by Gerald L. Finneman
As Viewed by the 1888 Message and Its Messengers
Two kinds of justice and their bearing
on the atonement are presented in this paper. One kind of justice is
poetic; the other is condign. All religions of the world confuse or
confound the two. Poetic justice is an imaginative justice. It involves
a distribution of rewards and punishments such as is common in poetry
and works of fiction. But it is hardly according to the realities of
life. Condign justice, on the other hand, has to do with the worthiness
or deservedness, of justice. One example is when a prisoner suffers
condign punishment, he receives suitable punishment. His punishment fits
his crime. He gets what he deserves according to the laws of justice.
Humankind deserves only the grave and
the second death. But, One came alongside us. He became one of us. He
became us. He substituted Himself in our place. And in this place He
vicariously atoned for our sin and guilt setting us free from the
condemnation of the law. He justified all by His righteousness. Rom.
Pre-1888 Adventism fell into a
meritorious system of salvation based on works of the law plus faith.
Waggoner presented salvation, from beginning to end, as in Christ
crucified as Substitute and Surety Who is to be received by faith which
works. The vicarious nature of the atonement was fundamental to the
differences between Butler and Waggoner. Butler, while affirming that
Christ took the sins of the world upon Himself at the cross, denied the
vicariousness of Christ in being made "under the law" for us
at His birth. In his letter to Butler, Waggoner quoted and then refuted
him concerning this under points 4 and 5:
- You say: "That he did
voluntarily take the sins of the world upon him in his great
sacrifice upon the cross, we admit; but he was not born under its
condemnation. Of him that was pure, and had never committed a sin in
his life, it would be an astonishing perversion of all proper
theology to say that he was born under the condemnation of the law.
It may be a perversion of theology,
but it is exactly in harmony with the Bible, and that is the main
point. Can you not see that your objection lies as much against your
position as it does against mine? You are shocked at the idea that
Jesus was born under the condemnation of the law, because he never
committed a sin in his life. But you admit that on the cross he was
under the condemnation of the law. What! Had he then committed sin?
Not by any means. Well, then, if Jesus could be under the condemnation
of the law at one time in his life, and be sinless, I see no reason
why he could not be under the condemnation of the law at another time,
and still be sinless. And Paul declares that God did make him to be
sin for us …
- Again; why was Jesus baptized? He
said that it was "to fulfill all righteousness." We may
not say that it was simply as an example; for that would be really
denying the vicarious nature of the atonement. It must have
been for the same reason that he died, namely, for sin. Not his own
sin, but ours; for as in his death, so in his life, our sins were
counted as his. And thus it is that he could be all his life, even
from his birth, under the condemnation of the law. It was not on his
own account, but on ours. E. J. Waggoner, The Gospel in Galatians,
pp. 62, 63, Feb. 19, 1887. [Emphasis supplied].
Ellen White, writing four years after
the Minneapolis Conference, commented on the ceremonial sacrifices as
types of Christ's vicarious atonement.
The sacrificial offerings which had
been instituted to teach men concerning the vicarious atonement
of Christ, to teach them that without the shedding of blood there is
no remission of sins, had become to them a stumbling block. All that
was spiritual and holy was perverted to their darkened
understanding." RH Nov. 1, 1892. [Emphasis supplied].
Because the Jews lost the correct
understanding of the vicarious nature of the atonement they consequently
lost the true knowledge of the character of God. The Jewish
nation/church adopted the merit system of heathenism. Because of this
they crucified Christ, thinking they did God a favor, and thus merited
salvation. They convinced themselves they were doing God's will in
executing Christ, the assumed blasphemer. And they had Bible proof for
their belief and practice!
The merit system the Jews adopted was
not unlike the karma principle of poetic justice found in eastern
religions. The karma principle is about the merit of human actions,
which claims reward on the score of justice. If one is very worthy he is
blessed in this life and in the life to come as the just reward based on
the merit of his own actions. On the other hand, if he is bad or
unworthy, he is cursed with what he deserves in this life and in the
life to come as a just punishment based on his own actions. The karma
principle is simply cause and effect, sowing and reaping. From this
comes the notion of fear of punishment and hope of reward. Religions of
the East developed this principle and the church of Rome adapted it and
made it foundational to its system. Notice the following comments from The
Baltimore Catechism, No. 3. The first is from page 160:
"The (Apostles') Creed speaks of
the resurrection of the body. It does not mention the soul. because
the soul never dies. The body can die because it is composed of
material parts. The soul cannot die because it is a spirit. If the
soul could die, God would have cruelly deceived us. God put into our
hearts a desire to live on and enjoy real happiness. God also gave us
a conscience which urges us to do good and avoid evil. But why should
we desire to live on and be happy if these desires are useless; why
should we be good if being good has no reward?"
Question and answer #473, page 161, is
concerned with rewards and punishments.
Q. What are the rewards or
punishments appointed for men's souls at the Particular Judgment
[referring to Christ's]?
A. The rewards or punishments appointed for men's souls after
the Particular Judgment are Heaven, Purgatory, and Hell.
Question # 475, page 162, addresses the
state and purpose of Purgatory:
Q. What is Purgatory?
A. Purgatory is a state in which those suffer for a time who die
guilty of venial sins, or without having satisfied for the
punishment due to their sins. [Emphasis supplied].
Earlier, page 45, under question and
answer # 123 we find the crux of this philosophy:
did Christ suffer and die?
A. Christ suffered and died for our sins. …
Cross of Christ does not free us automatically from sin. By His death
Christ offered satisfaction to His heavenly Father. God, in return, is
willing to forgive and reinstate us in grace, but only if we show
forgave sins and demanded of us to do penance, to keep the
commandments, to receive the Sacraments, to pray and perform good
works, He showed that we must cooperate with Him, to have our sins
Penance is one of the so-called
Sacraments. To the Catholic, it is a method of receiving grace and must
be performed when "baptismal grace" is lost through sinning.
Penance restores one to favor with God. Baptism and penance are called
Sacraments of the dead "because they take away sin, which is the
death of the soul, and give grace, which is its life." Ibid.
Joined to penance is confession to, and
forgiveness of sin by, the priest. The priest acting as judge, governed
by justice, must forgive sins or refuse absolution, depending on the
worthiness or unworthiness of the parishioner.
"In confession the priest acts
like a judge. If the penitent is worthy of absolution, the priest is
bound in justice to grant it. If, however, the penitent is not worthy of
absolution, the priest is bound in justice to defer or to refuse
absolution, as the case may demand." Ibid. p. 85.
Penance is conditional. You must be
contrite. And you must do what the priest instructs you to do, such as
to say a certain number of prayers, or do good works. In certain
countries the transgressor must be beaten, or must make pilgrimages on
his knees over rocks, or climb the "sacred stairs" of Rome on
his knees such as Luther did when he went there. According to this
philosophy you must atone for your sins and guilt. You must bear your
own punishment. To them Christ's work was necessary, but it was only a
momentary (and therefore a temporary) measure. If one attains sainthood
in this life, through sacramental grace, he goes directly to heaven at
death by his very worthy and holy merit. If he does not become a saint
here, but remains faithful to the meritorious system of sacramental
grace you still go to heaven, but not directly. He must be rerouted
through purgatory. After purgative atonement in that place he is
entitled to enter heaven.
Luther rejected and denounced this
concept because he believed the teaching of justification by faith. He
saw the two doctrines as not compatible on any point. The concept of
purgatory is based on the principle found in karma. Purgatory is the
conclusion of the karma principle found in all eastern religions and
adapted by Rome. As justification is diametrically opposed to purgatory,
sacramental grace, and consequent self atonement, so it is against
karma, the law of justice, of Eastern religions. The converse is
likewise true. Any doctrine that advocates that one must bear the
penalty of his guilt in order to atone for his sins is opposed to the
gospel of Christ and the teaching of justification (whether corporate or
Is not any proposition concerning
Christ's substitutionary atonement as only temporary and that it is only
an example a direct contradiction of Scripture and of the basis of the
1888 message as given by Jones and Waggoner? Whether that teaching of
self-atone- ment is advocated by adherents of Eastern religions, Roman
Catholicism, apostate Protestantism, or from some within Adventism, is
it not antichrist in principle? This kind of justice and atonement is
chimerical in nature. It is not reality. It resides only in the
imagination. It is an illusion. The Third Angel's message is the good
news of Christ and His atonement and of God's condign justice. God's
last day message must be neither confused nor confounded with man's
supposed self-atonement and poetic justice.
this article in PDF format
Get the FREE Acrobat Reader