Debate Review: Did Myles Ketelsen Prove His Case?
By Edwin M. Cotto, Advent Defense League
On June 23rd, 2020, an Adventist critic named Myles Ketelsen debated an Adventist pastor named Anthony Burrell on the topic of the Investigative Judgment. Having had a few email exchanges with Myles after which towards the end he cancelled a debate that he initially invited me to have, I took it upon myself to analyze carefully this debate and share some thought. Here is the debate in its entirety:
STARTING OFF ALL WRONG
Myles made the common mistake of conflating ideas from one author to the other, and doing this in the beginning laid the foundation for the rest of his arguments throughout the debate. Within his opening statement, Myles shares the following quotation from one of Adventism’s pioneers. Note the words in italic:
“After breakfast I said to one of my brethren, ‘Let us go and see, and encourage some of our brethren.’ We started, and while passing through a large field I was stopped about midway of the field. Heaven seemed open to my view, and I saw distinctly and clearly that instead of our High Priest coming out of the Most Holy of the heavenly sanctuary to come to this earth on the tenth day of the seventh month, at the end of the 2300 days, that He for the first time entered on that day the second apartment of that sanctuary; and that He had a work to perform in the Most Holy before coming to this earth.”Hiram Edson, Fragment of Manuscript on His Life and Experiences.
It wasn’t me who placed an emphasis on the words “for the first time,” it was Myles. He took great “umbrage” with this (his own words) and proceeds to inject those words into a quotation by Ellen White, who, of course, does not use those words. Here’s the quote:
“Thus those who followed in the light of the prophetic word saw that, instead of coming to the earth at the termination of the 2300 days in 1844, Christ then entered the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary to perform the closing work of atonement preparatory to His coming.”Ellen G. White, The Great Controversy, page 422.1.
White’s wording, “Christ then entered the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary” do not necessarily imply that this was “for the first time,” but rather, that after the termination of the prophetic time Christ entered there “to perform the closing work of atonement…” Here is the great mistake of Myles. He assumes that “for the first time” is an interpretation held by Adventism when in fact it is not. Hiram Edson’s view paved the way for further study on the subject, but Adventism does not take the position that the pioneers were faultless in their interpretations. Contrarily, we believe Christ entered the entire heavenly Sanctuary for the purpose of consecrating everything in order for the heavenly service to begin. This causes His first entrance into the Most Holy Place, since the articles in there had to be consecrated first (Heb. 9:6, 18-23). After this inauguration we find the Lord ministering in the Holy Place, and then the Most Holy Place afterwards, in accordance with the earthly type (Heb. 9:6-7). Neither Ellen White, nor our current fundamental beliefs, suggest that Christ entered the Most Holy Place for the first time in 1844, except to say that He began to minister in there for the first time, apart from the previous inauguration which took place. Myles seems totally unaware of this, despite being raised an Adventist, and proceeds to build his arguments based on a complete misunderstanding. Many Christians admit that the Fathers of the church made many mistakes that do not determine their current doctrinal stance, but critics like Myles can’t afford us that same courtesy.
As an example of how Ellen White and Adventism in general may at times differ from things some of what the pioneers taught, I quote Myles where at minute mark 23:00 of the debate video he says Edson taught “no atonement was made at the cross.” Yet, according to our fundamental beliefs, atonement was indeed made at the cross:
“In Christ’s life of perfect obedience to God’s will, His suffering, death, and resurrection, God provided the only means of atonement for human sin, so that those who by faith accept this atonement may have eternal life, and the whole creation may better understand the infinite and holy love of the Creator. This perfect atonement vindicates the righteousness of God’s law and the graciousness of His character; for it both condemns our sin and provides for our forgiveness. The death of Christ is substitutionary and expiatory, reconciling and transforming. The bodily resurrection of Christ proclaims God’s triumph over the forces of evil, and for those who accept the atonement assures their final victory over sin and death. It declares the Lordship of Jesus Christ, before whom every knee in heaven and on earth will bow.”28 Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists, Fundamental Belief #9.
Ellen White herself says that when the Lord died on the cross, “a perfect atonement was made for the sins of the people” (The Signs of the Times, June 28, 1899).(1) So, just because Hiram Edson, or any pioneer for that matter, says one thing, that does not necessarily prove it is what the entire church teaches and believes. We refer readers to our 28 Fundamental Beliefs for all our teachings on this and other matters.(2)
TRIES PINNING EDSON’S WORD ONTO ELLEN WHITE
At minute mark 24:31, Myles quotes the same Ellen White quote I shared above, ends the quote, and then concludes, “so the doctrine says the Most Holy Place was entered by Christ for the first time in 1844, yet, Hebrews 6:19-20 clearly says that Christ entered the Most Holy Place at His ascension.” Let’s return to this quote and see if she says it happened “for the first time” in 1844:
“Thus those who followed in the light of the prophetic word saw that, instead of coming to the earth at the termination of the 2300 days in 1844, Christ then entered the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary to perform the closing work of atonement preparatory to His coming.”
Notice how she did not write that He entered the Most Holy Place “for the first time.” Here, Myles takes that portion from Hiram Edson and inserts it into a quotation by Ellen White, making her say something she did not write! Our critic’s mind is so imbued with this “for the first time” idea that it becomes quite easy for him to inject that into anything else he reads. Ironically, Adventist critics often accuse Adventists of eisegesis just like this.
THE (USUAL) DOUBLE STANDARD
In Hebrews 6:19-20 Myles argues that the phrase “within the veil” must refer to the Most Holy Place and points to various texts in the Old Testament to prove this. At minute mark 25:17 he says that “every use of this phrase in scripture ‘behind the curtain’ refers to the same thing, look it up yourself, Exodus chapters 21, 26, 27, 40, Leviticus chapters 4, 6, 12 15, 16, 17, 24, Numbers 18:7, it always refers to the curtain that separates the Holy Place from the Most Holy Place where the Father dwells.” What Myles does here is take great liberty in leaving the immediate context of Hebrews 6 to explain the phrase “within the veil” while not permitting Anthony to go three chapters later to Heb. 9 to help explain that same phrase. Myles does this again later in the debate. At minute mark 1:15, he says, “we shouldn’t have to jump to 1 Corinthians to be able to interpret John chapter 5.” Excuse me? Why is it that Myles can jump around to various texts outside the context but no one else is allowed to do the same thing? So, Myles can leave the context to explain “within the veil” in Hebrews 6:19-20, but Anthony cannot use chapter 9 of the same book. Go figure! The double standard is clear, and if you study carefully Myle’s style of argumentation, you’ll notice that this is a trend of his.
At 53 minutes into the video, the following interaction takes place:
MYLES: “It has nothing to do with works playing a part in someone justification, but rather would you agree that it’s talking about works actually demonstrate a true living faith and it’s the faith that saves a person, the works have nothing to do with it?”
ANTHONY: “That question itself is contradictory. You’re saying at one time that works have nothing to do with it, but they’re a demonstration. I don’t believe that works can have nothing to do AND be a demonstration at the same time. Quite frankly, that’s nonsensical.”
MYLES: “Ok thanks for demonstrating that.”
Anthony didn’t say it, but I will, “You’re welcome, Myles.”
At one point, Anthony asks Myles the following question: “What position was Jesus in when Steven saw Him at the right hand of the Father? To which Myles answers, “I don’t think Acts 7 says that. It says that the heavens opened up and that Jesus was at the right hand of the MAJESTY ON HIGH (my emphasis).” In case you haven’t noticed, the text does not say that Jesus was at the fight hand “of the majesty on high” but rather, at the right hand “of God.” Pastor Burrell fires back saying, “I’m sorry, I thought you were familiar with the verses you were using,” and proceeds to read out loud the text:
“And said, Behold, I see the heavens opened, and the Son of man standing on the right hand OF GOD.”Acts 7:56 KJV
“Do you affirm” asks Burrell, “that Jesus was standing at the right hand OF GOD when Steven saw Him?” To which Myles, somewhat melancholy, responds, “I mean that’s what the text says.” Yes, that’s what the text says, Myles.
I suppose I can be nice to Myles here as, perhaps, anyone can forget a thing or two. But one would expect for a person like Myles, so energetic and ready for a fight, be prepared when entering into a debate with a well-trained and seasoned pastor, or to at minimum know what the verses he is quoting actually says.
THE BLOTTING OUT OF SINS
It’s typical of critics while attacking the Investigative Judgment to assert that SDAs believe our sins are not blotted out from the heart of individuals. Myles makes this argument by quoting Pau:
“Blotting out the handwriting of ordinances that was against us, which was contrary to us, and took it out of the way, nailing it to his cross.”Colossians 2:14
But Adventist’s Investigative Judgment does not teach that sins aren’t blotted from the heart of individuals when they repent, as a result of what Christ did on the cross. Rather, we believe that the record of sins, having been accumulated in figure in the heavenly Sanctuary as it was in the earthly Sanctuary (Lev. 16), will be blotted out for good at the second coming of the Lord. To refute our critic’s assertion, Anthony quotes this verse:
“Repent ye therefore, and be converted, that your sins may be blotted out, when the times of refreshing shall come from the presence of the Lord; and He shall send Jesus Christ, which before was preached unto you.”Acts 3:19-20 KJV
As for Colossians 2:14, what was blotted out was the “handwriting of ordinances.” Myles points to the Greek, which essentially means “record of debt.” But, as Anthony mentioned in his response, what kept those records were the ceremonial laws mentioned contextually in verse 16.
NEVER REFUTED HIS OPPONENT
Anthony requested the moderator make Myles respond to his initial presentation, as he was in the affirmative. Of course, the moderator sided with Myles. And yet this brief reminder by Anthony was not enough to cause Myles to take a serious look at the arguments Anthony made. The debate reaches the end and nearly none of Anthony’s arguments were dealt with. I can’t say I am surprised. In my debate with a Catholic bishop, my initial, affirmative presented went nearly untouched too.
WHAT ABOUT PASTOR ANTHONY BURRELL?
- It should be remembered that atonement was made throughout the sanctuary service, not just on the Day of Atonement. The Bible consistently speaks about atonement being completed during the daily service (Lev. 1:4, 20, 26, 31, 35, and other like texts). Here’s a list of quotes where Ellen White makes clear that the Atonement was completed at the cross:
The Sacrifice of Christ 𝗮𝘀 𝗮𝗻 𝗮𝘁𝗼𝗻𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘀𝗶𝗻 𝗶𝘀 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗴𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁 𝘁𝗿𝘂𝘁𝗵 𝗮𝗿𝗼𝘂𝗻𝗱 𝘄𝗵𝗶𝗰𝗵 𝗮𝗹𝗹 𝗼𝘁𝗵𝗲𝗿 𝘁𝗿𝘂𝘁𝗵𝘀 𝗰𝗹𝘂𝘀𝘁𝗲𝗿 . In order to be rightly understood and appreciated, every truth in the Word of God, from Genesis to Revelation, must be studied in the light that streams from the cross of Calvary. I present before you the great, grand monument of mercy and regeneration, salvation and redemption,—the Son of God uplifted on the cross. This is to be the foundation of every discourse given by our ministers.—Gospel Workers, 315. 7ABC 457.3
He Christ planted the cross between heaven and earth, and when the Father beheld the sacrifice of His Son , He bowed before it in recognition of its perfection. “It is enough,” He said. “𝙏𝙝𝙚 𝘼𝙩𝙤𝙣𝙚𝙢𝙚𝙣𝙩 𝙞𝙨 𝙘𝙤𝙢𝙥𝙡𝙚𝙩𝙚 ” —The Review and Herald, September 24, 1901.
Type met antitype in the death of Christ, the Lamb slain for the sins of the world. Our great High Priest has made the only sacrifice that is of any value in our salvation. When He offered Himself on the cross, a 𝗽𝗲𝗿𝗳𝗲𝗰𝘁 𝗮𝘁𝗼𝗻𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝘄𝗮𝘀 𝗺𝗮𝗱𝗲 𝗳𝗼𝗿 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝘀𝗶𝗻𝘀 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲. We are now standing in the outer court, waiting and looking for that blessed hope, the glorious appearing of our Lord and Saviour Jesus Christ.—The Signs of the Times, June 28, 1899.
The time had come for the universe of Heaven to accept their King. Angels, cherubim and seraphim, would now stand in view of the cross…. The Father accepts the Son. No language could convey the rejoicing of Heaven or God’s expression of satisfaction and delight in His only begotten Son 𝗮𝘀 𝗛𝗲 𝘀𝗮𝘄 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗰𝗼𝗺𝗽𝗹𝗲𝘁𝗶𝗼𝗻 𝗼𝗳 𝘁𝗵𝗲 𝗮𝘁𝗼𝗻𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁.—The Signs of the Times, August 16, 1899.
The Father demonstrates His infinite love for Christ, who paid our ransom with His blood, by receiving and welcoming Christ’s friends as His friends. He is satisfied with the atonement made. He is glorified by the incarnation, the life, death, and mediation of His Son .—Testimonies for the Church 6:364.
The Father gave all honor to the Son, seating Him at His right hand, far above all principalities and power. He expressed His great joy and delight in receiving the Crucified One and crowning Him with glory and honor. And all the favors He has shown to His Son in His acceptance of the 𝗴𝗿𝗲𝗮𝘁 𝗮𝘁𝗼𝗻𝗲𝗺𝗲𝗻𝘁 𝗮𝗿𝗲 𝘀𝗵𝗼𝘄𝗻 𝘁𝗼 𝗛𝗶𝘀 𝗽𝗲𝗼𝗽𝗹𝗲…. God loves them as He loves His Son…. The seal of Heaven has been affixed to Christ’s atonement. His sacrifice is in every way satisfactory .—The Signs of the Times, August 16, 1899.
The sacrifice of Christ is sufficient; He made a whole, efficacious offering to God ; the human effort without the merit of Christ, is worthless.—The Review and Herald, August 19, 1890 (March 24, 1896).
As the sacrifice in our behalf was complete, so our restoration from the defilement of sin is to be complete.—The Ministry of Healing, 451.