to reveal which is why ADM is non-creedal), and in its views regarding the continuity of spiritual gifts (such as the gift of prophecy) which places God as active in the affairs of men throughout the entirety of human history which includes the post-canonical era.

The remaining presuppositions are all consequences of ADM's Sanctuary Narrative.

Christocentrism: As mentioned in the last post, ADM is a Christocentric approach to scriptures story. According to ADM, the Bible cannot be properly interpreted without Jesus as the beginning, center, and end of the entire account. The Sanctuary Hermeneutic makes this reality even more central for it sees the centrality and activity of Jesus as part of the pre-creation covenant (Rev. 13:8), creation order (John 1:1-3), Old Testament (John 5:39), New Testament (Phil. 2:9), and eternity (Phil. 2:11)[5]. For ADM, however, Christocentrism is not used as a way to avoid or discount other scriptural doctrines. While some Christian traditions use the centrality of Jesus as a means of devaluing other scriptural themes, Adventists use it as a means of strengthening every point of scriptures narrative. Christocentrism is the means by which we understand the other doctrines. Christ is the center and all other truths orbit around his person.



Anthro-peripheral: One unfortunate outcome of all the diverse covenantal traditions we have explored is that, although they each deal with numerous issues, it is clear that what most people seemed to be concerned with is personal assurance of salvation and how the relationship between law and grace impacts them personally. For many, this is the most important and central element of covenantal thought. This is not the case for ADM. ADM holds not simply to a Christocentric presupposition but it also holds to an Anthro-peripheral presupposition which basically means that mankind's salvation is not the main point of scriptures narrative. By using the Sanctuary Narrative as a hermeneutic ADM seeks to paint a gospel narrative that encompasses the entire narrative of redemption and not simply that which relates to human salvation. According to ADM's interpretation of the Sanctuary, the main point is the character of God which finds its fullest revelation in Jesus. Man's salvation - especially the assurance of salvation - is certainly important and far from a fringe issue, but it remains second to the vindication of Gods character over against Satan's lies about him. Thus, while the law and personal salvation are important in ADM, they are only small pieces of a much larger puzzle.

This is another reason why many Adventists simply don't lose sleep over things like the law and the covenants. In many regards, the entire discussion can appear to be an over-complication because it places man and his salvation at such a central point in the story that even God himself has to step aside (abrogate his law) for them - a concept which, as already mentioned, is self-contradictory in an Adventist worldview. Thus, for ADM, mankind is simply not what this is all about. The character of God is and while that character is revealed most fully in his salvation of man through Jesus' sacrifice the central point is nevertheless God's character and not man's salvation[6].

We will pause here for the time being and allow these presuppositions to sink in before moving into an exploration on how they impact our understanding of the story of scripture. In the next post that exploration will begin and will focus on the Meta and Macro-narratives of Adventism.


__________

[1] While it is true that Adventists place a lot of emphasis on prophecy - another aspect of the Micro-Narrative - it is important to note that prophecy, while a part of the Micro, is ever tending toward the return of Jesus, the end of the Great Controversy and the final restoration of all things. Thus it is a Micro event that ever points toward the Macro and the Meta. As a result, it plays a different role than the rest of the Micro-Narrative and consequently appeals to Adventist thought more.
[2] https://adventistbiblicalresearch.org/materials/bible-interpretation-hermeneutics/another-look-adventist-hermeneutics
[3] https://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/materials/bible-interpretation-hermeneutics/interpreting-scripture-according-scriptures-toward
[4] www.atsjats.org/publication/view/172
[5] This is one of the reasons (apart from exegesis) why Adventists are not afraid to suggest that Michael the Archangel is an angelic, pre-incarnate manifestation of Jesus. While ADM holds to the eternality of Jesus and his equality with the Father as an uncreated being it does not find difficulty in the suggestion that just as Jesus condescended to mankind as a man, he had an angelic manifestation as well in the person of Michael. Of course, this concept plays no role in our theological development (as it does for Jehovah's Witnesses for example who attempt to argue that Jesus is a created being) and is thus absent from our doctrinal formulation, it nevertheless is an often misunderstood by-product of the combination of our Christocentric/God-in-time pre-suppositions. See: http://www.pomopastor.com/2012/12/who-is-michael-archangel.html
[6] Sadly, this is a pre-supposition many Adventist's lose sight of quite easily. The result is an obsession with topics like the Sabbath, health reform, or some other doctrinal point. Once the Anthro-peripheral presupposition is lost sight of the entire narrative collapses and in its place emerges a doctrinal point which becomes the central feature of the persons entire theology. However, by keeping the Anthro-peripheral perspective alive the integrity of the Meta-Narrative is not lost and thus, doctrinal points remain in their proper sphere and relationship to the story as a whole as opposed to becoming the central feature. This tendency to forget the Anthro-peripheral perspective is at the root of why Adventists have historically been regarded as obsessed with the Sabbath, diet, or prophecy as opposed to what our narrative is truly all about: The character of God. For more information see also: a) https://www.adventist.org/en/beliefs/restoration/christs-ministry-in-the-heavenly-sanctuary/article/go/0/recognizing-heavenly-realities/ b) https://www.adventist.org/en/beliefs/salvation/ c) https://www.adventist.org/en/beliefs/restoration/christs-ministry-in-the-heavenly-sanctuary/ d) https://www.adventist.org/en/videos/episode/ml/0/did-you-know-that-jesus-christ-is-our-judge-and-advocate/
The Hole in Adventism (part 4)


In the previous posts, we reviewed the major systems of covenantal thought in the protestant tradition. In today's post, we will begin to explore where Adventism sits in this continuum of covenantal thought.


Before beginning, four disclaimers must be given. 
1) Adventism is not a monolithic faith. Many different perspectives exist under the "Adventist" banner which ranges from ultra-conservative to ultra-liberal. The perspectives on the right tend toward a legalistic theology and have been referred to by names such as "the old covenant brood" or "legalists" by their own Adventist kin[1]. These groups also tend to be sectarian and separatists[2]. In this sense, the critics of Adventism are partly correct when they charge the church with legalism for there are, indeed, legalistic factions within our movement. Nevertheless, the critics err in conflating all of the perspectives within the church into this one category. Those toward the left tend toward antinomianism and embrace many of the ideologies of liberal theology. Within Adventism, these groups tend to be accused of eroding the very things that give Adventism its identity[3]. This bifurcation alone suffices to silence those who attempt to paint Adventism with one brush. 
The charge is further weakened by the fact that Adventism is a non-creedal faith meaning there exist no Adventist creeds or confessions. While statements of belief do exist, they are not binding in the sense that a creed or confession is. Therefore, when I speak of Adventism it is important to note that I am referring to the mainstream/ centrist perspective which finds the most theological/ scholarly support and is, by and large, reflected in the official 28 fundamental beliefs of the church[4]. This centrist/mainstream perspective is often accused of apostasy by the left and theological muffling by the right once again demonstrating the disingenuous nature of labeling all of Adventism by one group. Nevertheless, if one would like to explore and critique Adventism the focus must be on the centrist/ mainstream camp which, while certainly not uniform either, does indeed vote statements of belief and resembles true Adventist thought. In this post, it is the centrist/ mainstream perspective that I offer.
2) Because Adventism is a non-creedal faith there is no way to present its system of thought in a language that all mainstream Adventists would employ. Therefore, while the points shared in this post are not simply personal opinions and do in fact reflect Adventism the reader must keep in mind that the language and explanatory angles used primarily reflect the way in which this author has systematized Adventist thought. Other Adventists may very well employ different language and explanations to express the same sentiments.
3) In today's post, I will make extensive use of Ellen White. While Adventist theology is not built, determined, or restricted upon Ellen Whites views, her writings nevertheless reflect the narrative of Adventism with clarity[5]. Therefore, to appeal to her writings in this setting should not be seen as distinct to Lutherans, Calvinists, or Wesleyans appealing to the fathers of those movements for insight into their particulars.
4) As was true of the covenantal systems reviewed in the previous post, this present post will also be brief. Below is the chart from the previous post for the reader's convenience.

Adventism
Adventism (henceforth ADM) is an Arminian-Wesleyan understanding of the narrative of scripture[6]. It affirms sola scriptura, the interpretive priority of the NT over the OT, Trinitarian doctrine, and holds to all the principles of the Protestant reformation[7]. It also contends that the imparted and imputed righteousness of Christ are essential elements of the gospel and that good works are the natural outflow of genuine faith. ADM also holds to what can be labeled a "Sanctuary Hermeneutic" which places Jesus at the beginning, center, and end of the entire narrative of scripture (explored in more detail in the next post). In this sense, ADM can be said to have a very similar concern as NCT in that a consistent Christocentric approach to scripture is the only method by which the meaning of scripture can be fully derived.
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[8].
Salvation: ADM holds to the view that God has always had a plan of salvation, from before creation, that mankind is free to either embrace or reject. According to this view, mankind is too sinful to seek God, but God seeks man, and enables us to respond to his grace. Salvation can never be earned, aided, or deserved. It is always a free gift of God. ADM is thus an Arminian narrative of redemptive history.

Covenant Narrative: ADM believes in one Eternal Covenant of Grace. This Eternal Covenant basically means that it has ever been God's delight to interact with his creation via grace. Thus, before any mention is made, or exploration is given to, all of the covenants in scripture one must first understand the "Eternal Covenant". In ADM, this eternal covenant is part of our meta-narrative which interacts with an Arminian perspective of God.
Let those who are oppressed under a sense of sin remember that there is hope for them. The salvation of the human race has ever been the object of the councils of heaven. The covenant of mercy was made before the foundation of the world. It has existed from all eternity, and is called the everlasting covenant. So surely as there never was a time when God was not, so surely there never was a moment when it was not the delight of the eternal mind to manifest His grace to humanity[9].
For ADM the meaning of the Eternal Covenant is plain. Grace does not exist as a reaction to sin. Grace has always existed. Grace is the heart of God. Grace is the way by which we understand why God created and how he interacts with his creation. Sin did not provide a platform for grace. Grace was prior to sin. The beauty of the narrative of scripture is not that man sinned and God responded with grace, but that man sinned that sin and grace remained. 

The Eternal Covenant can then be separated into three overarching covenants of Redemption, Works, and Grace. Although Adventism has never used this distinction in a systematic sense each of the elements are present within its system.
Covenant of Redemption: The plan of salvation had been laid before the creation of the earth; for Christ is “the Lamb slain from the foundation of the world” (Revelation 13:8).... Oh, the mystery of redemption! the love of God for a world that did not love Him! Who can know the depths of that love which “passeth knowledge”? Through endless ages immortal minds, seeking to comprehend the mystery of that incomprehensible love, will wonder and adore[10].
Covenant of Works: God made man upright; He gave him noble traits of character, with no bias toward evil. He endowed him with high intellectual powers, and presented before him the strongest possible inducements to be true to his allegiance. Obedience, perfect and perpetual, was the condition of eternal happiness. On this condition he was to have access to the tree of life[11].
Covenant of Grace: The broken law of God demanded the life of the sinner. In all the universe there was but one who could, in behalf of man, satisfy its claims. Since the divine law is as sacred as God Himself, only one equal with God could make atonement for its transgression. None but Christ could redeem fallen man from the curse of the law and bring him again into harmony with Heaven. Christ would take upon Himself the guilt and shame of sin—sin so offensive to a holy God that it must separate the Father and His Son. Christ would reach to the depths of misery to rescue the ruined race[12].
ADM also affirms that once man fell into sin salvation could only ever come by grace and never by works. Thus, Genesis 3:15 introduces the Covenant of Grace which becomes ratified in the New Covenant through Jesus death. ADM also affirms that the Old Covenant was a means by which God communicated his grace to Israel not a method of salvation. So while the Old Covenant pointed the practitioners to, and advanced the Covenant of Grace they were not the Covenant of Grace (this will be explored in more detail under the covenant continuity section).
There is no such contrast as is often claimed to exist between the Old and the New Testament, the law of God and the gospel of Christ, the requirements of the Jewish and those of the Christian dispensation. Every soul saved in the former dispensation was saved by Christ as verily as we are saved by Him today.... The gospel promise was given to the first pair in Eden, when they had by transgression separated themselves from God. The gospel was preached to Abraham. The Hebrews all drank of that spiritual Rock, which was Christ[13].
Christ Himself was the originator of the Jewish system of worship, in which, by types and symbols, were shadowed forth spiritual and heavenly things. Many forgot the true significance of these offerings; and the great truth that through Christ alone there is forgiveness of sin, was lost to them. The multiplying of sacrificial offerings, the blood of bulls and goats, could not take away sin[14]. 
A lesson was embodied in every sacrifice, impressed in every ceremony, solemnly preached by the priest in his holy office, and inculcated by God Himself—that through the blood of Christ alone is there forgiveness of sins. How little we as a people feel the force of this great truth! How seldom, by living, acting faith, do we bring into our lives this great truth, that there is forgiveness for the least sin, forgiveness for the greatest sin[15]!
This means that, for ADM, none of the OT saints were reconciled to God via the Old Covenant. Rather, they were saved in anticipation of the death of Jesus. Once Jesus came, the Old Covenant met its antitype and the symbols typifying the gospel were no longer necessary. Salvation is now here, not as a shadow, but as an accomplished reality. By his life and death Jesus fulfilled all of the conditions that were needed for grace to flow freely from heaven to earth. 
The atonement of Christ sealed forever the everlasting covenant of grace. It was the fulfilling of every condition upon which God suspended the free communication of grace to the human family. Every barrier was then broken down which intercepted the freest exercise of grace, mercy, peace, and love to the most guilty of Adam’s race[16].
Covenant Continuity/ Discontinuity: The uniqueness of ADM begins to emerge in its understanding of covenant continuity/ discontinuity. However, this is not a strict uniqueness as if no other covenantal system approximates it. Recall that WCC sees all the OT Covenants as the Covenant of Grace "dressed in ceremonies" and from there, it argues that they are all the same covenant (this position forms the foundation for their views on pedobaptism). Over against this 2LBC argues that the OT Covenants are not the Covenant of Grace but that they were typological narratives that pointed forward to the New Covenant which is the Covenant of Grace (Consequently, they reject pedobaptism). ADM holds a middle view that both affirms the Abrahamic Covenant as the Covenant of Grace and yet rejects pedobaptism at the same time.

According to ADM, the Everlasting Covenant is the Covenant of grace. Once man fell into sin this Covenant of Grace was revealed to Adam (Adamic Covenant; Gen. 3:15, 21) and typified by the death of an animal and covering of their nakedness by the animal's skin which foreshadowed the death of Christ and the covering of our sin by his righteousness alone. Thousands of years later, during a time when most people had forgotten about this Covenant of Grace, God renewed it via the Abrahamic Covenant. 
After the Flood the people once more increased on the earth, and wickedness also increased.... The Lord finally left the hardened transgressors to follow their evil ways, while He chose Abraham, of the line of Shem, and made him the keeper of His law for future generations. This same covenant [the covenant of grace] was renewed to Abraham in the promise “In thy seed shall all the nations of the earth be blessed” (Genesis 22:18). This promise pointed to Christ. So Abraham understood it, and he trusted in Christ for the forgiveness of sins. It was this faith that was accounted to him for righteousness[17].
Thus, according to ADM, the Covenant of Grace God made with Adam (offspring of the woman would crush the serpent's head; Gen. 3:15) was the same covenant he made with Abraham (offspring of Abraham would bless all nations; Gen. 12:1-3). In other words, the Abrahamic Covenant is a "renewal" of the Adamic Covenant (Covenant of Grace) which had, by now, been largely forgotten. This Abrahamic covenant is a universal and unconditional covenant in that "all the nations of the earth would be blessed" by his offspring (Jesus) and that God alone made the promises (Genesis 12:1-3, 15:18-21). Abraham believed the promises by faith and was accounted righteous (Rom. 4:3) just as in the New Covenant where "grace through faith" is the condition of being accounted righteous (Rom. 4:16).


Adventism and Antinomianism

Following this line of thinking, once could conclude that ADM agrees with WCC on this point and should, therefore, adopt a pedobaptist stance. However, such is not the case. While ADM does see the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant as being the same covenant, ADM means something different by that statement than is meant by WCC. For WCC, the covenant similarity forms the basis for defending their stance on pedobaptism (Jewish infants in the OT were circumcised therefore Christian infants in the NT should be baptized). ADM has never really debated the issue of pedobaptism because its roots are primarily Wesleyan-Methodist and so it has always been credobaptist.

Rather, when ADM says that the Abrahamic Covenant and New Covenant are the same it is dealing with a different context than WCC. Recall that each of the covenantal views have, in their history, been plagued by antinomian sentiments. ADM's view of the covenants is a proactive systematic rejection of antinomianism in all of its forms. According to scripture, Abraham was justified by faith apart from the works of the law (Gen. 15:6, Rom. 4). However, scripture is also clear that Abraham obeyed all of God's commands (Gen. 26:5). Abraham heard and believed the gospel (Gal. 3:8) that all of mankind would be justified by faith apart from works and yet, he did not from this reason that obedience to the law was now unnecessary (antinomianism). If Abraham could respond to the gospel by faith and obedience clearly the New Covenant, which the Abrahamic Covenant promised, would not include an abrogation of the law. Rather, the New Covenant would maintain the same relationship of grace and law found in the Abrahamic covenant for they are the same covenant.
Christ does not lessen the claims of the law. In unmistakable language He presents obedience to it as the condition of eternal life—the same condition that was required of Adam before his fall.... The requirement under the covenant of grace is just as broad as the requirement made in Eden—harmony with God’s law, which is holy, just, and good....[18]
Under the new covenant, the conditions by which eternal life may be gained are the same as under the old—perfect obedience.... In the new and better covenant, Christ has fulfilled the law for the transgressors of law, if they receive Him by faith as a personal Saviour.... In the better covenant we are cleansed from sin by the blood of Christ[19].
Thus, according to ADM obedience to the law has always been the requirement for salvation and remains so to this day. However, being that man is depraved and cannot render such obedience God promised justification in the Adamic and Abrahamic covenant. But the Abrahamic Covenant demonstrates that this promised justification (New Covenant) does not lessen the claims of the law. Rather, through it's merits we are clothed with Christ's righteousness and brought into a right relationship with the law. Such a position is a clear rebuttal of antinomianism which claims that grace gives men license to break the law of God. ADM's view is also perfectly in keeping with Jeremiah's proclamation that in the New Covenant God would write his laws in our minds and hearts (Jer. 31:33).

Therefore, while ADM sees the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant as being the same covenant, ADM means something different by that statement than is meant by WCC. For WCC, the covenant similarity forms the basis for defending their stance on pedobaptism. For ADM, the covenant similarity forms the basis for rejecting antinomianism. Pedobaptism doesn't even enter the picture. Nevertheless, the views ADM holds in its rejection of antinomianism are not unique to its system. Both WCC and 2LBC reject antinomianism and uphold the continual and perpetual validity of the law in the New Covenant via the same arguments.

Adventism and Pedobaptism

Because ADM has never really debated the issue of pedobaptism sources explaining its systematic rejection of it do not exist. Therefore, in this section I will attempt - as best and simply as possible - to propose an argument. 

The first point to note is that ADM still holds to strong distinctions between the Abrahamic and New Covenants. For WCC the OT and NT covenants are equal, whereas for ADM they are approximately equal meaning that the Abrahamic covenant approximates the New Covenant but is not equal to it just as an engagement approximates a marriage and yet is not equal to it. Thus, while ADM can affirm that the Abrahamic Covenant is the New Covenant it can likewise affirm that there are strong distinctions between the two. 
Though this covenant was made with Adam and renewed to Abraham, it could not be ratified until the death of Christ. It had existed by the promise of God since the first intimation of redemption had been given; it had been accepted by faith; yet when ratified by Christ, it is called a new covenant[20].
The first distinction to note is that ADM sees the Abrahamic Covenant as the "unratified" version of the New Covenant. Both are centered in the promises and work of Jesus, so they are the same covenant. The difference is that under Abraham the covenant was not official. It depended on a future reality. Under Christ, the covenant is official because it has been accomplished. Therefore, in both the Adamic and Abrahamic Covenant salvation was promised but also hinged on a future contingent (death of Jesus). But under the New Covenant, our salvation is official the moment we accept Christ for the atonement is already complete. According to ADM while the Abrahamic Covenant is the Covenant of Grace it is, in and of itself not the promise of redemption. Rather, "the Abrahamic covenant contained the promise of redemption"[21] making it the same covenant in an "approximate" sense, not an absolute one.

The second distinction to note is that while ADM's view on covenant similarity between the Abrahamic and New Covenant is based primarily on the universal promise of justification the Abrahamic Covenant cannot be summarized simply in justification by faith. Clearly, the covenant included a promise of descendants and land for those descendants which was then grafted into the Mosaic and Davidic Covenants as well. This includes the rite of circumcision which ADM affirms is still in continuation today only it is now "of the heart" not "the flesh" (Romans 2:29). In addition, we understand the OT covenants to be designed so that God could establish a people on the earth through whom his narrative would be guarded and the messiah would come and this was a national people. But with the arrival of the church the descendants of Abraham are revealed to be those who share in the patriarch's faith, not simply those who share his DNA.

Consequently, Adventists are not pedobaptists. Since ADM holds that the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant are approximately equal (and not equal) it does not make the same claim of continuity between the two covenants that WCC does. Distinctions between the two remain beginning with the fact that one was ratified and the other not and that the ratified has a different sign to the unratified: that is baptism.  While ADM affirms that circumcision informs our understanding the New Covenant sign of baptism, and that the two signs overlap in meaning, they are not the same sign. Because circumcision under the New Covenant is "of the heart" it requires an informed decision that cannot be rendered by an infant. And due to the true Israel being the children of faith and infants cannot exercise faith (this view is part of ADM's "expansion theology" on the relationship between Israel and the Church) it likewise rejects pedobaptism while affirming that, in terms of the promise of justification by faith, the Abrahamic Covenant is the New Covenant. Thus ADM affirms credobaptism.

WCC
ADM
2LBC
Abrahamic Covenant = New Covenant

Circumcision = Baptism

Pedobaptism affirmed
Abrahamic Covenant ≅ New Covenant

Circumcision ≅ Baptism

Pedobaptism Denied
Abrahamic Covenant ≠ New Covenant

Circumcision ≠ Baptism

Pedobaptism Denied
= (Equal to)
≅ (Approximately Equal to)
≠ Not Equal to


However, keep in mind that, while I have taken some time to address this here, when it comes to the discussion over the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant ADM is simply not dealing with pedo/credobaptism. Instead, it is dealing with justification by faith in both covenants which resulted in a life of obedience to God's law in both covenants. It is in this regard that ADM argues for covenant similarity while maintaining that there remain distinctions between the two. It is for this reason that ADM's position between the two covenants is best understood as "approximate equality".

Adventism and the Mosaic Covenant

Up to this point, we have only looked at one portion of ADM's middle view between WCC and 2LBC: The relationship between the Abrahamic and New Covenant. In order to fully grasp this middle view we must also explore the Mosaic/ Old Covenant. According to ADM the Abrahamic covenant and New Covenant are the same Covenant of Grace (in an approximate sense, see above). However, the Mosaic Covenant is not the same as the Covenant of Grace. While it certainly communicates, advances, and points to the Covenant of Grace it is distinct. So then, what is the Mosaic Covenant?
In their bondage the people had to a great extent lost the knowledge of God and of the principles of the Abrahamic covenant.... Living in the midst of idolatry and corruption, they had no true conception of the holiness of God, of the exceeding sinfulness of their own hearts, their utter inability, in themselves, to render obedience to God’s law, and their need of a Saviour.... God brought them to Sinai; He manifested His glory; He gave them His law, with the promise of great blessings on condition of obedience....[22]
According to ADM the Mosaic Covenant was given because God's people, the children of Abraham, had lost sight of his holiness and law. As a result, they had lost sight of their own sinfulness and depravity, for "without the law there is no knowledge of sin" (Rom. 4:15). Much like preachers today who emphasize man's sinfulness in order to reveal our need for a savior, God brought the Israelites under the Mosaic Covenant in order to reveal to them their utter inability and depravity. However, grace was not absent in this covenant. God gave them a sanctuary system by which they could be daily reminded of their need for a savior. This sanctuary system pointed them back to the Adamic and Abrahamic promise and forward to the fulfillment of that promise in the messiah.
The people did not realize ... that without Christ it was impossible for them to keep God’s law.... Feeling that they were able to establish their own righteousness, they declared, “All that the Lord hath said will we do, and be obedient”[23].
Thus, the Old Covenant was brought into play in order to reveal man's need for a savior and the ceremonial aspect was a more detailed depiction of the plan of salvation God gave to Adam and Abraham. Thus, while ADM sees the Adamic Covenant, the Abrahamic Covenant and the New Covenant as the Covenant of Grace, it does not see the Mosaic Covenant as the Covenant of Grace. Rather, it sees it as a Covenant of Works that revealed the need for the Covenant of Grace which was to be ratified by the coming messiah. ADM does not teach that men were saved via this works-covenant. Obedience to the covenant only resulted in temporal blessings not in eternal life. Nevertheless, grace was typologically present in the covenant so that, as in the case of Abraham, the Israelites could put their faith in the coming one and be accounted righteous as well.


Eternal Covenant

Covenant of Grace
Old Testament
New Testament
Adamic Covenant
Abrahamic Covenant
Mosaic/ Old Covenant

←Abrahamic Covenant is still in effect→
New Covenant -
OT Covenants Fulfilled/ Canceled
He (Jesus) will crush your head (Satan) = Promise of deliverance

all peoples on earth will be blessed through you (Abram’s offspring - Jesus) = Promise of the savior

Abrahamic Covenant forgotten. This do (law) and live… all the people said “everything the Lord has said we will do". = Reveal man’s depravity and thus need for a savior. Promise of a savior revealed via ceremonies. Not Covenant of Grace.
Adamic and Abrahamic Covenant promise fulfilled. Atonement complete.
Old Covenant abrogated.


This difference alone is enough to show that ADM understands and embraces a covenant distinction between the Old and New Covenants. However, it is not the only distinguishing factor inherent to this system. Another distinction lies in the very concept of ratification.
Another compact [other than the Abrahamic covenant]—called in Scripture the “old” covenant—was formed between God and Israel at Sinai, and was then ratified by the blood of a sacrifice. The Abrahamic covenant was ratified by the blood of Christ, and it is called the “second”, or “new” covenant, because the blood by which it was sealed was shed after the blood of the first covenant[24].
In other words, the Abrahamic (Second/ New Covenant) could only be ratified by the blood of Jesus. Why? Because "the scripture, foreseeing that God would justify the heathen through faith, preached before the gospel unto Abraham, saying, 'In thee shall all nations be blessed'"(Gal. 3:8). This is the Covenant of salvation by grace through faith which could only be made official through the blood of the "offspring" in which its promise rested. However, the Mosaic (Old) Covenant was daily ratified by the blood of sacrifices (animals). This does not mean that men were saved via the death of these animals for they could not be(Heb. 10:4). But what it means is so long as the people kept the law and sacrificed the animals God would bless them. The Abrahamic/ New Covenant which promised salvation could never be ratified by the death of an animal. The only way justification could ever be granted was via the blood of Jesus (the promised offspring). According to ADM, this is the biggest distinction between the Abrahamic and Old Covenant and also the greatest similarity between the Abrahamic and New Covenant.



Abrahamic Covenant
Mosaic Covenant
  • Covenant of Grace
  • Promised Eternal Life
  • Blood of Jesus Needed to Ratify
  • Becomes the New Covenant Upon Jesus’ Death
  • Remains until the end
  • Covenant of Works
  • Promised Temporal Blessings
  • Sacrificial Offerings Sufficed to Ratify
  • Becomes the Old Covenant Upon Jesus’ Death
  • Forever Removed


And finally, in keeping with all other covenantal traditions ADM teaches that the New Covenant is indeed founded on much better promises than the Old Covenant.
[The Israelites] had witnessed the proclamation of the law in awful majesty, and had trembled with terror before the mount; and yet only a few weeks passed before they broke their covenant with God, and bowed down to worship a graven image. They could not hope for the favor of God through a covenant which they had broken; and now, seeing their sinfulness and their need of pardon, they were brought to feel their need of the Saviour revealed in the Abrahamic covenant and shadowed forth in the sacrificial offerings. Now by faith and love they were bound to God as their deliverer from the bondage of sin. Now they were prepared to appreciate the blessings of the new covenant. The terms of the “old covenant” were, Obey and live: “If a man do, he shall even live in them” (Ezekiel 20:11; Leviticus 18:5); but “cursed be he that confirmeth not all the words of this law to do them” (Deuteronomy 27:26). The “new covenant” was established upon “better promises”—the promise of forgiveness of sins and of the grace of God to renew the heart and bring it into harmony with the principles of God’s law. The blessings of the new covenant are grounded purely on mercy in forgiving unrighteousness and sins....[25]
Once again, the middle view of ADM is that the Covenant of Grace and the Abrahamic covenant are the same covenant in an approximate sense. However, the Mosaic Covenant is not the same as the Covenant of Grace. While it certainly communicates, advances, and points to the Covenant of Grace it is not the same as that covenant. In that sense, ADM falls between WCC (which teaches that all the OT Covenants were the same as the Covenant of Grace) and 2LBC (which teaches that none of the OT Covenants were the same as the Covenant of Grace but merely typified it). However, in practical terms one would note that ADM's view, while accurately described as a middle view, is actually no different from the view espoused by 2LBC. It's "middle view" is only necessary in a discussion over pedobaptism which ADM does not engage. Therefore, while the middle view exists, it can be excluded for the sake of simplicity and practicality. This places ADM's view on covenant continuity/ discontinuity in agreement with 2LBC - the OT covenants merely typified the NT and there is thus, no continuity between them. This conclusion naturally leads to the big question on the law.

Adventism and the Law

At this juncture, the only remaining question is how does ADM view the perpetuity of the law? Once again we find here a connection to both WCC and 2LBC. Because ADM is not a monolithic faith it is important to highlight alternate views that exist within its Centrist/ Mainstream camp rather than just one. 

Traditionalist View: Those within the centrist camp who tend toward a more traditional approach will argue for the perpetuity of the law in the same fashion as WCC. In other words, they will differentiate between the moral, ceremonial, and civil laws of the Mosaic Covenant. They will agree that the ceremonial and civil laws no longer apply but will argue for the perpetuity of the moral law which would include the 10 commandments and any other moral law that can be sub-categorized under them. This would include the sexual laws, dietary laws, and stewardship laws. In other words, this camp will simply say that all OT ceremonial laws have been abrogated. However, moral laws all remain beginning with the Decalogue and down to other holiness laws. This view is not unique to traditional ADM but is found in any church that not only holds to the perpetuity of the Decalogue but which also promotes sexual purity, care for the body, and tithe return.

Progressive View: The more progressive wing of ADM holds to a different perspective which traces back to the 1888 General Conference in Minneapolis. During this conference, two preachers by the names of EJ Waggoner and AT Jones united with Ellen White to proclaim the gospel within the SDA church. Jones and Waggoner argued against the traditional Adventist distinction of moral/ ceremonial law specifically in the book of Galatians[26]. According to Jones and Waggoner Galatians was speaking of the entire Mosaic law not just the ceremonial. In that sense, the law as a whole was simply a "schoolmaster to bring us to Christ" (Gal. 3:24). Nevertheless, Jones and Waggoner did not deny the perpetuity of the law and neither did Ellen White who supported their preaching over against denominational disdain. So how does ADM hold to both the abrogation and perpetuity of the moral law at the same time?

The answer is quite simple and is very similar to the position held by 2LBC (law as trans-covenantal) and NCT (law of love as trans-covenantal). While ADM has never used "trans-covenantal" in its language it is nevertheless inherent in our system of thought. According to ADM the Eternal Covenant is based on the character of God (Arminian understanding) which is love in its purest form. God created the universe in harmony with his character of love and in doing so the universe came to operate and function under the law of love. Thus Natural and Moral law are both based on the character of God. This is why nature "reveals the glory of God" (Psa. 19:1) as well as the Decalogue. They both point to the law of love as the law of design by which all of creation operates. The Decalogue did not exist in Eden, or even in heaven, as it did in Sinai because there was no need. Everything operated according to the law of love. But we nevertheless see the outworking of the law of love in the commands God gave to Adam and Eve in Eden (to care for the garden, to enjoy the fruit of the trees, to rest on the Sabbath, to procreate, to not eat of the forbidden tree, etc.). Thus, Ellen White could say that the law, while eternal, "was adapted to the condition of holy beings"[27] meaning, that  - while the law is eternal - it has not always looked like the Decalogue. In fact, in Eden the law does not even take on the negative tone it does in Exodus. Instead, the law operated more in line with a gift than with a restriction. Thus, there was no such thing as "Thou shalt honor the Sabbath" in Eden. Rather, the Sabbath was simply given to man as a gift. This is partially rooted in the fact that the commands seen in Eden were applications of the eternal law of love to a sin-free world and the Decalogue are applications of that same law of love to a sinful world. Because we are still in a sinful world, the Decalogue still applies. And because the Sabbath originated in a sin-free world the command to "remember" it, we believe, applies not only now in our sinful world, but will continue through eternity as a local application of the law of love for sin-free/ redeemed humanity. If ADM holds to any abrogation of the moral law whatsoever it is the abrogation of the other nine commandments after the parousia, for at that time the law of love will once again be "adapted" to the context of holy beings (the redeemed). The Sabbath, however, having existed as an expression of the law of love prior to sin, does not need to be "adapted" for a post-sin world but can remain as a symbol of Gods creation and redemption of our world for all time.
After the transgression of Adam the principles of the law were ... definitely arranged and expressed to meet man in his fallen condition"[28].
When mankind fell into sin the law took on a more "dummy proof" form. While "thou shalt not murder" was not needed in Eden, it was needed in a post fall world where selfishness had taken charge as the operating principle of human beings. Thus, the law was "adapted" once more to "meet the conditions". It was still the law of love but contextualized to fallen man's need. Had there been no law God could not have judged sin, for "by law is the knowledge of sin" (Rom. 3:20). Thus the law of God existed prior to the Mosaic Covenant, especially the Sabbath which existed in Eden. 

Eternal Law of Love
Love God           ⟷        Love Man
Eden earth
Sinful earth
Renewed Earth
  • Care for the Garden
  • Procreate
  • Rest on Sabbath
  • Enjoy the fruit of the trees
  • Stay away from the forbidden tree.
  • 10 Commandments
  • Law of love further contextualized for various conditions that only exist on sinful earth
  • Principles of love continue to inform how believers should act in diverse circumstances
  • Care for the earth
  • Rest on Sabbath
  • Enjoy the fruit of the trees
  • Laws relevant only in sinful context made redundant

By the time Sinai enters the picture the commands are already known to one degree or another as local applications of the eternal law of love. However, under the Mosaic Covenant, the law becomes the means by which man gains and retains blessings from God and is understood to offer eternal life to anyone who can keep it perfectly - a sheer impossibility. Under the New Covenant, however, the law of Moses (moral/ ceremonial/ civil) is abrogated but because the law of love transcends the Mosaic Covenant it can never be abrogated. The local application of that law, which includes the Sabbath, remains as relevant to all New Covenant believers not as a means of justification or sanctification but as a result of being justified and sanctified by the Spirit of God. The law is written in the human heart and becomes a part of who we are placing us in harmony with God's character of love. Thus, under the New Covenant, progressive ADM does not make a case for moral vs ceremonial law but it does argue for the perpetuity of God's law based on the perpetuity of God's love of which the Decalogue is a local, trans-covenantal, application. New Covenant believers are not under the law but under grace which places them - not in an "at odds" relationship with the law - but in a harmonious one. The same is true of all the moral laws in the OT including sexual, health, and stewardship laws[29]. This position is in harmony with the reformation view that "the imparted and imputed righteousness of Christ are essential elements of the gospel, and that good works are the natural outflow of genuine faith."
There are two errors against which the children of God—particularly those who have just come to trust in His grace—especially need to guard. The first ... is that of looking to their own works, trusting to anything they can do, to bring themselves into harmony with God. He who is trying to become holy by his own works in keeping the law, is attempting an impossibility.... The opposite and no less dangerous error is, that belief in Christ releases men from keeping the law of God; that since by faith alone we become partakers of the grace of Christ, our works have nothing to do with our redemption.... If the law is written in the heart, will it not shape the life? ... Instead of releasing man from obedience, it is faith, and faith only, that makes us partakers of the grace of Christ, which enables us to render obedience....[30].

As a result, ADM is in agreement with the covenantal thought expressed in Category A: Covenantalism in that it continues to affirm the perpetuity of the law. The only point of distinction between ADM and Covenantalism when it comes to the Sabbath is ADM sees no evidence of a transfer of day, thus holding to a seventh-day Sabbath whereas both WCC and 2LBC teach the New Covenant Sabbath is on the first-day of the week, Sunday.

Israel/ Church Relationship: ADM teaches that the church has always existed. In the Old Testament, ADM sees a distinction between physical Israel and spiritual Israel. Physical Israel was composed only of those who were descendants of Abraham. Spiritual Israel was composed of all, whether Jew or pagan, who worshiped the true God. Thus, ADM holds that the church has always existed in Spiritual Israel and is, not its replacement, but its continuation. Consequently, ADM sees one redemptive plan for all time and one nation of God that began in Abraham and continues with the children of faith in the church. In addition, it sees one law of love, adapted to one humanity, relevant for eternity. As a result, it sees national Israel as playing no specific role in end time events[31]. However, Spiritual Israel - which is the church - plays a central role. This view is essentially the same as the view espoused by 2LBC though ADM's view emerged at the same time as CDM so its rhetoric is slightly different.

Eschatology: ADM holds to a Historicist hermeneutic for interpreting apocalyptic prophecy[32]. This hermeneutic puts it in agreement with views such as the visible, bodily return of Jesus at the end of the age. The bodily resurrection of the just and unjust for judgment. Eternal death for the wicked, and eternal life for the redeemed. ADM also continues to regard the Papal dynasty as the anti-Christ. Outside of these points of agreement, ADM rejects the Futurism of Dispensational theology and denies concepts such as the secret rapture[33]. However, it also rejects the Amillennialism of contemporary Covenantalism which holds to a Preterist hermeneutic for eschatology. By continuing to adhere to Historicism as the method for understanding Bible prophecy ADM is in harmony with Classic Covenantalism and arrives at unique conclusions which will be explored in the next post. It should also be noted that ADM holds to annihilationism with regards to the eternal fate of the wicked[32].

Other: In closing, here are some brief mentions of other elements inherent to ADM. 1) Sign of the New Covenant is baptism. 2) Immersion is the only acceptable method of baptism. 3) Partial continuation of spiritual gifts until the end of time. 4) Separation of church and state. 5) Lords Supper as an act of remembrance and communion with God.

Closing Thoughts
Now that we have applied Adventist theology to a covenantal framework it is apparent that it most closely aligns with Category A - specifically 2LBC, the Covenantal framework of the Reformed Baptist denominations. While unique features also emerge which don't fit into any existing system the areas of agreement are impressive (I have underlined all of the points that are in agreement in each system with ADM. Notice that apart from a few exceptions, ADM and 2LBC are practically the same). Below, I have added a new chart of covenantal thought that includes ADM. Please note that the system laid out below only presents what we have discussed in this post. In the next post the system will be revised to incorporate the uniqueness of ADM and as a result will evolve quite a bit. For now, consider this a "next step" toward our conclusion, and not the conclusion itself.



So how does identifying the place of ADM in covenantal thought help the church and its mission? Here are three major ways:
1) It demonstrates that Adventist theology was not born in a vacuum and is not some strange and unheard of heresy. Instead, it can be rightly understood as an Arminian-Federalist (2LBC) view of redemptive history. In addition, this also demonstrates that ADM's view of the covenants, perpetuity of the law, and Sabbath-keeping is in fundamental harmony with what many of the reformers believed and is more in line with classical Protestant thought. This gives us a strong defense against those who would accuse us of legalism or of holding to an unheard of sectarian covenant theology.
2) It enables our faith to be more easily understood and intelligently critiqued. For many decades Adventists have been labeled as legalists for our belief in a perpetual law and Sabbatarianism. However, what is apparent is that such critics are not really attacking Adventism but Covenantalism. Although we may disagree on the particular day that Sabbath is, ADM, WCC, and 2LBC all agree in the perpetuity of the law including the command to honor the Sabbath day. Those who wish to label us legalists for this belief must also be willing to label many of the reformers as legalists as well, for Covenantalism was the prevailing view until the arrival of Dispensationalism in the 1840's. Thus, in debates over the perpetuity of the law Adventists should first seek to discover if their opponent adheres to CDM, NCT or a modified version of Covenantalism which leans toward a CDM/ NCT understanding of the law. It makes no sense to debate the Sabbath if our opponent holds to a systematic view of redemptive history that belongs in Category B. In such a scenario, debating the Sabbath is premature.
3) It enables us to more intelligently communicate our narrative to the rest of the Christian world. A perfect example of this is, once again, the Sabbath. When ADM first emerged it embraced the seventh-day Sabbath doctrine after a Seventh Day Baptist introduced it to our forefathers. As Adventists began preaching the perpetuity of the law and Sabbath the vast majority of their audience were Covenantalists who were already Sabbatarians. In many ways, ADM's only contention was to demonstrate the absence of "transfer" in scripture (From Saturday to Sunday) and then trace the history of this transfer and its implications. However, the same is not true today. With the arrival of CDM and NCT, the entire law is no longer regarded as perpetual - especially the Sabbath. Speaking of the absence of transfer or the change as originating in the medieval church is entirely irrelevant to an audience who regards the topic as an unnecessary distraction. Thus, our language, presentation, and even understanding of the relevance of Sabbath must be contextualized to these differing views if we wish to be understood. However, Adventists continue to preach and teach the Sabbath as though our audience were Covenantalists-Sabbatarians whose only point of distinction was a first day Sabbath as opposed to the seventh-day. Today, for the most part, our audience is either CDM, NCT, or highly influenced by these views. Thus, to speak of a "transfer" of day or of the "perpetuity of the law" without an understanding and appreciation of these systematic differences will get us nowhere.
In the next post, I will present a more thorough view of ADM's theological landscape and its unique contributions to historical Christian theology. We will once again explore the Sanctuary-hermeneutic alongside the Meta, Macro and Micro-Narrative inherent in our system of thought. This analysis, in conjunction with the system presented here, will then be summarized and offered for consideration.



_____


[1] http://www.lightbearers.org/the-old-covenant-brood/
[2] https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2002/04/another-look-at-babylon.html
[3] See "The Apocalyptic Vision and the Neutering of Adventism" by George R. Knight.
[4] https://www.adventist.org/en/beliefs/
[5] https://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/materials/conversations-other-christians-presbyterian-church-usa/ellen-g-white-and-sola-scriptura
[6] https://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/materials/adventist-heritage/adventist-theology-wesleyan-connection
[7] http://www.christianity.com/church/church-history/the-five-solas-of-the-protestant-reformation.html
[8] Ellen G. White, Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7 (Gospel Workers, p. 315.)
[9] ------- S.D.A. Bible Commentary. Vol 7, pg. 934 (Signs of the Times, June 12, 1901)
[10] ------- Patriarchs and Prophets, 63.3; Note that due to its Arminian heritage ADM does not see the Covenant of Redemption as the time in which God sovereignly elected some to salvation and others to damnation but simply as the time in which God laid out the plan of salvation that he would make freely available to all of mankind.
[11] ibid. 49.2
[12] ibid. 63.2
[13] Ellen G. White, The Signs of the Times, September 14, 1882
[14] ------- Seventh-Day Adventist Bible Commentary, Vol. 7, p. 933 (The Signs of the Times, January 2, 1893)
[15] ibid., p. 913 (The Review and Herald, September 21, 1886)
[16] ibid., p. 933 (Manuscript 92, 1899)
[17] Ellen G. White, "Gods Amazing Grace" p. 133
[18] ibid. p. 134
[19] ibid. p. 136
[20] ibid. p. 133
[21] Ellen G. White, "From eternity past" p. 259
[22] ------- "Gods Amazing Grace" 135
[23] ibid.
[24] ibid. 
[25] ibid. 135-36
[26] http://archives.adventistreview.org/article/6698/archives/issue-2013-1528/the-faith-of-jesus 
[27] Ellen G. White, "Gods Amazing Grace" p. 132
[28] ibid. p. 130
[29] The difference, however, is that because the Mosaic Covenant is no longer in effect New Covenant believers are not to go to the Mosaic Covenant to figure out how to keep the Sabbath (for example). While we may go to the Mosaic Covenant to inform us we are not bound to keep the Sabbath exactly as it is delineated in the Mosaic Covenant because the law has been released from that context. This is why, critics who say Adventists should keep all of the hundreds of Sabbath laws to be found in the OT if they want to be consistent are wrong. Those laws may inform contemporary application but they do not dictate how we keep the Sabbath. As in the case with 2LBC, this forms the basis for why we do not stone Sabbath breakers to death, among other discontinuities.
[30] Ellen G. White, "Gods Amazing Grace" p. 138
[31] see: https://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/materials/prophecy/role-israel; and: http://www.presenttruthmag.com/7dayadventist/EGWhite_theology/10.html
[32] https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2005/09/the-heart-of-historicism.html
[33] http://archives.adventistreview.org/2001-1513/story4-1.html
[34] https://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/materials/theology-state-dead/god-and-hell
The Hole in Adventism (part 3)


In the previous post we examined the oldest systems of Protestant covenantal thought. The two systems to emerge we labeled "Category A: Covenantalism" and include both the Westminster Confession (WCC) and the 2nd London Baptist Confession(2LBC). We also had the opportunity to see that in many ways, Adventist theology has a lot of similarities with these two systems of thought. In the next post we will explore those similarities more closely, but for now we will turn our attention over to the alternate covenant views present in Category B.


Category A
Category B
Covenantalism
1) Westminster Confession
2) 2nd London Baptist Confession
(Embrace Perpetuity of Law and Sabbath)
Alternate views to Covenantalism
1) Dispensationalism
2) New Covenant Theology
(Reject Perpetuity of Law and Sabbath)

"Dispensationalism & New Covenant Theology"

Dispensationalism
Dispensationalism was the next development to emerge in Protestant covenantal thought and was popularized in the United States during the 1830's. Dispensationalism owes much of its development to Futurism's hermeneutic for interpreting Bible prophecy and Bible teacher John Nelson Darby (1800-1882)[6]. Dispensationalism affirms sola scriptura, holds to Trinitarian doctrine, all the principles of the Protestant reformation, and an Arminian soteriological tradition[7]. It also contends that the imparted and imputed righteousness of Christ are essential elements of the gospel and that good works are the natural outflow of genuine faith. Unlike Covenantalism it rejects the interpretive priority of the NT over the OT and is committed to a distinction between Israel and the church. In addition, unlike Covenantalism which unites the story of scripture via the covenants (with the Covenant of Grace being the unifier of the redemption narrative), Dispensationalism strings the story of scripture via dispensations (different administrations of grace throughout different ages). "It considers Biblical history as divided deliberately by God into defined periods or ages to each of which God has allotted distinctive administrative principles[8]." From here this system takes two routes. Classic Dispensationalism and Progressive Dispensationalism[9]. Due to the the minor differences between the two systems we will only review the classic view below.

Classic Dispensationalism 
Salvation: Classic Dispensationalism (henceforth CDM) mostly holds to the view that God has always had a plan of salvation that mankind is free to either embrace or reject. According to this view, mankind is too sinful to seek God, but God seeks man and enables us to respond to his grace. Salvation can never be earned, aided, or deserved. It is always a free gift of God. While Calvinist soteriology is not foreign in the CDM world, CDM remains primarily an Arminian view of redemptive history with most proponents of CDM holding to the doctrine of eternal security (One-Saved-Always-Saved).

Covenant Narrative: In order to fully comprehend CDM we must first realize that it is best defined as having a "Dispensational Narrative" as opposed to a "Covenant Narrative". To put it simply, while Covenantalism breaks the story of scripture down from covenant to covenant, Dispensationalism breaks the story down from one period of administration (dispensation) to the next (note that in Dispensationalism the terms administrate and dispensate are interchangeable). As a result, CDM sees God administering his saving grace in different ways (dispensations) throughout human history. However, the New Covenant is the covenant in which grace can be said to administer, or dispensate, itself.

Because CDM divides redemptive history via dispensations (rather than covenants) all of which took place at different intervals in human history,  it is necessary to see what these "dispensations" are. CDM divides them into seven distinct categories[10].
1) Innocence - This is the period of time in the Garden of Eden. During this time mankind was responsible to obey Gods commands in childlike innocence. It was through obedience that they maintained their relationship with God. 
2) Conscience - This is the period of time from the Edenic expulsion until the flood (approximately 1600 years). During this time men follow their conscience in order to do right and the end result is the need for God to destroy the world with a flood. 
3) Civil Government - This is the post-diluvian period from the reentry of Noah's family into the world until the tower of Babel was built (approximately 320 years). This is also the time in which the Noahic Covenant was instituted. 
4) Promise - This is the period from Gods call to Abraham, continued through the patriarchal age, and ended at about the time of the Exodus (about 430 years). During this dispensation, God developed the nation of Israel as a partial fulfillment of his promise to Abraham (Abrahamic Covenant) that his descendants would be as the stars of the sky.  
5) Law - This is the period of time from the Exodus up until the death of Jesus (approximately 1500 years). This dispensation is basically the period of time in which the Mosaic Covenant was in effect (followed by the Davidic Covenant). During this time God dealt with the descendants of Abraham (Israel) via the law.  
6) Grace - This is the period of time from the death of Jesus up until the rapture of the church. After the rapture, a period of seven years of tribulation will commence on the earth in which God pours out his judgments. Those who were not raptured will have a second opportunity to place their faith in Christ and be saved when he returns again. 
7) Kingdom - This period of time begins with Christ's literal return to earth and will last a millennium (1000 years). It will end with the final judgment of Satan and all who have rejected Christ.
Covenant Continuity/ Discontinuity: Due to CDM separating the covenants into temporary/ local administrations that pass away with the arrival of a new administration, they do not see any continuity from Old Testament covenants into the New. For example, whereas the law may have been that which administered grace in the Mosaic Covenant, in the New Covenant grace is administered via the finished work of Jesus. As a result, CDM sees the New Covenant, not as a different method of salvation, but as the clearest and fullest dispensation of Gods redemptive grace. Because of this, there is no longer any need for the other covenants which are essentially "lesser administrations" of grace during different periods of time. The greater administration is now here and it's Christ himself. 

As a result, CDM is credobaptist and denies the continuity of the Decalogue into the New Covenant. The only nuance would be that, unlike Covenantalism which holds that any command not explicitly nullified in the NT remains, CDM argues that any command not explicitly repeated in the NT is automatically nullified.

Likewise, CDM does not distinguish between moral, ceremonial, or civic law. According to CDM, the Mosaic law is one unit and the abrogation of this law at the cross includes the entire thing. In addition, CDM does not see the law as trans-covenantal therefore, the abrogation of the law in the New Covenant means it has been completely annulled for anyone under the New Covenant. However, this does not mean CDM is antinomian. Recall that the CDM camp still maintains that the imparted and imputed righteousness of Christ are essential elements of the gospel, and that good works are the natural outflow of genuine faith. Thus, CDM would concur that 1) The indwelling Spirit leads us to holy living apart from the written law and, 2) that the law written in our hearts is the law of other-centered love which is the fulfillment of the law. As a result, CDM still upholds obedience to the 10 commandments only they would see it as living by the Spirit, not the law. Even the Sabbath remains as a command, only CDM would argue that one keeps the Sabbath under the New Covenant by resting in Christ, not by keeping a 24 hour period holy.

Israel/ Church Relationship: The CDM view of the Israel/ Church relationship is the major distinction between it and Covenantalism. According to CDM God has always had two redemptive plans: Israel and the Church. These two redemptive plans are distinct therefore the church is not the continuation of Israel. The two are to remain separate forever. As a result, the dispensation of Grace - which is meant for the church - will end at the rapture of the church and the dispensation of Law - which is meant for Israel - will once again become the administrative covenant though still under the New Covenant banner (so there will be some distinctions). In this way God will fulfill all of his promises to Israel. While Covenantalists view those promises to Israel as being fulfilled via the church, CDM would disagree and argue for a fulfillment of those promises to literal, not spiritual, Israel.

Eschatology: As a result, CDM sees national Israel as playing a central role in eschatology. CDM uses a Futurist hermeneutic for interpreting Bible prophecy which in turn provides them with a narrative quite distinct from the Historicism/ Preterism of Covenant theologians. According to this narrative, Jesus will return in two stages: an invisible and a visible. The invisible return will be the rapture of the church which will mark the beginning of the seven years tribulation. During the tribulation, the Jewish temple will be rebuilt and the cultic sacrifices of the Old Testament will commence once more. There will be a total and complete restoration of national Israel, the arrival and reign of the antichrist, and the judgments of God will be poured out during this time. At the end of the seven years will be the visible return of Jesus which will mark the start of the Millennial kingdom (Premillennialism). During this time Jesus will fulfill all of his promises to National Israel. These thousand years will end with the final judgment of the wicked and the New Heavens/ New Earth.[11]

Other: In closing, here are some brief mentions of other elements inherent to CDM. 1) Sign of the New Covenant is baptism. 2) Immersion is the only acceptable method of baptism. 3) Some spiritual gifts have ceased, others remain. 4) Separation of church and state. 5) Lords Supper is only an act of remembrance.

Note: Dispensationalism is a view held by some Pentecostal, Wesleyan, Messianic and Non-Denominational churches. However, the view is not directly tied to any denomination and is also held by some Calvinists.

New Covenant Theology
New Covenant Theology is a relatively new system of covenant thought that has not yet been fully defined. It is, by far, the most recent development in this sphere. Its development cannot be boiled down to a particular person but it posits itself as the middle ground between Covenantalism and Dispensationalism (as you will soon see it appears to agree with a Dispensationalist interpretation of covenant continuity/ discontinuity while holding to a Covenantal view of the Israel/ Church relationship). It affirms sola scriptura, the interpretive priority of the NT over the OT, Trinitarian doctrine, holds to all the principles of the Protestant reformation and holds to Calvinist soteriological tradition. It also contends that the imparted and imputed righteousness of Christ are essential elements of the gospel and that good works are the natural outflow of genuine faith. Its uniqueness is derived from its hermeneutic which is essentially Christocentric meaning it seeks to understand the narrative of scripture from the position that Jesus is the center of the entire story and it can only be properly understood through that lens. From there this theological system takes two routes. The first is New Covenant Theology. The second view is even more modern and is known as Progressive Covenantalism[12]. Due to the minor differences in the two systems, we will only review the former system below.

Salvation: New Covenant Theology (henceforth NCT) maintains that salvation has always been only by grace and that the entire salvific narrative of scripture is centered on the person of Jesus Christ. Some would argue that all of these systems of covenant thought are Christ centered. While this may be true NCT uses this as its hermeneutical principle and claims to do so consistently while the other systems, it proposes, do not. According to NCT, God has only ever had one redemptive plan to secure the salvation of his elect and that plan was Jesus. Thus, all the saints of all time have been saved by grace through faith in Christ. NCT is also a Reformed/ Calvinist approach to soteriology.

Covenant Narrative: According to NCT redemptive history can be divided into three ages. The first is the pre-flood world. The second is the post-flood world (up to this day), and the third is the age to come (New Jerusalem). NCT also posits two covenant eras: the era of the Old Covenant - which ended at Jesus' death - and the era of the New Covenant - which began at Jesus' death. Unlike Dispensationalism, NCT sees only one redemptive plan and one people of God and rejects a Dispensational view of history. In regards to Covenantalism, NCT also rejects the covenant of redemption, works, and grace due to their lack of clear delineation in scripture. Instead, NCT recognizes the promise of a savior in Genesis 3:15 as the New Covenant which is then successively unfolded through the OT until it reaches its fulfillment in Christ in the NT and is then consummated at the second coming.

Covenant Continuity/ Discontinuity: Because NCT views the narrative of scripture in a Christocentric sense and sees the New Covenant as anticipated in Genesis and fulfilled in Christ it rejects any continuity from Old Covenant into New. Another way to put it would be that in NCT the Covenant of Grace was revealed in Genesis and each subsequent covenant was a progressive revelation that pointed forward to Christ. Now that Christ has come, there is no longer any need for the types and shadows that progressively pointed to him, therefore all of the OT covenants and everything associated with them has been fulfilled in Jesus and are no longer necessary. Thus, for example, NCT takes a credobaptist stance for it sees the Abrahamic covenant and all of its elements as pointing forward to and fulfilled in Christ.

NCT also rejects the tripartite distinction of the law and argues that the entire law was part of one system that typified Christ and thus the entire thing was fulfilled by the death of Jesus and no longer binding upon NT believers. NCT also rejects the Decalogue as being trans-covenantal by arguing that the 10 commandments are merely extensions of the two great commands Jesus advocated - to love God and neighbor. Thus, NCT maintains that the law of love is trans-covenantal but the 10 commandments were extensions related to the Mosaic covenant that no longer apply. Of course, this does not make them antinomian. Recall that the NCT camp maintains that the imparted and imputed righteousness of Christ are essential elements of the gospel, and that good works are the natural outflow of genuine faith. Thus, NCT would concur that 1) The indwelling Spirit leads us to holy living apart from the written law and, 2) that the law written in our hearts is the law of other-centered love which is the fulfillment of the Decalogue. As a result, NCT still upholds obedience to the 10 commandments only they would see it as obedience to the law of love as opposed to the written law. As is the case with Dispensationalism NCT also views the Sabbath command as still binding only it is kept by resting in Christ, not by keeping a 24 hour period holy. The 24 hour period, they argue, was a ceremonial command that symbolized rest in Jesus. Now that Jesus has come and given us his rest the Sabbath command has been fulfilled and is no longer binding to the NT believer.

Israel/ Church Relationship: NCT holds that Israel typified the church and that the church is the eschatological Israel. It disagrees with Dispensationalism with regards to the Davidic covenant by maintaining that God's covenant with David has been fulfilled by Jesus enthronement in heaven. Therefore, it does not see national Israel as playing any central role in end time events.

Eschatology: NCT rejects rapture theology and holds to a visible return of Jesus at the end of the age. Some NCT proponents hold to a Preterist hermeneutic for eschatology while others hold to Futurism or a blend of the two. They reject the papacy as antichrist view of Classic Covenantalism and hold to a one world government scenario as identifying the antichrist (though they refrain from specifics as to who that may represent). NCT does see Israel playing a role in end time events, but not apart from the church. Rather, an in-gathering of Jews into the church is held making the church, not Israel, the central character. NCT also rejects the millennial rule of Christ and sees it as symbolic of the interadvent period (Amillennialism). The narrative ends with the final judgment for the non-elect to eternal hell, and renewal of the heavens and earth for the elect.

Other: In closing, here are some brief mentions of other elements inherent to NCT. 1) Sign of the New Covenant is the cup of the Lords supper. 2) Immersion is the only acceptable method of baptism. 3) Cessation of spiritual gifts. 4) Separation of church and state. 5) Lords Supper is both an act of remembrance and communion with God.

Note: NCT is the view held by some Calvinist Baptists.

For the sake of clarity I have added a condensed table below that looks at each of these systems side by side. Please note that this chart is a very simplified summary. For more details compare them to the descriptions above. You can also review the following more detailed charts: http://nct-blog.ptstn.org/comparison-charts/  



Brief Nuances
The covenantal thought systems above are the major systems of covenant thought within the Protestant world. Nevertheless, be mindful that endless nuances exist which would require an encyclopedia to explore. Some nuances fall within the bounds of Christian orthodoxy and others fall outside of it. The most prominent to fall on the outside would be 1) Antinomianism (has existed in every system of thought and takes a very hostile posture towards the law), and 2) Hyper-grace (Also known as anti-Lordship theology - a relatively new nuance that seeks to reject human effort to such an extent that is denies the need for confession, repentance, or striving for holiness for the believer by positing that such activities are only for unbelievers. At times, proponents of this view have gone as far as to say that it is not simply the OT that is no longer binding upon believers but even the very words of Jesus for he lived in an Old Covenant context[13]).

Moving Forward
Those familiar with Adventist theology will see an immediate difference between the views espoused in Category B and Adventism. In fact, most attacks which label Adventist theology heretical, legalistic or "Old Covenant" come from those who affirm the views under Category B. However, as was seen in the previous post, Adventism's covenant thought most closely resembles the views held by the reformers. Thus, to accuse Adventists of legalism is to accuse the reformers and all who hold to WCC and 2LBC of the same. This is clearly an unsustainable position for anyone who wishes to defend the core tenets of the Protestant faith.

Now that we have done a brief overview of Protestant covenantal thought the question we will turn to is, Where does Adventism sit in this continuum? Although we have explored this in brief, we will now do so in detail. Do we have a view of salvation, the covenants, the law, and eschatology that is wholly and entirely distinct from anything found in historic and contemporary protestant thought? Do we hold to a view that can be defined by one of the aforementioned systems? Do we have a view that is both rooted in historic and contemporary protestant thought and yet distinct enough to merit the introduction of a whole new system? And lastly, do we actually have anything helpful to offer the world of Christian theology that deserves theological and scholarly reflection? We will look at these questions in the next two posts.


_____

[6] On futurism see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Futurism_(Christianity); On Darby see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/John_Nelson_Darby
[7] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Dispensationalism#History
[8] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arminianism
[9] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Progressive_dispensationalism
[10] https://gotquestions.org/seven-dispensations.html
[11] to understand Dispensational eschatology visit https://gotquestions.org and search their articles on the topic.
[12] See: "Progressive Covenantalism: Charting a Course Between Dispensational and Covenantal Theologies" by Stephen J. Wellum and Brent E. Parker.

[13] see "The Naked Gospel: The Truth You May Never Hear in Church" by Andrew Farley.
The Hole in Adventism (part 2)


As mentioned in the last post, Adventism's covenant progression is not well known either to us, our inquirers or our critics. Some critics even go as far as to suggest that Adventism's covenant progression is an unheard of heresy that has never existed before and from this they reason that the Adventist faith is inherently an old-covenant faith. Part of the difficulty in responding to these charges is that, while Adventists have historically written on scriptures covenant thought it has tended to be rare. To make matters worse, the few available resources tend to be from an isolationist perspective (from Adventist to Adventist) that does not help a seeker determine where Adventism sits in the continuum of Protestant covenantal thought. 


Identifying where Adventism falls in this continuum will be helpful in a number of ways. First, it will enable students of Adventism to see how Adventist covenantal thought fits into the broader historical picture. Second, it will help students identify points of agreement between Adventist theology and other covenantal traditions. Third, it will enable us to identify what unique contributions we bring to the table. Fourth, it will enable us to communicate our narrative in a language that can be understood by other Protestant traditions. And fifth, it will conclusively refute the charge that Adventist covenant thought is both "old-covenant" and an "unheard of" heresy.

The chart below outlines the major systems of covenantal thought in protestant Christianity. For the sake of simplicity, I have split the systems into two different categories. As will be demonstrated, the views under the first category embrace the perpetuity of the law and the Sabbath. This alone shows that Adventists are not the only ones to believe in and uphold these truths and severely mitigates against the charge that Adventism is an old-covenant faith (if this were true we would have to label the vast majority of reformed tradition the same way which is clearly problematic). The views under the second category reject this perpetuity. As our exploration evolves this distinction will make more sense.

Category A
Category B
Covenantalism
1) Westminster Confession
2) 2nd London Baptist Confession
(Embrace Perpetuity of Law and Sabbath)
Alternate views to Covenantalism
1) Dispensationalism
2) New Covenant Theology
(Reject Perpetuity of Law and Sabbath)

Category A: "Covenantalism"
We begin our exploration of the continuum of Protestant covenantal thought with Covenantalism. Covenantalism is by far the oldest system of covenantal thought within Protestantism and is also known as Federalism[2]. It affirms sola scriptura, the interpretive priority of the NT over the OT (ie. the OT can only be properly interpreted via the NT), Trinitarian doctrine, holds to all the principles of the Protestant reformation[3] and holds to a Calvinist soteriological tradition[4]. It also contends that the imparted and imputed righteousness of Christ are essential elements of the gospel and that good works are the natural outflow of genuine faith. From there this theological system takes two routes. The first is the view defined by the Westminster Confession (A.D. 1647-49). The second view is defined in the 2nd London Baptist Confession (A.D. 1689). Below is a brief overview of both.

Westminster Confession Covenantalism
Salvation: According to Westminster Confession Covenantalism (henceforth WCC) salvation depends entirely on the sovereignty of God, who in time eternal elected who would be saved and who would be lost. Thus, at no point in human history has anyone been saved outside of this eternal decree. This includes even those under the Mosaic covenant who were saved, not by works, but by grace. Due to man's total depravity in sin, salvation by works has never, nor could ever, be even remotely possible. This view is essentially a Reformed/ Calvinist soteriology.

Covenant Narrative: From there WCC introduces us to two overarching covenants in all of scripture. The first is the Covenant of Works which teaches that man, in an unfallen state (Adam and Eve) were to maintain their relationship with God by obedience to his commands. The second is the Covenant of Grace. According to this view, once man fell into sin he could only be saved by grace and thus, as soon as the fall took place there was grace. Every covenant that appears in the OT (Noahic, Abrahamic, Mosaic, Davidic) are all administrations of the Covenant of Grace (by "administration" it is meant that each of the OT covenants are means by which the elect can experience reconciliation with God). Therefore, WCC sees all of the OT covenants are the same as the New Covenant only dressed in ceremonies. By adhering to the ceremonies the OT saints could be brought into contact with grace and thus a saving relationship with God. Modern WCC also adheres to the Covenant of Redemption in which God predestined his elect to salvation before the creation of the world thus giving it three overarching covenants, as opposed to just two.

Covenant Continuity/ Discontinuity: Consequently, WCC teaches that there are aspects of the OT covenants that are still in effect. The fist is the Abrahamic Covenant of circumcision. While WCC agrees that circumcision was done away with they hold that it's blessing upon the entire family - including children - remains. Therefore, baptism - the New Covenant circumcision - is also for children. In the same way that children were included in the covenant promises of the Abrahamic Covenant so they are included in the New Covenant promises via baptism. This view is known as pedobaptism in that it affirms the baptism of infants and children as a continuing reality from the Abrahamic Covenant into the New Covenant. Recall that, in this view, none of the OT Covenants are isolated. They are all administrations of the overarching Covenant of Grace. Therefore we can expect continuity and discontinuity from them.

Another aspect of this is seen in the way in which Covenantalism interprets the Mosaic Covenant. According to WCC, the Mosaic Covenant law is a tripartite law. This tripartite Division is proposed to be 1) The Moral Law, 2) The Ceremonial Laws, and 3) The Civil Laws. Because Israel is no longer in covenant with God as a nation (more on this later) its Civil Laws are abrogated. In addition, the death of Jesus fulfilled the Ceremonial Laws all of which pointed to him as the savior. However, according to WCC, the Moral Law remains as a perpetual law that cannot be abrogated. This includes all of the 10 commandments including the Sabbath which WCC identifies with the first day of the week, Sunday. WCC goes a step further by affirming that all OT commands are still relevant unless canceled by the NT and identifies the law of Christ as none other than the Decalogue (10 Commandments). 

Those familiar with Adventist theology will see an immediate similarity between this view and the Adventist view thus demonstrating both harmony with Protestant covenantal thought and mitigating against the idea that the perpetuity of Gods law - including the Sabbath - is somehow legalistic, "unprotestant", or a concept present only in SDA theology. While there are more similarities (and of course difference) these will be explored in part 3. For now, we continue with WCC.

Israel/ Church Relationship: According to WCC the church has always existed. Therefore, the OT version of the church was Israel and the NT version is the church. The Church is, therefore, Israel and always has been. However, national Israel has also met its end as a "people of God" and the church has effectively continued in its place. As a result, national Israel plays no specific role in end time events. 

Eschatology: Classical proponents of WCC were Historicists in their understanding of Bible prophecy. They held to a visible return of Jesus and saw the fulfillment of the antichrist as the office of the Papacy. WCC rejects the millennial rule of Jesus on earth for a literal 1,000 years and sees it as symbolic of the interadvent period (the period between the ascension of Jesus and his second coming - Amillennialism). It also holds to eternal hell for the reprobate and heaven for the elect. Modern proponents of WCC agree with all of these views with exception to the Papacy as antichrist due to the adoption of a Preterist hermeneutic for eschatology.

Other: In closing, here are some brief mentions of other elements inherent to WCC. 1) Sign of the New Covenant is baptism. 2) Sprinkling is an acceptable method of baptism. 3) Cessation of spiritual gifts. 4) Church and state are united (state enforces correct theology). 5) Lords Supper is an act of remembrance and communion with God.

Note: WCC is the view held by the Presbyterian denominations.

2nd London Baptist Confession
Salvation: In keeping with its ancestor WCC, 2nd London Baptist Confession (henceforth 2LBC) holds to a Reformed/ Calvinist soteriology.

Covenant Narrative: 2LBC believes in the three overarching covenants of Redemption, Works, and Grace. 2LBC also affirms that once man fell into sin salvation could only ever come by grace and never by works. Thus, Genesis 3:15 introduces the Covenant of Grace which becomes ratified in the New Covenant through Jesus death. 2LBC also affirms that the OT Covenants were means by which God communicated his grace in the OT. However, 2LBC differs from WCC in that it does not see the OT covenants as the Covenant of Grace "dressed in ceremonies" but as separate and temporary covenants whose only purpose was to progressively reveal the plan of salvation until that plan would be actuated with the death of Jesus. So while the OT covenants pointed the practitioners to, and advanced the Covenant of Grace they were not the same as the Covenant of Grace. This means that, for 2LBC, none of the OT saints were reconciled to God via the OT covenants. Rather, they were saved in anticipation of the death of Jesus.

Covenant Continuity/ Discontinuity: Because of this, 2LBC teaches that the OT covenants are no longer in effect. Consequently, 2LBC rejects pedobaptism and instead holds to credobaptism which teaches that baptism is only for mature believers who have made an informed decision to follow Christ. While children may have been included in the rite of circumcision, due to the Abrahamic covenant being done away with, we cannot carry this practice into the New Covenant rite of baptism. While it is true that circumcision overlaps with and gives us insight into the meaning of baptism, they are not the same thing because they are not of the same covenant. In short, because the OT covenants were temporary covenants we are not to expect continuity from them into the New Covenant.

This covenant abrogation view also impacts how 2LBC views the civil, ceremonial, and moral laws of the Mosaic covenant. According to 2LBC, even the moral has been abrogated. In other words, the whole law of Moses, as it related to the Old Covenant, has been done away with. However, (and here is a big however) this does not mean that 2LBC rejects the Decalogue. According to 2LBC the Decalogue is trans-covenantal. In other words, it transcends the covenants in that it existed prior to them. As a result, while New Covenant believers are not under the 10 Commandments to obey them and relate to them as those under the Mosaic Covenant did, they are still under the Decalogue as it came before the Mosaic Covenant[5]. As a result, 2LBC continues to affirm the 10 commandments as perpetually binding. This includes the Sabbath which they identify with the resurrection of Jesus on Sunday. 

Israel/ Church Relationship: 2LBC affirms that the church was typified by Israel but disagrees with WCC in rejecting that notion that they are the same thing. Nevertheless, 2LBC agrees that national Israel plays no specific role in end time events.

Eschatology: Classical proponents of 2LBC were also Historicists in their understanding of Bible prophecy. They held to a visible return of Jesus and saw the fulfillment of the antichrist as the office of the Papacy. 2LBC rejects the millennial rule of Jesus on earth for a literal 1,000 years and sees it as symbolic of the interadvent period (Amillennialism). It also holds to eternal hell for the reprobate and heaven for the elect. Modern proponents of 2LBC agree with all of these views with exception to the Papacy as antichrist due to the adoption of a Preterist hermeneutic for eschatology.

Other: In closing, here are some brief mentions of other elements inherent to 2LBC. 1) Sign of the New Covenant is baptism. 2) Immersion is the only acceptable method of baptism. 3) Cessation of spiritual gifts. 4) Separation of church and state. 5) Lords Supper is an act of remembrance and communion with God.

Note: 2LBC is the view held by the Confessional Baptist denominations.

Conclusion
As can be clearly seen, there are a considerable amount of similarities between Adventist theology and the Protestant covenantal traditions of WCC and 2LBC. These similarities will be explored in much more detail in part 3. In the next post we will turn our attention to Category B and explore the two major covenant systems that present alternate views to those espoused by Covenantalism and which differ quite largely from Adventism. 
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[1] For an exploration of Adventism's place in the realm of theology see "The Reformation and the Remnant" by Nicholas P. Miller, "A Search for Identity" by George R. Knight, and "A Brief History of Seventh-day Adventists" by George R. Knight.
[2] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Covenant_theology
[3] https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Five_solae
[4] https://carm.org/calvinism
[5] One example of this is the Sabbath. Under the Mosaic covenant breaking the Sabbath was punishable by death. Under the New Covenant it is not. Thus, while 2LBC affirms the perpetuity of the Sabbath it sees the Sabbath, under the New Covenant, as liberated from the restrictions and punishments connected to it via the Mosaic Covenant. By way of another example, the same can be said of adultery. Under the New Covenant a believer caught in adultery can face church discipline but under the Old Covenant it was punishable by death. So while the law still applies, it has been liberated from its Mosaic Covenant restrictions. It is still a sin to commit adultery and believers are still under obligation to obey this command, but it is not punishable by death as it was under the Mosaic Covenant.
The Hole in Adventism (Part 1)


A few years ago I went through one of the most defining seasons of my life. Having been raised a Seventh-day Adventist I had come to the place where I had to confront, once and for all, the legalistic faith I had developed. The journey was both difficult and exhilarating at the same time. The more I studied and explored the more I discovered that my legalistic worldview was a perversion of true Adventism[1]. By the time my journey was over I was, for lack of a better phrase, "in love" with Adventism and decided that I would spend my life telling its story. Adventism, I had discovered, was a story of grace from beginning to end. It was a Jesus-only narrative that was both rooted in historic Protestantism and yet unique enough to give it its own voice.

But then came the next challenge - a challenge which has remained to this day: the critics. Yes, every church has a critic. No, there is no way to avoid having them. And no, we will never get rid of them. That's just the way life is. But what troubled me was that the critics seemed to have an argument I could not answer. For them, Adventism was an "Old-Covenant" faith. No matter how much grace we preached, the fact that we believed in the perpetuity of the law and honored the Sabbath was proof that we were not "New Covenant" Christians. To top it off, I even encountered critics who accused Adventists of having a view of the covenants unheard of in Christian history. How was I to make sense of this? How could Adventism be both a grace-centered faith and yet believe in the perpetuity of the law and proclaim the continued validity of the Sabbath? From my perspective, it seemed quite clear that all other grace-centered faiths rejected these conclusions. And saying "the Sabbath doesn't save us" or "we keep the law because we are saved, not because we want to be saved" just didn't cut it. The very fact that Adventism was Sabbatarian and grace-centered meant it was either a pseudo-grace-centered faith at worst or a systematically inconsistent one at best.

The search for an answer commenced and it didn't take long before I got stuck. The answer, I reasoned, must lie in a proper understanding of scriptures covenantal thought. After all, the relationship between the Old Covenant and the New Covenant was what the entire debate seemed to boil down to. Those who disagreed with our position spoke confidently of the New Covenant abrogating the Old. Of the Sabbath pointing to Jesus and meeting its fulfillment in him. Of freedom from the law, and at times, from the Old Testament in its entirety. However, I could not find a single Adventist resource that explained scriptures covenantal thought. Of course, I am not saying that there weren't any for I have since come to discover that there are. But I had to search long and hard to find them. Covenantal thought, it seemed, was just not that central to Adventist thought. 

However, I soon ran into another problem. All the resources I found (which were very few) were isolationist approaches to the covenants. In other words, they presented a system of covenant thought from an Adventist perspective and nothing more[2]. Yet, after being accused by critics of Adventism that Adventism held to a view of the covenants unheard of in Christian history an Adventist explanation simply wasn't enough for me. I needed to see how our explanation matched that of the reformers and Christian thought as a whole. For years I searched desperately for a resource that would answer those questions and explain covenant thought from a birds eye perspective but I found none. The place of Adventism within covenant thought is, by and large, unknown both to us and our critics.

In this series of articles, I would like to introduce and explore this topic in brief. We will begin, in this post, by answering the question "Why is covenantal thought seemingly absent in Adventism?" One possible answer to this question will be explored. Once that foundation has been laid we will explore the main systems of covenant thought in the protestant tradition. From there we will identify Adventism's place in that continuum and conclude with an Adventist approach to covenantal thought.

Covenantal Thought and Adventism
Historically speaking, Christians have always viewed scripture as a story. From beginning to end the Bible, we believe, is telling a grand story that we are invited to know, understand, and enter into. This grand story can be separated into two headings: the Meta-Narrative and the Micro-Narrative.

The Meta-Narrative (Big Story)
The first is the meta-narrative of God. The meta-narrative is defined as the most transcendent part of scriptures story and deals almost exclusively with who God is and what he is like irrespective of creation. The most popular understandings of the meta-narrative within Protestant Christianity are two systems of thought known as Calvinism and Arminianism[3]. Both of these meta-narratives tell different stories of who God is and what he is like which in turn impacts how one views the second heading. 

The Micro-Narrative (Little Story)
This second heading we can call the micro-narrative. It is here that the question of how this God from the meta-narrative relates to, interacts with, and operates with his creation is answered. And for most Protestants, this question is answered via God's covenants with man. In other words, the covenants God makes with man are the connecting points in the story of scripture and from them, we derive our fullest understanding of who he is and what he is like.


META-NARRATIVE
(Big Story - God)
MICRO-NARRATIVE
(Little Story - Earth)

Adventism as the Inheritor of the Macro-Narrative (Middle Story)
Adventism also has a meta-narrative that informs who God is and what he is like (Adventism is Arminian-Wesleyan). Adventism also has a micro-narrative which informs how God deals with and relates to our world. However, because of its Arminian-Wesleyan heritage Adventism has another element of the story that, while certainly present in Calvinist and Arminian traditions, forms the heartbeat of Adventist thought: The Great Controversy. This concept is born out of our Wesleyan heritage (a further development to John Wesley's "aesthetic theme") and forms, in essence, the macro-narrative of Adventist theology[4]. For Adventists, the question of God's character in light of the universal war between good and evil has become the heartbeat of how we view scripture.


META-NARRATIVE
(Big Story - God)
MACRO-NARRATIVE
(Middle Story - Universe)
MICRO-NARRATIVE
(Little Story - Earth)

Therefore, a suggested approach would be to view Adventism's narrative as having three parts: 1) the meta, 2) the macro, and 3) the micro. The meta-narrative is simply God, who he is and what he is like irrespective of creation. The macro-narrative is how the meta plays out in the battle between good and evil in the universe, and the micro-narrative is basically how the meta and macro play out, for the most part, in our local planet.

But why exactly is this unique? The answer is simple. Calvinists don't need a macro-narrative that explains the presence of sin and evil because their worldview is deterministic. For a Calvinist God's sovereignty is the most important divine attribute to defend. Determinism posits that everything that happens in creation has been pre-determined by God thus securing him as sovereign over all things including history. Granted, there are different levels of determinism depending on what brand of Calvinism one adopts, but at the end of the day, there is no need to explain the battle between good and evil. A Calvinist either accepts it as a mystery or presents that battle as part of Gods pre-determined will for creation in order to bring about the glorification of his son. Free-will is not part of the story because to accept free-will is to throw God's sovereignty into question.[5]

Arminians, on the other hand, do not have a deterministic worldview. Rather, the concept of libertarian free-will is foundational to their meta-narrative. For an Arminian, the most important attribute of God is the attribute of love. Everything is an outflow of God's love, including his sovereignty. Therefore, all of God's creation was designed to operate under the law of love - a law which harmonizes only with freedom for love cannot be coerced, manipulated, or determined. This other-centered paradigm was to be the basis for temporal reality and eternity. However, the concept of God as love is challenged by the presence of evil. How could a loving God allow such things? Such questions lead men to doubt the meta-narrative and demand an explanation.

This was the soil upon which Adventism was planted and watered and as the Adventist narrative began to emerge it was this concern and passion for a renewed understanding of the heart of God and his government that gave birth to the "Great Controversy" theme - Adventism's macro-narrative. This theme not only answers questions related to the origin of sin and suffering in the universe but also vindicates God's character from the charges made against him by Satan. And it is in this theme - which emphasizes the loving character of God over and against the presence of evil and suffering - that Adventist theology finds its heart beat[6]. The Great Controversy is, for us, the unifying element that strings together the entire narrative of scripture from creation to consummation.

And that is what brings me to my next point. Because the Adventist narrative is strung together via this "Great Controversy" motif, many of us have tended to ignore the issue of the covenants (the unifying element that strings together the narrative of scripture for many other protestant denominations). Since we tend to focus on the meta and macro more than the micro, the relevance of covenant progression - which falls under the micro (see below) - is simply forgotten or viewed as a non-issue. In some ways, it can even appear to be an over complication for us for we are more concerned with understanding the heart of God than we are in covenantal debates; a posture we inherited from our Wesleyan forefathers[7].

META-NARRATIVE
MACRO-NARRATIVE
MICRO-NARRATIVE
Who is God?
What is he like?
What are his attributes?
What is his essence?
(Arminianism)
Why is there evil?
Where did sin originate?
Is God responsible for pain?
Vindication of God's character.
(The Great Controversy)
How did man fall into sin?
How can we be saved?
How does God relate to us?
Where is our world headed?
(History/ Covenants/ Prophecy)
                  Adventists are particularly fond of this element.

Nevertheless, I propose that this is a mistake because the Great Controversy narrative that we so love is not simply a macro issue, but a micro one as well. This is most clearly seen in apocalyptic prophecy - a favorite genre for Adventists - which deals exclusively with how the meta and macro play out in our local world. It is at this juncture that our views on the law of God and the Sabbath become central once more and without a proper understanding of covenant thought we will continue to fail at communicating this story that we believe our responsibility to tell. Therefore, I propose that the hole in Adventist theology is a thorough and holistic approach to scriptures covenantal progression that is both informed by the Arminian meta and macro-narratives and identifiable in the historical development of covenant thought within Christianity.

Conclusion
Where does Adventism belong in the Christian conversation? Answering this question is important for two primary reasons. The first is because many other Christians understand their theology primarily via the covenants Adventists will never be able to communicate their own story, which they understand via the Great Controversy unless we contextualize our story to the language and thought of the Christian community to which we belong. And second, because the rest of the Christian world views scripture via the covenants they will never truly know where Adventism belongs unless they can see our place in the historical development of covenant thought.

In the next post, I will present a bird's eye view of covenant thought and in those that follow I will identify where we belong in the history of Christian thought through comparison and contrast. In the end, I will briefly review the Adventist narrative via the covenants by introducing a proposed Adventist approach to covenantal thought.
______

[1] I first shared the conclusions of all my research in a response I wrote to a former Adventist who left the church due to her legalistic upbringing and accused it of being an "Old Covenant" faith. http://www.pomopastor.com/2013/08/reclaiming-adventism-response-to.html
[2] This is not to say that these resources are not excellent studies on the topic. Gerhard Hasel's "Covenant in Blood" is a fantastic book. See also "The Gospel in Galatians" by Marvin Moore, and the Sabbath School Lesson "Christ and His Law": [http://ssnet.org/study-guides/lesson-archives/2010-2019/christ-and-his-law-2014-q2/] What these sources miss in a bird's eye view that demonstrates where Adventism resides in the continuum of covenant thought. It will become more apparent by the third installment of this series why this bird's eye view is so important.
[2] Obviously this does not mean that Calvinism is incompatible with a macro-narrative that seeks to explore and explain the presence of evil in the universe. What it means is that such an exploration will be less likely in a Calvinist world-view and likewise more at home in an Arminian one.
[3] On Calvinism see: https://carm.org/calvinism; On Arminianism see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arminianism
[4] On the Great Controversy see: https://www.adventist.org/en/beliefs/salvation/the-great-controversy/ ; On Wesley's "Aesthetic Theme" see: http://evangelicalarminians.org/john-wesley-on-the-origins-of-evil/
[5] This concern over God's character and reputation is shared by free-will theologians that both preceded and came after James Arminius. These include Philip Melanchthon (Lutheran), and the evangelical Anabaptists. Then, after Arminius came the Remonstrants, Hugo Grotius (the father of the "Moral Government of God" theory) and John Wesley - father of the "Aesthetic theme" which was both a further development of the Arminian Macro-Narrative and heavily influenced Adventism's "Great Controversy" theme.
[6] See "The Heartbeat of Adventism: The Great Controversy theme in the Writings of Ellen White" by Herbert E. Douglas.
[7] For the sake of clarity, let it be known that this explanation only seeks to provide one possible angle for why Adventists tend to ignore covenant thought. Many other angles may exist. In addition, Adventist theology does not completely ignore the covenants. Many Adventists passionate about the gospel are generally well schooled in the covenants as well and understand the complexities involved in those narratives. In addition, Adventist systematic theologians are both familiar with, and have written about, the covenant progression in scripture. Nevertheless, Adventists are not generally focused on the covenants and the remainder of this series of articles will base that posture on the aforementioned position.