Dear Adrian Ebens
Gospel of Right or Privilege and Women’s Ordination.
Whenever I have been gripped by a story of great struggle, courage and victory in the face of the forces of evil I have naturally identified myself with the central character of the story. As a man who wrestles with sin and lives within the knowledge of the great controversy, this story is natural for me as it is or most people. So when I come to the story of Jesus and I see the struggle and conquest He engages through the pages of Scripture and as I behold loving patience and wisdom in the face of the cruelty of Satan and his forces, my heart is drawn to Him. I identify with His struggle and I am comforted by the knowledge of His coming total victory over sin. I look forward to standing on the sea of glass with Him and rejoice with Him in His victory over His foes and mine.
This brings us to the central question of the identity of Jesus. What is the story of the Bible that I am identifying with? The story of Jesus that I was taught within my church was that Jesus held His position as God by divine right. Since He possessed all the qualities of divinity inherently, he therefore was naturally entitled to a position of equality with God the Father. As the story was explained to me, Lucifer tried to deny Christ what was naturally His, Satan tried to take away from Christ his title of God. With this understanding of Christ, the central story the underpins the Great Controversy is the conquest of divine right, It is God the Son demonstrating His Godhood before the universe and dispelling the lies of Satan concerning Him. The coming of Jesus to this earth was a demonstration of His love, His patience, His power, His wisdom and His self-sacrifice in order to demonstrate and then lay down His Divinity. I repeat that this story is one of the struggle for recognition for one to be seen as equal with God.
In the person of the begotten Son, I have discovered a very different Jesus. The Son of God holds His position by divine privilege. All things were given to the Son by His Father. He did not seek equality with His Father but rather took upon Himself the form of a servant in order to reveal the love of His Father. The person of Jesus is one who is filled with a deep sense of joy at being given all things. The person of Jesus does nothing of Himself but trusts His Father to give Him all He needs and to protect and vindicate His name. The Great controversy unfolds as Satan seeking to deny the relationship that Jesus has to the Father, Satan seeks to take from Christ His Sonship and Inheritance. The struggle of Christ here is one who rests in His Father’s love while He clings to His Sonship and inheritance. In the gospel contrast, this backdrop provides a chorus to the theme of our resting in our Father’s love and clinging to our sonship and inheritance through Christ. Christ is the Gospel, the Way, the truth and the life.
These two very different stories of Jesus yield very different understandings of the gospel. The Jesus who is engaged in a battle with Satan to reveal His identity of equality with God translates into efforts of giving recognition and equality by human right. The gospel becomes cloaked in a mantle of social justice; of Women’s rights to ordination; of a person’s right to education and a job; of the rights of the planet to thrive. Do we see the church being swept with social justice issues? Are not these simply echoes of the central narrative understood in the person of Jesus? In this context is not Women’s ordination then an issue of the gospel of right to equality? As the Jesus who battles for equality plays out in the hearts and lives of those who serve him, is not this question of women’s ordination an echo of the struggle of Christ for equality? The gospel of the Jesus who rules by divine right from his inherent resources is the God who fuels the fires of social justice and equality by right, equality for education, equality by position.
In contrast, the Son of God who receives all things creates a theme in the gospel of immense privilege and joy and trust that our Father will protect and save us. This is the gospel of Scripture, the gospel of immense privilege, the gospel of an incredible gift be the Father in giving His Son. This giving by the Father is stamped and sealed in the story of Jesus who was given all things. Jesus received all things, but He took in order to give. Of course when one lives with such immense privilege, he will value humanity, education and the planet as gifts from the Father to care for, but it is a love born of privilege not right.
As long as our Church presents the story of Jesus as one who is God by His divine right, then the questions of social justice and equality with naturally play out in our lives as we emulate the struggle of a Jesus seeking equality and recognition. I am asking my Church to come back to the Son who rules by Divine privilege, who was given all things in order to give.(See Desire of Ages Page 21) A Son who does not seek equality because He knows that God is His Father and that the Father will ensure all things are done decently and in order. This Jesus does not seek sameness (platonic eros) with His Father but simply clings to the Word of His Father that He is His Beloved Son(biblical agape). His inheritance from His Father is the clear distinguisher between them both. So too, Eve’s inheritance from Adam, her very name taken from man is the blessed distinguisher between man and woman, both human, yet distinct by the inheritance and so with Father and Son, both God yet distinct by the inheritance of the Son from His Father. The inheritance removes all discussion of the striving for equality and the desire for sameness, all this is swept away by the joy of privilege.
Six years ago from my vantage point of a minister of the Seventh-day Adventist Church I saw the issues that now threaten the unity of the church over Women’s ordination relating to the issues of church and family governance. The writing of my book Return of Elijah was primarily about Church governance though most understand it to be simply against the Trinity. The God we worship defines methods of human authority and how they are executed. The narrative that forces itself upon you from a co-equal Trinity based on inherent qualities is one of social and legal justice. The Trinity of Adventism logically demands the social justice of Women’s ordination, it must be central to its gospel theme. The conservative position of male only ordination coupled with the co-equal trinity is logically inconsistent. The Trinity’s spiritualism of terms Father and Son should naturally allow spiritualising the terms “Husband of one wife” for an elder or pastor. Either we go back to the literal Father and Son and embrace a theology of inheritance and privilege or we ordain women as spiritual “husbands of one wife” and co-equal leaders by divine example leading to human right. That is the logical choice.
The CUC and PUC union conferences are only carrying out the legitimate struggle of the Jesus found in the Trinity, the struggle for equality and recognition. A struggle that is worth the sacrifice of unity because this struggle is seen as a gospel struggle not mere human desire and opinion. It is the struggle of the Jesus they see in Adventism. I submit to you the book Return of Elijah if you have not read it with a view of addressing Women’s ordination. For me that was the most pressing issue. The issue of Women’s ordination will not subside because it is linked to the fundamental issues of which Jesus you serve and what Gospel you believe. Beyond this I wrote the book Life Matters (contact us if you can’t use Amazon.com) to provide a systematic view of how an understanding of authority and blessing affect core Adventist teachings. For the implications for family church and community flowing out of an understanding of a real Father and Son authority structure see my book Divine Pattern
Let us pray for our church that we will regain the great controversy story that carries the theme of privilege rather than right; of inheritance rather inherency; of relationship rather than position.
One final observation. Whose story in the great controversy is the one of seeking equality through a struggle for recognition? Is this not the story of Satan himself? Is not this push for woman’s ordination simply a cameo of the central theme of Satan’s view of the great controversy – the desire for recognition and equality? The Jesus I serve has no such struggle, He rests calmly in His inheritance. His struggle is one of His true relationship to God as His Father, protector and provider.
Choose you this day which Jesus underpins your great controversy story. Is it the Jesus who rules by divine right or by divine privilege.
Galatians 1:8-9 But though we, or an angel from heaven, preach any other gospel unto you than that which we have preached unto you, let him be accursed. (9) As we said before, so say I now again, If any man preach any other gospel unto you than that ye have received, let him be accursed.
John 17:3 And this is life eternal, that they might know thee the only true God, and Jesus Christ, whom thou hast sent.
Recent Articles and Resources
The Source of Peace: A Testimony
Not What I Know But Who I Know
Heart of the 1888 Message - transcript
To Know the Father - Transcript
GC Official Statement in response to CUC vote on Women's ordination
General Conference of SDA
Turning My Heart to the Father
Apart With Jesus Only
From Heartache... to Hope: Achievement and Attention
Longacre Will Straighten Them Out
Reflecting His Love
Mark A Hornbeck
Open Letter to the PUC Delegates on Women's Ordination Vote
Foundations of History
My Beloved – The Midnight Cry - Transcript
Prominent Seventh-day Adventists Speak Out Against Spiritual Formation
A serious threat to the unity of the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist Church
My Beloved AUD $7.95
His Story in the Stars AUD $11.95
Sabbath Diagnosis AUD $13.95
The Blended Gospel AUD $39.95
Divine Pattern AUD $9.95
The Divine pattern touches every aspect of our lives and holds the key to joy, peace and harmony within our marriages, communities, churches and all social structures within our world.
In the relationship between God and His Son, we behold the key to this divine pattern. Themore and more we behold them, love them and pattern our lives after them, the more receptivewe become to their channel of blessing in our lives.
Before this world began, Satan and his angels moved to obscure the divine pattern and replace it with a counterfeit that would break the circuit of God's boundless love and bring untold misery to the world.
Uncover this deceptive counterfeit and see, in the great original divine pattern the key for returning our church to the worship of God and His Son.
The Return of Elijah AUD $19.95
Through the use of a metaphorical or spiritualising of the Word, the Father and Son are being denied by the Remnant Church in its worship of the Trinity
Life Matters AUD $17.95
Building a Family Treasure
I have often found myself chasing this treasure of memories. I recently traveled to a place I lived when I was a child and I just soaked up the sights and the sounds, visited my old home and relived the memories. Memories of Dad and Mum, my sister and I, sitting around the lounge, memories of going running with my Dad, memories of playing with my friends in the creek, climbing trees and riding bikes. I know that the memories are slightly ‘rose glass tinted’ and there is an incredibly strong bias to only remember the good times, but it feels so good and satisfying.
Building and protecting this kind of treasure safeguards the health of communities and gives hope to generations yet to emerge. The treasures of love and affection, sweet memories laid down in family rituals and experiences are the fabric of life. Without this treasure, life has no heart and soul and is reduced to the drudgery of survival. Without a series of warm memories connected to special relationships – life is meaningless. No person can centre and stablise themselves without some place they can point to with warmth and call home.
Identity Wars AUD $9.95
Identity Wars is a journey of self discovery. Its an invitation to learn your value in a purely relational context.
Our lives are bombarded with a constant drone of messages telling us that our success only comes from proving to ourselves and the world that we have what it takes, that we have the right stuff. it is a system that teaches us to feel valuable and important when we achieve and perform to a certain standard. the results of this system are in and the evidence is not good. Millions are depressed and hundred's of people a day ending their lives in despair.
I invite you to learn the true nature of this war we are in - an identity war of what defines our value and worth. the stakes are high because it is life and death. This book contains the key principles I have learnt from this war and what I believe is the road to true freedom.