Friday, September 26, 2008

Realism and Totality: Give Them Some Thought

by Bill Brace

Realistically, who cares about realism and totality these days? And what do those words and ideas mean in the first place, especially in the context of the gospel? Well, perhaps more than we realize.

Let’s admit it: reality shows on television, or what is being advertised as such, cause us to be confused about the topic. Ditto for romantic love presented today as the real thing. And, most importantly, where do these trends lead us, or leave us, in relationship to the aforementioned questions? Unfortunately, also, as opposed to what the biblical concepts of reality and totality reveal to us about God and the gospel, humankind, and I speak specifically of Occidental man, is fast headed—fueled by both humanistic philosophy and the media—to a state of non-personhood.

Now bear with me for a few more moments. Yes, I know at this point you may be somewhat puzzled by all the aforementioned gobbledygook, but I have an important point to make, and it is this: the message of Seventh-day Adventism, articulated in Revelation 14:6 as the “everlasting gospel,” is the final work of God to restore man to wholeness after the gargantuan disruption of his character caused by six thousand years of sin. The truth of the gospel—in the setting of the Most Holy Place ministry of Jesus, which is so unique in present theology—is, in fact, the final maturation of the entire biblical message of restoration.

Now, if I understand correctly, the Hebraic mind of the Old Testament knew reality and totality as those truths related to God. That is first evidenced at creation. (And the Hebrews were very much creationists. Are we still likewise?) In this context, Genesis 2:7 had/has great meaning and significance—much, much, more, perhaps, than we today ever begin to realize at this station of our personal and denominational development. There, we are told, “And the Lord God formed man of the dust of the ground, and breathed into his nostrils the breath of life; and man became a living soul [being]” (KJV). Unfortunately, Greek/Hellenistic thinking and philosophy, having made inroads upon Christianity (recently admitted to by none other than the Roman Catholic Church!), have fostered not only a misunderstanding and an erroneous teaching that has to do with the state of the dead, but also an incomplete picture of the very gospel itself.

In an earlier issue of our magazine, Clinton Baldwin presented a case for what has been termed by some biblical scholars as “corporate justification” or “legal justification.” His rationale for this truth was right on target. You see, he argued for it, quite correctly, in the context of biblical reality. (If you still have that issue on your shelf, go back and read his article once again.) Thus, justification is not dependent upon my faith to make it a reality any more than the things of nature are dependent upon my perceptions to make them a reality. Confusion upon this truth has been caused by the Greek philosophy of disruption and abstraction. Abraham, a creationist who understood the realism and totality of Genesis 2:7 and also the father of the Hebrews, saw this truth of reality, and that is why his response of belief in Genesis 15:6—a resounding “amen”—was simply an affirmation of the reality of God and the reality of His promise (covenant or gospel).

So, did God justify the world “in Christ,” the One slain from its foundation? Absolutely! That is a reality and a heartwarming one. My appreciation (which we call “faith”) of that reality is indeed an important response, which also denotes the very essence of my personhood. That can never be minimized. However, it does not make justification a reality any more than my faith in God makes Him a reality.

Let me, in closing, stimulate your thinking. I am convinced that Genesis 2:7 has a much broader basis for our theology, especially as it relates to the great message of the gospel, than we have heretofore realized. And, isn’t that verse a very revelation of the gospel itself? (Remember, God cannot be separated from the gospel. It is, after all, the essence of His being.) Unfortunately, the Greek philosophy of abstraction has hindered us maybe more than we have understood. It has tempted us toward the ditches of both materialism and spiritualism and away from totality. The latter attraction of spiritualism, as it relates to the reality of God and the gospel, is especially to be feared. Didn’t the modern prophet among us warn about this subtle, last deception?[1]

May we keep studying and dialoguing. We need one another!

[1] For more on this important topic, I would refer you to the books of Carsten Johnsen, former Andrews University Seminary professor. He has written several, including The Maligned God (Sisteron, France: The Untold Story Publishers, 1980); Agape and Eros (Loma Linda, Calif.: The Untold Story Publishers, 1982); Man: The Indivisible Totality versus Disruption in the History of Western Thought (Oslo: Universitetsforlaget, 1971). I heartily recommend them to you, though I must admit that I have never completely conquered the latter!

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