Lou: What about some of these things you have referred to as “emergency measures;” like the law? Are you saying that even the law can be distorted? What is the right place for the law in a healthy, balanced view?
Graham: If we present the great controversy view, we show how God added these emergency measures when we needed them. Faith does not deny them, it thanks God for them. The law was given to lead us to Christ that we may grow up. For some, this is an essential step along the way. Misunderstood, emergency measures like the law can keep us as children, and hence vulnerable to Satan’s influences at the End.
Lou: What about the destruction of the wicked?
Graham: If that produces theophobia, it will lead to the obedience that springs from fear. Such obedience turns us into rebels and certainly keeps us children. “Love Me, or I’ll kill you” won’t produce real love, not even in a little child. So we need to see the destruction of the wicked in light of the cross.
Lou: How about the cross then?
Graham: If the cross is seen as propitiating the anger or winning the favor of an offended God, it also produces theophobia. Even the cross can make me afraid of God if presented in that way. “Thank God He’s forgiven me just now, but I better not give up or you know what He’ll do to me.”
Lou: What is the healthier view of the cross then?
Graham: The healthier view of the cross is as a demonstration that sin does indeed lead to death; it’s that serious. But the cross is not torture and execution at the hands of an angry God. He simply gave up His Son as He will give us up in the end. And when the Son died, the Father cried, as He will cry over us when we die in the end (see section “Three Questions Regarding the Character of God” in Chapter Eight). So, rightly understood, there is no need to be afraid of God when we stand at the foot of the cross. And there is no need to be afraid of God when we see the destruction of the wicked either.
Lou: How should we understand sin in the larger view of things?
Graham: If we view sin as breaking arbitrary rules, it makes sin something that God doesn’t like. It offends Him. It makes Him angry, so He punishes us. That’s a childish view. But in the Larger View, sin is something that’s really wrong in itself. It is like poison, producing its own consequences. In that case, the “punishment” for sin is not really punishment, it is a consequence inherent to the crime itself. Sin leads to consequences, all the way up to the consequence of death, and God would prefer to spare us those consequences.
Lou: What about atonement?
Graham: The Devil wants us to view atonement as reconciling God to us, assuaging His wrath, instead of God winning us back to Himself. The truth is, God never left us; we left Him.
Lou: Let’s take two more. First, intercession.
Graham: If by intercession we imply that the Father is not our friend, we’ve driven a wedge between the Father and the Son, and we’ve made the Father look very unforgiving and severe. So the intercession message could be used by the Devil to turn us against God and keep us as little children. But it can also be an encouraging message for those who need it.
Lou: What about the Judgment?
Graham: Again, if the Judgment is seen as arbitrary, or a positive outcome is seen as dependent on the pleading of Jesus, I think that’s cruel. The Devil is pleased when we assume that one member of the Godhead is more friendly than the other two. But a biblical view of judgment focuses more on what God is like and what He is doing for us.
Lou: You could say we just tried to review the first eighteen chapters of the book in the last three minutes here. Hopefully that will prepare us for Chapter Nineteen, “How Soon Will the Conflict Be Over?” And that has been a topic of conversation for God’s people ever since John said, “Come soon, Lord Jesus” (Rev 22:21). I’m looking forward to it.