By Elder Lawrence Nelson
We begin with a question: Why was justification by faith rejected in 1888 at the Minneapolis Conference? The answer: Back in the Dark Ages God began to prepare a people for the Second Coming of Jesus by using Martin Luther to start the great Protestant Reformation in the preaching of justification by faith. Then in 1844, God brought forth His Advent Movement preaching the additional truth that the divine law of God, contained in the Most Holy Place within God’s heavenly sanctuary, must be obeyed in order for us to fully receive the righteousness of Christ.
Many within the church, in their zeal to preach the law did so in a legalistic way forgetting that we need Jesus in our hearts before we are able to keep the law, and live the Christian life. Ellen White recognized this problem when she wrote, “As a people, we have preached the law until we are as dry as the hills of Gilboa that hath neither dew nor rain.” Review and Herald, March 11, 1890.
To help the servant of the Lord meet this problem, the Lord sent E.J. Waggoner and A.T. Jones to preach justification by faith with the law. But many within the church, especially our leaders, thought they were trying to do away with the law. This is why the Minneapolis Conference of 1888 rejected the message of justification by faith.
Today, we are facing the imminent return of Jesus. Once again Satan has infiltrated God’s true church with the “Celebration” of New Theology that proclaims a false justification by faith in teaching that all that is needed for salvation is love and unity; that no one need be concerned about the law since Christ kept it for us. As a result millions among us today have been duped to believe the lie of Satan that the divine law of God cannot be kept even in the power of Almighty God; therefore we can sin until Jesus comes. May God help us.
Let us pray, Oh loving Father, our hearts faint within us as we see the majority within our church today blindly following Babylon’s false teachings of justification of faith alone in love and unity, without equally emphasizing obedience to Thy divine law. Please, Father, open our eyes that only through an experience of the New Birth, born of repentance, confession, forgiveness and obedience are we clothed with Christ’s righteousness; and thus fit for heaven. Please grant us this experience, in the name of Jesus, Amen.
Turning to God’s Word we read in 2 Corinthians 6:14-18, “Be ye not unequally yoked together with unbelievers: for what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? And what communion hath light with darkness? And what concord hath Christ with Belial? Or what part hath he that believeth with an infidel? And what agreement hath the temple of God with idols? For ye are the temple of the living God; as God hath said, I will dwell in them, and walk in them; and I will be their God, and they shall be my people. Wherefore come out from among them, and be ye separate, saith the Lord, and touch not the unclean thing; and I will receive you, And will be a Father unto you, and ye shall be my sons and daughters, saith the Lord Almighty.”
Now in view of this clear counsel from God’s Word not to mingle with the followers of Babylon let us examine how this false teaching of justification by faith alone is affecting the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
From The Remnant Herald #43 November 1998 I gleaned the following: In 1975 Bill Hibbles commenced an interdenominational Pentecostal-style church near Chicago, focused on church growth. Today, about 17,000 adults attend his weekend “seeker services” and 6,000 his mid-week “believers services.” By all human standards the Willow Creek Church is a great success. Further, this church has formed the Willow Creek Association (WCA). Presently over 2,200 churches have joined this WCA; and at least 56 of those are Seventh-day Adventist churches and three are Seventh-day Adventist conference organizations.
The three conference are the Alaska Conference, the Dakota Conference (which embraces North and South Dakota) and the Greater New York Conference (confined to New York City and its nearby environs). I shall not list all of the 56 churches. Some are well known in Seventh-day Adventist circles. Three are churches near Seventh-day Adventist hospitals such as Hinsdale, the Florida Hospital and the Kettering Seventh-day Adventist churches. Others include Columbia Union College’s Sligo Church, the church which introduced the ordination of women to the ministry, and the College View church in Lincoln, Nebraska on the campus of Union College. This was the church in which the Cardinal Archbishop of Baltimore preached on baptism, and the Pacific Union College church where Desmond Ford still holds membership.
Seven of the 56 churches are in Canada. Not a few have adopted names which do not reflect that they are Seventh-day Adventist churches. We must at least credit these church with professing that which they practice, for they are surely no longer Seventh-day Adventist churches, however, conference may regard them, thus they do not publicly shame the name Seventh-day Adventist. The names for some of these churches are: The Center for Creative Activity (this church is in Nebraska), The Hamilton Community Church (Tennessee), The New Church Plant (Canada), The New Hope Church (Maryland), The New Life Celebration Fellowship (Oregon), The New Life Christian Fellowship (Washington), The Oasis Christian Center, and the Sun Valley Fellowship (Canada), and South Hills Bible Fellowship (Pennsylvania).
The Willow Creek Association is an organization of a fallen church of Babylon. It is a charismatic, Sunday-keeping church. These conferences and churches have now gone to a fallen church of Babylon in order to be better Seventh-day Adventists. Just as well may they go to the witch of Endor. These conferences and churches have entered Babylon. It will be well nigh impossible to recover such denominational entities for they have done so in the full light of truth.
Lest it be thought that these conferences and churches have incurred the displeasure of the church organization, or even that the Willow Creek Association on the Internet is unreliable in its listing of these churches, we direct your attention to the documented evidence to the contrary. An article in the Adventist Review December 18, 1997 made these headline points: 1. “Adventist should give Willow Creek a fair shake” 2. “Adventist should continue gleaning from Willow Creek” 3. “Gleaning from Willow Creek’s message does not mean forfeiting our message.” These subheadings contained two disgraceful admonitions and one absolute falsehood. How can we be so blind?
Just listen to this from the same article listed above, “Adventists, both pastors and lay people, constantly make up one of the largest groups at Willow Creek’s half dozen annual seminars.” This is not only so in the United States. In 1997 numerous Seventh-day Adventist pastors and laymen attended the Willow Creek Association meeting in Gothenburg, Sweden. This report is written to warn God’s flock worldwide concerning this phenomenon within the Seventh-day Adventist church.
Already the fruitage of this union with Babylon is well known to church administrators. Again quoting from the same Adventist Review article, we find it admitted, “Fact: These three largest Adventist churches to divide or depart. Oregon’s Sunnyside, Maryland’s Damascus and Colorado’s Christ Adventist Fellowship, were clearly influence by Willow Grove.”
Have these actions made the Seventh-day Adventist church Babylon? No! A thousand times, no! See Testimonies to Ministers p.1-62. It is only because of a very small remnant, as we read in Isaiah 1:9 however, that we are not Babylon. We are apostate Israel. These local conferences and churches however are now in Babylon. There they will remain unless, by a miracle of God’s grace, they seek Him in deep repentance. But the Seventh-day Adventist church, cleansed and purified, is still the repository of His truth, the law and the Three Angels’ Messages; and she will triumph gloriously. Her warfare will be accomplished as we read in Isaiah 42 in God’s power through the fidelity and evangelistic zeal of a very small remnant.
Elder Robert Pearson, a former president of the General Conference, foresaw what was about to take place as a result of this New Theology of a false justification by faith when he wrote in the Ministry magazine of October 1977, “It would be well for every Seventh-day Adventist leader to prayerfully study the subtle plans of the apostate angel of light as he seeks to thwart the triumph of the Advent movement. Get out your Bibles and the Spirit of Prophecy, especially Select Messages , Book 1, p, 193-205 and on your knees consider the startling facts faithfully chronicled by the Lord’s servant.
“Now note well what Ellen White warns could mark the work of the Omega: 1. ‘The principles of truth that God in His wisdom has given to the remnant church would be disregarded’ (p. 204). 2. ‘The truth will be criticized, scorned and derided’ (p. 201). 3. ‘It will make of no effect the truth of heavenly origin’ (p. 204). 4. ‘The religion would be changed’ (p. 204). 5. ‘The Sabbath, of course, would be lightly regarded as also the God who created it’ (p. 205). 6. ‘The fundamental principles that have sustained the work for the last 50 years would be accounted as an error’ (p. 204). 7. ‘There would be a supposition that a great reformation was about to take place among Seventh-day Adventists and that this reformation would consist in giving up the doctrines which stand as the pillars of our faith’ (p. 204). 8. ‘A system of intellectual philosophy would be introduced’ (p. 204). 9. The new philosophy would ‘rob the people of God and their experience giving them instead a false science.’ (204). 10. It would seek to weaken the preaching of the second advent by teaching, ‘The scenes just before us are not of sufficient importance to be given special attention’ (p. 204). 11. ‘Books of a new order would be written’ (p. 204). 12. ‘A new organization would be established’ (p. 204).13. ‘Nothing would be allowed to stand in the way of this new movement’ (p. 205).
“Now go back over these thirteen points. Study them carefully and prayerfully. You may have to meet them sooner than you expect. The seeds of such apostasy are in the churches of Christendom all around us. Before Jesus returns the Seventh-day Adventist Church may well be confronted with a crisis that will exceed in magnitude the Kellogg Alpha apostasy. It ‘will be of a most startling nature.’”
I not only agree with Elder Pearson, I believe we are in the Omega crisis now. This is none other than the work of spiritualism, which has invaded God’s true church. Just listen to this found in Spirit of Prophecy, Volume 4, p. 405, “Spiritualism is now changing its form, veiling some of its most objectionable and immoral features and assuming a ‘Christian’ guise. Formally it denounced Christ and the Bible, now it professes to accept both. The Bible is interpreted in a manner that is attractive to the unrenewed heart, while its solemn and vital truths are made of no effect. A God of love is presented, but His justice, His denunciation of sin, the requirements of His holy law are all kept out of sight. Pleasing, bewitching fables captivate the senses of those who do not make God’s word the foundation of their faith. Christ is as very rejected as before, but Satan has blinded the eyes of the people that the deception is not discerned.”
The pen of inspiration tells us how to recognize these false teachers. Mount of Blessings p. 145 says, “‘Beware of false prophets.’ Matthew 7:15. Teachers of falsehood will arise to draw you away from the narrow path and the strait gate. Beware of them; though concealed in sheep’s clothing, inwardly they are ravening wolves. Jesus gives a test by which false teachers may be distinguished from the true. ‘Ye shall know them by their fruits.’ He says, ‘Do men gather grapes of thorns, or figs of thistles?’ We are not bidden to prove them by their fair speeches and exalted professions. They are to be judged by the word of God. ‘To the law and to the testimony: if they speak not according to this word it is because there is no light in them.’ ‘Cease my son, to hear the instruction that causeth to err from the words on knowledge.’ Isaiah 8:20 and Proverbs 19:27.
“What message do these teachers bring? Does it lead you to reverence and fear God? Does it lead you to manifest your love for Him by loyalty to His commandments? If men do not feel the weight of the moral law; if they make light of God’s precepts; if they break one of the least of His commandments, and teach men so, they shall be of no esteem in the sight of heaven. We may know that their claims are without foundation. They are doing the work that originated with the prince of darkness, the enemy of God.”
Now be honest, how long has it been since your pastor has preached on any of these subjects, such as the law of God and obedience, in his 11:00 sermon? Is the power of Celebration affecting his sermons? Think it over. So few of those within the church today have any idea how this all began. Believe it or not, it is a fact, the birth of Celebration took place within the Vatican Council in the early 1960’s.
As soon as these actions of the Vatican were published the General Conference began to hold Celebration seminars encouraging our pastors to conduct Celebration worship services within our churches. The papal document stated, “Through Celebration worship, which will absorb in all the churches, in order to return into the fold which is ‘one shepherd, the pope.’” This document further stated that the objective of Celebration is to “bring the whole humanity to one fold,” (meaning the Roman Catholic Church).
Permit me to list the objectives of the Second Vatican Council which was taken from this document. “1. Let there be a custom application (use) of the word ‘Celebration.’ 2. Let there be a custom of revival in Celebration worship in which the people will be involved directly with both verbal and physical participation. 3. Let there be a custom of Celebration worship dialogue between the pastor and the people. 4. Let us use as much variety in worship as is possible. 5. Let music, while they worship there, be the most effective. 6. Lessen the difference between the Eucharist and the Lord’s Supper. Teach people that the Eucharist and the Lord’s Supper are the foundation of Christian unity, friendship and Celebration of the Lord’s Day (meaning Sunday). 7. Do all your best to encourage observation of Sunday, including rest from work.”
Now can you see what the purpose of the Celebration movement is within our church today? As a result of these Vatican objectives, Celebration started within the Catholic Church where noisy music and soon the Pentecostal, charismatic churches followed. The old method of Jesuit infiltration of Protestant churches was suspended by the new infiltration of Catholic philosophy called “love” and “unity.”
The Second Vatican Counsel added its blessing by no longer calling the Protestant churches “heretics” but “separated brethren” from the Mother Church. The Vatican II Council then began to emphasize the Holy Spirit by holding revivals among its nuns and priests. The result was startling. Tens of thousands of priests and nuns began speaking in tongues! Now both the Catholic and the Protestants had something in common – they both spoke in tongues in the Celebration movement.
Now I would like to confront this Celebration movement with the Three Angels’ Messages. I quote the following from John Janiuk and his book Great Controversy Endgame II which clearly differentiates between what is true and false justification by faith:
1. The Three Angel’s Message is a call of God to leave Babylon. It is the message of separation; but the message of the Celebration movement calls for unity of all churches.
2. The Three Angel’s Message is a warning message; but the Celebration movement is the message of peace and security and also of love and unity. Sin and the law of God are treated lightly.
3. Justification by faith – but the foundation of the Celebration movement is a false gospel, a false justification teaching salvation in sin. “You will be sinning until the Second Coming of Christ.” It is a gospel without the power. If you continue in sin after accepting the gospel, which is the power of the gospel, the truth is that if you accept a false gospel, a false justification, you have no power of God.
Satan also has power. Do you know what Satan’s power is? – His power is through his lies. For example, Satan demonstrated his power with great effect in Eden and we are still affected by that same power today. Today he says we cannot keep God’s commandments. If you believe this lie you will not obey God’s law.
The Bible says, “Here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.” The pen of inspiration says, “Christ left his heavenly home, and came to this world, to show that only by being connected with divinity can man keep the law of God. In itself humanity is tainted and corrupted; but Christ brought moral power to man, and those who live in communion with him overcome as he overcame.” Signs of the Times, December 3, 1896.
In Review and Herald, March 10, 1904 we are told, “He who has not sufficient faith in Christ to believe that He can keep him from sinning, has not the faith that will give him an entrance into the kingdom of God.” In Acts of the Apostles p. 532 we read, “Man’s obedience can be made perfect only by the incense of Christ’s righteousness, which fills with divine fragrance every act of obedience.”
4. The Three Angels’ Messages are calling the whole of humanity to fear, to reverence God, in complete surrender to God and His Word and also His will – the ten moral commandments of the gospel. But the Celebration movement depends on theology which, “is interpreted in a manner that is attractive to the unrenewed hearts while its solemn and vital truths are made of none effect. A God of love is presented but His justice, His denunciation of sin, and the requirements of His holy law are all kept out of sight.” Spirit of Prophecy, Volume 4, p. 405.
5. The three angels call to give glory to God. The pen of inspiration tells us how we can give glory to God, “To give glory to God is to reveal His character in our own, and thus make Him known. And in whatever way we make known the Father or the Son, we glorify God.” Bible Commentaries, Volume 7, p. 979. The Celebration movement does not preach anything about this.
6. The Three Angels’ Messages proclaim that the hour of His judgement has come. This is the pre-Advent investigative judgement, which began in 1844. The Celebration movement does not warn the people about this. However, if the subject is mentioned they simply say, “Don’t be scared of the judgement. If you believe in Jesus, don’t worry about it.”
7. What is the reason to worship Him who made heaven and earth the sea and springs of water? God chose the way in which we can worship Him. His way tells us to keep holy the Sabbath day as a special day in memorial of His creation and redemption. The purpose, aim and goal of the Celebration movement, according to Vatican II, is to observe Sunday and recognize the pope as the vicar of Jesus Christ and submit to him.
8. The Second-Angel’s Message says, “Babylon is fallen.” Why is Babylon fallen? – Because Babylon rejected the Biblical truths. Revelation 18:2 describes the last-day condition of Babylon, “Babylon the great is fallen, is fallen, and is become the habitation of devils, and the hold of every foul spirit, and a cage of every unclean and hateful bird.”
The fallen churches, Catholic and Protestant, are attacking our church with the Celebration movement. The Bible says, “A habitation of devils.” Of course God still has in these fallen churches some individuals who are the children of God. Our message, especially in the time of the Loud Cry, will be “come out of her my people” as we read in Revelation 18:4.
9. The Third Angel’s Message is the most fearful of any before. This message was proclaimed to mortal man as a warning against receiving the mark of the beast; that is the observance of Sunday as the Sabbath. According to the document of Vatican II the purpose of the Celebration movement is that the whole world come to observe Sunday and submit to the papacy. It does not matter to them what else you believe so long as you submit in these two things. Do you see where this movement is leading us?
10. The Three Angels’ Messages are summarized in Revelation 14:12 and describe what people will be like after they accept the Three Angels’ Messages. “Here is the patience of the saints: here are they that keep the commandments of God, and the faith of Jesus.” Here is presented the main characteristics and qualities of God’s people – the patience of the saints, they keep the commandments of God, they have the faith of Jesus.
But the Celebration movement says we cannot keep the commandments of God. In this point they are honest because they cannot keep the commandments of God. Why is this? – Because they accepted a false justification by faith which claims that in justification there is no transformation. The New Birth and the Holy Spirit do not come into the believer’s heart with Christ’s righteousness and God does not write His law in their hearts. This is why they have no power to keep the commandments of God. If somebody mentions that God requires His people to obey the law they say this is legalism.
Ellen White says, “Men who are under the control of Satan repeat these accusations against God, in asserting that men cannot keep the law of God.” Signs of the Times, January 16, 1896.
Now let me become more pointed. The heart of Celebration worship style is found in the music. What kind of music? – Contemporary Christian music or, as some say, Christian rock. What is the message of Contemporary Christian music? – It is love and praise for the most part. What is missing? – A call to repentance, appeals for sacrifice and prayers for sinners. The Second Coming is almost absent. Bible doctrines are not found. There is no mention, of course, of the seventh-day Sabbath.
Have you ever stopped to consider what’s lacking in these Celebration “ditties”? As one writer has put it, “In the typical, contemporary ‘praise and worship songs’ there are no expressions of confession, petition or submission – just praise.” Pioneering Seventh-day Adventist sang many hymns containing our message; hymns with several stanzas. They did so because they believed God had called them to proclaim a message even in their singing.
If we take our current Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal there is a topical index of hymns. Nearly every major doctrine is represented there – salvation through faith in Christ, the Second Coming, the Sabbath, the judgement, the sleep of the dead, stewardship and even the sanctuary along with still others. God intended that the great hymns of faith should be used to teach God’s end-time message. For example, #412 in our hymnal, illustrates this point. “Reconciled by His death for my sin, Justified by His life pure and clean, Sanctified by obeying His word, Glorified when returneth my Lord.” What a wonderful balanced presentation of the gospel that we have in such songs. Preachers and laity would both less likely to stray from the path of truth if they paid attention to the message of such songs.
Hymns in our Seventh-day Adventist Hymnal provide a great variety from the simple to the theologically profound. Their messages of encouragement and guidance can reach every kind of Christian traveler. If we compare this with the message of Contemporary Christian Rock Celebration music? The majority fall under the broad heading of praise songs and are often characterized by monotonous repetition of a single phrase. Topics even so basic as contrition, repentance, obedience, witnessing are noticeably absent or at least very rare.
The great fear is that these Contemporary songs reproducing after their kind are replacing our message songs entirely and are doing their part to produce a generation devoid of doctrinal certainty. A church’s music is not merely a vehicle for socializing or for setting a happy mood. It is an essential part of its self identity, its witnessing, package, and even its survival kit. The ultimate unity of our end-time movement requires the unifying influence of a common “hymnity.” (Much of this was taken from Adventist Affirm , Spring 1998 p. 8-21).
The ex-choir director of heaven uses his Celebration music to charm people, to bind them to himself and to control them. He uses emotionally-oriented religion that depends on feeling rather than on the Word of God.
Now another question: How is Liberal Adventism affecting the church? I am quoting from Receiving the Word p. 31,32, “The greatest challenge facing the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not come from the Independent right, who operate from without, but rather from the Liberal left, who are working from within. These moderate liberals seek to redefine historic Adventist beliefs according to their new views of the Bible. Indeed, as some of our Adventist scholars have begun to use the historical, critical approaches of liberal theology. The church has been challenged to its distinctive truths. The prophetic significance of 1844, the necessity of Christ’s substitutionary atonement for sinners, and the self understanding of Seventh-day Adventist church as God’s end-time remnant.”
At the same time the church has been thrown into turmoil over abortion, polygamy, divorce and remarriage, and women’s ordination and homosexuality. Can you imagine an Adventist professor of religion who wrote in The Spectrum of May 1993 p. 46, an article entitled “Apocrophy – Who Needs It?” In the beginning of this article there is a thought-provoking question, “How seriously should Adventists take apocalyptic books like Daniel, Revelation and The Great Controversy ?” This theologian answers, “Perhaps we should replace them with the gospel of love, acceptance and forgiveness.”
This is the central message of the Celebration movement and its worship services. Professor Steve Dailey, who taught at LaSeirra University and was also their chaplain, is one of the most liberals among us today. He gives some suggestive suggestions. He suggests some practical things Adventists can do to contribute to this goal. Among these are:
1. “We can cease to speak or think of ourselves as the remnant church and see ourselves as a part of God’s larger remnant.
2. “We can take advantage of the special opportunities which we have to attend other churches since they meet on a different day, to befriend them, and learn from them, and share with them, and affirm the good things we see in them.
3. “Each of us can make a special effort to maintain active membership in at least one non-Adventist community service organization to combat our natural tendency to isolation.
4. “We can involve ourselves in inter-denominational Bible studies and a charismatic intercessory prayer group to broaden our spiritual perspectives.” Adventists for a New Generation p. 315, 316.
Such advice is absolutely contrary to the Spirit of Prophecy. Is this the time for Seventh-day Adventists to seek such “new light” on worship, church growth, and learning from others? The Spirit of Prophecy has warned us, “If God has any new light to communicate, He will let His chosen and beloved understand it, without their going and having their minds enlightened by hearing those who are in darkness and error. I was shown the necessity of those who believe that we are having the last message of mercy, being separate from those who are daily imbibing new errors. I saw that neither young nor old should attend their meetings; for it is wrong to thus encourage them while they teach error that is deadly poison to the soul and teach for doctrines the commandments of men. The influence of such gatherings is not good. If God has delivered us from such darkness and error, we should stand fast in the liberty where with He has set us free and rejoice in the truth. God is displeased with us when we go to listen to error, without being obliged to go; for unless He sends us to these meetings where error is forced home to the people by the power of the will, He will not keep us. The angels cease their watchful care over us, and we are left to the buffeting of the enemy, to be darkened and weakened by him and the power of his evil angels; and the light around us become contaminated with the darkness.” Early Writings p. 124,125.
Let us never forget that God will finish His work in His church and then He will finish His work in the world. If we as a church reject true justification by faith, and continue to proclaim a false justification, then true revival and reformation will not take place and we will not receive the great out-pouring of the Holy Spirit and the Latter Rain and we will never finish God’s work in this world. We will lose our identity, our credibility and purpose for our existence. What a tragedy this would be.
On the other hand, if we accept true justification, then the last great revival and reformation will take place and we will receive the great outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the Latter Rain and God will finish His work through us in this world, now. May God give us wisdom, and understanding, and knowledge, and power, to fulfill this for His honor and glory and also for the salvation of the people of the world. Then we will go home to praise Him who loved us and gave Himself for us. This is the earnest prayer of the author.
Thank you, John Janiuk, for the spiritual insights. Dear friend, as you listen to this tape you may have discovered that the church you attend has become a Celebration church in doctrine, music and worship. May God grant you heavenly wisdom to know what you may be able to do to help restore a worship service in which God can bless. It may be that the Lord will lead you to a near-by church with a historic Seventh-day Adventist pastor. Praise God, He still has many!
And if need be, God may lead you to a near-by home church or have you begin a home church in which it can be truly said, “Here is the patience of the saints, here are they that keep the commandments of God and the faith of Jesus.”
Dear Father, help us to never be ensnared by Satan’s Celebration in music, worship and doctrine. Open our eyes that we may clearly understand Thy divine counsel; that we may never depart from the truth. For we ask this in the name of Jesus, Amen.