LITTLE did I realize just how important these words would become to me! How desperately I clung to them as the events of 1968-1969 unfolded!
Up until my decision to unite with the Seventh-day Adventist Church in April, 1971, I had been a pastor in the Lutheran Church in America for ten wonderful and fruitful years. My last pastorate lasted seven years, and it was during this period that I really came to know the significance of being called as a spiritual leader.
Preaching is my greatest joy, and my heart was full of gratitude to God during those quiet and lonely hours of preparation, as well as thrilled with the responsibility of entering the pulpit week after week to preach the Word of God. For me the primary task of proclamation has always been to glorify the Lord Jesus Christ and publicly to portray Him as crucified (Gal. 3:1). God honored my ministry. Souls were saved, and many believers were filled with the Holy Spirit.
What an agonizing thing it was, there fore, when my wife, through the witness of a friend, became interested in the beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. In September, 1969, she left the Lutheran Church, of which she had been a member since childhood, and was baptized into the Adventist Church. Needless to say, this was a traumatic experience for me and a deep shock to the members of my parish, who had loved and admired her for so many years.
A Promise Taken to Heart
It was in the midst of this most difficult and trying time that I received the promise quoted above. It became my daily guide during the succeeding months. Many decisions had to be faced as time passed. During the course of the next year it became increasingly clear that my ministry in that parish was at an end. A search for a new field of service began. It was unfruitful. Doors were closed to me on every hand. I kept wondering what it all meant wondering what God was doing. Perhaps it was His will that my short ten years in the ministry was all there would be. Over and over in my mind passed the words of a friend who had counseled me to pray daily as to the will of God. He answered my prayers, and slowly but surely I was able to face the possibility that God wanted me also to make what appeared a very strange move.
Events and circumstances led straight to Andrews University Theological Semi nary. In July I resigned my pastorate, and my family and I arrived at Andrews in time for the 1970-1971 academic year. I had come for two things: impressions and in formation. And God wonderfully fulfilled the promise He had made to me through Jeremiah. I discovered that He did have plans for me. They were good plans. I did have a future in His work. I could hope.
The Seminary in Retrospect
What I say now about the Seminary is in retrospect, looking back on its influence in my life over the past year. In the beginning the impressions I received were more important than the theological content of the courses. As the days went by I became satisfied that here was a group of earnest and dedicated Christian people fully committed to the radical life style of the Christian faith. The students reflect in their attitudes the person of Jesus Christ, as well as an honest piety expressed in their acknowledgement of daily dependence on Him. I have met few students here who do not approach their studies with seriousness. And everyone I have spoken with has had a clear testimony for the Lord. The most thrilling thing about these students is their sense of mission. Their passion is to win souls for Christ!
The members of the faculty as men of God have made a deep impression. The lectures I have attended have in no way been the dry and lifeless presentations we so often envision. Each class session has been warmed by the personal testimony of the professor. Many of the lectures were profound personal professions of belief in the Lord Jesus Christ and in the doctrines held by the Seventh-day Adventist Church.
I found Christ here! He has been present in the lives of the students and faculty. He has been glorified in the worship services and in the times of fellowship. He has been present in the classrooms and manifest in the doctrines taught. How glad I am to be able to say to my Lutheran friends that Christ lives in the Adventist Church!
I was thrilled to find a conservative, Bible-centered theology! My reverence for the Bible as the inspired Word of God, which I had always held, was deepened. Without equivocation the Bible is declared to be the Word of God in its entirety. The Word of God is held to be the judge of theology, not theology the judge of the Word of God. It is clear that here the function of theology is that of clarifying and communicating the whole of God's revelation to man, rather than of obscuring that revelation in semantics and philosophy. There is but one word that serves to describe both the theological methodology and the teaching methodology in this Seminary: Clarity--clarity of thought and clarity of presentation.
Overjoyed with the fact that Adventist theology does not accept the conclusions of the modern demythologizers, I have been able to ascertain that what Adventist theology is seeking to do in taking its evangelistic role seriously is to demythologize modern theology. Adventist theology does not accept either the methodology or the conclusions of existential relativism. Rather, it holds to the concept of absolute truth revealed by God in the Scriptures in prepositional form. The Biblical writers were not making an interpretation of their own experience with the Lord, using the symbols of language to do so. Rather, God Himself was communicating a specific message of truth concerning Himself, man, history, and the universe through the inspired writers. In formulating its system Adventist theology works by way of the unity of truth found in all Scripture, and unabashedly in the face of contrary opinions in Christendom it holds firmly to the thesis/antithesis methodology.
With regard to man, Adventist theology holds that he is a moral being created the image of God. Man is a responsible creature, and because he is responsible and moral he can be addressed by the Word of Cod and find a realistic solution to his moral dilemma. That solution is by faith in Christ, who was crucified on a real cross in time and space, who was buried in a real tomb, who was literally raised from the dead, and who shall literally return in glory. Adventist theology wants to know what the Bible says, articulate it with clarity, and thus be faithful to its task of preparing young men to preach the last-day gospel to a confused and bewildered world.
Reverence for the Bible as the Word of God is reflected in Adventist Christology. The Biblical accounts of our Lord's virgin birth, His vicarious death on the cross, His literal resurrection and ascension, and above all, His literal return in the Parousia, are all confessed and taught as essential matters of faith.
It has been a tremendous privilege to study in a theological school where the Bible is the basic text, a school that makes every attempt to be acutely aware of the modern trends in theology but that hews closely to the fundamental and orthodox faith of the revealed Word of God, a school that seeks to know how modern man thinks and why, so that it can train its students how to preach and teach the Biblical message with accuracy and conviction. It is into the modern world of the twentieth century with its skepticism, humanism, and universalism that the Adventist minister goes with a sure message of God's love in Christ and with the mes sage of His heavenly ministry, through which He guides the events of history to ward their conclusion.
Don't You Believe It!
My impression of the quality of teaching and the theological content of the courses offered at the Seminary has been quite different from that of the article in the June 7, 1971, issue of Newsweek. Most non-Adventists know about Adventism only what they have heard from those who are antagonistic and critical. This tragedy, which effectively camouflages truth, is compounded if constituents of the Adventist Church themselves get the wrong impression as a result of the inaccurate reporting of a national news magazine. I have sought a conservative theology and have found it at Andrews Seminary. I have not found liberal ism here. And certainly the faculty of this theological school adheres to the Biblical doctrine of Creation as held historically by this denomination in keeping with the Reformation of the sixteenth century.
God is using this institution in the preparation of men who will preach the second coming of Christ to an extremely sophisticated age. That Satan will seek to mar its influence we can have no doubt. We must resist him! We must pray daily for this Seminary! God will hedge it about with His heavenly host and protect it so that its effectiveness in doing theological evangelism will not be hindered.
Mrs. White wrote, surely by way of inspired anticipation of today's conditions:
The times demand an intelligent, educated ministry, not novices. False doctrines are being multiplied. The world is becoming educated to a high standard of literary attainment; and sin, unbelief, and infidelity are becoming more bold and defiant, as intellectual knowledge and acuteness are acquired. This state of things calls for the use of every power of the intellect; for it is keen minds, under the control of Satan, that the minister will have to meet. --Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 528.
My decision to resign from the ministerium of the Lutheran Church in America and to join with you in the ministry of the last days was guided by the Lord. Truth is captivating. When faced with truth, the Christian has but one choice. He must obey. God's truth concerning the Sabbath, the ministry of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary, and the events surrounding Parousia captivated my mind and heart. I am a Seventh-day Adventist today because I believe it to be the truth, and also I believe it to be the will of God for my life. God with His truth made my decision inevitable, and the Seminary with its students and faculty played a very large part in it all.