I HAVE just returned from a busy itinerary throughout the Southern Asia Division. Seven union conferences comprise this division, and in all these we conducted union ministerial institutes, with an extra one thrown in for our workers in the territory of Assam. It is always a privilege to meet with our ministers, and one cannot help returning with deep appreciation for what is being accomplished in this great area of the world field. The Lord is surely blessing His work in these lands.
We had prepared a full working syllabus for these institutes, and each day was filled with teaching and counsels. A devotional meeting usually held at seven-thirty in the morning began the day, and the program continued till about five o'clock in the afternoon. The evenings were reserved for evangelistic meetings geared to the public and sometimes held in public halls, thus providing opportunity to demonstrate the principles we were setting forth during the day. The Lord definitely blessed in these evangelistic appeals, and many were led to accept Jesus Christ as their Saviour. Watching non-Christian people' grasp the great fundamentals of the Christian faith and later surrender their hearts to God is wonderfully rewarding, and we could report some very thrilling experiences. Our growth in membership in this great division is encouraging. A spirit of revival was much in evidence during these institutes, and this we trust will continue.
All over the world the way of the Lord is being prepared for that great ingathering of souls that will climax God's work in the earth. It is wonderful to be connected with a movement that is destined for a great future. The clear revelation of God in His Word assures us that the message we have the privilege of proclaiming to every nation, kindred, tongue, and people will finish in a blaze of glory. Under the latter rain thousands and hundreds of thousands will be led to take their stand for Christ and His truth. We do not need to be ashamed of the message we bear to the world. Although many may disagree with us and fail to comprehend the significance of our work, yet we must not fail to give the trumpet a certain sound. Everywhere men and women are eager to investigate the beliefs that make us a people. This is our day of opportunity, and God is counting on us. We dare not fail Him.
While we were absent from the office the new book The Truth About Seventh-day Adventism, by Walter R. Martin, came from the press. A review of the book appears on page 37. Letters have come from our ministers in reference to this book. A few have expressed deep concern, declaring that the author's treatment of some of the main features of our Adventist faith needs definite refutation. Others have expressed real appreciation for his kindly approach. Reading some of these letters, we are led to wonder just what our workers expected in this book. When Walter Martin began to write on Adventism he was very prejudiced, feeling that we were really an unchristian cult. He planned to deal with us as he had dealt with some other groups.
But his study of our teachings led him to change his outlook completely. True, he disagrees with us sharply in certain beliefs, yet in those areas of Christology that actually constitute the heart of the gospel, he discovered as others have that Adventism rings true as steel. Then too we must remember that this book was not written for Adventists, but for Christians of other faiths, most of whom do not know that our faith rests absolutely in the atoning sacrifice of Christ through whom alone we have salvation. And because of that he sets forth his conviction that we are justly entitled to be recognized as a truly Christian denomination. In presenting these things, however, he is eager to make it clear that he speaks entirely as a non-Adventist.
The kindly spirit revealed throughout this volume is something we are not accustomed to. From our earliest beginnings we have been misunderstood, challenged, and frequently misrepresented. But this book of Martin's comes as something entirely different. The main areas of his disagreement revolve around the nature of man, the law and the Sabbath, the sanctuary and the judgment, and his evaluation of the writings of Ellen G. White. We have assured him that he can expect us to take issue with him on these matters, and we certainly will. Beginning with next month The Ministry will carry a series of articles covering these points and showing what we believe are the weaknesses in his arguments.
There is nothing in this volume that we need to fear. Every point of disagreement has been met before. Nor is there anything new in this book—nothing, we say, except the author's kindly and sympathetic approach. And should not this call forth our respect and appreciation? The observation of one of our denominational leaders might well be considered. He said: "I think it is wonderful to find our beliefs so clearly set forth, and that in a non-Adventist book. The chapter 'The Heart of Adventist Theology' (pages 47-89) constitutes in my judgment one of the most unique experiences in our history. For one who is not an Adventist and who obviously disagrees with us so definitely, to go to such pains to set forth our faith so clearly, surely reveals praiseworthy effort on his part to be fair and kind. While this book will challenge us to rethink some things, it certainly will not upset our faith. And we must not let prejudice blind our eyes."
We are happy to note that many others react in the same way. And let us not forget that this book will be read by thousands of churchmen, many of whom possibly would not read one of our own volumes. Studying Martin's book, they will come to know what we actually do believe. Rather than become upset, should we not thank God that there is so much here that sets forth the faith that makes us a people? If it does nothing else, it certainly brings our name before the public, and in a kind way. To write on a controversial issue and produce a book that will please everybody, is perhaps impossible. But this author has made a commendable attempt.
God who raised up this movement is well able to carry it through to its final and glorious completion, and it is as true now as it was when the messenger of the Lord wrote, that "we have nothing to fear for the future, except as we shall forget the way the Lord has led us, and His teaching in our past history."—Life Sketches, p. 196.
R. A. A.