The panel included George Knight, Angel Rodriguez, Keith Stanglin, Barry Callen, Roger Olson, Denis Fortin, and Woodrow Whidden. The moderator was Martin Hanna.
Is there not a danger that we may be making salvation too much a matter of the head instead of the heart? Are we saved by a correct understanding of salvation or by Jesus Christ in some mysterious way we can't understand anyhow? Are we some how better because we understand these differences between Calvinism and Arminianism?
One of the presenters during the Friday-afternoon Break-out sessions was T. Richard Rice, since 1998 professor at the School of Religion at Loma Linda University, California. Dr. Rice has (co-)authored several publications on the topic of Open Theism, a term he himself has coined for describing a theological school of thought that aims at explaining that God in his love has made his creatures with an inherent free will.
Richard Rice opened his presentation by reminding the audience of the recent passing of his friend and co-author, Clark H. Pinnock (Feb 3, 1937 - August 15, 2010) and by expressing his gratitude and appreciation for the good collaboration they had over the years, especially in the area of Open Theism (OT). Pinnock was a foremost proponent of OT.
Dr. Gary Land closed the presentations with his "Reflections on the Symposium." Conference is particularly important, because it tries to place Adventism in a context, which many Adventist scholars have failed to do.
Land noted three areas of concern in the plenary papers.
The problem of defending Arminanism as a theology focuses on God (Olson, Callen, and LaRondelle)
The problem of assurance of salvation (Stanglin, Whidden)
The problem of the relation Arminianism to Adventism (Fortin, Knight)
Land found the discussion of sanctification very interesting, for there is a vocal community of former Adventisims who criticise the church for a works focus. An interdenomational conference of these topics would be helpful, as this issue apparently transcends the bounds of our denomination.
The paper I presented for breakout session three is entitled, "Zechariah 3 and the Day of Atonement." Since it is difficult in the extreme to summarize ones own work, I'm going to simply attach the paper to this post and give you the opportunity to read it in full. Beyond that, I want to say that this paper originally grew out of a sermon (with the invaluable assistance of Dr. Roy Gane), and so my concern in writing it is primarily pastoral. I believe that Zechariah 3 is the only picture the Bible gives us of what actually takes place during our final judgment, and so my prayer for this paper is that your picture of the judgment will be one of Jesus taking your filthy garment and exchanging it for his robe of righteousness.
Dr. Woodrow Whidden began with a word of indebtedness to Dr. Stanglin, stating that he understood many of his concepts instinctively, but is going to have to rewrite a chapter in his forthcoming book. He stated that his paper, "Investigative Judgment and Assurance of Salvation" will focus on perseverance. Whidden states that if Adventists still have one seduction coming out of the Reformed tradition, it's a once saved always saved wish. While acknowledging that constant threat of legalism, he senses that if Adventisim has a threat, it's not legalism anymore, but an overweening cheep grace.
Keith also brought an Arminius tee-shirt to the conference, but decided not to wear it for similar reasons to Dr. Olson. He's stopped wearing it generally because he got tired of people coming up to him asking him why he was wearing a Shakespeare tee-shirt.
Keith Stanglin remarked that his paper, "Assurance of Salvation: An Arminian Account," is still a bit rough as he only recently found out about the conference. So, he said with tongue in cheek, we'll just have to trust him that he's not making this up, since it's still missing many footnotes.
Arminius view on assurance is important for thee reasons.
For the sermon of our divine worship service, Dr. Angel Rodriguez preached a sermon entitled, "Incarnation, Death, Resurrection: Atonement as a Narrative." Before beginning his sermon, he thanked that theologians from outside the Adventist faith for coming and sharing with us about matters important to the Christian faith. He emphaized that it is important for Adventist theologians to listen to other Christian theologians and recounted his appreciation for dialogues with Christian theologians from other traditions. He also wanted us to know that in response to what he had heard at the conference he had modified some points of his sermon.
Dr. Rodriguez wants to tell a story that begins with creation and ends with receation, and in the middle is the cross. It is not a story about us, but it involves us. This story is different than a screen narrative because it is interactive. You can decide how it will finish for you. You can choose (Is that ok, Armenian friends?) how it will end for you.
Roger Olson brought an object lesson for Sabbath School—a tee-shirt his students made him with a picture of Arminius that said "Arminius Is My Homeboy." He says he plans to wear it to the next Calvinist conference goes to, if he ever gets invited.
His paper, "Arminian Theology as Evangelical Theology" is a response to the accusation that Arminianism is not evangelical theology. Olson asks, why do many evangelicals exclude Arminianism? They see evangelicalism as having historical roots in the Reformation, where evangelical came to mean those who have a high view of scripture, a low view of man, affirm the priesthood of all believers, and believe in redemption in Christ. Ultimately they claim that those who do not affirm monergism and Christians being simultaniously just and sinner are not evangelical. But that others such as Wesleyans and Anabaptists have defined things differently, means nothing to them. For example, Mark Noll and other historians do not define evangelicalism this way at all.
Vespers began with soft music playing in the chapel dimly lit by the flames of menorahs sitting on a table in the front of the chapel along with a collection of shofars. Following a soothing rendition of "Remember the Sabbath," Dr. Jo Ann Davidson began sharing about her reluctant trip to Israel on her husband's sabbatical. Although she was a fourth generation Adventist and knew that she didn't keep the Sabbath to be saved, Israel is where she began to learn the deeper meanings of the Sabbath.
One of her first experiences was reluctantly visiting a Jewish festival in a park where the Jews were praising God for the law. This was a new concept to her. She new the law as eternal and good, but praising the law? There isn't a hymn in the Adventist hymnal praising the law.
Skip MacCarty, Pastor for Evangelism at Pioneer Memorial Church in Berrien Springs, Michigan chose Rom 9:6-24 as key text for his presentation during the first of the Symposium's breakout sessions.
Entering into the controversial topic of the correct interpretation of this much discussed passage, he pointed to the personal challenges he and many others have with making sense of the above passage.
After reading the text together, MacCarty pointed to the fact that this passage was crucial and of essential importance to John Calvin and fundamental for his entire theological reasoning. In contrast, Jesus Christ summarized his theology in Matt 7:9-12: God's goodness exceeds the goodness of humans, which, in all their evil ways, still retained some goodness from the divine image God has put in them. Rom 9 is actually, so MacCarty, a picture which has Matt 7:9-12 in mind. Then the presenter broke the debate and the passage in Rom 9:6-24 down into five fundamental questions:
During Breakout Session 2, Woodrow Whidden presented a paper entitled "Calvin, Arminius, Wesley, and Seventh-day Adventism: Could There Have Been Adventism Without Wesley and Arminius?" He introduced it as a study in the traditional Christian DNA. He admitted from the outset that there is no strong indication that Arminius influenced Wesley before Wesley took the name, Arminian Journal, against his Calvinistic opponents. Apparently, Arminius was in the Anglican via media, from which Wesley came.
Could there have been Adventism without Wesley? Whidden notes that this is obviously a historical, rather than providential question. Whidden would argue that even though Ellen White gives more attention to Luther than Calvin, Calvin had the greater influence on her. Wesley was not quiping when he said that there was but a hair's breadth between him and Calvin. So what was it about Calvin that so strongly influenced Wesley?