W I N T E R • 2 0 1 5
VOLUME 16, ISSUE 4
Chris Lee lives in Lincoln, Nebraska with his wife, Carmen, and daughters, Ashlyn and Alyssa. They attend the Lincoln Berean Church. Chris is a self-described "theology junkie" whose mission is to proclaim the unfathomable grace of Christ in a clear, understandable, and Biblical way. Chris is the editor of the Proclamation! Blog at ProclamationMagazine.com. You may contact Chris by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Words mean things. Language is only meaningful to the degree that humans are able to communicate using words in a conventional way, and conflicting definitions create an almost insurmountable language barrier to meaningful dialogue.
I think this issue of definitions is one of the primary reasons why Evangelical Christians have trouble determining if Seventh-day Adventism is an evangelical denomination or something else. Evangelicals and Adventists use the same words and phrases but mean very different things. Evangelicals clearly don’t know this fact, and Adventists are not fully cognizant of the problem, either.
Take, for example, the core issue of sola gratia. Before Leaving Adventism (BLA), if you had asked me if I believed in salvation by grace alone, I would have readily given you a resounding, “Yes!” However, each word is important. My understanding of those words in The Life After (TLA) Adventism is far different. The following is how I would characterize my understandings, both BLA and in TLA.
“Salvation” BLA: The uncertain hope that I might one day be determined to be “safe to save” through an investigative judgement of my works. If and when I passed that judgment, the benefits of the atonement would then be applied, and my sins would be marked as “pardoned”.
“Salvation” TLA: Three aspects of God’s work, all of which are guaranteed at the moment of belief. I am forever justified before God; I am in the process of being sanctified by God, and I am assured God will finish His work in my future glorification. I have been adopted into the family of God and have eternal security, now.
“Grace” BLA: God empowering me to keep the Law so that I might pass the investigative judgment.
“Grace” TLA: God’s unmerited favor gifting me salvation, giving me my faith bestowed on me by God’s sovereign choice, and not dependent on anything I have ever done or ever will do.
“Alone” BLA: I can’t be “saved” without “grace” because I can’t do it alone. I need help in my efforts. I am dependent upon God’s power to help me keep the law so that I can prove I am safe to save and prove that God is justified in letting me into Heaven. So, ultimately, it is grace alone that saves me, but working in conjunction with my best efforts.
“Alone” TLA: Alone. Plus nothing. Period.
The BLA me and the TLA me would both agree that salvation is by grace alone, but we would have completely different understandings of “salvation”, “grace”, and even the concept of “alone”. So our agreement on sola gratia would mean nothing in reality.
I use sola gratia as an example of the language barrier that evangelicals face in dialoguing with Seventh-day Adventists, but this same barrier exists in discussing nearly any topic of theological import with Adventists. If one truly desires to reach Adventists with the authentic gospel of Jesus, one must be willing to invest time and effort into understanding the language barrier and defining words. Only then can conversations go beyond surface level pleasantries.
I pray that the articles in this issue of Proclamation! will equip evangelicals with a better understanding of Adventists’ beliefs and the words associated with them. I pray that a deeper understanding will lead to deeper conversations and opportunities to share the gospel with Adventists. Adventists need to hear the real gospel because even that word has a different meaning in Adventism. I pray that the Holy Spirit will give you the right words to speak and enable Adventists to hear the true meanings. †
Copyright 2015 Life Assurance Ministries, Inc., Camp Verde, Arizona, USA. All rights reserved. Revised May 25, 2016. Contact email: email@example.com
D E P A R T M E N T S
The life AFTER with Chris Lee