The Fair-Dinkum Protestant
To be ‘Fair Dinkum’, ‘Ridgy-didge’, ‘true-blue’. These are uniquely Australian words that represent the desire for someone to be honest and true and loyal. In the words of well known ‘bush’ poet and song writer, John Williamson, ‘standing by your mates, when their in a fight’. The concept is immortalized in the mythological ‘spirit of the ANZACS’. It’s about ‘mates’ sticking together when the going gets tough. Its about doing your fair share of the work. Its about giving everyone a ‘fair go’. Bravely standing up to help the underdog in their struggles. It’s about telling the truth regardless of the consequences. It’s the spirit of self- sacrifice for the good of others. It’s what Christ is to us, and what he wants us to be to each other. But are these qualities becoming just a myth of the past? Should not the members of the church, on the side of Christ, be living ‘fair-dinkum’ lives? Pulling together in the tough times we are living in? Do we not instead, see churches becoming polarized, members being ostracized, and ministers being criticized? And so I protest. And I make a plea for everyone that reads this, to protest also. We must pull together. The world is flooding the church, and truth is being trampled on. The plain word of scripture and the truths once held as precious have been exchanged for the philosophies of theologians and the sophistries of modern reason.
The right of the individual to worship God according to his own conscience has been usurped by the authority of the “the church” in its attempt to define what each member should hold as truth.
These are times of trouble for the church as well as the world. We must make a stand for the principles of the reformation. The first is this, that the Bible and the Bible only is to be our creed. Sola Scriptura; this was Luther’s defense. This too was the stand that the founders of Adventism maintained. They knew that to hold any other creed but this, was but to follow the mistakes of the Catholic Church, and travel down the path of apostasy and so adamantly refused to define their beliefs in any way that would limit the freedom to search the scriptures and find truth. And we must adamantly refuse to support any such creed. The original Statement of Fundamental Principles of Faith, written in 1872, in its opening preamble states thus:
“In presenting to the public this synopsis of our faith, we wish to have it distinctly understood that we have no articles of faith, creed, or discipline, aside from te Bible. We do not put forth this as having any authority with our people, nor is designed to secure uniformity among them, as a system of faith, but is a brief statement of what is, and has been, with great unanimity, held by them. (A Declaration of Fundamental Principles, 1872, page 3).
The Adventist pioneers were distinctly against any type of document which would be construed as acting as a binding creed of any kind. In fact, J.N. Loughborough stated that a creed was the first of “five steps to apostasy”:
"the first step of apostasy is to get up a creed, telling us what we shall believe. The second is to make that creed a test of fellowship. The third is to try members by that creed. The fourth is to denounce as heretics those who do not believe that creed.. And fifth, to commence persecution against such." (Loughborough/ Review and Herald, October 8, 1861).
The view that apostasy begins with the formation of a creed was illustrated by A.T. Jones in his classic book, ‘The two republics’, He titled the chapter in which he discusses the events that culminated in the formation of the Nicene Creed, as “CHAPTER XIV. ESTABLISHMENT OF THE CATHOLIC FAITH.” In the summary of the chapter he outlines the principles of Catholicism thus established. (excuse the long quote)
"From this period we may date the introduction of rigorous articles of belief, which required the submissive assent of the mind to every word and letter of an established creed, and which raised the slightest heresy of opinion into a more fatal offense against God, and a more odious crime in the estimation of man, than the worst moral delinquency or the most flagrant deviation from the spirit of Christianity." -- Milman.30
Yet more than this, this theory proceeds upon the assumption that religious truth and doctrine are subject to the decision of the majority, than which nothing could possibly be farther from the truth. Even though the decision of the Council of Nicene had been absolutely, and from honest conviction, spontaneously unanimous, it never could rest with the slightest degree of obligation or authority upon any soul, who had not arrived at the same conclusion from honest conviction derived from the free exercise of his own power of thought. There is no organization, nor tribunal, on earth that has any right to decide for anybody what is the truth upon any religious question. "The head of every man is Christ." 1 Cor. xi, 3. "One is your Master, even Christ." Matt. xxiii, 8. "Who art thou that judgest another man's servant? to his own master he standeth or falleth. . . . So then every one of us shall give account of himself to God." Rom. xiv, 4, 12.
In the quest for truth every man is free to search, to believe, and to decide for himself alone. And his assent to any form of belief or doctrine, to be true, must spring from his own personal conviction that such is the truth. "The truth itself, forced on man otherwise than by its own inward power, becomes falsehood." -- Neander. 31 And he who suffers anything to be so forced upon him, utters a lie against himself and against God. The realm of thought is the realm of God.(emphasis supplied)
Whosoever would attempt to restrict or coerce the free exercise of the thought of another, usurps the dominion of God, and exercises that of the devil.This is what Constantine did at the Council of Nice. This is what the majority of the Council of Nice itself did. In carrying out the purpose for which it was met, this is the only thing that it could do, no matter which side of the controversy should prove victorious. What Constantine and the Council of Nice did, was to open the way and set the wicked precedent for that despotism over thought, which continued for more than fourteen hundred dreary years, and which was carried to such horrible lengths when the pope succeeded to the place of Constantine as head over both Church and State. To say that the Holy Spirit had anything whatever to do with the council either in discussing or deciding the question or in any other way, is but to argue that the Holy Spirit of God is but the subject and tool of the unholy passions of ambitious and wicked men.”
It is plain from His discussion that the establishment of a creed usurps the individual’s rights in two ways. The right to sola scriptura, and the right to worship God according to his own conscience. Should we defend this right of conscience for the people of our church. Yea and Amen, for defending these fundamental rights for others is the only way we can secure them for ourselves.
So what is the relevance of this to our current situation. As many are aware, The seventh Day Adventist Church did not establish a creed till 1980. When 27 Fundamental beliefs were established as articles of faith and have been enforced as a test for baptism and church membership. Nothing short of a creed.
This has in more recent times led to disagreement in the church on fundamental doctrines. And because of the ‘creed’ being now established has left little room for open, honest debate and reasoning among fellow members. This has led to polarization within the church, between those whose conscience agrees with that of the church’s “official position”, and those whose conscience allows a different perspective.
As such, the original statement of the “Fundamental Principles of Faith” were not a binding test of fellowship, even though it is made plain that the statement represented the fundamental doctrines unanimously held by the Seventh-day Adventist Church. Regardless of its apparent lack of authority in terms of fellowship, it was to be considered the identity of the church in terms of its theology and its doctrine of God. Here then are the first two articles of that statement:
A Declaration of the Fundamental Principles Taught and Practiced by the Seventh-day Adventists, 1872
- I -
That there is one God, a personal, spiritual being [singular], the creator of all things, omnipotent, omniscient, and eternal, infinite in wisdom, holiness, justice, goodness, truth, and mercy; unchangeable, and everywhere present by his representative, the Holy Spirit. Psalm 139:7.
- II -
That there is one Lord Jesus Christ, the Son of the Eternal Father, the one by whom God created all things, and by whom they do consist; that he took on him the nature of the seed of Abraham for the redemption of our fallen race; that he dwelt among men full of grace and truth, lived our example, died our sacrifice, was raised for our justification, ascended on high to be our only mediator in the sanctuary in Heaven, where, with his own blood, he makes atonement for our sins; which atonement, so far from being made on the cross, which was but the offering of the sacrifice, is the very last portion of his work as priest, according to the example of the Levitical priesthood, which foreshadowed and prefigured the ministry of our Lord in Heaven. See Leviticus ch. 16, Hebrews 8:4, 5; 9:6, 7.
The principles they had adopted differed from those of other protestant denominations. Their’s were born out of the protestant understanding of sola scriptura. The word of God and nothing else.
We live in confusing times. We are bombarded with an overload of information from every direction. There is an explosion of knowledge in every field of study. The study of the sciences have developed specialties within specialties in order to discover the minutia of detail in their field, revealing things that the average individual could never hope to discover. Therefore we have developed the habit of allowing the opinion of “the expert” to rule our thinking. Similarly, it may be the case, that we have allowed theologians to have claimed their territory in their field of study, and interpret the scriptures for us, at least to some degree. The Bible however, should be open for all to study, for themselves. The God given priviledge is for all to discover for themselves what is truth, and what is their duty to both God and man. If we allow another to do this for us we are likely to be deceived and eventually to deny God altogether There is truth in the Bible. There is a mine of evidence from which we can draw our own opinions, and yet not allow ourselves to go beyond the scriptures in explaing those things that are not made plain. In the study of nature, Darwin discovered evidence of marvelous creations he could not understand. Instead of marveling at the wonders of God, he gathered together the evidence and tried to explain that which he did not understand. He presented his theory to the scientific world, and this theory is now taught and understood by the majority, as fact. A “fact” that contradicts the plain word of scripture. He gathered up the various “bones” and made a calamatous creature of his own invention. The theory of Evolution. When we allow theologians to discover “truth” and explain it for us. To gather evidence and attempt to explain that which they cannot understand. We too are in danger of believing in the “dinosaurs” of their imagination and “truths” of their own fabrication.