Christendom is currently in extremely poor shape in many areas of the world. Simply told, the story is one of dwindling membership, a dwindling ministry, and dwindling finances.
Take the situation in. England. In his book, The British Churches Today, Kenneth Slack paints a gloomy picture of the ecclesiastical scene in a land that was once one of the great bastions of Protestantism.
"To revise and in considerable measure rewrite a book on the British churches at the close of the sixties has been a sobering and very depressing experience. The revision of the statistics alone has all too fully confirmed the personal impression gained of the accelerating decline of the church as an institution throughout the period.... Passage after passage of the book written in 1960 has seemed strangely optimistic and has had to be excised. To write in 1969 is to be led to wonder whether at the end of another decade the whole institution of the church will not have changed its shape so drastically as to demand not a further revision (were a further edition called for) but a totally different book trying to account for what has happened. It is still possible to write of the British churches today in the light of history; shortly the operation may assume more the character of archaeology burrowing beneath a collapsed edifice." 1
The story is much the same among liberally-oriented churches in the United States. According to Leslie H. Woodson "Sunday school and worship attendance is declining as is church membership in (the) liberally-oriented denominations. For several years the largest Protestant denomination in the ecumenical movement (United Methodist) has reported a net loss of between 100,000 and 200,000 members annually." 2
WHAT HAS CAUSED THIS DECAY?
When we ask, "Why? What is the cause of this deplorable and reprehensible decay?" Two anwers are immediately forthcoming.
First, the church has suffered a massive onslaught from without in the evident triumph of an aggressive secularism, an affluent materialism, and an assertive scientific humanism.
The church today has also fallen to a vicious fifth-column attack from within in the destruction of the faith by both the older "modernism" and the more recent "liberalism." To cite Dr. Woodson once more: "With the struggle of the ecumenical church toward union there has been a watering down of doctrine and an eclipse of cherished theological traditions.
"Doctrine is cast into the melting pot with a thousand 'religious ideas' and the people are served an insipid concoction which neither satisfies the palate nor nourishes the spirit.
"Multitudes within the mainline denominations are finding nothing distinctive anymore about the church. It is no different from the world outside. And if it is no different, then why bother about it?" 3
It is not surprising, therefore, that multitudes are leaving the church, either to give religion away altogether, or to find some spiritual home. As a result we have the formation of independent evangelical churches. May I say in parenthesis that some of these churches are extremely sound in their theology of the law and the gospel. They have seen the fruitage of the fairweather antinomianism of previous generations. Consequently, they realize that the only way the current tide of lawlessness can be arrested is to proclaim the sanctions and sanctity of the Ten Commandments. They recognize, too, that the gospel only makes sense when the moral law is first preached.
We also have the mushrooming of thousands of "home" churches across the United States, as well as the growth of such groups as Jehovah's Witnesses and the Mormons─to say nothing of accessions to the Oriental religions, Buddhism, Hinduism, and Mohammedanism.
Unfortunately, many disillusioned church members are becoming involved in the charismatic movement because of the seemingly warm evangelical fellowship it offers. Even Roman Catholics and liberal Protestants are jumping onto the bandwagon of the movement, for they see in it the means of achieving the organic union of Christendom that the ecumenical movement has failed to accomplish. 4
WHY HAVEN'T SDA'S BEEN ENGULFED?
How has it come about that the Seventh-day Adventist Church has not been engulfed by this enveloping apostasy? Actually, it might already have gone that way had not one of the major denominational crises at the turn of the century been resolved the way it was. I refer to the Kellogg crisis, the real significance of which has sometimes been obscured by other controversial problems with which the church became involved at that time.
With all due respect for the case, made out in some quarters in favor of Dr. John Harvey Kellogg as being roughly handled by Elder A. G. Daniels and others, the plain fact appears to be that Kellogg became infected by the liberal theological thought of his day. For what Ellen G. White in her correspondence with him called "pantheism" is virtually the view of God that is widely held in these times. Admittedly, the extremely "advanced" concept of God as the "ground of all being," goes far beyond anything Kellogg ever taught, yet his notions at least were in the same ballpark.
However, the Seventh-day Adventist Church was not at that time railroaded into apostasy, owing to the direction given it by "the testimony of Jesus Christ," "the spirit of prophecy" (Rev. 12:19; 19:10). In a word, the shape of the Seventh-day Adventist Church as evangelical, conservative, biblical, creationist, Sabbath-keeping, and missionary-minded is largely the product of the gift of prophecy with which it was endowed.
It would be easy at this stage for us to sit back and console ourselves that our troubles are over. But this is not so. The Kellogg crisis was simply the alpha. The omega, which is to be of an even more startling nature, has yet to appear. 5
THE ALPHA-OMEGA APOSTASY
The alpha was concerned with theories. Ellen G. White wrote: "Living Temple contains the alpha of these theories." 6 What were these theories? Mrs. White was extremely precise in delineating them, for she gives us a clear blueprint of the Apha-Omega apostasy. She stated unequivocally that if Dr. Kellogg had his way, if our leaders were indoctrinated with his ideas, and if these speculations eventually came to be the established teaching of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, the following developments would take place:
1. The basic biblical theology of Seventh-day Adventism would be changed, and a speculative theology substituted for it. 7 And "fanciful and spiritualistic interpretations of the Scriptures, interpretations which undermine the foundations of our faith" would be introduced." 8
2. The logical result of the acceptance of this new theology would be the complete destruction of the Christian faith. 9
3. The methodology by which this change would be effected would be by mingling truth and error. 10
Anyone who knows his way around in theology will have no difficulty in identifying these theories. They are being preached in a thousand pulpits today, expounded in seminary textbooks, and discussed in learned theological journals. They are the meat and drink, the current fare, of pastoral ministry in the liberal wings today.
A SIMILAR CRISIS TODAY
Now if what Ellen G. White wrote concerning the alpha of apostasy, as it raised its head in the Kellogg crisis, makes any sense at all, we may well anticipate that the Seventh-day Adventist Church will once again be confronted with a similar crisis, only of a greater magnitude. Her exact words were: "Be not deceived; many will depart from the faith, giving heed to seducing spirits and doctrines of devils. We have now before us the Alpha of this danger. The Omega will be of a most startling nature." 11
Inasmuch as it was through the ministry of the Spirit of Prophecy that our church was saved from the Alpha of apostate theories, we can understand, therefore, why the very last deception of Satan will be to undermine confidence in this gracious gift.
"There will be a hatred kindled against the testimonies which is satanic. The workings of Satan will be to unsettle the faith of the churches in them, for this reason: Satan cannot have so clear a track to bring in his deceptions and bind up souls in his delusions if the warnings and reproofs and counsels of the Spirit of God are heeded." 12
Incidentally, Satan can accomplish this just as effectively by a fanatical use of the Ellen G. White writings as by challenging its validity and denigrating its influence as a divinely inspired source of direction for the remnant church.
PRESSURES ON ADVENTISM TODAY
In view of these observations concerning what has happened in our past history, we are entirely justified in asking, "What kind of pressures are impinging today upon Seventh-day Adventism?"
There are three matters specifically to which attention should be called─three matters which would stand at the head of any observer's list.
1. Theological Liberalism. We already called attention to what is its characteristic attitude and viewpoint─the substitution of human authority and judgment, human reason, for divine revelation, as issuing in the inspiration and infallibility of the Bible as the inscripted Word of God. We have also seen what inroads it has made into the churches of our day, and with what ghastly results. But can we, as a church, ignore it?
Concerning this let us be very clear. Seventh-day Adventists, as individuals, do not possess any inbuilt mechanism that automatically secures them against deception and error.
2. Secularism. Secularism, "that which pertains to the current age," is, of course, simply what an older generation of Seventh-day Adventists called "worldliness," that insidious process by which we are squeezed into the world's mold in conformity to its prevailing customs and conventions that in the spirit of compromise, all too often passes for tolerance in our accommodated society.
However "old hat" as it may sound, the plain fact is that no form of permissiveness is ever condoned anywhere in the Word of God. Existentiallyoriented situation ethics are "strange fire," if ever there was any. Our church is only as secure as the homes of its members, and its homes, in turn, are only as secure as the morals of its members.
3. Charismatics. In the tremendous upsurge of psychic phenomena that is currently taking place, charismatics have sprung to the front and captured both the imagination and involvement of the churches
The charismatic theology underlying the experience of praise-singing usually involves spirited singing by the congregation. The songs selected are usually choruses composed of short lines and are often repetitious and/or rhythmic, accompanied by musical instruments, clapping, and swaying.
Seventh-day Adventists ought to recognize the charismatic movement for what it is─a short-circuit mysticism that by-passes very largely the divine revelation given in the Word of God and exalts a so-called "core experience of the Holy Ghost" in place of the reality of the new birth and a life of faith in Christ and obedience to His commandments.
HOW CAN WE RESIST PRESSURES
We thank God that thus far the Seventh-day Adventist Church has resisted the tremendous pressures that are impinging upon it. But where do we go from here? What of the future? How can we ensure the church's continued fidelity to the faith? Let me offer two or three suggestions:
By our own earnest adherence to the platform of truth and the foundation upon which it is established, for this is no time for us to undertake the building of some new structure.
By revitalized preaching of the fundamental doctrines and distinctive emphases of the faith the remnant church.
To do this we will need to bring the changes on:
a. the reality of divine revelation and the final authority of the Holy Scriptures;
b. the personality of God; His presence as sovereign by the Holy Spirit; His availability as Savior in our Lord Jesus Christ, through whose atoning passion our redemption was accomplished;
c. the creation and government by God; the absolutes of the moral law, expressed in the Ten Commandments; the accountability of all men before the judgment bar of the omnipotent God; the Seventhday Sabbath of the fourth commandment as the sign of loyalty to Jehovah.
d. the intercession of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary; the investigative judgment; the ultimate destruction of the whole economy of evil;
e. the Second Coming of the Lord as the only hope of the world; and
f. the standards (moral, health, dress) by which the purity of the faith is expressed in the lives of believers.
Some may object, saying, "Isn't this putting the accent on theology, on doctrine, on belief, as such? Shouldn't we rather be preaching Christ?" I ask you, How else can you preach Christ than through doctrine? Indeed, a theology that is not Christ-centered and Christ-circumferenced is no theology at all!
By a continued respect for the traditions of Seventh-day Adventism we can avoid being deceived by new ideas, new preachers that are mulling around into our camp.
By this I mean an appreciation of the evident providence in the establishment of the Seventhday Adventist Church and, may I add, a recognition of the excellent scholarship of the founding fathers of the faith (despite their lack of formal academic training).
How better can I conclude this article than by bringing to you the appeal of the one whom God called to be His special messenger to the remnant church? "We have our Bibles. We have our experience, attested to by the miraculous working of the Holy Spirit. We have a truth that admits of no compromise. Shall we not repudiate everything that is not in harmony with this truth?" 13
1 Kenneth Slack, The British Churches Today (Naperville, 111.: Alec R. Allenson, Inc.), Introduction to the second edition, p. ix.
2 Leslie H. Woodson, "Change in the Church," Moody Monthly, May, 1973.
4 See Kevin M. Ranaghan, "Catholics and Pentecostals Meet in the Spirit," Logos journal, Nov.-Dec., 1971, pp. 20,21.
5 See Selected Messages, book 1, pp. 192-208.
6 Ibid., p. 203.
7 Ibid., p. 194.
8 Ibid., p. 196.
9 Ibid., p. 204.
10 Ibid., p. 199.
11 Ibid., p. 204. Ibid., p. 199. Ibid., p. 197.
12 Ibid., p. 48.
13 Ibid., p. 205.
Alfred S. Jorgensen, pastor, evangelist, and administrator in Australia, This article was written when Elder Jorgensen was Field Secretary of the South Pacific Division.