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Adventist Today FORUM presents:

Reflections On Adventism - Follow Up

an interview with

| Intro | Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Follow up |

The Interview - Follow Up

As planned, we will now post a number of follow–up questions that have either been formally submitted or discussed on the AToday forum. For the sake of clarity and space, we have consolidated and edited many of the questions in order to include as much participation and cover as many viewpoints as possible.

Follow-Up Topics

21. Investigative Judgment in the Old Testament
22. Year-Day Principle
23. The 2,300-Day Prophecy
24. Updated Doctrine to Replace the Investigative Judgment
25. The Judgment
26. The Mediatorial Judgment Gap
27. Definition of Good
28. Dr. Ford’s Teaching Style
29. Doctrinal Dogmatism
30. The Judgment Debate
31. Bible Study
32. Lutheran-Catholic Accord on Justification by Faith
33. Adventist Reform

AToday:  Dr. Ford, I want to thank you again for allowing the Adventist Today Forum to candidly discuss your viewpoints concerning Adventist theology and Church history. You should know that the vast majority of the comments we received about your interview were very favorable and positive. For many, the "Reflections on Adventism" interview seemed to clarify the Glacier View debate and reinforce the fact that this theological and historical conflict is still very much unresolved today.

AToday:QUESTION #21 -  In the open and frank discussion on the AToday Forum, it has become apparent to many after reading your interview and searching the scriptures that the New Testament does NOT support the traditional SDA view of the Investigative Judgment. However, some have taken the position that regardless of this obvious lack of New Testament support, the Investigative Judgment doctrine can still be supported from the Old Testament ALONE. They state that this unique doctrine need not have any New Testament support for it to still be valid. They argue that this "special truth" has recently been revealed (unsealed) in the last days to God's church. So, they say, this would explain why the Apostles were never informed of the 1844 date and why there is no clear reference to this doctrine in the New Testament. For the sake of argument, assuming that one could make a case for 1844 from the Old Testament, would this logic have any theological validity? How important is the New Testament in determining prophecy and doctrine for us today?

Dr. Ford:  IF THE INVESTIGATIVE JUDGMENT COULD BE SUPPORTED FROM THE OLD TESTAMENT ALONE, IT WOULD BE MIRACULOUS, BUT NOT SUFFICIENT! We are not literal Jews but spiritual Israel, and the New Testament always has the casting vote on doctrine. Hebrews 1:1 contrasts the revelation through Jesus with the inferior previous revelations through the prophets. Jude 3 talks of "the faith once for all entrusted to the saints," which is a reference to the New Testament gospel, which came from Christ and the apostles. When Jesus repeatedly affirmed, "But I say unto you," He was not contradicting the Old Testament, but transcending the way His contemporaries interpreted it. The Bible admonishes us seven times that, "In the mouth of two or three witnesses shall every word be established." No solitary text in either Testament is sufficient to make a valid doctrine, and the Old Testament without the New, is not the Christian's guide. On the Mount of Transfiguration, Moses and Elijah vanished and the apostles "saw no man but Jesus only." The word is for us. Moses and Elijah—the law and the prophets—only make sense interpreted through the Christ and the testimony He has delivered through the apostles.

If 1844 cannot be supported from the New Testament, then it cannot be considered a valid Christian doctrine. It cannot, so it is not!

AToday: QUESTION #22 -  Dr. Ford, why do you say that the year-day principle is not valid? What about the 70 weeks prophecy -- didn’t it correctly foretell the coming of the Messiah? Isn’t the year-day principle an important part of Biblical prophecy?

Dr. Ford: Among all exegetes, except the Jehovah's Witnesses and SDAs, the year-day theory died over a century ago (see Kai Arasola's book, The End of Historicism). The texts in Numbers and Ezekiel have nothing to do with apocalyptic symbols. One points backwards to literal days and predicts forty literal years ahead corresponding to the days of wandering in unbelief. The other text has the prophet doing certain things in the future in literal days corresponding to literal years of the past. There are no parallels here to the symbolic numbers of apocalyptic. Furthermore, none of the dates used are historically correct. The Ostrogoths were not plucked up by 538 AD, neither did the persecution of the Middle Ages last until 1798. The "deadly" wound mentioned in Revelation 13:3 in the Greek means, "a wound to death." This does not fit the temporary imprisonment of the Pope, but it does fit the description of the preceding chapter where the devil legally received his mortal wound at the cross.

The revised edition of the SDA Commentary says, in Daniel 9:24-27, that there is no year-day principle involved—the text is speaking about a week of seventy years, i.e., 490 years. There is no day for a year here—the word translated "weeks" means "sevens" and the context is in terms of the seventy years of the Babylonian captivity. The SDA book, Doctrinal Discussions, if I remember correctly, says this also. All the numbers of apocalyptic are symbols—e.g., three and a half is a broken seven and points to unrest and trouble, and the 42 months is an allusion to Matthew 1 and the 42 generations reaching to the coming of Christ.

AToday: QUESTION #23 -  In Part I of your interview, you made the following point that although Daniel 8:14 speaks of 2,300 days, the Hebrew word for "days" is really the ambiguous "evening and morning," which most apply to the sacrificial burnt offerings. Thus, instead of 2,300 days, many exegetes are claiming that only 1,150 days are in view. Please explain this reasoning—isn't a day (or a sacrificial day) composed of both an evening and morning sacrifice? If so, what difference does it make to say "2,300 days" or "2,300 evening-mornings"? If the expression "evening-morning" is to be applied to include both the evening and morning burnt offerings, then that still is the equivalent of a day. Doesn’t this language fit the Genesis account as well? Therefore, there is no difference between saying "2,300 days" or "2,300 evening-mornings" since they both consist of a day. Can you explain this?

Dr. Ford:  I am sympathetic with questioners regarding the rendering of 2,300 days. I tried to defend that myself for some years but ultimately surrendered to the weight of evidence.

The Hebrew phrase is unique and is not the same as the verses regarding evening and morning in Genesis 1. Verse 26 of Daniel 8 is crucial. It has the article before both evening and morning meaning they are to be viewed as discrete and not lumped together as one. This suits the context, which is talking about the removal of the evening and morning offerings. Please note that the context is clear in its reference to an evil power (the little horn Antichrist) defiling the temple for this period. Such will not, of course, fit the traditional Adventist view. Neither Rome pagan or papal can be linked with 457 BC. The reference is primarily (though not solely) to the work of Antiochus Epiphanes as both 1st and 2nd Maccabees declare. See also John 10:22, which as some Bible margins point out, refers to the celebration of Hanukkah—the cleansing by the Maccabees of the defilements in the temple caused by the Old Testament Antichrist.

Siegfried Horn pointed this out long ago to the General Conference leaders when the printing of my first book, Daniel, by Southern Publishing Association was being held up. Horn said we would make ourselves ridiculous if we failed to see that the little horn of Daniel 8 pointed initially to Antiochus. The vast majority of scholars (including SDA scholars) now take this view and the Good News Bible translates Daniel 8:14 as follows: "It will continue for 1,150 days during which evening and morning sacrifices will not be offered. Then the Temple will be restored."

It should also be said that "evening" and "morning" in the Hebrew refers to points of time, not periods like night and day.

AToday: QUESTION #24 -  Seventh-day Adventism is well known for its detailed description of how the final events will take place. As you know, there are charts and books that claim to lay out every detail of the final events in both heaven and earth, including the 1844 date as the beginning of the "pre-advent judgment," also referred to as the Investigative Judgment. With that in mind, some of the AToday members have raised this excellent question: if the Investigative Judgment doctrine is no longer valid, what is the correct version of the "judgment process"? We know that there must be some type of "pre-advent judgment" (you even pointed out in scripture when the pre-Advent judgment ends), but when does it start if not in 1844? And how long does it take?

In addition, scripture says we must all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. Is this a reference to the "pre-advent judgment" or the Second Coming? What about the parable of the wedding feast in Matthew 22? Is that a reference to the Investigative Judgment as some claim? We also know that there are many places in scripture that speak of a future judgment, but then again, scripture also says that if a person believes in the gospel, he does not come into judgment. Yet in another place (Peter 4:17), it says that the "judgment must begin with us." What about the portions of scripture which talk about the "books being opened" and the judgment? Could you please explain the New Testament teaching on this subject so that we can clearly and Biblically update those old Nineteenth Century Adventist charts?

Dr. Ford: Adventist charts on the final events leave much to be desired. For example, to interpret the two-horned beast of Revelation 13 as simply the United States will not stand the exegetical test. As I pointed out in Crisis! twenty years ago, the overwhelming weight of exegetical evidence says that in contrast to the first beast of Revelation 13 (which represents totalitarian government at the end of time—and in one sense in all ages including the first century), the second beast points to apostate religion shoring up bad government for its own purposes as in Revelation 17 where the scarlet whore rides the beast. John is alluding to his Lord's warnings against those who would come as wolves in sheep's clothing, i.e., false prophets. Three times in Revelation this second beast is called "the false prophet." I was glad to notice that about a year ago the Review published an article by Jon Paulien saying this. So, we need to update Adventist eschatology in a number of areas.

The Adventist charts also have failed to recognize that the final test over the gospel involves more than Sabbath-keeping, though I am sure the latter is included. All the outward signs of the Christian faith will one day be forbidden—baptism, the Lord's Supper, Sabbath-keeping. Revelation is saying that in the last days there will be a false Trinity (the dragon, the beast, and the false prophet). This false trinity is comprised of a false Christ (the beast first described in Revelation 13), a false Holy Spirit who brings down false Pentecostal fire (the second beast), a false gospel and a false law (thus, the allusions to the hand and forehead which reflect the three Old Testament passages where the Israelites were told to write the law on their hands and foreheads). The mark of the beast has as its essential nature the reflection of the character of Satan while the seal of God points to the opposite—the reflection of the character of Christ. This is made clear in Revelation 14:1 and other passages where "name" as always in Scripture stands for character. Compare Exodus 34:6,7. Those who reject the last gospel message will become murderers and liars like their spiritual father the devil (see John 8:44). The saints will bear the mark of the cross in their lives like Jesus their Lord (see Ezekiel 9 where the Hebrew word for mark is tau and means a cross. (Ellen White also makes this point when she says in one place that "the intelligent mind of the recording angel has seen the mark of the cross in the foreheads of the Lord's adopted sons and daughters"—I quote approximately from memory.) Both the mark of the beast and the seal of God will have their outward forms indicating disobedience or obedience to the law of God.

Of course, the least supportable teaching in the time charts is 1844. The Bible gave no prophetic date for the rise of the Reformation or Wesley’s grand revival, yet they were clearly of heavenly origin. Similarly, Adventism, though raised up by God, has no prophetic date assigned. Prophetic dates after the end of the seventy weeks of Daniel 9 do not exist and Christ forbade us to look for them (Acts 1:7)—the reason being that the end could have come at any time the church took the gospel to the whole world (Matthew 24:14, 2 Peter 3:12 RSV). This is not to say that God is biting His nails wondering with anxiety as to when the church will fulfill His task. Known unto God are all His works from the foundation of the world. We must not lose sight of either truth—the sovereignty of God and the responsibility of man. God is displaying to the universe the utter powerlessness of the best of human beings unless fully possessed by the gospel of grace. The 1844 date is not prophetic.

Most passages of scripture describing the judgment are parabolic. Wherever time and eternity meet, as at the beginning and end of Scripture, parable or symbolism must be used. The reality transcends our senses and understandings. So the judgment can be pictured as a marriage scene, as reckoning with servants, as a gathering of sheep and goats, as a separation of fish captured by the gospel net, as the burning up of tares, as a vintage, as a court scene, as watching from the Holy City a panorama of destruction, etc. The last parable of Matthew 25 gives a telescopic picture merging the realities of the judgment at the Second Coming and that of the third. This has been recognized for a long time by scholars (see Buswell's Systematic Theology for example).

As for the parable of Matthew 22, it is one of the several parables on the judgment and it is a great mistake to take any detail in any parable and build a doctrine on it. We would not do that with the parable of the rich man and Lazarus, nor have SDAs advocated rings for men as a result of reading the parable of the prodigal son receiving one from his father. Matthew 22 points us to the same feast as Revelation 19—the wedding supper of the Lamb. It is asking all that intend to be there if they are trusting in their own rags of righteousness or the king's provided (imputed) garment. Seeing that it has this detail in a judgment setting, I suspect that while Matthew 22 warns against the filthy rags of our own righteousness, it may also be a reminder that imputed righteousness always brings forth the fruit of the imparted Holy Spirit. The one thing it is not saying is anything about 1844! The New Testament knows nothing about 1844—nor does the Old Testament.

As for l Peter 4:17, this is part of Peter's encouragement to believers to bear up under persecution. From the beginning to the end of this letter, the Apostle’s eye is on the fiery trials beginning to overtake the church. This particular verse is reminding His readers that when God permits calamities to overtake nations, He usually commences with His own (see Isaiah 10:12; Jeremiah 25:29, Ezekiel 9:6, and especially Luke 23:31). This is one of seven specific encouragements found in verses 12-19. But certainly nothing in this verse or its context has anything whatever to do with the traditional Adventist view of the Investigative Judgment.

Regarding the judgment of Revelation 14:7, this is not a reference to 1844 or to the saints being judged in heaven, but to the Second Coming as William Miller and the Advent movement correctly realized. Observe that the same terms occur in Revelation 18:10, "In one hour has thy judgment come," but the reference is clearly to Babylon. The judgment of Revelation 14:7, of course, is the same judgment. The following verse makes it evident that wicked people (Babylon) are its target. In apocalyptic literature, judgment is regularly promised for the persecutors of the true people of God and that is why such judgment is referred to as "good news."

The pre-advent judgment can be found in Revelation 22:11,12. This is a necessity because at the return of Christ, the righteous dead must be raised. The Bible does not say that at the Second Advent, all people will be raised from death to face the judgment—instead it affirms clearly that resurrection from the dead is the fruit of antecedent judgment. If there are to be two resurrections—one of the holy and one of the unholy—the decision as to who is in each category must be made before either. Scripture says the Lord knoweth them that are His. The Good Shepherd knows His sheep but as He doffs His priestly garments to assume His kingly array, our great Intercessor will finally bestow eschatological justification on all living or who have ever lived who are trusting solely in His merits and whose lives, though far from perfect, reflect that trust and the holiness of life which inevitably results.

So the last Judgment, as it relates to the believers, begins with the punctiliar announcement of Revelation 22:11,12 and is consummated by the resurrection of the righteous dead to join the translated saints. Thus, every Biblical description of the last judgment links it with the end of the world. (I should add that the amillennial view of Revelation 20 is now outdated among most exegetes and the reality of two physical resurrections from the dead separated by an interval of time is almost universally acknowledged. At a time when I contemplated writing on the issue, the late Professor, Dr. F.F. Bruce, assured me that such would be an unnecessary task as the battle had already been fought and won.)

Thus, the destiny of the saints is announced in the heavenly courts by our great High Priest, as He is about to begin His descent to earth. It takes only a moment, not a hundred and fifty years, yet the judgment is necessary for the Scriptures do not teach, "once saved always saved," but rather, "he that endureth to the end, the same shall be saved." Truth and error lie very close. The Bible does not teach yo-yo religion, constantly in and out of salvation. On the contrary, looking to Jesus, even if regularly from our knees in the mud of failure, means we are accepted of Him. We are "complete in Him," "accepted in the beloved." Justification is by faith alone at every moment, not just at the beginning of the Christian pilgrimage. So, we are justified by faith alone even in the last moment of the searching scrutiny of the Omniscient One. Yet that holy status is accompanied by the evidence of a transformed, though still imperfect, human character. Jesus remains our substitute in the last great day and not merely on the cross or when we commence the Christian walk. Such an ascription or imputation of merit is a priestly act and thus is performed at the very close of Christ's priestly ministry. To the faithful Christian, the judgment is now a party (see Matthew 22:8-12).

As the fate of believers is decided before their rewards at His coming, so is the fate of the wicked. Revelation 20:10-15 is declarative and executive but is based on the prior decision of Revelation 22:11,12, which left them in their graves at the Second Coming to await their final rebellion and punishment. The reason even the wicked dead must rise is that Christ by His atoning death and meritorious life bought immortality for all. The second resurrection is evidence that because of the cross, all the wicked have a right to life that was bought for them by the Savior. But their rejection of the gift is shown by their murderous attack on the saints in the Holy City.

Any complete discussion of the Judgment should point out that as coming events cast their shadows before, so with the last Judgment. According to John 12:31, Calvary, too, was a Judgment Day when Christ was made a curse for us and bore the penalty of the sin of the race. The events of those tragic hours mirror in many ways the realities of the final judgment. Thus, we see Christ high and lifted up, dividing the saved from the lost as mirrored by the two thieves and the multitudes before him. (Jerusalem was filled with about three million people at the time of the Passover and it is an error to picture the Cross as surrounded by a few pitying believers—in fact, there would have been thousands present to behold the unique and terrible spectacle.) Matthew 27:52, with its record of resurrection and the entrance of the resurrected ones into the Holy City, also prefigures the end of time. There is a sense in which the New Testament places the time of the end and the resurrection of the dead from the cross itself (see Hebrews 9:26 etc.).

We have left the most important point in this discussion until last. The Bible also clearly affirms that as the gospel is proclaimed, its hearers are judged at that point by their response (see John 3:17,18,36). To believe the record of John 3:16 bestows justification—the anticipated verdict of the last judgment. This justification is ours the moment we believe. At that point of faith, which is God’s gift to all who do not resist the gospel, eternal life is bestowed (see John 5:24). This verse has often been misunderstood as teaching that there is no judgment for the believer. Such an interpretation is contrary to 2 Corinthians 5:10, Romans 14:10, and many other passages. The Greek term, found in John 5:24, means judgment in the sense of condemnation. The believer WILL BE JUDGED to see if he or she has remained in the faith, but the trusting soul can NEVER BE CONDEMNED in the last great day or at any previous time since choosing Christ. We need never be anxious about what God thinks of us, but only what He thinks of Christ our substitute. At every moment of faith, the believer is reckoned one hundred percent righteous for Christ's sake. If one considers the inmost reality of the cross, this truth becomes apparent. Why is Christ, the perfect and Holy One, being treated on Calvary as though unholy? In order that I who AM unholy might be treated as Holy. Why is Christ the innocent treated as guilty? In order that I the guilty might be treated as innocent. Romans 4:8 pronounces a blessing on all believers for against them sin is NEVER reckoned despite failures and imperfections. Good news indeed! That is the gospel which one day will shake the world and prepare it for the Last Judgment.

One other point should be made. It is not enough that the great Judge be just, it must be apparent to all His creatures that He is so. Thus, the repeated declarations of Scripture in the last chapters of Scripture that ultimately all will acknowledge that God's ways are true and righteous altogether. The reference to books in the judgment is a symbolic way of expressing the truth that the reasons for God's decisions will be made plain to all throughout the universe—angels, principalities and powers, and humans.

AToday: QUESTION #25 - Dr. Ford, some are having a hard time with the concept that the Investigative Judgment, or more correctly, the "pre-advent judgment," is as easy as you make it sound. What do you say to those who STILL maintain that the Christian’s life will be "investigated" in every detail from the record books in heaven? They quote such scriptures as Daniel 7:9-10, "the judgment was set and the books were opened"; and Matthew 12:36-37, "but I say unto you, that every idle word that men shall speak, they shall give account thereof in the day of judgment." For by thy words thou shalt be justified, and by thy words thou shalt be condemned." They also ask about Romans 14:10-12, 2 Corinthians 5:10, and Acts 17:31. Some point out that Revelation 3:5 and 20:12 also mention books of record which contain the evidence for judgment along with Malachi, Exodus, Isaiah, and other texts that refer to a legal judgment. Can you explain these passages?

Dr. Ford: A fundamental reason for misunderstanding the Judgment is the idea that God must function in a linear restricted way as mortal finite judges do. As the Omniscient, Infinite, Omnipresent, and Omnipotent One, God needs no records of information, nor does He need protracted time to make decisions regarding the eternal destiny of humans. Whenever time and eternity intersect at both the beginning and the end of the world, Scripture resorts to figures of speech including metaphor and parable. Thus, the Judgment can be pictured as a human court scene, or as a harvest or vintage, or even a marriage supper. Even the work of a shepherd in dividing sheep from goats is employed, and a fisherman's discarding from his catch the unwanted fish.

2 Timothy 2:19 affirms that the Lord already knows who are His. John 10:3 says that as the good shepherd, He knows the name of each of His sheep. According to Psalms 33:9, at the simple command of God, all creation stood in array before Him. The case is identical with all the facts concerning every life that has ever been lived.

Daniel 7:9,10 uses apocalyptic imagery for the memory of God, but it should be closely observed that it is the host of Antichrist, not the saints, which is in focus here. The context clearly has Antichrist at the center and it states that the judgment "shall sit and take away his dominion" (see Daniel 7:26 which immediately follows the account of the wicked deeds of the little horn). The saints are automatically vindicated as their oppressors are condemned. Apocalyptic always has as its heart, the vindication of the faithful through condemnation of their enemies. Thus Revelation 18:10 explains Revelation 14:6. Both verses deal with judgment on wicked Babylon, not believers in the gospel.

Acts 17:30-31, Romans 2:15,16, Ecclesiastes 12:13,14, etc. are explained by the principles given above. 2 Timothy 4:1 says the judgment is accomplished by the appearing and kingdom of Christ. But the judgment event is set forth by parable and metaphor. So we have the analogies of a human court scene, the harvest, the vintage, a marriage supper, a shepherd dividing his flock, a fisherman casting out the unwanted fish, etc. In Revelation 20:6, we are told that only the blessed and holy come up in the first resurrection. Therefore, all destinies have been decided prior to the opening of the graves (see Revelation 22:11,12). In Revelation 20:12, we do not have a threat that the saints must be tried for a second time. That verse is only saying that all who have accepted Christ are immune from this judgment, which follows the millennium, but all others will be lost. All judgment texts must be interpreted in harmony with John 5:24 and Romans 4:8. The inevitable shortcomings of the trusting saints cannot bring condemnation, nor are they imputed, reckoned, or recorded against them. So, says Scripture clearly and emphatically. Blessed be God for that wonderful joyous truth.

1 John 1:9 is not saying that salvation depends upon a good memory. It is only saying that as we hear the gospel and Christ is offered to us, we must respond to the pleading Spirit by the admission of our guilt, the confession of our sins. It does not mean repeating a list from the earliest dredgings of memory. We are quite unaware all our days of many of our sins inasmuch as sin is the slightest deviation in thought, word, or deed from that which unfallen Adam could have done. Sin is even more what we ARE than what we have DONE. In passages like Revelation 3:5, Christ is reminding us that faith is like breathing. It must be continuous. If I deliberately or carelessly drop the Savior from my reckoning and my life, I thereby deny Him and He will deny me. However, a million shortcomings cannot bring the slightest jot or tittle of condemnation if with bloodied knees and tear-stained brow, I am still looking to the cross and to my substitute who hung thereon for me. Therefore, rejoice in Romans 8:1, and be not moved from it by either legalism or perfectionism. "There is now no condemnation to those who are in Christ Jesus."

AToday: QUESTION #26 -  Dr. Ford, in spite of your many reasons for replacing the Investigative Judgment doctrine with a more Biblical and rational Twenty-First Century viewpoint, some are not fully convinced. This is because they think the Bible supports a "perfectionistic" teaching that requires Christians, prior to the Second Coming, to live without sin. More specifically, they are concerned about the time period in the Adventist charts following the close of probation when Jesus leaves the Most Holy Place and travels to earth for the Second Coming. It is thought that during this "meditorial gap," that the "last day Christians" must maintain a sinless life. What would you say to those who hold this traditional position? Is there some special "state of obedience" that those Christians living at the end of time must reach? What is your answer to those who are fearful that they may sin AFTER the meditorial work of Christ is completed in heaven? Will they be lost? If not, why not?

Dr. Ford:  Adventists, for the most part, do not understand the Biblical teaching on glorification. Romans 8:23 says that we groan (the groan of Romans 7:14-25) until the redemption of our bodies. It is only when we see the returning Christ that we shall be just like Him—sinless. While we are in this mortal body, we can never do as well as the sinless Adam before the fall or the sinless Christ in the days of His flesh. See l John 3:2,3, James 3:2, Romans 3:23 (note the present continuous tense of "fall short"), l John 1:8, Matthew 6:12, and l Corinthians 15:51-56. Sin is never recorded, counted, or imputed against those who are in Christ (Romans 5:8). This does not encourage antinomianism but breaks our hearts.

After the decree of Revelation 22:11,12 as Jesus is about to come, the believers are no longer on probation. Their case is closed—they have been eschatologically justified, the consummation of that which was legally theirs from the first moment of trust in the Savior. The fact that they have been prepared to risk death itself rather than be disloyal to Christ is demonstrated in the last crisis described in the closing verses of Revelation 13. They are now so settled into the truth of the gospel that temptation has lost its power. Willful, premeditated sin is not an option for them any longer. Remember that the final time of trouble will be a "hot house" experience wherein both the saints and the wicked will rapidly mature. To sin in the last climactic chaotic hours would be like dancing on the edge of a precipice. The saints will be kept by the indwelling Spirit whom Jesus had promised would abide with them forever. (That Spirit is only withdrawn from pleading with the wicked, He is never withdrawn from believers.)

While the believers of Revelation 14:4,5—those translated—follow the Lamb whole-heartedly while waiting for His coming, they are nonetheless in sinful bodies until the moment of glorification (l Thessalonians 4:17). But because of their acceptance by faith of Christ's imputed merits, they are considered "blameless" in the last hours of their earthly history as throughout their whole pilgrimage on earth. Ellen White teaches all these things. For example, in the chapter on the Time of Trouble, she is most emphatic that even the saints are imperfect in faith although absolutely loyal. In several places, Mrs. White taught that we must fight sin until death or translation—temptations from within and without. She is most emphatic that none of the apostles ever claimed to be without sin. We are not going to transcend them in holiness. The Bible knows nothing of a "super" generation transcending all others in holiness. That hoary tradition has no basis whatsoever.

AToday: QUESTION #27 -  At one point in your interview, you state that "...we do not have to be good to be saved, but we do have to be saved to be good." Please explain the use of key words here as I suppose that many of the readers would think you are saying that non-Christians cannot lead moral, ethical lives.

Dr. Ford:  To be good in the Biblical sense is to be faithful to the duties to God and man, to be possessed of love for both the Creator and our neighbor. Unbelievers can be ethical towards their neighbors but they cannot be good in the Scriptural sense if they ignore their duties to their Lifegiver and Preserver. No life is truly good that ignores the supreme reality of the universe—the loving and giving heavenly Father.

AToday: QUESTION #28 -  Dr. Ford, when you were at PUC, is it true that you were often unavailable to students?

Dr. Ford: I had set aside an hour every day for counseling all who wished to see me—it was the hour before classes began. After that hour, I was constantly on the run because of my very heavy class load assignments and other responsibilities. Most weeks I was away either two or three days taking gospel meetings, and when not away, I taught in a filled lecture theater at Sabbath School time. I never ever refused any student’s request for an interview, although I did talk with some while moving from one classroom to another. Then and now people from various countries contact me continually with requests and, sadly, I am limited in what I can do despite very short nights.

AToday: QUESTION #29 -  Much is learned about a believer's position on Christian doctrine depending on where a person is on the literalism-to-symbolism scale. You are not a literalist (as seen in your rejection of Genesis 1 and 2 as a literal account), and you are not a symbolist (as seen in your apparent rejection of an ecumenism that sees Adventists and other Christians as theologically acceptable, with the former emphasizing Creation and the latter Resurrection through their respective holy days). Would you agree that you are near the middle on this scale, rough imprecise though the scale might be? Further, what limits -- if any -- would you suggest be placed on Adventist’s acceptance of members who are at the extremes of this scale?

Dr. Ford: I would not reject any that trust wholly in the merits of Christ regardless of whether they keep Sunday or Sabbath, whether they have been sprinkled or immersed, whether they are carnivores or vegetarians. Yes, I would happily engage in amiable discussion of even such issues, believing the higher road is always the one to seek. We are not Gnostics believing in salvation by knowledge. An author, whom we all know well, affirmed that to take the cross from the Christian would be like blotting the sun from the sky. Our solar system has a thousand and more asteroids but we never attend to them, for the rays of the sun absorb our vision. Similarly, all doctrines must be subordinated to the atonement and righteousness by faith alone.

My opinion is that a denomination should only have a few central pillars of faith and that the people should be entirely committed to these pillars and enter into a covenant regarding them. In addition, the members should be responsible for most of the decisions of the church body. But simultaneously all others should be welcomed without prejudice and accepted as brothers and sisters in Christ regardless of whether they have covenanted to live and proclaim what the central groups consider to be the main pillars of Christianity. One of the paradoxes of the Christian life is the tenacious refusal to surrender what seems clear to us in Scripture and yet simultaneously embracing those who see some things differently.

I doubt that I am in the middle of the scale or the middle of the road. The latter is always the most dangerous place to be and only justified if demanded by principle.

AToday: QUESTION #30 - Dr. Ford, as you know, it took centuries for most of Christianity’s systematic studies to become well established, and only through tremendous controversy. Ecclesiology (the study of the church) was not well established until about the fourth century AD. Soteriology (the study of salvation) was not well established until the sixteenth century. Eschatology (the study of last-day events) did not even begin until the Nineteenth Century. To this day, there is no such thing as Krisisology, a systematic study of how God judges the world. Is it possible that God has ordained all this controversy over our understanding of the judgment in order that we might all come to a better understanding of this doctrine? Considering how far-sighted you believe the early Adventists were in other areas, don’t you think it is a little premature to be too dogmatic about the doctrine of the judgment today?

Dr. Ford:  Yes, I believe the hand of God is in and over all theological controversy for it is by discussion that individual knowledge is enlarged, corrected, and disseminated. But where the Scripture seems clear, we should be equally positive, and many things about the Judgment ARE clear. It did NOT begin in 1844. It IS always associated in Scripture with the Second Coming of Christ. In addition, in that Judgment, Christ will still be the substitute for all those who put their faith wholly in Him. Therefore, the Judgment, too, is good news and Christ can even put it in a festive setting as in Matthew 22.

AToday: QUESTION #31 - In an effort to define or defend valid doctrine, it seems like many people today are confused about how to study the Bible. The Reformers had specific rules for Bible study, as did William Miller. Even James White and the SDA pioneers taught that "The Bible is our chart our guide. It is our only rule of faith and practice, to which we would closely adhere." Can you explain the rules for understanding scripture and determining doctrine in the Twenty-First Century?>/p>

Dr. Ford:  Exegetes of Scripture now view Hermeneutics as a science and there is almost universal agreement as to how to practice it. Scripture is to be interpreted lexically, grammatically, contextually, historically, and according to the analogy of the entire Biblical teaching. The New Testament interprets the Old, the Epistles aid in the interpretation of the Gospels, didactic passages explain the symbolic or metaphorical ones, and passages with universal application have the casting vote over ones with merely local bearing. The systematic passages (like Romans) interpret the incidental passages (such as a line from James that says works justify, which is really talking about justification before man not before God). Above all, the Holy Spirit is the guide to the truly surrendered heart.

Commentaries have value in elucidating the historical setting and prevailing customs and in drawing our attention to evidence from the Word itself that we may have overlooked. It is a mistake to use Ellen White’s writings as primarily exegetical in nature—they are not. Rather, they frequently act as the law of God does in pointing out sins and shortcomings and thus driving us to the Savior. On other occasions, Mrs. White beautifully points us to the Atonement made on Calvary—the great fountain opened to cleanse all sin and impurity. Even Herbert Douglas’s recent work, The Messenger of the Lord, denies that Ellen White is an exegete and warns us against expecting inerrancy and definitive commentary from that source. Indeed Ellen White has affirmed scores of times that the Bible and the Bible only should be used for doctrine.

AToday: QUESTION #32 - Do you have any comment on the recent historic accord between the Lutherans and Catholics over the doctrine of Justification by Faith?

Dr. Ford: Perhaps the main point I have to say about the recent Catholic and Protestant concord over justification is that the discussions are not yet over. Roman Catholics clearly see that the New Testament teaches salvation by grace alone and that the words for justification in both Hebrew and Greek signify to declare righteous not to make righteous. Their embarrassment lies in the fact that for centuries they have taught that only through the use of the sacraments in a "medicinal" manner is the soul perfected and then accepted by God. So far, the discussion has not proceeded to this pivotal theme, but it will come. We can rejoice at the progress made thus far.

AToday: QUESTION #33 - Ford, in your interview, you stated that Adventism faces inevitable and much needed reform in the Twenty-First Century. You made it clear that this reform should address both the present unbiblical hierarchical system as well as a number of the Denomination’s fundamental doctrines. No doubt this reform would include updating the traditional teaching of the Investigative Judgment, elevating the gospel, promoting joyous Sabbath worship, revitalizing the once-famous health message, and updating the eschatology of the Third Angel’s Message, just to name a few items. My question is this: if a credible, organized, reform-minded movement were to materialize, would you lend your support and participate in such Gospel reform?

Dr. Ford:  I would gladly do anything in my power to help the gospel either within Adventism or out of Adventism. But all reform would have to be done with a gospel spirit. It is not enough to cherish the theory of the gospel. Any attempts at change would need to prayerfully avoid the spirit of Him who is called "the accuser of the brethren." Open sin and flagrant contradiction of Scripture should be boldly rebuked, but insinuations regarding motives of others must be avoided. While fearing nobody except God, as far as possible, we are to let the truth do the cutting. We must act as physicians not butchers.


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