In the original lecture series done in 1984 at the Loma Linda University Church, Graham Maxwell spoke for about a half hour each Friday night following by written questions and answers from Lou Venden and also from the audience. The next several posts contain questions and answers from the fifth presentation, “The Record of the Evidence.”
Lou: It seems that you are asking us to do a lot of thinking and studying. There’s a bumper sticker around which says, “God said it. I believe it. That settles it for me.” That sounds refreshingly simple. Why wouldn’t that be the appropriate way to go?
Graham: The difficulty is that people pick the passages from the Bible that they want to label in that way, and they don’t read all the others. For example, “Take the tithe and buy strong drink with it, and rejoice before the Lord” (Deut 14:24-26). God said it. Do you believe it? Or take another passage, “Give wine to the poor, that they may forget their misery” (Prov 31:6-7). Does that settle it for you? “God has said it. I believe it.” You really can’t do that. On the surface, it sounds like an expression of humility and teachableness, which would be very commendable. But no one can really follow that if they read everything God says. Because when you read all of Scripture, you discover the hazard of plucking pieces out like that.
Lou: So you are pushing us at the point of meaning. We just cannot simply jump around here and there and think we understand what it means. If we are serious about God’s Word, there’s no easy way around the context.
Graham: The Bible says, “All Scripture is inspired of God.” So if that bumper sticker means I’m reading it all, then I’m comfortable with the idea.
Lou: Would you suggest a better bumper sticker, perhaps?
Graham: How about this: “Thank you for the evidence. Thank you for making it so clear. And thank you most of all for what it cost.” It would take a big bumper, wouldn’t it!
Lou: We have quite a backlog of questions. “Using the model of the larger view, how does one fit together the apparently violent God of the Old Testament, the friendly God of the New Testament, and the destructive God of Revelation at the end of this earth?” Put that all together.
Graham: Ah, that’s very well stated. That assumes, of course, that God is always severe and violent in the Old Testament. Yet some of the most gentle and moving statements are in the Old Testament. For example, in the parable of the vineyard, “What more can I do for you than I have done” (Isa 5:4)? “The Lord is my Shepherd” (Psalm 23). So the Old Testament is not entirely violent, nor is the New Testament entirely gentle. When Ananias and Sapphira cheated with their offering, they died right on the church floor (Acts 5:5, 10). So I actually find a consistency running through all the Bible, and the real question would be, why is there a varied picture running from Genesis to Revelation, culminating in the third angel’s message, which is so violent (Rev 14:9-11)?
I wouldn’t know how to handle it, except by taking it as a whole and finding the same God dealing with a great variety of people. When we are irreverent, there may be she-bears, thunder and lightning, or an earthquake. And yet I see the same gentle One behind it all, grieving when those people had to be treated that way. But what else could He do?
I don’t think a quick answer like this would ever satisfy someone who has raised the question so thoughtfully. The best response would be to sit down together and go through all the sixty-six books. It takes a little time, but there are no shortcuts to this. And it would be wise to keep that larger question in mind as one reads every book in the sixty-six.
Lou: This one ties in with that as well. “Satan held that God was not able to be just and merciful at the same time. Today He offers us mercy, but will He not kill us finally? Are we not to be consumed in His fire? If we are, how then do we call Him a God of love? Why did Jesus have to die? Was not God’s mercy sufficient?” That’s another one of those full message questions.
Graham: Yes. These are the really important questions, the kind that have to be answered for the universe to be secure. That’s why we see that theme running all through Scripture, culminating in the death of Jesus. And that’s why we have a whole chapter in this book on the most costly and convincing evidence. There was no other way to answer those questions than for God to come in human form and die as He did. So the great controversy view doesn’t make light of the death of Christ. It makes it infinitely more significant. Because there is no other way to answer those questions, and we will deal with those at length in Chapter Eight.