February 9, 2017

Cliff’s Edge – Rational Anchors

Clifford Goldstein

Faith, intellectually at least, is easy for me. (To live it out, well, let’s not go there.) What follows are three (of many) rational anchors that help hold me firm to Scripture, Christianity, and Adventism, despite everything the devil does to sow irrational doubts.

Adventism can be justified on cold, hard logic alone.

First, even now, almost 38 years since I first studied Daniel 2, the chapter provides rational evidence, not only for the existence of God and His foreknowledge, but for the inspiration of Scripture. How could Daniel, more than 500 years before Jesus, have so accurately predicted the rise and fall of these empires, unless inspired by God? Today, we who live in the feet and toes of the image have more rational reasons to believe in the prophecy than would someone living in the silver arms, or in the iron legs, for we can see historical fulfillments of the prophecy they couldn’t.

And what about these words, written centuries before Christ, about Europe? “Just as you saw that the feet and toes were partly of baked clay and partly of iron, so this will be a divided kingdom; yet it will have some of the strength of the iron in it, even as you saw iron mixed with clay. As the toes were partly iron and partly clay, so this kingdom will be partly strong and partly brittle. And just as you saw the iron mixed with baked clay, so the people will be a mixture and not remain unified, any more than iron mixes with clay” (Dan. 2:41-43).

The nations of Europe divided? Imagine that. Some would be strong (France, Germany, England), and some wouldn’t (Belgium, Holland, Luxembourg). At least the Europeans are not, at the moment, warring with each other as they have continually (or even continuously) over the centuries—including the last one, in which they managed two massive conflicts before the century was half over even. And despite open borders, intermarriage, and a common currency (mostly), these nations hardly “remain unified.” With Brexit, and all the banter about the breakup of the European Union, Daniel 2 reads like the latest tweet.

Yes, Daniel 2 gives powerfully rational reasons to believe in Scripture, at least in the Old Testament. But what about the New Testament, what about Christianity? For me, evidence for the resurrection of Jesus Christ provides an immovable, rational anchor for belief in Him as the Messiah, the foundation of the Christian message.

Romans had crucified Jews right and left. But only a single account of one of these Jews being resurrected from the dead comes with so much corroborating evidence, and from different sources, too. That’s the resurrection of Jesus.

For example, imagine Mark Twain willing to suffer prison, exile, ostracism, even death for insisting that a story he made up, Huckleberry Finn, really happened. And even if he were insane enough to do that, how do we explain the others, too, who would face the same—prison, torture, exile, death—for a story that they, like Mark Twain, knew was false? Sure, suicide bombers blow themselves up thinking they’re getting a free ticket to paradise. But these are people who have been deceived, not people who—testifying about events they claimed to have witnessed—are then willing to die for their testimony about those events.

Also, all one has to do is read the powerful apologetics of William Lane Craig, Gary Habermas, Lee Strobel, and N. T. Wright, who wrote in favor of the resurrection. Then read Gerd Ludemann and John Shelby Spong, who deny it. The ad hoc, spurious and speculative nature of their arguments against the resurrection provide even more rational reasons for believing that it really happened.

OK, Daniel 2 and the resurrection of Jesus provide rational anchors for belief in the Bible and in Christianity. But what about Adventism itself?

That’s easy: the Sabbath.

After all, isn’t it one of the Ten Commandments? And the arguments we hear against the seventh-day Sabbath: Jesus changed the Sabbath to Sunday. Paul and the apostles transferred the Sabbath to Sunday. The law was abolished. The Sabbath was abolished. The spuriousness of these claims alone testify to the validity of the Sabbath.

How nice to have our faith buttressed by such rational anchors.

Meanwhile, from Creation (Gen. 2:1-3), to before Sinai (Ex. 16), to Sinai (Ex. 20), up through the New Testament (Matt. 12:8, 12; Mark 2:27; Luke 6:9; John 7:23; Acts 17:2),the validity of the seventh-day Sabbath is so certain that it’s all but assumed. Who among us hasn’t seen with stark clarity that every Sabbath controversy in the Gospels was about how to keep the seventh-day Sabbath, and that any notion of it being abolished or replaced is non-existent in Scripture?

Thus, once someone sees good reasons for belief in the Bible (Dan. 2), and for Christianity itself (the resurrection of Jesus), the seventh-day Sabbath all but deductively follows. And, because only Seventh-day Adventists, in contrast to most every other denomination, keep the seventh-day Sabbath, the rational basis for Adventism can be justified on cold, hard logic alone.

Yes, we need to live by faith, “the confidence in what we hope for and the assurance about what we do not see” (Heb. 11:1), but how nice to have our faith buttressed by such rational anchors.

Clifford Goldstein is editor of the Adult Sabbath School Bible Study Guide. His next book is tentatively titled: Baptizing the Devil: Evolution and the Seduction of Christianity.