“If we ever come to the place as a Church where we can interpret 'husband of one wife' to mean 'wife of one husband' or simply 'faithful man or woman,' then we can make any passage of Scripture mean whatever we want it to mean or whatever our culture tells us it should mean."Read More
In Suzanne Ocsai's new book "Something’s Happening: The Behind the Scenes Story of GYC," she delves into the history of the Generation of Youth Conference (GYC) with commentary on church politics. Her story sends two strong messages. The first is young people can, and do, make an influential difference in the world. The second, whether intentional or not, is the General Conference (GC) youth department is not an effective ministry.Read More
The nationwide face off between wholesome relationship boundaries and the mainstream idea there’s nothing wrong with pre-marital sex, even sadistic sex, went live Valentine’s Day weekend with the release of films “Old Fashioned” and “50 Shades of Grey.”Read More
It was nearly Christmas and a friend of mine handed me a beautiful little book she had just been given for her personal worship during the coming year. Its softly padded cover was a palette of autumn hues, blending deep earthen browns and bright tangerine. At the center was an oval, framing an out-stretched hand. The book Jesus Calling by Sarah Young, had a comforting subtitle, Enjoying Peace in His Presence. Only four by six inches, the attractive little book, perfectly sized for bedside-table use, was laid out in an easy read page-a-day format. A lovely gift!Read More
I had made no plans to attend the One Project scheduled for February 10 and 11 in Seattle, but a mid-morning phone call stirred me from my intended Sunday morning sleep-in. A friend on the phone urged, "I've been given two tickets to the One Project. They’re free! Do you want to go? Let's go! Free tickets!" That got me up and going.Read More
On Tuesday night, popular TV show host Bill Nye the Science Guy and biblical creationist Ken Ham (President of the creationist organization Answers in Genesis) squared off in a public debate on the topic of creationism vs. evolution. (As of today, you can watch a full video of the debate here.) I say “squared off,” but in reality, the debaters were actually very cordial, and to their credit, focused on attacking the arguments of the other person rather than resorting to personal insults.Read More
The English term “mystic” comes from the Greek term, μυστικός, “mystikos,” an initiate into a mystery religion. Mystery religions were cults of antiquity in which participation was reserved to initiates. Although the mystery religions were practiced in classical antiquity, the initiates understood that the mysteries were much older. One of the popular Roman mystery religions, for example, was Mithraism, which took its name from an old Persian god named Mithra, a name that appears in archeological finds dating to 1,500 BC. That Mitra is still a popular surname in India gives some indication of how geographically widespread the cult of Mithra was, in its various forms. Today, the term “mysticism” refers to the pursuit of a direct experience with the divine, the supernatural, or ultimate reality, typically through special practices intended to bring about such experiences. Mysticism is distinguished from normal religious faith by its emphasis on direct personal experiences that the mystic interprets as encounters with the divine. Mysticism has usually been pursued within the context of monasticism; monks and nuns typically live a life of solitude and silence conducive to mystical practices. The core of mysticism is its embrace of techniques that are intended to achieve altered states of consciousness.
Mysticism is not part of biblical Christianity. There is no biblical support for mysticism in general nor for such mystical practices as chanting meditation, transcendental meditation, or astral projection. Mysticism, like the monasticism it has been associated with, appears to have been engrafted into Christianity from Buddhism and other pagan, Eastern religions during the same period of time when countless pagan practices and beliefs entered a deeply compromised church. Roman Catholic mysticism is simply a thinly “Christianized” form of Eastern mysticism. Mysticism has demonstrated the ability to adapt to almost any religio-cultural circumstances.
During the Reformation, the reformers largely rejected mysticism along with monasticism. The mystics focused upon experience, but the reformers insisted that Scripture was paramount, and its general, objective revelation superior to the personal, subjective revelations of the mystics. Martin Luther's insistence on the superiority of Scripture to mystical experience is seen in his rejection of the theology of Thomas Müntzer (1489-1525, executed for his role in the Peasants' War), who was heavily influenced by the Rhineland Mystic, Johannes Tauler (1300-1361). Müntzer's theology was based upon mystical experience; he began to teach the supremacy of the “inner light,” which he interpreted as the revelation of the Holy Spirit, as against the authority of Scripture. Luther's response was to declare that he would still accept Scripture even if Müntzer “had swallowed the Holy Ghost, feathers and all!”
George Fox (1624-1691), the founder of the Society of Friends (popularly known as the Quakers) created a culturally Protestant mystical sect. Fox believed that each person has an “inner light,” which Fox interpreted as Christ dwelling within us. Like almost all mystics, Fox believed and taught that Scripture was not always infallible and could be overruled by the “inner light.” Quaker worship consists of silent meditation; sometimes, a speaker will be led to speak audibly to the congregation, but often the entire hour will pass in silence. The purpose of sitting is silence is to wait for God to speak directly to the individual, i.e., to wait for a mystical experience. Like many other mystics, Quakers tend to subscribe to panentheism (the belief that God is in everything and everyone) and universalism (the belief that everyone will eventually be saved).
Given that the Quakers are mystics, it is not surprising that Quakers have been instrumental in the fairly recent, widespread introduction of mysticism into mainstream Protestant evangelical practice. Richard Foster and Dallas Willard crossed paths in a small Quaker church in Van Nuys, California, when Willard (though a Southern Baptist) was attending there and Foster was called there as a young pastor fresh out of seminary. Both men have been important writers and theorists promoting mystical practices in wider Christianity, but Foster has been especially important. Foster's 1978 book, “The Celebration of Discipline” was a huge bestseller; Christianity Today listed it as one of the top ten Christian books of the 20th Century. Yet Foster promotes the practice known as astral projection:
In your imagination allow your spiritual body, shining with light, to rise out of your physical body. Look back so you can see yourself … and reassure your body that you will return momentarily ….Go deeper and deeper into outer space until there is nothing except the warm presence of the eternal creator. Rest in his presence. Listen quietly...[to] any instruction given. p. 27.
A mystical practice promoted under the rubric of “spiritual formation” is usually called “centering prayer” or “contemplative prayer,” but it is not prayer at all. It is an Eastern meditative practice known as chanting meditation or transcendental meditation. This form of meditation seeks to create a mental void where all conscious thought is blocked out. To achieve this mental void—known as “the silence”--the person repeats a single word or short phrase over and over. In Hinduism, this phrase is known as a “mantra.” The mantra may need to be repeated 20, 30, or even hundreds of times to achieve the mental void. In teaching His followers how to pray, Jesus warned against using “vain repetitions, as the heathen do,” because God hears us the first time we say something (Mat. 6:7). But, again, “contemplative prayer” or “centering prayer” is not prayer; rather, it is a technique for bringing about a mystical experience.
The goal of this technique is the mental void or the silence. Mystics within Christian cultures sometimes argue that at the center of one's being, there is God, and the purpose of the silence is to allow God to speak from within. They believe that the “inner light” is God who dwells within every man. But Christ directed us to pray “Our father who art in heaven, hallowed be thy name” (Mat. 6:9). God dwells in heaven (1 Kings 8:43; 2 Chron. 6:30; Psalm 103:19; Mat. 5:45; 23:9), which is an actual place (Acts 1:11; Heb. 1:3; 8:1, 5; 9:24; 1 Pet. 3:22; Rev. 4:1-2). Mystics quote Luke 17:21, “the kingdom of God is within you” as evidence that God lives inside every person, but the Greek word translated as “within” can also be translated “among,” and it is clear from the context that Christ is not saying that the kingdom of God is inside of us. The Pharisees had asked Jesus when the kingdom of God would come, and Jesus responded that the kingdom of God [Jesus Himself] is among you right now. In the following verses, Jesus points out that his Second Advent will also be a visible, physical appearance, just like His first Advent.
The “silence” that mystics hope to achieve by repeating their mantra is really a trance, and it is properly understood as a form of self-hypnosis. When a person is in an hypnotic trance, he is highly susceptible to suggestion. In Christian cultures, proponents of this technique would have us believe that we will encounter the God of the Bible in this meditative trance. But the fact that the technique is not authorized in Scripture, and originated and is commonly used in Eastern religions, suggests that we might encounter some other spirit. Adventist pastor Rick Howard writes:
. . .when a person enters this silence . . . they are entering a place where the powers of evil angels can create whatever illusion they desire. . . . the modern-day Christian, upon entering the silence, will believe they have come into the presence of God, when in reality they are under the control of the same demons as the psychics, spirit mediums, and ancient mystics of the church, those of any religion or group that relies on supernatural experiences as evidence of their contact with God” The Omega Rebellion, p. 51
The spirits that work in the silence will work within a given mystic's belief system. They will not—at least not at first—suggest anything alien or contrary to the mystic's existing belief system. Ray Yungen writes:
Please pay attention to this! God does not work in the silence, but familiar spirits do. Moreover, what makes it so dangerous is that they are very clever. One well known New Ager revealed that his guiding (familiar) spirit candidly disclosed: 'We work with all who are vibrationally sympathetic; simple and sincere people who feel our spirit moving, but for the most part, only within the context of their current belief system.'” A Time of Departing, p. 87
What tends to happen over time, however, is that the mystic enjoys the mystical experiences more than any other aspect of his faith. The experiences are called “extremely pleasurable” and even “ecstatic.” The mystic eventually places more credence in his personal experiences than in Scripture. This makes perfect sense, because the mystic believes he is experiencing God, so why give more credence to an old book than to God?
But, of course, the power behind the mystical experiences is not God, and it gradually and almost imperceptibly leads the mystic toward false doctrine. Typically, the false doctrines include at least one, and usually more than one, of the following four:
- monism = all is one, all reality is a unified whole, with no sharp demarcation between Creator, creation and creature;
- pantheism = everything is God, the tree, the flower, the bird the cat, the human—all are God;
- panentheism = God is inside of everything and everyone; and
- universalism = everyone will ultimately share in eternal life.
These four false doctrines crop up so frequently in mystical thinking across the ages and across the boundaries of culture and formal religion that the demons working the “silence” beat must all be following the same playbook.
These ideas soon lead to a false ecumenism and a blurring of religious demarcations. Scripture is very clear that Jesus Christ is the only way to God the Father, and our only hope of eternal salvation; those who do not have Christ are lost. (John 3:16, 36; 14:6; 1 John 5:12). But mysticism chafes at such dualistic, black/white, right/wrong thinking, emphasizing oneness and universalism instead.
The doctrine of the atonement tends to be lost in mystical thinking; what need is there of Christ's work of mediation in the heavenly sanctuary when anyone, from any religious tradition—Buddhist, Hindu, Sufi, Christian—can have a direct, unmediated experience with God? The mystic removes 'sin' by performing meditative exercises to bring himself into a perceived state of oneness with God. The atonement, the sanctuary, and most of the rest of the Bible make little sense in a mystical context. This isn't surprising because mysticism is external to, and long pre-dates, Christianity.
What is the Review up to?
A recent article in the Review titled “What is a Mystic?” painted a very different picture of mysticism than what I have just described. The Review article implied that mysticism is really nothing more than a vibrant prayer life and an appreciation for the fine historical hymns of Christendom. But mysticism is thousands of years old; it is far too late to try to redefine it as traditional Christian spirituality. Mysticism is what it is: a dangerous, pre-Christian shortcut to the supernatural that exalts subjective experience and de-emphasizes objective revelation, doctrine, incarnation, atonement, prophecy, and the eschaton.
The Scripture references in “What is a Mystic?” do not support mystical practice. Colossians 2:10 says nothing about a mystical union with Christ; it speaks of righteousness by faith in Christ, as opposed to human effort and legalism. Galatians 3:26-29 addresses a similar concern, namely that salvation comes through faith in Christ rather than through race, status, or gender: “There is neither Jew nor Greek, there is neither slave nor free, there is neither male nor female; for you are all one in Christ Jesus. And if you are Christ’s, then you are Abraham’s seed, and heirs according to the promise” (Gal. 3:26-29). Peter does speak about “participating in the divine nature” (2 Peter 1:4), but the context shows that we do this by faith in God's promises, not by seeking a mystical experience. In 2 Corinthians 2:16, Paul speaks of having “the mind of Christ,” but we assume the mind of Christ by internalizing Christ's precepts as described in the Gospels, not by emptying our minds of conscious thought in pursuit of a mystical experience.
Likewise, there is nothing in the corpus of the writings of Ellen White that supports mystical practice. In the chapter on “Faith and Prayer” in the book Education, it is made clear that prayer is an exercise of faith in God and in God's word, not the pursuit of a mystical experience. The need for faith will never be replaced by mystical experiences in the believer's life. In the chapter on “the Privilege of Prayer” in Steps to Christ, it is made exceedingly clear that prayer is intelligent, verbal communication:
. . . we need also to pour out our hearts to Him. In order to have spiritual life and energy, we must have actual intercourse with our heavenly Father. Our minds may be drawn out toward Him; we may meditate upon His works, His mercies, His blessings; but this is not, in the fullest sense, communing with Him. In order to commune with God, we must have something to say to Him concerning our actual life. Prayer is the opening of the heart to God as to a friend” p. 93
There is no hint that communication with God occurs in conditions of “darkness” or “silence” or “beyond the plane on which the intellect can work.” To the contrary, prayer is communication:
Keep your wants, your joys, your sorrows, your cares, and your fears before God. You cannot burden Him; you cannot weary Him. He who numbers the hairs of your head is not indifferent to the wants of His children (Steps to Christ, p. 100).
Nothing in the writings of Ellen White can accurately be called “Christian mysticism.” Her writings contain traditional Protestant Christian spirituality.
The article, “What is a mystic?” recommends the English mystic Evelyn Underhill (1875-1941), and particularly her short book, Concerning the Inner Life, based upon lectures given in 1926. Within the first ten pages of this volume (which is available online), you will find references to some of “the usual suspects” of mysticism, including George Fox, Johannes Tauler, and Ignatius Loyola (1491-1556), the founder of the Jesuit order. Underhill quotes with approval (on p. 10) the Ignatian mantra, “I come from God—I belong to God—I am destined for God,” but this mantra seems to deny human freedom, and the necessity of Christ's mediation to our salvation. We cannot will our way to heaven by repeatedly chanting, “I am destined for God.” Underhill also recommends a mantra of the founder of the Franciscan order: “Think of St. Francis of Assisi repeating all night: 'My God and all! What art thou? And what am I?' Is not that a perfect prayer of adoration?” (p. 30-31)
Concerning the Inner Life is mysticism lite. Underhill's most systematic and important work was her 1911 book, Mysticism (also available online). There you will find a thorough discussion of the “Divine Darkness” or the “cloud of unknowing” in which mystical experiences occur. The mystic must “pass beyond the plane on which the intellect can work.” There you will also find a discussion of the “ecstasy” and “rapture” experienced by the mystic when he is in a state of altered consciousness referred to as a “trance.” This condition may involve anesthesia, such that the mystic does not feel pain during the trance. There you will find a discussion of “the dark night of the soul,” during which the mystic can no longer achieve his ecstatic mystical experiences, and must live on the memory of past experiences. There you will learn that Evelyn Underhill is a full-blown mystic in the tradition of mystics down through the ages, including pre-Christian, pagan mystics.
“Over the past three decades American Christianity has been revolutionized by a renewed emphasis on holy living and spiritual disciplines,” writes the author of “What is a Mystic?” Something significant has indeed been happening in American Christianity over the past few decades, but it is not an emphasis on holy living. It is known as the “emerging church” movement, a somewhat amorphous critique of, and alternative to, Protestant ecclesiology, and an attempt to turn mainline Christianity to pre-Reformation (and post-Christian) practices and forms of worship. Introducing mysticism into Protestantism—via the teachings of Richard Foster, Brian McLaren, Leonard Sweet, Phyllis Tickle, Richard Rohr and many others—is central to the emerging church movement. The ultimate goal of the emergents is to win Christians over to a syncretistic, non-biblical worldview that combines elements of Christianity with elements of all other world religions, including paganism. There is no place for biblical eschatology in this worldview; no place for a Second Coming of Christ, a resurrection of the dead, a final judgment of the unsaved, a millennium in heaven, and an Earth made new.
In his inaugural sermon at the 2010 General Conference session, Elder Wilson warned us to:
Stay away from non-biblical spiritual disciplines or methods of spiritual formation that are rooted in mysticism such as contemplative prayer, centering prayer, and the emerging church movement in which they are promoted. Look within the Seventh-day Adventist Church...
Mysticism is not part of our tradition in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, nor should it be. Rather than promote mysticism in our official publications, we need to expose it for what it is: a dangerous, occult avenue by which the adversary insinuates false doctrine into the minds of individuals and ultimately into the church.
Ideas that reject the biblical perspective and propose a humanistic view of morality don’t surprise me, but when such ideas are published by supposed Seventh-day Adventists I become incensed by the gross misrepresentation of our faith. Our church can’t continue losing its unique identifying markers in favor of a buffet style approach to theology. The biblical worldview most powerfully explains why we have objective moral values, because it is based on the Word of God and any alternative leads to absurdity. The Bible, inspired by God, is authoritative and foundational in explaining the existence of objective moral values and human nature.
Fundamentally, the concept of right and wrong is rooted in the Genesis account of our origins. Prior to the fall, Adam and Eve did not possess a knowledge of good and evil, but the serpent promised Eve once she ate the forbidden fruit her eyes would be opened, and she would be like God, knowing good and evil (Genesis 3:4). It wasn't until Adam ate the fruit also that the couple became opened to a knowledge of sin. This is why Paul said, “Therefore, just as sin entered the world through one man, and death through sin” (Romans 5:12). God made it clear to Adam and Eve that death would be a result of their disobedience. Transgression of God's law allowed sin to enter our world.
In the great controversy between God and Satan, misrepresenting God’s character and exciting rebellion against God’s law have been Satan’s main objectives.
John said sin is the “transgression of the law” (1 John 3:4) - God's law. This is significant because the God of the Bible is the one who created the heavens and the earth, and said, “Let us make man in our image, after our likeness” (Gen.1:26). The implications of this statement are significant when discussing morality. God has authority over us and has the right to hold us to his standard because he created us. His standard is an extension of his character, which is the reason God's law is not arbitrary. Since we were created in God's likeness, we would expect humans to have the capacity to know and make moral judgments.
God has revealed his law to everyone. He has explicitly told us through his commandments, as revealed through the Bible, but not everyone has had access to the Bible and yet they are still aware of right and wrong. Paul explains this seeming phenomenon in Romans 2:14, 15:
Indeed, when Gentiles, who do not have the law, do by nature things required by the law, they are a law for themselves, even though they do not have the law. They show that the requirements of the law are written on their hearts, their consciences also bearing witness, and their thoughts sometimes accusing them and at other times even defending them.
If God's law had not been revealed to humanity then we would have no understanding of what is right or wrong. Paul said in Romans 3:20 the law gave him knowledge of sin and that he “would not have known what sin was except through the law. For I would not have known what coveting really was if the law had not said, 'Do not covet’” (Romans 7:7). The biblical concept of sin gives us a framework for understanding morality.
Contrast the above points with a recent article published at Adventist Today titled “Sin: The Dirty Little Word that Trivializes Morality and Warps Ethics” by Chris Barrett. The article proposes that human behavior should not be described in terms of sin, but in terms of “normal or natural.” This reassignment would offer a level playing field, writes Barrett.
Barrett abandons the biblical definition of sin in favor of Oxford Dictionary's definition, which says sin is an “immoral act considered to be a transgression against a divine law.” This definition presupposes moral relativity and the existence of multiple gods, which is the opposite of what the Bible teaches.
Sin is a dirty word that shouldn't be used because it trivializes morality and warps ethics, says Barrett. The irony is that he suggests an alternative that completely trivializes morality by relegating it to the whims of the collective voice. He suggests, along with other relativists, the majority determines what is natural or unnatural, normal or abnormal. The Bible contradicts this theory on many occasions and in Isaiah 45:5 when it says, “I am the Lord, and there is no other; apart from me there is no God.” Barrett gives the collective voice godlike status, supplanting God as the ultimate arbiter of objective moral values.
After discarding objective moral values, Barrett then tackles the issue of human nature, “What is natural for humans has to do with our nature: What we are. This is no different to any animal. All exhibit behaviors that are ‘natural’ for their nature.” For example, what sociopaths and rapists do may be natural to them, but it is not normal behavior to the collective. So what does this mean in terms of overcoming sin in your life? Here's how Barrett explains the implications:
If you have to get on your knees and scrape, grovel and beg God for victory, chances are what you are struggling with is natural to you as a human and is not sin. (If what you struggle with is socially unacceptable and harmful to others - face up to it or await the consequences.) If it is normal to human society and behavior - stop losing sleep over it. Enjoy your life, your relationships, your body. Do no harm to others, bring them joy if you can. Live life in the best way you're able in the body and mind you have.
Barrett’s self-indulgent view suggests there is no need to ask God for victory over sin. Chances are what you're feeling guilty about, that still small voice of conscience, should be ignored. So why not stop by the porn shop or liquor store for some harmless joy? Under Barrett’s thinking, there is no need for the rapist to ask forgiveness and victory over his sin because this behavior may be natural to him and if it's socially unacceptable or harmful to others he should be prepared to face the consequences, if he gets caught. All this obviously contradicts a major theme of the Bible, which is God’s power giving us freedom over sin so we can be saved. The Bible counsels us to die daily to self and submit ourselves to God. “Resist the devil, and he will flee from you,” James said (4:7). Barrett suggests bondage in this life and an ultimate loss of salvation, while the Bible offers peace and joy in this life and eternal life in the world to come.
Seventh-day Adventists cannot abandon the Bible as their foundation. It presents the only source for objective moral values--Jesus Christ. It presents the only solution to our sinful human nature--the gospel. God has revealed himself, through Jesus Christ, to humanity that all might be saved.
Instead of Christ as the source of object moral values, Barrett gives us the collective voice of humanity, or in essence, the will and way of the human heart, which the Bible explains in Jeremiah 17:9 as deceitful above all things, and desperately wicked.
Instead of acknowledging our sinful nature and calling us to look to Christ for freedom, Barrett denies our sinful nature and calls us to embrace it, which is ultimate bondage. Instead of revealing Christ as the solution to the problem, Barrett gives us nothing.
“The tongue of the wise adorns knowledge, but the mouth of the fool gushes folly” (Proverbs 15:2).
“And ye shall know the truth, and the truth shall make you free.” John 8:32
As I gasped for my first breath of air, my mother pushed me aside as she was filled with grief and disappointment. She was adamant about giving birth to a precious baby girl. During her pregnancy she had declared over and over that she had no desire for a boy. She was certain that would not happen. Every ounce of her mental determination to have a baby girl left her in anguish. It left me without the love and crucial bonding needed in those first few hours of life.
Her anguish and disappointment manifested itself when she broke my arm on two different occasions before I reached the age of two. My father was a career air force man who was frequently on assignment. As he returned to the base one day, he saw my arm in a sling. Now the abuse rumors which had been circulating became real to him and he found it necessary to give me over for adoption to his Adventist, Christ-centered, sister and husband.
God already had a plan for me. In the years ahead, it would be difficult to recognize what that plan was. At three years old, I ran around the house screaming, “I don’t want to be a boy! I want to be a girl!” Whenever I was lifted into the arms of a woman, I would scream, “Put me down! I hate women!” Was it any wonder?
You see, even prenatal conditions deeply affect the fetus and what lies ahead. We arrive stained with the effects of sin. Thousands of years of sin and wrong choices. Choices mapped in the brains of those who have gone before us.
Christian author Ellen White says; “They have lost their manhood, and this they must win back. Many have to battle against strong hereditary tendencies to evil. Unnatural cravings, sensual impulses, were their inheritance from birth. These must be carefully guarded against. Within and without, good and evil are striving for the mastery” (Ministry of Healing 173).
I have a story. A story of heartbreak that ends beautifully because of the power of choice God gave me. His grace, love, power and truth are magnificent! Unlike the stories portrayed in “Seventh-Gay Adventist,” my story brings me to the foot of the cross denying self and looking up to Jesus. His blood cleanses me.
Decade upon decade Christians have acknowledged homosexual behavior as sin and have done nothing more. Even today, homosexuals are viewed by self-righteous Christians as modern day lepers. Is God impotent? What about the multitudes of those who in their brokenness He healed and brought restoration? And isn’t the relationship of intimacy with Jesus and His truth seen in the healing and restoration of the demoniacs?
Oh what a work there is to be done in educating the believers of Jesus Christ. We lovingly need to teach how a plugged-in and intimate relationship with Jesus will safeguard us from any sin temptation. As a result of decades of this horrible silence and darkness, stories need to be told. Stories that can ignite the immense love, power and truth of Jesus Christ.
The making of “Seventh-Gay Adventist” provided such a glorious opportunity to engage the subjects of this film into an intimate relationship with Jesus. Knowing that his time is short and how he has maintained sexual intimacy as a cornerstone of deception, Satan exercises his howling cry. Through every minute in this film, Jesus is just association, rather than being lifted up as Healer and Redeemer. Instead of calling the broken to live in Christ, He is portrayed as an earthly relative. This was a prime opportunity to draw the sinner to the foot of the cross with the promise of hope and redemption. But I didn’t sense that.
When I wrote my original review of the film, Stephen and Daneen (film producers), protested and stated it was not right for me to make such observations without having first seen the film. There are many things in life that we don’t need to personally experience to know they are not of God. I had prayed many times prior to going. When I reserved the tickets, they were the last two. It seemed like I was meant to attend. I had been invited by Stephen and Daneen to come and dialog and to finally see what they said they knew I would write and speak about.
The film is not about acknowledging sin and reaching out with an offer of hope and redemption. This film is artfully and craftily designed to deceive you into believing that we are powerless over sin. Any writer or filmmaker wants you to know its subjects in order for you to relate to them and draw the conclusion that the author wants.
If you begin to live with the subjects, you develop a relational understanding that cultivates the thought process of those being portrayed. The film is sprinkled with humor as well as painful moments that bring clarity of each person portrayed. You fondly develop compassion for them. As you should. What a tremendous set up for magnifying God’s incredible love and truth. But that never happens.
Instead, in the midst of heartache, adaptation replaces victory and a follow-your-feelings mode captures the audience and draws you into thinking that nothing else is possible. Oh how Jesus must have wept when He was dethroned and perceived as powerless in this film.
One of the young characters David Carlson, states that he has been given two choices. To be straight or to be celibate. God has given us many choices, but He requests that we choose, that we call upon Him and seek to do His will instead of our own. Nowhere in the Word of God does He point us to any kind of physical relationship of intimacy except under the sanctity of marriage between a man and a woman. The fact is that every son and daughter of God is called to the same acknowledgement of God’s perfect plan. We have the right to choose whether we are going to follow God’s will or our own. David made the choice to live according to his desires. And he does so with the blessings of His Adventist mother and father, who is a conference president, as well as his brother who is an Adventist pastor. His brother said something to the effect that there can be too much rejection or too much acceptance, and so he was going to err on the side of too much acceptance and let God can slap him on his wrists later.
My family and I had been faced with this very same situation. But rather than show approval for my choice, my parents neither condemned me nor condoned my choice. They loved me with the love of Jesus and never stopped. For forty years my parents prayed for me. God hears and answers every prayer. My heart was not completely hardened. After years of Satan’s deception and delusion, I was at a point where I could hear the Holy Spirit. Under His conviction I responded with deep repentance, reached out and accepted the hope, love and restoration offered by Jesus Christ.
My story and others like it are truly the missing stories in this film. They were offered to the film makers and refused. The filmmakers have an agenda. They made the film in response to the voting down of Proposition 8 in California over same-sex marriage. It is very clear that they do not see homosexual behavior as sin. And they don’t want you to see it as sin either.
In fact, they promised in writing that they would portray the life of someone who chooses to live celibate as part of their film.
They made a film that represents sinful behavior as benign, having no effect on the Adventist faith. They want you to accept the sinner and the sin, voiding any redeeming power of Jesus Christ. It’s just as though Lucifer is saying … I have a better plan. It is the introduction of arrogance and deceit without the flashing red warning lights. Terror struck my heart as this film continued to unfold. Immediately I could sense how Jesus must be pained and how it was so reminiscent of Cain’s offering of fruit, not the offering God had instructed Him to give.
Only a redeemed homosexual can see the extent of deception being introduced to the awe struck, innocent and unaware viewers the producers are seeking to captivate. My stomach was nauseous. This is no truth from the Word of God. This is exaltation of self. The film cleverly seeks to craft a new truth. The Word of God – the flesh translation. As I watched, I felt the love that Jesus has for every character portrayed on this bigger than life screen. These people were immersed in all the cultural trimmings of Adventism. But do they know Jesus?
This has been foretold by the Holy Spirit:
It is a masterpiece of Satan's deceptions to keep the minds of men searching and conjecturing in regard to that which God has not made known and which He does not intend that we shall understand. It was thus that Lucifer lost his place in heaven. He became dissatisfied because all the secrets of God's purposes were not confided to him, and he entirely disregarded that which was revealed concerning his own work in the lofty position assigned him. By arousing the same discontent in the angels under his command, he caused their fall. Now he seeks to imbue the minds of men with the same spirit and to lead them also to disregard the direct commands of God.
Those who are unwilling to accept the plain, cutting truths of the Bible are continually seeking for pleasing fables that will quiet the conscience. The less spiritual, self-denying, and humiliating the doctrines presented, the greater the favor with which they are received. These persons degrade the intellectual powers to serve their carnal desires" (Great Controversy 523)
The story of love that needs telling is not the hippie love of the sixties and early seventies where sex and drugs influenced a non conforming culture. It had consequences. The same is true today. If we promote a self love rather than a Christ love, there will again be consequences--terminal consequences.
If you’ve been duped, or if you want to make sure you are not duped, consider the stories of those who were met with divine intervention. Five such stories are available to you today via ‘Coming Out’ Ministries. These are stories of hope and redemption. These individuals speak from a combined total of more than a hundred and twenty five years in the gay culture. God spoke to them and they allowed the Holy Spirit to humble them and redeem them.
A documentary has been under production over the past year. But you don’t have to wait to see the documentary. You can hear them share the testimony and the teachings God has graciously given them directly from the Word of God. Their message is one of love. This deep penetrating pure love has won hearts from the beginning of earth’s history. It is the life changing love of Jesus Christ.
Any one or all five individuals are available to speak at schools, churches, universities and conferences. Arrangements for these presentations can be made at www.knowhislove.com. ‘Coming Out’ Ministries is currently an umbrella ministry for four supporting individual ministries.
Dialog is long overdue regarding homosexuality and the precious lives it has affected. But in such dialog both love and truth must be present. Neither is valuable alone and Jesus clearly shows that His truth is love. We are nothing without Him.
Seventh-Gay Adventists, a documentary film advocating for the acceptance of gays and lesbians in the Seventh-day Adventist Church, asks Adventists to think twice about what it means to love their neighbor. The independent film follows three gay and lesbian individuals, as they attempt to reconcile their Adventist identity with their sexuality. David, Marcos and Sherri express their struggles with coming out in an Adventist community, yet attempting to remain in it. All of them relate that at one time they had tried to become straight, but with no success. David tried for five years, eventually leaving fellowship with the Adventist church and finding a non-denominational church with his new partner Colin.
Marcos also leaves the church after being fired as a minister for cheating on his wife with another man. He eventually finds and begins attending Second Wind, a church created by Greg & Shasta Nelson. Later in the film the church closes for financial reasons, and seizing the opportunity, Marcos realizes his dream of being a pastor again and begins his own church.
Sherri and Jill’s story is different because they continue to fellowship with a Seventh-day Adventist church. They tell of the mixed reactions they received from members, but that over all, the church has been very accepting, even allowing Jill to head up the new Adventurer club, which no one was willing to lead out in. There is some initial apprehension when their current pastor Loren Seibold leaves, because they are unsure how the new pastor will treat them. Their eldest daughter is baptised by the new pastor later in the film.
Producers and married couple Daneen Akers and Stephen Eyer do a masterful job at provoking an emotional sympathy for the struggles and pain each couple experienced at the hand of individuals and leaders within the church.
“The ultimate question we wanted to ask is how do we treat each other,” Eyer says. “We wanted to begin a conversation that would break stereotypes, and allow gays to tell their story, and not just have a film talking about gays.”
Akers and Eyer originally had planned to do an issues film, inspired by the political buzz generated by Proposition 8 in California. The proposition says only marriage between a man and a woman is valid or recognized in California. They initially were angry with Proposition 8, but after delving into the personal stories they were following, they decided to tone the film down and focus exclusively on the individuals.
“We wanted to start a thoughtful conversation through story,” says Akers.
The couple spent three years following the lives of about 12 individuals, eventually narrowing it down to the three seen in the film.
Stories are a powerful form of propaganda. The film tells stories in a very non-confrontational style, but the message is loud and clear. With the exception of a few intimate scenes of the couples kissing and a protracted scene of David receiving a backrub from Colin without his shirt, there’s not much to take offense at. The film shows the very mundane activities of each couple. The stereotypes of gay and lesbians as uncommitted, promiscuous sex fiends are absent.
While the film did produce some food for thought, the manner in which the subject is presented is biased against the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s understanding of the biblical view on homosexual behavior. The film is deceptive and artful in its normative presentation of homosexual behavior. It presents homosexual behavior in the most benign way with little regard for the plain texts in the Bible, which prohibit it.
The premise of the film shows you can be gay and Adventist. However, it is impossible to reconcile homosexual behavior with being a Seventh-day Adventist Christian, and here is where the film completely misses the boat. Christians cannot identify with sin while calling themselves Christian. Paul said in 2 Corinthians 5:17, “Therefore if anyone is in Christ, he is a new creature; the old things passed away; behold, new things have come” (NASB). A gay Adventist is an oxymoron. When we’ve died to self and become a new creature in Christ, we will no longer identify ourselves with the sins of our past. Yet the film attempts to place sexual identity and the desire to be with someone over the Bible and our need to place God’s will before our own. It’s not a film about dying to self and coming into a loving and obedient relationship with Jesus, it’s about taking any measures to please and appease self.
Consider Akers, a fifth generation Adventist, who hasn’t attended an official Adventist church in years. Due to their work on this film, Akers and Eyers have found it difficult to find a church to attend, according to Akers. While she and her husband appear to identify themselves with the Seventh-day Adventist Church, they are opposed to the church theologically regarding homosexuality, which puts them at a disadvantage in the conversation about the intersect of Adventism and homosexuality.*
“Ultimately it’s a question of hermeneutics--how do we interpret the Bible,” Akers said during the Palm Springs screening.
She couldn’t be more correct, but the film doesn’t address what the Bible says with any depth, relying exclusively on emotion appeal.
And the lack of representation from individuals who have overcome homosexual behavior is concerning.
“Initially Daneen [Akers] told me I was the person they were considering to represent those who had been living the gay lifestyle and were now celibate,” Wayne Blakely of Know His Love Ministry said. Blakely is also participating in a merger of ministries dealing with homosexuality called Coming Out.
Blakely said he and his colleagues offered Akers and Eyer their stories of freedom, but the producers didn’t want anything to do with them.
“If [Eyer and Akers] are calling for a reconciliation, is it a reconciliation to God or to the world?” said Blakely. “God's word is not a message of hate, but a message of love. Some Christians are accused of being homophobic, because they’re not placing their stamp of approval on someone's lifestyle. You say you're unable to love your child without condoning their behavior? My parents’ loved me while I was living a gay lifestyle, but they never stopped praying for me and they never condoned my lifestyle.”
Blakely is concerned the film doesn’t give any representation to those who have started a new life in Jesus, and who have overcome homosexuality through the power of Jesus’ healing and restoring grace. This doesn’t mean anyone has labels of gay or straight; it means they are a new creature in Jesus, denying self, ready to be obedient to what a loving God asks in His word.
In response to this lack of representation, Akers said: “A film is really an exploration of a question, and our questions were: how does someone reconcile being both Adventist and gay, and is there a home in the Adventist church for those who are on the margins? The story of celibate gays also deserve attention, as all of our stories do, but it's a very different story because celibate gays live within the church's prescribed standards. That just wasn't the intersection we ultimately wanted to explore because that's not where the real identity challenge is.... We didn't connect with anyone who seemed appropriate to profile in depth with the rigor that participating in a film like this requires.”
It doesn’t appear the producers were interested in how Blakely and others had overcome their sin, but were more interested in promoting stories that nicely condone homosexual behavior in the church, while at the same time desensitizing people to the serious nature of sin. The film pushes a homosexual-behavior-is-acceptable agenda, and doesn’t give a gay person any resources or hope for overcoming sin.
There is no doubt the church has not always dealt with the issue of homosexuality in a loving manner. The church needs to ask forgiveness, and those who have been wronged need to forgive, even if not asked.
Too often “love the sinner but hate the sin” is repeated, but without any knowledge of how this plays out practically. What does it look like to love a brother or sister in Christ who chooses to participate in homosexual behavior and yet hate the sin? It’s a challenge all Christians ask who have friends or family choosing a gay lifestyle.
What’s dangerous about this film is its treatment of homosexuality. Unlike other sins that are universally recognized as such, homosexual behavior is no longer being considered a sin by an increasing number in the church. That poses a problem for the church. The church has not educated its membership adequately, and hopefully this film will stir the laity and church leaders to be more proactive in teaching what the Bible says about how we should love each other and what appropriate boundaries should be made both in the church and in personal relationships with people who choose to live in sin.
Unfortunately, this film will do more to desensitize members to sin than anything else, and if the church remains complacent about the film’s influence, it will also hold some responsibility for the souls it did not educate or help. Even if the producers are misguided, at least they are speaking. We are to be hot or cold, not somewhere in the politically-correct middle.
* UPDATE 5/7/12 Clarification as to why Akers and Eyer no longer regularly fellowship at a Seventh-day Adventist Church.
An unusual ability to explain complicated scientific theories and describe intricately designed and nearly inconceivably minuscule parts of cells and DNA and genomes in language which a non-scientist with perhaps a college course in biology can understand makes Stephen C. Meyer a unique author, one who has written a compellingly fascinating book titled Signature in the Cell. Written to defend Intelligent Design [ID], the book begins with a brief description of Darwinism, DNA, and ID. After a chapter on the work of Watson and Crick and their unraveling of the double helix construction in DNA, Meyers writes brief histories of many theories propounded through the centuries to explain the origin of life on earth using successive theories to describe the fallacies in earlier ones and citations from modern scientists to point out problems in current theories.
Adding information to matter and energy in order to produce life creates incomprehensible numbers such as “the probability of finding a functional protein by chance alone is a trillion, trillion, trillion, trillion trillion, trillion trillion times smaller than the odds of finding a single specified particle among all the particles in the universe” page 212.
Using over seven hundred notes and citations and listing nine hundred sources in his bibliography, Meyers documents his information meticulously. Yet he often uses simple illustrations such as passing around a padlock to students in his class and asking them to try in three steps to unlock it. When finally one boy succeeds, at first the students are incredulous over his luck but then gradually realize he has had information from the teacher that they lacked.
Because belief in God as the creator immediately marks any theory or information as unscientific in the minds of many scientists, Stevens carefully avoids using the word “God” until near the end of the book, and he never mentions the Biblical account of creation or his religious beliefs, although he does say he believes in God on page 440.
Readers may find the five hundred pages of the book rather daunting, but persistence will greatly increase their knowledge and understanding of current theories about how life appeared on earth including belief in Intelligent Design.
Stephen E. Meyers PhD directs the Center for Science and Culture at the Discovery Institute in Seattle.