Bacchiocchi on the 58th General Conference

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From Endtime Issues Newsletter no 133, “Reflections on the 58th General Conference Session” by Samuele Bacchiocchi

Bacchiocchi has made some interesting statements in his latest newsletter that deserve a few comments. So I have made some.

“For the discussion of the lesson he [Clifford Goldstein] invited Pastor Shawn Boonstra, the new Speaker of It Is Written. To the question posed by Clifford, “How do you prioritize your day?” Boonstra responded saying in essence that in the morning he makes a list of the things to be done during the day. Then, he gives priority to those activities which are of a more spiritual nature, that is, more important to the salvation of his soul.

Boonstra’s comments caught my attention, because they reminded me of the Catholic dualistic mentality, where the spiritual life of the soul is seen as more important than the physical life of the body. Since saving the soul is more important than caring for the body, the goal of the Christian life is seen as cultivating the needs of the soul rather than the welfare of the body.

Historically, this dualistic view has envisioned the saints as persons who devote themselves primarily to vita contemplativa (contemplative life), detaching themselves from the vita activa (secular life). Since cultivating the soul has been seen as more important than caring for the body, the physical wellbeing of the body have often been intentionally ignored or even suppressed.

This dualistic mentality is openly contradicted by the Bible which teaches us to glorify God in eating, drinking, and whatever we do (1 Cor 10:31). This means that we set our priorities at the beginning of each day, in deciding, not what task is more spiritual, but how can I fulfill all our obligations in a God-centered way. For some people living a sedentary life like me, taking time for a physical work out, may be more important than attending a prayer meeting. Neglecting the physical needs of our body (as I often do), is just as serious as ignoring the spiritual needs of our soul.”

Note that glorifying God “in eating, drinking, and whatever we do” is not putting the physical care of our bodies at the same level as the spiritual care of the soul. Bacchiocchi continues to make up his own meaning for the text, not supported by the text itself.

“The dichotomy between body and soul, the physical and the spiritual, is still present in the thinking of many Christians today. Many still associate redemption with the human soul rather than the human body. We describe the missionary work of the church as that of “saving souls.” The implication seems to be that the souls are more important than the bodies.

The Gospel gives us no basis for a doctrine of redemption which saves the souls apart from the bodies to which they belong. The Gospel commission is not to save souls but whole persons. What God has joined together at creation, no Christian has the right to put apart. The Biblical wholistic view of human nature challenges us to be concerned about the whole person.”

Interestingly, Bacchiocchi departs from the traditional Adventist wording, and uses traditional Catholic/Protestant wording when it comes to the difference between the body and the soul. Why is this?

Contrary to what Bacchiocchi claims, the Bible tends to emphasise spiritual health as being more important than physical health, and care for the spiritual life more important than care for the physical body. Certainly, there is no command to ignore the body’s needs, or to neglect the body, but there is an emphasis on the spirit as being more important. Our bodies will be resurrected immortal and perfect … it is our spiritual health that determines that. A diseased body will be healed in the next life – a soul that is diseased by lack of God’s grace will not.

Mat 10:28 KJV – And fear not them which kill the body, but are not able to kill the soul: but rather fear him which is able to destroy both soul and body in hell.

Mat 5:29 KJV – And if thy right eye offend thee, pluck it out, and cast it from thee: for it is profitable for thee that one of thy members should perish, and not that thy whole body should be cast into hell.

Mat 6:25 KJV – Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat, or what ye shall drink; nor yet for your body, what ye shall put on. Is not the life more than meat, and the body than raiment?

Luk 12:4 KJV – And I say unto you my friends, Be not afraid of them that kill the body, and after that have no more that they can do.

Rom 6:12 KJV – Let not sin therefore reign in your mortal body, that ye should obey it in the lusts thereof.

Interestingly, the Bible calls the body mortal. The spirit lives on. Even the often-quoted passages from Ecclesiastes and the Psalms do not contradict this view.

1Co 6:19 KJV – What? know ye not that your body is the temple of the Holy Ghost which is in you, which ye have of God, and ye are not your own?

So, certainly, our bodies are a gift from God, and we live in them, and so does the Holy Spirit … nobody denies that.

1Co 15:35-38,42-44 KJV – But some man will say, How are the dead raised up? and with what body do they come? [36] Thou fool, that which thou sowest is not quickened, except it die: [37] And that which thou sowest, thou sowest not that body that shall be, but bare grain, it may chance of wheat, or of some other grain: [38] But God giveth it a body as it hath pleased him, and to every seed his own body. … [42] So also is the resurrection of the dead. It is sown in corruption; it is raised in incorruption: [43] It is sown in dishonour; it is raised in glory: it is sown in weakness; it is raised in power: [44] It is sown a natural body; it is raised a spiritual body. There is a natural body, and there is a spiritual body.

Phi 3:21 KJV – Who shall change our vile body, that it may be fashioned like unto his glorious body, according to the working whereby he is able even to subdue all things unto himself.

Col 2:21-23 KJV – Touch not; taste not; handle not; [22] Which all are to perish with the using; after the commandments and doctrines of men? [23] Which things have indeed a shew of wisdom in will worship, and humility, and neglecting of the body; not in any honour to the satisfying of the flesh.

(GW) These things look like wisdom with their self-imposed worship, false humility, and harsh treatment of the body. But they have no value for holding back the constant desires of your corrupt nature.

(CEV) Obeying these rules may seem to be the smart thing to do. They appear to make you love God more and to be very humble and to have control over your body. But they don’t really have any power over our desires.

(WNT) These rules have indeed an appearance of wisdom where self-imposed worship exists, and an affectation of humility and an ascetic severity. But not one of them is of any value in combating the indulgence of our lower natures.

(YLT) which are, indeed, having a matter of wisdom in will-worship, and humble-mindedness, and neglecting of body–not in any honour, unto a satisfying of the flesh.

Note that verse 21 lists Adventist tendencies – tasting not. A few verses back we are told that the weekly sabbath was a shadow of Christ.

Joh 3:4-6 KJV – Nicodemus saith unto him, How can a man be born when he is old? can he enter the second time into his mother’s womb, and be born? (5) Jesus answered, Verily, verily, I say unto thee, Except a man be born of water and of the Spirit, he cannot enter into the kingdom of God. (6) That which is born of the flesh is flesh; and that which is born of the Spirit is spirit.

Here is a verse of which even Bacchiocchi, with his emphasis on the physical, denies the literal meaning:

Joh 6:55 KJV – For my flesh is meat indeed, and my blood is drink indeed.

Rom 14:14 KJV – I know, and am persuaded by the Lord Jesus, that there is nothing unclean of itself: but to him that esteemeth any thing to be unclean, to him it is unclean.

Yet in Adventism we have a doctrine of clean and unclean meats.

Rom 14:20-21 KJV – For meat destroy not the work of God. All things indeed are pure; but it is evil for that man who eateth with offence. (21) It is good neither to eat flesh, nor to drink wine, nor any thing whereby thy brother stumbleth, or is offended, or is made weak.

2Co 7:1 KJV – Having therefore these promises, dearly beloved, let us cleanse ourselves from all filthiness of the flesh and spirit, perfecting holiness in the fear of God.

Col 2:13 KJV – And you, being dead in your sins and the uncircumcision of your flesh, hath he quickened together with him, having forgiven you all trespasses;

1Pe 1:24-25 KJV – For all flesh is as grass, and all the glory of man as the flower of grass. The grass withereth, and the flower thereof falleth away: (25) But the word of the Lord endureth for ever. And this is the word which by the gospel is preached unto you.

Joh 6:63 KJV – It is the spirit that quickeneth; the flesh profiteth nothing: the words that I speak unto you, they are spirit, and they are life.

Rom 8:13 KJV – For if ye live after the flesh, ye shall die: but if ye through the Spirit do mortify the deeds of the body, ye shall live.

This is not talking about looking after the body vs looking after the soul – but it does show us the importance of the spirit.

1Co 5:5 KJV – To deliver such an one unto Satan for the destruction of the flesh, that the spirit may be saved in the day of the Lord Jesus.

Phi 3:3 KJV – For we are the circumcision, which worship God in the spirit, and rejoice in Christ Jesus, and have no confidence in the flesh.

2Co 9:10 KJV – Now may He who supplies seed to the sower, and bread for food, supply and multiply the seed you have sown and increase the fruits of your righteousness;

Mat 6:30-34 KJV – Wherefore, if God so clothe the grass of the field, which to day is, and to morrow is cast into the oven, shall he not much more clothe you, O ye of little faith? [31] Therefore take no thought, saying, What shall we eat? or, What shall we drink? or, Wherewithal shall we be clothed? [32] (For after all these things do the Gentiles seek: ) for your heavenly Father knoweth that ye have need of all these things. [33] But seek ye first the kingdom of God, and his righteousness; and all these things shall be added unto you. [34] Take therefore no thought for the morrow: for the morrow shall take thought for the things of itself. Sufficient unto the day is the evil thereof.

Luk 12:22 KJV – And he said unto his disciples, Therefore I say unto you, Take no thought for your life, what ye shall eat; neither for the body, what ye shall put on.

Joh 13:10 KJV – Jesus saith to him, He that is washed needeth not save to wash his feet, but is clean every whit: and ye are clean, but not all.

Mat 23:25-26 KJV – Woe unto you, scribes and Pharisees, hypocrites! for ye make clean the outside of the cup and of the platter, but within they are full of extortion and excess. (26) Thou blind Pharisee, cleanse first that which is within the cup and platter, that the outside of them may be clean also.

Mat 15:11-20 KJV – Not that which goeth into the mouth defileth a man; but that which cometh out of the mouth, this defileth a man. [12] Then came his disciples, and said unto him, Knowest thou that the Pharisees were offended, after they heard this saying? [13] But he answered and said, Every plant, which my heavenly Father hath not planted, shall be rooted up. [14] Let them alone: they be blind leaders of the blind. And if the blind lead the blind, both shall fall into the ditch. [15] Then answered Peter and said unto him, Declare unto us this parable. [16] And Jesus said, Are ye also yet without understanding? [17] Do not ye yet understand, that whatsoever entereth in at the mouth goeth into the belly, and is cast out into the draught? [18] But those things which proceed out of the mouth come forth from the heart; and they defile the man. [19] For out of the heart proceed evil thoughts, murders, adulteries, fornications, thefts, false witness, blasphemies: [20] These are the things which defile a man: but to eat with unwashen hands defileth not a man.

Mar 7:15-23 KJV – There is nothing from without a man, that entering into him can defile him: but the things which come out of him, those are they that defile the man. [16] If any man have ears to hear, let him hear. [17] And when he was entered into the house from the people, his disciples asked him concerning the parable. [18] And he saith unto them, Are ye so without understanding also? Do ye not perceive, that whatsoever thing from without entereth into the man, it cannot defile him; [19] Because it entereth not into his heart, but into the belly, and goeth out into the draught, purging all meats? [20] And he said, That which cometh out of the man, that defileth the man. [21] For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed evil thoughts, adulteries, fornications, murders, [22] Thefts, covetousness, wickedness, deceit, lasciviousness, an evil eye, blasphemy, pride, foolishness: [23] All these evil things come from within, and defile the man.

Mar 7:19

(ASV) because it goeth not into his heart, but into his belly, and goeth out into the draught? This he said, making all meats clean.

(BBE) Because it goes not into the heart but into the stomach, and goes out with the waste? He said this, making all food clean.

(ISV) For it doesn’t go into his heart but into his stomach, and is expelled as waste.” (Thus he declared all foods clean.)

(CEV) It doesn’t go into your heart, but into your stomach, and then out of your body.” By saying this, Jesus meant that all foods were fit to eat.

Bacchiocchi wants to promote the Adventist ideas about unclean foods. Nobody claims that healthy living is not necessary for Christians. But Adventism teaches more than that – it frowns on all types of foods, even those Jesus himself ate – and that is the basis from which their spiritually unhealthy physical health laws arise.

“The fact that the number of new converts leaving the Adventist Church has increased during the last five years from 24 to 35%, call for a reevaluation of our church growth strategy. Could it be that adding members has become more important than making disciples? Could it be that by adopting contemporary METHODS of church growth, our Adventist church has neglected how to teach the MESSAGE of how to become disciples of Christ?”

One also wonders if the message of Ellen White is being neglected – and when SDAs discover its true impact, after joining the denomination, they decide to leave. Adventism has gone half-way in neglecting Ellen White – they minimise her importance, on the outside. Once they minimise her importance on the inside as well – and Bacchiocchi is himself moving in this direction – then their problems may be solved.

“The talk was short on the meaning of the resurrection. She [Galina Stele] does mention that the resurrection represents Christ’s victory over the forces of evil and offers assurance of eternal life for every believer. But I wish that she could have mentioned the difference between the Adventist and the Catholic/Protestant view of Christ’s resurrection. For the latter the resurrection is celebrated LITURGICALLY on a weekly Sunday and Easter-Sunday, but for the former (Adventists) the resurrection is celebrated EXISTENTIALLY by living victoriously by the POWER OF THE RESURRECTION. With Paul we seek to know “the power of his resurrection” (Phil 3:10), not the day of that event. The phrase “Day of the Resurrection” is never used in the NT or in the early Christian literature until the writings of Eusebius of Caesarea in 325 A. D.”

Bacchiocchi, in falsely characterising Catholics and Protestants, makes it seem as if the Catholic/Protestant celebration of the Resurrection is a liturgical one only, contrasted to the internal spiritual celebration experienced by Adventists. This is not an honest assessment at all of the Catholic or Protestant experiences. The real difference is that Catholics, Protestants, AND Adventists all share that existential celebration; Catholics and Protestants express it liturgically and by observing the day that began the New Creation.

As for Bacchiocchi’s claim that the term “Day of the Resurrection” is never used in early Christian literature prior to 325 AD, the following quotes from early Christian literature will quickly put that myth to rest:

Ignatius of Antioch, 107 AD: let every friend of Christ keep the Lord’s Day as a festival, the resurrection-day, the queen and chief of all the days of the week.
– Epistle to the Magnesians, chp 9. Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, pg. 62-63.

The Epistle of Barnabas, 70-120 AD: Wherefore we Christians keep the eighth day for joy, on which also Jesus arose from the dead and when he appeared ascended into heaven.
– The Epistle of Barnabas, section 15, 100 AD, Ante-Nicene Fathers , vol. 1, pg. 147

Justin Martyr, 150 AD: But Sunday is the day on which we hold our common assembly, because it is the first day of the week and Jesus our saviour on the same day rose from the dead.
– First apology of Justin, Ch 68

Maybe the precise words “day of the resurrection” are not present in the English translations, but the connection is certainly there, and the early Christians certainly saw it. See my previous discussions with Bacchiocchi.

“The function of the adverb “today-semeron” is not to teach a continuous Sabbath rest of grace that replaces literal Sabbath keeping; it is to show that Sabbath keeping as an experience of rest in God was not experienced by the Israelites as a people because of their unbelief (Heb 4:6). To prove this fact, the author of Hebrews quotes Psalm 95:7 where God invites the people to respond to Him, saying: “Today, when you hear his voice, do not harden your hearts” (Heb. 4:7, cf. Ps. 95:7).

The “today” simply serves to show that the spiritual dimension of the Sabbath as rest in God still remains because God renewed the invitation at the time of David. To argue that “today” means that “New Covenant” Christians observe the Sabbath every day by living in God’s rest is to ignore also the historical context-namely, that the “today” was spoken by God at the time of David. If Ratzlaff’s interpretation of “today” were correct, then already, at the time of David, God had replaced the literal observance of the Sabbath with a spiritual experience of rest in Him. Such an absurd conclusion can be reached only by reading into the text gratuitous assumptions.”

Bacchiocchi fails to see that the fulfilment of “today” occurred with Christ. Israel never entered rest in their day – not because of the covenant, not on the Sabbath. We now rest in the Sabbath which is Christ. Ratzlaff’s interpretation does not imply that the literal observance of the Sabbath had been replaced with a spiritual rest in Christ in David’s day. David was living under the old covenant, and was calling people to God in that day, but as the writer of Hebrews shows, David’s psalm had a future type as well – a greater “Today” when that real rest can truly be found – in Christ.

By taking the literal application of types and antitypes too far, Bacchiocchi is making a serious error. A necessary error, as he needs to defuse a strong text that disagrees with Adventism’s teaching that the Sabbath is still to be kept. But in making this error, the implication is that, like Israel in the time of David, we still have not found our rest in Christ. One cannot force every aspect of biblical types to apply to the initial type. David, for instance, was a type of Christ, yet he was not sinless. Read Ezekiel 28 – did the King of Tyre really walk in Eden? Or was he a type of Satan? Bacchiocchi makes the mistake of reading too much of the description of antitypes into the type, and it backfires on him here. We have found our rest in Christ.

Doctor Bacchiocchi, don’t confuse type and antitype. Don’t try to prove your Sabbath theology by discrediting the New Testament’s fulfilment of the Old by means of false dichotomies used to water down the prophetic fulfilment of David’s words in Christ.

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