ASK THE PASTOR
BY DALE RATZLAFF
Why do some people not accept the clear teaching of Scripture? For example, when shown that the Holy Spirit is the seal believers receive at the moment of new birth, why do many continue to promote the Sabbath as either the seal of God or “the sign of the seal”?
Their paradigm of theology
I believe the reason is that when confronted with clear, contextual, biblical teaching, they see it as not fitting their paradigm of theology. There is nothing wrong with forming a paradigm or system of theology as long as it is done from honest, Spirit-led Bible study. Further, one’s paradigm of theology should be developed accepting the Protestant principles of the four “alones”: by Christ alone, through grace alone, by faith alone based on Scripture alone. Neither is there anything wrong with using one’s paradigm of truth (when rightly formed) as a test of the interpretation of some part of Scripture. For example, we at LAM would be very suspicious of an interpretation of Scripture that undermined the simple gospel of God’s grace through Christ by faith.
The problem with most sects or cults is three-fold. First, the development of their paradigm of theology—the study of Scripture in its context—was defective. Often the context was ignored, and the people doing the study were not qualified with adequate linguistic and hermeneutical skills. One might also question their standing with God. Many in early Adventism did not believe in the eternal existence of Christ. Their writings demonstrate that their understanding of righteousness by faith was close to non-existent before 1888. Their efforts to cover up and deny past, erroneous teachings, such as the “shut door”, makes one wonder how the Holy Spirit could be guiding their conclusions.
Second, usually only a little bit of the Bible was studied and then used as a basis for their conclusions. They quickly built a system of theology and then—often in error— interpreted the rest of the Bible to fit the system, even if it did not. Early Adventists shortly after 1844 laid down the pillars of the Advent faith by following this pattern. For example, the three key doctrines that form the pillars of Adventist theology are the seventh-day Sabbath, the investigative judgment and the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary, and the prophetic authority of Ellen G. White.
A third problem that keeps their defective theology from being altered by continuing study is the acceptance of a modern-day prophet who speaks with authority. If the prophet declares what a passage of Scripture means, then that interpretation stands. Ellen White has not only written with prophetic authority on many sections of Scripture, she has also set Adventist’s whole paradigm in stone linking the Sabbath, the cleansing of the heavenly sanctuary and the investigative judgment to the over-arching “great controversy” scheme.
This prophetic authority giving credence to poor biblical scholarship and unbiblical doctrines, I believe, is what makes it so hard for Adventists to accept what the Bible clearly teaches. It goes against their system of truth which was incorrectly formed but was validated by one who “speaks with prophetic authority”. This Adventist paradigm is so tightly bound together that it forces a person to accept the system or break every cord that binds it together.
It is not easy to change one’s paradigm of truth. To do so we have to make a commitment to the authority of Scripture alone, lay aside the writings of Ellen White, and accept the simple gospel of God’s grace in Christ. We accept Christ as God’s final word.
God, after He spoke long ago to the fathers in the prophets in many portions and in many ways, in these last days has spoken to us in His Son, whom He appointed heir of all things, through whom also He made the world. And He is the radiance of His glory and the exact representation of His nature, and upholds all things by the word of His power. When He had made purification of sins, He sat down at the right hand of the Majesty on high (Heb.1:1-3). †
Dale Ratzlaff is the founder of Life Assurance
Ministries and Proclamation! magazine.