On September 6, 2008 following Dr. Ford’s presentation “Forensic Atonement Theory in Light of the Christian Gospel” at Loma Linda a distinguished panel engaged in a dialogue and discussed various aspects of the lecture.
The panel was composed of scholars from La Sierra and Loma Linda Adventist Universities: Professor Fritz Guy and Professor Kendra Haloviak from La Sierra University School of religion, Larry Christoffel, Pastor of the Loma Linda campus Hill church and Professor Jon Paulien, Dean of the School of Religion at Loma Linda University, the moderator of the discussion.
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Jon Paulien, PhD: Let me introduce our members. We’ll be going a little less than an hour, and around 5 o’clock written questions will be delivered to me and by some magical system I will choose a few of those to share with the panel. …
To my right is Kendra Haloviak, who I was deeply privileged to have as a student at the seminary. And sometimes your students go beyond you, and Kendra would be one of those who I’m very proud of. And she is at La Sierra University, and we share a specialty in the New Testament and in the book of Revelation in particular.
To my left of course in the man of the hour [Dr. Desmond Ford] and I’d like to open this discussion with a short testimony. We have hardly ever met, I think just in passing a couple of times. So this is really our closest acquaintance. And I would like to tell you that growing up as a Seventh Day Adventist I was one of those weird children who spent a lot of time in the Bible, and kind of knew the Bible back and forth. I was even in New York City on some Bible quizzes and came out very successfully over the radio as a small child. But there were two books of the Bible that always troubled me. They were not Daniel and Revelation, they were Romans and Galatians. And it just seemed to me, if somehow those could be left out of the Bible, the Adventism I knew could be perfectly defended [laughter in the audience].
And I just want you to know that you were one among some that were very-very pivotal in my life to bring the deeper meaning of Romans and Galatians, to bring the way in which it interacted with the larger picture that Adventists understood. So Romans and Galatians, Paul has become very meaningful to me and I’ll be grateful throughout eternity for your testimony and the mission that you extended in these areas. I just want to thank you here right now to begin.
My name, if anyone cares to know [laughs] is Jon Paulien. As I mentioned I was a student at the seminary, taught at the seminary, I am the Dean of the School of Religion here at Loma Linda University and been asked to moderate this panel here today.
What I’d like to do is to address a question to the three panel members and each of you in turn can respond and then, perhaps, Dr. Ford would like to respond to you. I’d like each of you to simply react to this, what was the one aspect of what you just heard in the last hour that you would highlight that was important to you? And, perhaps, you would like to address it as a question to Dr. Ford or to elaborate on the point or maybe differ a little bit. …
Fritz Guy, PhD: Well, it seems to me clear that like all good presentations that the thesis of our friend Des Ford was evident to everybody who was awake, namely that the metaphor of justification is not only the heart of the Gospel, it is the Gospel. … It is certainly the heart of the letter to the Romans. It ought to be the heart of Christian theology and of Christian living. That’s what I took to be the thrust of the presentation. Now, a question I would like to address to Des is, – I hope it is all right with you if I use your first name…
Desmond Ford, PhD: Of course.
F. Guy, PhD: Des, you spoke of justification as a metaphor. Metaphors always have limitations. What in your understanding of the metaphor of justification are its limitations? Does it need to be supplemented by other metaphors? You mentioned representation and sacrifice and some others. How are these metaphors related? Do they add to justification? You almost seem to be saying that the metaphor [of justification] is really the big thing, that’s the biggie, and these other metaphors are kind of secondary. Am I misunderstanding that?
D. Ford, PhD: That’s an excellent question, for which I thank you, Fritz. The work of the atonement defies perfect critical analysis. The Bible is given for practical purposes, and it is perfect for its purpose. So it is true that while justification in Paul alone occurs about 70 times in the Pauline [Epistles], and reconciliation 5, and propitiation with connection to the cross 4, and ransom 3, and adoption 5. All these others do have a part to play, but the numbers speak for themselves, that none of them are as adequate a metaphor, asjustification.
I agree with Fritz, that all metaphors have their problems, but it’s when we read all the chapters – Romans 3, Romans 4, which is about forgiveness, Romans 5 about the parallel between the two Adams and “while we were yet sinners we were reconciled … by the death of His Son”1. It’s when we read the whole chapters that some of the problems, that could be linked to too great a concentration on the metaphor fall away, like petals from a developing flower. But I think it has to always be said that everything we say about the atonement falls short. There is no perfect metaphor. But for sinners going down for the third time, probably who will die unexpectedly and who are facing Judgment day, here is a glorious picture, for which we can thank God. So in essence I agree with what Dr. Guy has said, “All metaphors have their problems”. But I do think that this one metaphor has given far more exposure, even chapters of exposure, so some of the bad edges can be rubbed off.
Kendra Haloviak, PhD: It’s Sabbath afternoon and we are talking with Dr. Ford. And I just have to pause and remember 1980. In 1980 there were many-many-many Sabbath afternoons like this in my parent’s living room. And it is such a privilege and an honor and a joy to once again be sharing a Sabbath afternoon with Dr. Ford. The conversation partners in our living room have expanded in number quite a bit. But it is a real joy to be here. And I thank him for really a path of exploration that he helped shaped for me back in that year. I remember very well the first Sabbath afternoon, when I had the courage to actually enter into the conversation and ask a question. And I could not believe it, I just blurted it out, and I was terrified! And Dr. Ford looked over at this 13 year old sitting on the floor and said, “That was an excellent question, Kendra!” And I was just so thrilled, that it was his first response and I’m grateful for a journey in theology, that I have him to thank so much.
Since that time in 1980, some of our friends, some Adventists pastors and lay people, who were deeply blessed by learning the Gospel, have left Adventism over the 7the Day Sabbath. They have placed it alongside Paul’s comments about circumcision and about food issues and they suggest that to demand a specific day of Sabbath keeping is to move from salvation by grace alone to some type of works. And I just wonder this afternoon, what you would say to those friends of ours who had made that decision? … And they love Scripture, they deeply love Scripture and they are trying to be faithful to it. But if I embrace a particular day of worship, [they think] I’ve moved from the arena of grace to the arena of law keeping. …
D. Ford, PhD: Kendra, it’s my concern too. The human heart needs support all the time from the Holy Spirit. I do not want people to follow me any further then I follow Christ. I have the only book written against Robert Brinsmead‘s protest over the Sabbath2 I have written, “The Forgotten Day.” I wrote it not long after the [hearing in] Glacier View to support the Seventh Day Sabbath. I refused to join break-away groups, because I felt the problems such as you are mentioning would take place. I could not please the people at Evangelica at Andrews [University], because I felt they were going too far.
So my concern is exactly the same as you, that some people can take a good thing and misuse it. But that does not kill the truth that they are abusing. God instituted marriage, and most marriages are a failure. Marriage is holy, but marriage is terribly abused. And I agree entirely with the concern that you have for people who are forsaking very clear Biblical truth, like the Seventh day Sabbath and holiness of life in order to pursue their own lusts. I am with you.
Larry Christoffel, Pastor: You asked a question, Dr. Pauline, earlier, what we thought was the single thing that stood out and [I noticed] a couple of things, I think, they are related. One was the idea that we are imputed or reckoned to be righteous rather than made righteous. What that means then is that our salvation is not dependent on our character development. But then you have to take it a step further and ask on what basis are we reckoned righteous? And it comes down to a substitutionary death as well as life that is ours by faith alone. And that is good news indeed. In fact it was something I grasped a long time ago. [Dr. Ford], you were instrumental in the 1970s prior to Glacier View, when I was pasturing in the Ohio conference. You arrived at Pacific Union College as an exchange teacher and some of us wrote to you and asked for material, and you sent us about a ream of material on all aspects of righteousness by faith. If I were to have a question for you such as Kendra and Fritz had, how important in your mind is the human nature issue of Jesus, His human nature? You did not really say much about that. Is that something that it is important to you?
D. Ford, PhD: Larry, it is very important. Christ was that Holy Thing3. In Him there was no sin4. He knew no sin5. He was only in the likeness of sinful flesh6. Unless He was sinless Calvary was useless. Only a perfect offering could serve as a sacrifice.
My Lord Jesus took the infirmities of the race as they were after the fall7; He took all the effects of sin, but sin itself. And He remained holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners8. I am glad you raised it. I should have.
J. Paulien, PhD: Another question to panel members, and this time whoever would like to speak to it. The question is… We did not really get a lecture today. It was a sermon. It was a sermon form from a pastor, the sermon from someone who cared deeply about us and about our relationships with God. It was moving and appealing. And yet this man is acontroversial figure in some circles. What problem would somebody have with what was presented today? [laughter, lasting applauses] What is the problem?
L. Christoffel, Pastor:
The question is with such a gracious beautiful sermon, why would anyone have a problem with someone like Des Ford? I want to quote him, I don’t know in what venue he said this but he said one time, “People get in trouble not for what they say, but what they don’t say.” So he has a lot more to say. And I think if he were to say everything then he might raise a few eyebrows [laughter]. … I think his intent here, he came from the other side of the world to bring people to Christ. And you know, we as a panel are to critique that, however you can say “Amen”, that would be a good critique.
But I do think that once you get into the written document that there may be some differences of opinion [from] the one that everyone has.
K. Haloviak, PhD: Yesterday I was in Anaheim for the first time as an attendee of the “Women of Faith Conference”. It is going on today as well. As I was there listening to different speakers and looking around at thousands of women present for this two day conference there was a lot of language that reminded me of Dr. Ford, a lot of language that focused on the importance of what happened at the cross and salvation by grace and grace alone. The title of the conference is “Infinite Grace”. … And I heard one of the speakers said say this phrase, “The wrath of God was all directed to Jesus and He died in our place”.
Today as Dr. Ford was speaking I was reminded so much of his picture of God, that comes through his understanding of soteriology9 that is his soteriology, his understanding of atonement shapes the way he understands his theology, that is his view of God. And it is this amazing God, … his gratitude at God’s grace, at such a Savior. The tone of the phrase, “All the wrath of God was all directed at Jesus” for me feels in conflict with some of those phrases of a gracious God, a God Who is longsuffering, Who wants to wrap His arms around each of us no matter what we’ve done today or ever. I was curious what you would say to a group of people who are emphasizing a wrathful God? A God Who is needing to take some sort of anger on someone and turns it – thank God – on Jesus instead of me, but yet it is problematic somehow in my heart. …
D. Ford, PhD: You’ve raised a very-very important topic, Kendra. The wrath of God does not have the same meaning as our human irrational, unpredictable, up and down, unjust angers. The wrath of God means that because He is holy, He is so dead against sin; He will not tolerate its permanent existence in His universe. So the wrath of God in Scripture is the reaction of holiness against evil and determined to wipe it out. But it must never be construed along some of the lines as Kendra was warning us about. It is not like the wrath of the heathen gods, who could be bribed and placated. But God’s wrath is mentioned 580 times in the Bible with 20 different terms, but always with the same idea: holiness cannot permit evil to go on forever uncorrected. So provided we realize the distinction between both Old and New Testament and the heathen excuse of wrath, then it will be no problem. But we dare not leave it out. 585 references to God’s antagonism to evil.
J. Paulien, PhD: [talking to Kendra Haloviak] So I hear you saying that it is perhaps an extension of what Des is teaching and misunderstanding of it, that perhaps causes … some of this [controversy].
I am reminded the time I got a traffic ticket about 124 years ago, and looked at the ticket and it said, “The state of New Jersey against Jon Paulien”. That was awful! The whole state is mad at me! [Laughter in the audience]. But that’s not what it’s saying. The state of New Jersey in a larger sense that in some way I had offended that I needed to make it right. It was not that everyone was angry at me. It was not that irrational fury that you are talking about. Very-very helpful distinction.
Let me be a little bit more provocative though.
The cross, as you teach it, does not it have a moral influence?
D. Ford, PhD: Yes, the problem with the moral influence theory is not what it affirms, it what it denies. Of course, the cross has a moral influence. Of course, the cross reveals the love of God. When you say, “He saved me by revealing His love”, that’s a half truth. Because the cross reveals God’s justice, God’ hatred of evil, God’s integrity, God’s fulfillment of the warning in Eden, “if you eat thereof you will surely die”. So the moral influence theory is correct in what it affirms, but in leaving out the sacrificial aspect of the cross it flies in the face of so much Scripture. Ephesians 5:2: “He offered Himself as a sacrifice for us”! Most heresies are right in what they affirm and wrong in what they deny.
F. Guy, PhD: Des, during your presentation you said – at least I understood you to say – that when God declares us righteous, God is declaring us “not guilty”. Now, let me play a little bit of devil’s advocate here. The fact is, I am guilty, whether God says [that] I’m guilty or not. Even God can’t get my guilt not to happen – right? What I’ve done, I have done. What does it mean, what do you mean when you say, that God declares us “not guilty”?
D. Ford, PhD: I mean that the penalty of my guilt has been paid, the debt has been met. I am no longer in debt. Therefore the Bible says, “I am acquitted.” And it is not Des Ford, or course. It is Paul that says, “I am acquitted.”
F. Guy, PhD: Right, right. But then that too needs to be understood somewhat metaphorically.
D. Ford, PhD: Yes, you can’t avoid a metaphor.
F. Guy, PhD: Just as the term “wrath” or the idea of God’s anger. And this is characteristic of all our talk about God. The only language we have is the language that we get from everyday life.
D. Ford, PhD: I agree.
F. Guy, PhD: And so when we talk about God we use the same words to talk about God, we can never mean them absolutely literally, because God is not us!
D. Ford, PhD: But let’s not emasculate them, let’s not castrate them; let’s not empty them of their basic meaning!
F. Guy, PhD: Right. But that’s why I think it is helpful if we can as far as possible (and you were right, we can never really sort this out to the very end) to say, just as you did with an ocean of wrath a few minutes ago, sort out what it means from what it does not mean. … When I get angry, I’m upset, I lost it. God does not lose it.
D. Ford, PhD: No.
F. Guy, PhD: So Fritz’s anger and God’s anger, they are different.
D. Ford, PhD: Very different. And I almost always make that point, as I did in talking to Kendra.
When you talk to me and you say, “Des, did you catch what I am saying?” Well, you did not throw anything. It’s not possible to speak without metaphor. But the fact that we can understand one another for practical purposes meaning that metaphors, recognized to be such, can be helpful and not necessarily harmful.
F. Guy, PhD: Oo-h, that’s all we’ve got!
D. Ford, PhD: That’s all we’ve got!
F. Guy, PhD: And so, I think that is one reason why we have a number of them; to try not to misunderstand…
D. Ford, PhD: I agree.
F. Guy, PhD: …and they sort of limit each other – if that’s not too strong a word – or balance each other, supplement each other. So that whole panoply of metaphors is useful.
D. Ford, PhD: I agree.
L. Christoffel, Pastor: Des, I felt you kind of half answered Kendra’s question earlier. It was a two-fold question asking about wrath, and then how the wrath was related to Jesus.
D. Ford, PhD: Right.
L. Christoffel, Pastor: How would you explain in Romans 5 example, when it says, “We shall be saved from God’s wrath through Him” or “we have been justified by His blood”10? Is there a connection between these things?
D. Ford, PhD: Permit me to go to a classic passage, if I may. In chapter 3 “God presented Him as a sacrifice of atonement.”11 When F.F. Bruce comments on this passage, He tells us there’s no reason to avoid the term “propitiation”, which means a recognition of the fact of an antagonism to evil. Not the heathen bribing, not that! A propitiation as used in four passages: 1 John 2:212, 1 John 413, this passage, or at least one of them, Hebrews 2:1714, I think. They are all saying that at the cross God’s antagonism to evil was experienced by the Son of God, and the cross was propitiatory. And many of the best scholars are prepared to endorse that position.
But remembering the warnings that Fritz has kindly given us, we must never stretch that word propitiation into a pagan bribe, that it is not. There is a wrath to come. Larry mentioned Romans 5. In 1 Thessalonians, at the beginning and the end of the book it says, God does not tend us for wrath15. But there is wrath coming for the impenitent, for those who reject love. There is no sin, like rejection of love! And there is wrath coming for the impenitent. And the Bible is crystal-clear about that. 1 Thessalonians the 1st chapter, 1 Thessalonians the 5th chapter, Romans 5, etc., etc., etc. Don’t drop out the wrath of God – it is our protection! Do you want a clean universe? I want a God that is angry against evil. I want God that is so holy, that He is determined to get rid of anything, that vitiates goodness.
J. Paulien, PhD: I think it is very helpful discussion, because I think often, when debates occurs, it is a caricature against the caricature. And what I hear you saying to my questions, it is not “either or”. There is moral influence at the cross, but there is moral influence, that is enhanced by the importance of the cross. The more important the cross becomes, the greater its influence. The two can work together in a positive way.
D. Ford, PhD: Good.
J. Paulien, PhD: I heard you saying – you had given us some statistics – that this legal, law-court metaphor is the chief metaphor on the New Testament. I think I’ve counted 17 now: there is banking metaphors – debt and forgiveness; there is sanctuary-temple metaphors; there is relationships metaphors. There is a lot of metaphors for salvation in the New Testament, about 17 at last count. Is it legitimate – this is for the whole panel – to determine, which is chief by counting the number of inferences? To say it is chief on that ground, does that really make it chief?
D. Ford, PhD: Surely it would seem strange if one of them is given chapters of expansion – like Romans 3, 4 and 5 – to ignore God’s emphasis. I agree with you, that we want all the others as Fritz is saying and Kendra would say. But, when God shouts, I must shout. When God speaks softly, I speak softly. He’s a safe model [applauses].
L. Christoffel, Pastor: I know Albert Schweitzer and a number [of people] who followed him saw the “in Christ” motif as very important. And it seems to be used quite a bit. And sometimes theologians would say that is even more important…
J. Paulien, PhD: 164 times.
L. Christoffel, Pastor: …than a justification motif. 164 times? So what would you say to that type of argument that for example, N.T. Wright would say that the Gospel is not justification by faith, the Gospel is the life, death and resurrection of Jesus? But justification by faith is more deciding who is the member of the community. In other words, is that possible, that Jesus Himself is the Gospel, but that justification by faith takes a lesser place?
D. Ford, PhD: Christ Himself is the Gospel. Hanging on the cross He was the Gospel. But I want all these. He’s told me about the meaning of the good news; the good, glad and merry tidings, that maketh the heart to sing and the feet to dance. I want everything He said. I don’t want to reduce it.
Now, in regard to N.T. Wright, he is a humble Christian, evangelical. He has written at length on penal substitution, a commentary on Isaiah 52, 53. But if we take him seriously, he is the only man in 2000 years that understands the New Testament. He gives few definitions for justification and the righteousness of God, not supported by any lexicon and not supported in the context. I cannot accept N.T. Wright as the only man in 2000 years who understands the New Testament.
Coming back to where you started on “in Christ”. It’s tremendously important, as Jon has pointed out, over 160 references. But there also runs their associate comments or their implicit comments. They’re not explicit themes that are expended as such, “This is what it means to be in Christ.” No, no! I would give to it an interrogator on it, my Bible, and say, “Take me through Romans on “in Christ”. He’d have a great difficulty, great difficulty. So very-very important, but I must give it the same type of importance that it seems to me the New Testament gives it. Where it’s made subsidiary, runs alongside, elaborates things that are given a greater emphasis. …
J. Paulien, PhD: Let me direct another potential misunderstanding and see if you can clear that up for us. One might get the impression from the paper that you handed out and from some of the things you said that the words like “righteous” and “righteousness” are always a law court verdict in Scripture. Is that what you believe?
J. Paulien, PhD: Because in many places to be righteous is simply to do the right thing.
D. Ford, PhD: Yes. Correct.
J. Paulien, PhD: And the whole point is that the right doing of Jesus becomes ours.
D. Ford, PhD: There is a moral meaning, it’s not always forensic.
J. Paulien, PhD: It’s not a vapor, this is of substantive right doing.
D. Ford, PhD: I agree wholeheartedly.
J. Paulien, PhD: OK. There are many caricatures in these theological debates. And that’s why discussion like this is extremely important.
D. Ford, PhD: The point is that in a sermon no one can say everything. And time comes when a man has to open his mouth, he is an idiot if he tries to say everything. It’ can’t be done.
F. Guy, PhD: Des, you’ve talked a lot about Romans and Galatians, and what I would call, I think accurately, your understanding the “Gospel according to Paul”. How was this related to the other Gospels? There are after all Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. It would seem from your presentation today, which is not what everything that Des Ford thinks, believes, etc., but that you are in love with Paul, and the four Gospels are kind of secondary or they provide the grist for Paul’s theology or something. Can you help us understand your understanding of the relation of Paul to the four pictures of Jesus that we have? And that are the only sources that we have about Jesus.
D. Ford, PhD: There is a very famous book called “The Progress of Doctrine in the New Testament” by Thomas Dehany Bernard. Wonderful, wonderful book. He points out to us, that the four Gospels – Matthew, Mark, Luke and John – do tell the story of the cross, but do not set out to interpret it in any great detail. Therefore many have said, Christ made atonement, but Paul explained it. So what we have in Matthew, Mark, Luke and John, are small gnomic, pythic, almost proverbial sentences, such is “This is My blood of the New covenant shed for many for remission of sins”18.
We have many of these, but they are not expanded until we get after Pentecost, when the Holy Spirit came to lead us into all truth. Remember, Jesus said in John’s Gospel, “When He, the Spirit of the truth is come, He will guide you into all truth”19. “I have many things to say unto you now, but you can’t bear them now”20. So the four Gospels do not claim to be complete. They are anticipatory, and they do often include in small tiny pithy statements some things that later would be explained after the Spirit was poured out at Pentecost.
F. Guy, PhD: Would it be fair then to say, that theologically you regard Romans or the Pauline’s materials as sort of superior to [Gospels]? … Say a little more about that.
D. Ford, PhD: Gladly. Romans is the only systematic book on theology among the Epistles. Most of Paul’s other letters are written to meet local problems. He’s never been to Rome. He is about to go. He wants them to know the essence of his theology. It is not all there, but the essence of it is there. So here is the one systematic book. And because my mind is not as good, as I’d like it to be, where God is being systematic, I say, “Thank you, Lord” and when I am trying to read what God has set out so carefully.
For example, in Romans 1-5 we are free from the wrath of God; in Romans 6 we are free from the dominion of sin; in Romans 7 we are free from law as a covenant; in Romans 8 the believer is free from death. Now, I believe that what Paul has given us in Romans was verbally expressed to those churches, where the letters do not have the word “justification” frequently present. But what you’ll find is when 1 Corinthians 6:11 says, “you are justified”21, it never tries to explain it. When on rare occasions in the non-primary Epistles …, on the rare occasions when justification comes in – 1 Corinthians 1:30, 6:11, Philippians 3 – no attempt to explain it! Because they’ve heard it all.
So it is true, I regard Romans as the primary book, explaining the meaning of Calvary and the way of salvation. But, thank God, it is not the only book! I love preaching and teaching on Matthew, Mark, Luke and John. I love the book of Hebrews. We want them all! But again, to me; where God shouts, I must listen, where He whispers, I still want to know what he says, but it might not have quite as much importance.
K. Haloviak, PhD: … Given that the Gospels are written after Paul, what would you say to someone, who would suggest, that one or more of the Gospels could actually be a commentary on Paul’s ministry, or it could be another perspective on the Christian church and the way it is growing? I am thinking of the Gospel of Matthew. If Paul’s ministry has already taken off for several decades among the gentiles and Matthew is aware of that, one could imagine his Gospel as sort of a comment … on Paul’s ministry. What would be some of your reflections on that? …
D. Ford, PhD: Mathew’s Gospel has more references in the Old Testament, than all the other Gospels put together. It was obviously in the providence of God it became the linking book for the two Testaments. It does not set out to give the complete picture of Jesus. He is presented mainly as the king of the Jews that it might be fulfilled what was written in the prophets, which is not an expression you find as a rule in the other Gospels. Mark presents Christ not as the king, but as the servant. And Luke says, “He is our universal brother.” John says, “That’s all right for the human breadth – king, servant, brother, – but let me give you the divine depth.” So John has more on the deity of Christ. So these are four books about Jesus. They do give us a detailed description of His death, but not an interpretation of that. For that we must wait till after the Pentecostal showers when the apostles of the gentiles would give themselves to that. Christ made the atonement, Paul explained it. Matthew did not explain it. Mark does not explain it. Luke does not explain it. They all have little gnomic statements, but no expanded statements.
L. Christoffel, Pastor: … Most people believe that John may have written after Paul and as some of the others. Can you explain why other than in the book of Revelation John does not use the word “Gospel”, and I think he is quite sparing in terms like “righteousness”? And yet John is the theologian of the New Testament. That is to say He has the final word.
D. Ford, PhD: John is writing to the church universal. He is not primarily writing to Jews like Matthew, or to Romans like Mark, or to Greeks like Luke. He is living at a time when many of the heresies have come up and been answered. But it is perfectly plain that the preeminence given to Calvary by later men like Paul is a reflection of John’s own importance regarding Calvary. When you get to chapter 12, to the end of the Gospel, it’s all on Passion Week. But John as the Apostle of the whole church – east, west, north, south – does not limit himself to legal metaphors (justification). Rather he is trying to look at the heights and depth after over 50 years reflection on the cross. These are a few of the things I want to say.
J. Paulien, PhD: The time has come to collect questions from the audience. … And we’ll handle one more [questions] of our own up here while those are being collected. …
The question I would like to throw out is …: one thing I noticed in what you said, and in what you passed out to us22 it is strong identification with the Reformation, with Luther, with Calvin and so forth. The question I throw out to the panel first and then to Des …: Stendhal, N.T. Wright, E.P. Saunders and many others are saying: “The Reformation in many ways misunderstood Paul.” The question to the panel is, “How helpful is it today to bring up the categories of the Reformation to reaffirm them? Or is that missing the mark with today’s generation?” …
D. Ford, PhD: May I comment on your reference to the NPP – New Perspective on Paul? This is a view mainly known in English speaking countries. It’s a view that is rejected by many of the top scholars in those English speaking countries. When Fitzmyer wrote his magisterial commentary on Romans for “The Anchor” series he pretty well threw out NPP from start to finish. Other scholars have done the same.
In the last 10 years or so great number of scholars have found fault with Stendall, Saunders, Wright and Dunn, not denying the elements of truth found in each one. Stendall was right – Paul had a robust conscience. Saunders was right – early Judaism did believe in grace, though they practiced legalism. And so in recent 10 years many books had come out and said, “Saunders used sophisticated proof-texting. He did not give a wide enough survey of his sources, and he often homiletisized”, where I disagree with him.
Two recent books edited by Don Carson “Justification” and “Covenantal Gnomism”, a recent book by Stillmarker, and a whole tissue of books now are coming out finding fault with the NPP and yet not denying that there were some elements of truth in each of those men.
Now, when you talk about the Reformation, we dare not despise of what God has done in history! We dare not deny the work of the Holy Spirit in impressing millions of people with the Gospel through the reformers. We just cannot wipe it out. That’s our history! That’s what God has done! It will be important till the end of time.
K. Haloviak, PhD: … Just a follow up. You mentioned James Dunn. … I’ve being very challenged by one of his works that suggests that to read Paul through the lens of Martin Luther is to misread him about his main question, which instead of being “how a person is saved”, the question of “who is saved”. And that the dilemma for Paul was wrestling with this idea… of election that it is not just the Jews and gentiles -yes – if they are willing to become a Jew, then they can be saved. But actually believe that through Jesus every person has the opportunity to be a part of the family of God… This is the way Dunn (if I understand him correctly) thinks that the real question should be posed, not “how we are saved”, but “who is saved”. What would be your response to James Dunn?
D. Ford, PhD: I would say that Martin Luther agreed with Dunn. It was not just how, but who. People who read Luther certainly get the impression that God so loved the world, not just Germans. We have to be careful with Dunn and Luther. Dunn never goes to original sources, he … several times misrepresented Luther. He took the position that Luther held that Romans 7:14-25 was the unconverted man, not the mature Christian. He was wrong! Luther wrote in detail 14 reasons why this was.
Historians have faulted Dunn and Wright for not going to original Lutheran sources, but using secondary and often shoddy sources. So the burden that Dunn has is what Luther had – salvation for the world. Remember, Dunn said, “Saunders began with a bang and went out with a whimper.” And the reason he said that was because he could not agree with Saunders’ view of Paul. I think Martin Luther is well worthy of our continued attention. God did not use an idiot to bring about the Reformation.
F. Guy, PhD: I just want to make a quick comment on this. We all read Scripture through our own experience. Martin Luther certainly did. For those who have a Luther-like experience – and I would guess it would include numberless Adventists that is who have been oppressed by a perceived legalism in their religion – for them the Luther version of Paul (if I can put it that way) is liberating, it is redemptive. And I would suggest, that Dunn says some very positive things about Luther’s interpretation of Paul and how valuable that is. You quoted Dunn on justification early on. So I think we just need to be aware that all of us… Well, someone said, “Theology is always partly autobiographical.”
D. Ford, PhD: Yes.
F. Guy, PhD: And so we should be very aware of that, for the theologies (plural), that we read and especially for the theology that we expound, that is our own theology. Yes, this has been shaped by my own experience; my education, my life as a husband, father, grandfather, all of that. This goes into my understanding of God and humanity and what everything is about.
So I think it is helpful for us to realize, that Luther did that too and perhaps then not take Luther as the absolute word, the final word. But we need to go back to Paul and read Paul as objectively as we can, knowing that “as we can” always recognizes that we read through our own eyes, our own glasses, and that makes the difference.
D. Ford, PhD: I buy all of that.
L. Christoffel, Pastor: May I address that also? … I found Dunn and Saunders and N.T. Wright and Krister Stendall to be just very stimulating, a lot of good things that are in them. What I don’t like though sometimes that’s when we pit off the question of social issue, that is whether gentiles belong as opposed to the Jewish Christians and make that the only deal. Because I think that the individual salvation is intimately tied to that. The problem with a new perspective on Paul, especially with N.T. Wright, is that if you follow through on it you are going to see the law as the boundary markers, including the 7th day Sabbath. So in his book “What the Apostle Paul Really Said” identifies the Sabbath as one of the marks of legalism. So while there is a lot of good insights, I think there are some danger too. What would be your comment?
D. Ford, PhD: Oh, I agree 100% on that comment.
L. Christoffel, Pastor: Thank you.
J. Paulien, PhD: I really complement this audience. This isunbelievable collection of questions, fantastic. In fact, I think I’m going to give them all to Des at the end, and I hope a book is coming [laughter in the audience] to answer these questions. There is enough substance here for a book. We are not going to cover it this afternoon. But let’s just throw a few here. …
Audience question: “What is the role of obedience in relation to justification?”
D. Ford, PhD: It’s not possible to fall in love with Christ and not to follow Him in wholehearted obedience.
J. Paulien, PhD: All right. In Loma Linda you are going to get a certain type of questions you don’t get most places. Because about a 100 meters from here people are dying. And it’s almost impossible to do theology here without a deep sense of engagement with real world. I sense some of that in a couple of these questions. Let me share one of these:
Audience question: “What is the relevance and significance of human pain and suffering with Christ’s sacrifice on the cross?”
What would you say to a dying person there in the medical center?
D. Ford, PhD: Our Lord’s sufferings have been the closest to a spiritual anodyne for sufferers … anywhere. It’s the story of our Lord’s pain that people in pain find to some degree healing. There is nothing better.
J. Paulien, PhD: Here is an interesting one:
Audience question: “What does Paul say, that the Gospel’s do not say or to put it another way: if somehow the letters of Paul had never come to us, what could we know of the Gospel? Could we understand the Gospel from the Gospels alone? And what would that be?”
D. Ford, PhD: Yes, we would learn enough for salvation. We would not learn enough for complete Christian edification.
J. Paulien, PhD: …This one is a bit lengthy, but I think it’s one that many folk here would like to address.
Audience question: “Is not the beauty of the Christian faith a loving God who does not demand an execution in death? Rather Christ death was a voluntary demonstration to us and the whole universe, that there is no end to what our Lord would go to commit His life, to show us this love. An unjust death for no cause. Jesus’ death is much more than just a legal act.”
It’s sort of a challenge.
D. Ford, PhD: It sounds beautiful. But it is quite untestamental. There is no support for any of that in the New Testament.
J. Paulien, PhD: Could you elaborate? [Laughter in the audience]
D. Ford, PhD: The New Testament says at least a dozen times that Christ’s death was a sacrifice. That statement tries to get rid of it. I prefer the New Testament.
J. Paulien, PhD: Any of the panel members want to…?
F. Guy, PhD: I want to press Des a little bit. What do you mean when you say, “Christ’s death was a sacrifice?” Sacrifice, at least in Old Testament times, was the way of propitiating the gods. What do you mean when you say “Christ’s death was a sacrifice?” A sacrifice to whom and for what reason?
D. Ford, PhD: Bible says, “He offered Himself to God as a sacrifice.” Hebrews 923 and 1024, Ephesians 525. There is no dodging. Many references that our Lord’s death had to do with atonement for human sin. There is just no way out of it. It’s written in so many places. And when He said at the Lord’s Supper, “This is My blood of the New Covenant shed for many for the remission of sins”,you can’t get any other meaning out of it in but a sacrificial expiatory atoning death.
F. Guy, PhD: OK. But keep going. Why did God need that? Is not God Sovereign? Can’t God just forgive sin?
D. Ford, PhD: No, He can’t, because God is holy. The Bible is very clear in Romans 3, that He might be just and the justifier26. Don’t miss out the first bit. The cross was in order that God might appear to be just. He was upholding His sacred law. He was not minimizing sin.
F. Guy, PhD: OK. But even that suggests that there is a value or even the value of the cross is to uphold – it is kind of governmental theory of atonement, it sounds like – to uphold the moral order. My question that I want to press you on, perhaps mischievously, is, “Did God as God need the death of His Son?”
D. Ford, PhD: Yes, indeed. “God so loved the world that He gave His only begotten Son”27. And just before that “as Moses lifted up the serpent in the wilderness, so must the Son of man be lifted up.”28. And in crisis after crisis our Lord alludes to His atoning death. The Greeks come. He says, “Father, save me from this hour.”29 It is never like Paul, who wants to depart. “Save me from this hour.” He says to Nicodemus, “He must be lifted up.” Here says the apostle, “The Son of man must, must, must.” Yes, it was a definite “must” in the mind of God, that there should be the atoning death that held the view of the sacredness of the law of God, which is God’s nature. The law of God is not something outside of God dictating to God. The law of God is what God is. So forgiveness had to be a just forgiveness.
Spurgeon said, “I would not have felt forgiven, unless I knew my Lord had suffered for my sins.” And that’s the experience of most evangelical Christians. They would not feel forgiven, unless they knew that their sin had been atoned for.”
F. Guy, PhD: Thank you.
J. Paulien, PhD: Another Loma Linda question.
Audience question: “I am a physical scientist and need to understand mechanisms. How do I get from sinful now to sinless in heaven? Does God rewire my head? And if that is the solution, why didn’t He do it years ago?” [Laughter in the audience]
D. Ford, PhD: The Dear God is a lot more patient than you and me. And He has purposes that embraces eternity and the whole universe. When I am in trouble I want it fixed – pronto, regardless. God is not stupid like that. God takes eternity into account, takes the whole universe into account. …
The Bible speaks about justification, sanctification, glorification. We often neglect the third. 1 Corinthians 15 is very clear, that this mortal must put on immortality30. This sinful organism will have every trace of sin removed in the renovation of the human believer by the either translation or the resurrection. Glorification is the answer to the question. It may not be an explanation to a scientist, but it is the biblical answer.
J. Paulien, PhD: So the Bible gives us direction, and scientists need to tell us how, OK? I think one of our members here is being provocative. It says,
Audience question: “What are the other issues that Larry mentioned that he has a problem with?” [Laughter in the panel and the audience]
L. Christoffel, Pastor: Do we have another hour? … I am in basic agreement with Des, but like probably most people who wrestle with these things you do see little inconsistencies here and there. Can I throw him just one for example? … You say that justification and righteousness are the same word in Greek. Why then do you refer to the righteousness of sanctification?
D. Ford, PhD: Because of the reason that Jon gave recently that the word “righteous” is not always used in a legal meaning. It is often has to do with morality.
L. Christoffel, Pastor: You say that the verb always does relate to reckoning and things like that…
D. Ford, PhD: Yes.
L. Christoffel, Pastor: …as noun might have behavioral as well as the meaning of the verb.
D. Ford, PhD: Correct. In the Hebrew as well as the Greek.
J. Paulien, PhD: Hey, here is a testimony with provocative question at the end.
Audience question: “Thank you for preaching the Gospel. It’s the first time I’ve heard it in a Seventh Day Adventist church in years [D. Ford covers his face with a hand]. Has the Seventh Day Adventist church ever apologized for defrocking you?”
D. Ford, PhD: The Roman Catholic church has made over a 100 apologies. Adventism makes none. [Silence, then laughter in the audience].
F. Guy, PhD: But, excuse me, Jon, we should point out, that it took the Papacy more than 300 years [laughter in the audience] to acknowledge that Galileo was right. So be patient!
D. Ford, PhD: But it took one papal leader to come out again and again and again, John Paul the 2nd, and say, “We sinned, we sinned”. I’ve never heard that from the General Conference [laughter and applauses in the audience].
Audience question: “Are you a Universalist?”
D. Ford, PhD: No.
J. Paulien, PhD: Why not?
D. Ford, PhD: Because it is anti-biblical.
J. Paulien, PhD: Elaborate.
D. Ford, PhD: The Bible has many passages, such as in Revelation 20 that those who reject the message of love have made Heaven impossible for them. So God in mercy gives them their wish – nothingness.
J. Paulien, PhD: Was everyone justified at the cross?
D. Ford, PhD: Yes. To quote Ellen White, “Christ took the whole human race in His arms and restored it to favor with God.” Yes. Romans 5:1831.
J. Paulien, PhD: Then why aren’t you a Universalist?
D. Ford, PhD: By the sin of one condemnation came on all men and by the righteousness of one justification came upon all men. There is as many have been justified, as were ruined by the fall. Yes. Whole world has being justified.
J. Paulien, PhD: Then why won’t they all be saved?
D. Ford, PhD: Because they won’t accept it. You know, you may want to give your children an education, that you want to give them a gift, it does not guarantee that they’ll get educated.
L. Christoffel, Pastor: Are you saved by accepting it or lost for rejecting it? I’m thinking of people who’ve never heard of Christ. …
D. Ford, PhD: You are lost for rejecting it. I believe that the Spirit of God is at work everywhere, among Mohammedans, Hindus, Buddhists, appealing to that spark of the image of God, that is every soul. The Bible has many indications, that there will be people saved outside the scope of special revelation. But only because of the cross, whether they heard it or not.
J. Paulien, PhD: This one needs to be our last question.
Audience question: “What about the heavenly sanctuary?” [Laughter]
D. Ford, PhD: You must be joking! [Laughter increases]
J. Paulien, PhD: A very short one.
“Does it exist or is it only a metaphor? Is Jesus there now? How are we to understand what the Bible says about Jesus’ work there?”
D. Ford, PhD: Hebrews 9 says that the sanctuary is Heaven itself32. Read Hebrews 9. When I was a boy of 15, I’ve read it and I said, “That’s not Great Controversy!” These are the things that are there. The two apartments represent the two dispensations – the Jewish and the Christian. The cleansing of the sanctuary was the Day of Atonement at the cross. And at our Lord’s death He fulfilled, but did not consummate that Levitical type. So you cannot read Hebrews 9 without seeing how the New Testament writers understood Heaven itself, which is being purified from the shadow of sin by the cross of Christ33, by His atonement on Calvary34.
J. Paulien, PhD: I would like to thank all the participants today: Fritz Guy – La Sierra University, Larry Christoffel, campus Hill church here at Loma Linda, Des Ford, esteemed retired Professor, still on the beach [laughs], I think, in Australia; Kendra Haloviak from La Sierra, I am Jon Paulien from Loma Linda University, and we have a multitude of marvelous panelists, who have assisted in our work today.
It’s been one of the most inspiring and stimulating discussions I’ve ever been involved with. And I want to thank all of you.
Can we just bow our heads… and invite God to bring conclusion to this.
Lord, I’m grateful to You. You have humbled us again this afternoon, as we all realize, that as Isaac Newton said, “Even with the vastness of Scripture before us we like playing with pebbles on the seashore there’s as an ocean that lies ahead of things we only dimly understand.” Today we have covered a number of issues. But above all else, Lord, we have been once again charmed with You, charmed with the incredible work of salvation. There are many metaphors, many people have responded in different ways, yet we thank You that we are reminded once again, it’s not about us, it’s all about You and what You have done. I thank You for this, I thank You for the privilege we have of serving You every day. I thank You for every one that has come and invite Your presence in their lives to bless, to strengthen and to give deeper insight each day. So scatter us now with Your blessing in the name of Jesus. Amen.
Transcribed by T. Noel-Tsygulska
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To be continued.
Dr. D. Ford. “This I believe” – 8.00-9.30:
“The only people who can move the world are those whom the world cannot move. …
To what kind of Christian, to what kind of church does the future belongs?
Not to a church that is lazy, shallow, indifferent, timid and weak in its faith;
Not to a church that expects blind obedience and fanatical party loyalty; Not to a church that is the slave of its own history,
Always putting on the brakes, suspiciously defensive and yet, in the end, forced into agreement;
Not to a church that is anti-critical, practically anti-intellectual and dilettantish;
Not to a church that is blind to problems, suspicious of empirical knowledge, yet claiming competent authority for everyone and everything;
Not to a church that is quarrelsome, impatient, and unfair in dialogue;
Not to a church that is closed to the real world.
In short, the future does not belong to a church that is dishonest!
No, the future belongs:
To a church that knows what it does not know;
To a church that relies upon God’s grace and wisdom and has in its weakness and ignorance a radical confidence in God;
To a church that is strong in faith, joyous and certain, yet self-critical;
To a church filled with intellectual desire, spontaneity, animation and fruitfulness;
To a church that has the courage of initiative, and the courage to take risks;
To a church that is altogether open to the real world;
In short, the future belongs to a thoroughly truthful church.” (D. Ford. “This I believe”).
You can watch Desmond Ford preaching on www.youtube.com regularly
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Other posts by Desmond Ford from Loma Linda, September 6, 2008:
“We are not ready for the Second Advent unless we understand the First…”
“Until the guilt of sin is removed there is no power over sin.” (D. Ford. “Forensic Atonement Theory in Light of the Christian Gospel“)
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- Romans 5:8, 10: But God commendeth his love toward us, in that, while we were yet sinners, Christ died for us. 10 For if, when we were enemies, we were reconciled to God by the death of his Son, much more, being reconciled, we shall be saved by his life. [-]
- an SDA who left the church and rejected the Sabbath [-]
- KJV Luke 1:35 And the angel answered and said unto her, The Holy Ghost shall come upon thee, and the power of the Highest shall overshadow thee: therefore alsothat holy thing which shall be born of thee shall be called the Son of God [-]
- KJV 1 John 3:5 And ye know that He was manifested to take away our sins; and in Him is no sin. [-]
- KJV 2 Corinthians 5:21 For He hath made him to be sin for us, who knew no sin; that we might be made the righteousness of God in him. [-]
- KJV Romans 8:3 For what the law could not do, in that it was weak through the flesh, God sending his own Son in the likeness of sinful flesh, and for sin, condemned sin in the flesh. [-]
- Matthew 8:17: That it might be fulfilled which was spoken by Esaias the prophet, saying, Himself took our infirmities, and bare our sicknesses. [-]
- KJV Hebrews 7:26 For such an high priest became us, who is holy, harmless, undefiled, separate from sinners, and made higher than the heavens [-]
- study of salvation [-]
- Romans 5:9: 9 Much more then, being now justified by his blood, we shall be saved from wrath through Him. [-]
- Romans 3:25 25 God presented him as a sacrifice of atonement, through faith in his blood. He did this to demonstrate his justice, because in his forbearance he had left the sins committed beforehand unpunished [-]
- 1 John 2:2: 2 He is the atoning sacrifice for our sins, and not only for ours but also for the sins of the whole world. [-]
- 1 John 4:10: 10 This is love: not that we loved God, but that he loved us and sent his Son as an atoning sacrifice for our sins. [-]
- Hebrews 2:17 17 For this reason he had to be made like his brothers in every way, in order that he might become a merciful and faithful high priest in service to God, and that he might make atonement for the sins of the people. [-]
- 1 Thessalonians 1:10: 10 And to wait for his Son from heaven, whom he raised from the dead, even Jesus, which delivered us from the wrath to come. 1 Thessalonians 5:9: 9For God hath not appointed us to wrath, but to obtain salvation by our Lord Jesus Christ [-]
- Psalm 53:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. Corrupt are they, and have done abominable iniquity: there is none that doeth good. [-]
- Psalm 14:1 The fool hath said in his heart, There is no God. They are corrupt, they have done abominable works, there is none that doeth good. [-]
- Matthew 26:28: 28 For this is my blood of the new testament, which is shed for many for the remission of sins [-]
- John 16:13: 13 Howbeit when he, the Spirit of truth, is come, he will guide you into all truth: for he shall not speak of himself; but whatsoever he shall hear, that shall he speak: and he will shew you things to come. [-]
- John 16:12: I have yet many things to say unto you, but ye cannot bear them now [-]
- 1 Corinthians 6:11 11 And such were some of you: but ye are washed, but ye are sanctified, but ye are justified in the name of the Lord Jesus, and by the Spirit of our God. [-]
- Dr. Ford’s supplementary paper on justification that was distributed that afternoon at Campus Hill church [-]
- Hebrews 9:14, 26 KJV 14 How much more shall the blood of Christ, who through the eternal Spirit offered Himself without spot to God, purge your conscience from dead works to serve the living God? 26 Then Christ would have had to suffer many times since the creation of the world. But now he has appeared once for all at the end of the ages to do away with sin by the sacrifice of himself. [-]
- Hebrews 10:14: 14 because by one sacrifice he has made perfect forever those who are being made holy. [-]
- Ephesians 5:2 2 and live a life of love, just as Christ loved us and gave himself up for us as a fragrant offering and sacrifice to God. [-]
- KJV Romans 3:25 Whom God hath set forth to be a propitiation through faith in his blood, to declare his righteousness for the remission of sins that are past, through the forbearance of God; 26 To declare, I say, at this time his righteousness: that he might be just, and the justifier of him which believeth in Jesus. [-]
- John 3:16 [-]
- John 3:14 [-]
- John 12:27 [-]
- 1 Corinthians 15:53-54: 53 For the perishable must clothe itself with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality. 54When the perishable has been clothed with the imperishable, and the mortal with immortality, then the saying that is written will come true: “Death has been swallowed up in victory. [-]
- Romans 5:18 as by the offence of one judgment came upon all men to condemnation; even so by the righteousness of one the free gift came upon all men unto justification of life. [-]
- KJV Hebrews 9:24 For Christ is not entered into the holy places made with hands, which are the figures of the true; but into heaven itself, now to appear in the presence of God for us [-]
- KJV Hebrews 9:23 It was therefore necessary that the patterns of things in the heavens should be purified with these; but the heavenly things themselves with better sacrifices than these. [-]
- For more details see Dr. Ford’s book “Daniel 8:14 – The Day of Atonement & the Investigative Judgment“ [-]