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Beware of the Leaven of the Pharisees

 

Introduction

This is going to be an examination of a handful of quotes from Dennis Priebe’s book, “Face to Face with the Real Gospel.” But before beginning, I think it’s important that it be realized that the beliefs expressed in this book are not just the beliefs of one lone individual. On the contrary, these views are held by some of the most influential conservative leaders in the church. For example, Joe Crews (the founder of Amazing Facts), advertises and sells the book, saying, “This book is an excellent study in righteousness by faith…False gospels are unmasked and the real gospel is presented.” In a letter we have from him, he says, “I appreciated the notes you sent along from Dennis Priebe’s book. Actually, I felt that he clarified the subject about as well as anyone I have ever read, except Ralph Larson.” (The “notes” we sent him from Priebe’s book consisted largely of the quotes we’re going to be looking at here.) Obviously, Ralph Larson also holds the same belief. Priebe used to work with Ron Spear, and was a regular writer for his magazine, “Our Firm Foundation.” He’s also a regular speaker at Hartland. Together, these men and their organizations reach and influence a large percentage of the conservative segment of the church. (All of those men I named (not including Priebe) are dead and gone, but they were some of the leading conservative teachers 20 or 30 years ago.)
There’s something else I need to say before I begin: I want to state as clearly and as strongly as I possibly can that I’m in no way in harmony with the New Theology. (That we can’t become like Christ, and we can’t overcome sin.) I believe it’s nothing short of complete and open apostasy from the advent message, and it’s an absolute disgrace that it has reached such strength and proportions in the Adventist church.

I’ll be quoting heavily from the Spirit of Prophecy. I hold her writings to be nothing less than the word of God to the advent people. She herself said, “Sister White is not the originator of these books.” (3SM 50) I only pray that the evidence will be carefully weighed and that you’ll learn for yourself where lies the truth in this issue.

I’ll try to make this study as brief and as clear as possible. Therefore, there will be much that will have to be left out, and inevitably many questions will be raised which will not be answered in this study. I’ll also say that most of what Priebe teaches is true, which only makes the error more dangerous“The most dangerous falsehoods are those that are mingled with truth. It is thus that errors are received that captivate and ruin the soul.” (PP 338)

The subject of this paper couldn’t be more important: Jesus Christ as our example of what constitutes a true Christian experience.

“We are to copy no human being. There is no human being wise enough to be our criterion. We are to look to the man Christ Jesus, who is complete in the perfection of righteousness and holiness. He is the author and finisher of our faith. He is the Pattern Man. His experience is the measure of the experience that we are to gain. His character is our model.” {7 Bible Commentary 970}

“Paul saw that the character of Christ must be understood before men could love Him or view the cross with the eye of faith. Here must begin that study which shall be the science and the song of the redeemed through all eternity.” {Acts of the Apostles 273}

And on the flip side of that:

“Man will rise no higher than his conceptions of truth, purity, and holiness.” {Patriarchs & Prophets 91}

I’d like to stop and point out something here: Both of those first two quotes emphasize the character of Christ—“His character is our model,” and “the character of Christ must be understood.” I point that out because almost any time this subject comes up, much is said about the nature of Christ, while very little is said about the character of Christ. Yet if you do a search in Ellen White’s writings you’ll find that she uses the phrase “nature of Christ” somewhere in the neighborhood of a hundred times, while she uses the phrase “character of Christ” somewhere in the neighborhood of a thousand times. In keeping with that, this critique will be primarily about the character of Christ, not the nature of Christ.
Okay, let’s begin.

 STUDY
Quote #1

“Why did Jesus say, “I seek not mine own will” (John 5:30), and “I came down from heaven, not to do mine own will” (John 6:38)? Why would it be necessary to say this if His own will was faultless and pure and holy? But if His own will and His own inclinations were tending toward the negative, then it would make sense for Him to ask that His Father’s will be done.” {Face to Face with the Real Gospel 59—Hereafter FF} (All quotes are taken from the 1985 edition.)

Please realize that Priebe is saying that Christ’s will wasn’t “faultless, pure, and holy,” but was instead, “tending toward the negative.” He’s also saying that Christ’s inclinations were tending toward the negative. He also interprets John 5 & 6 to be saying that Christ’s will was different than His Father’s.

I want to first compare what Priebe says concerning Christ’s will “tending toward the negative” with two quotes from Ellen White.

“The time of the Passover was drawing near, and again Jesus turned toward Jerusalem. In His heart was the peace of perfect oneness with the Father’s will, and with eager steps He pressed on toward the place of sacrifice.” {Desire of Ages 547}

I can’t conceive how a person can harmonize in his mind the belief that while Christ’s “heart” was in perfect oneness with the Father’s will, His “will” wasn’t.
As good as that last quote is, I believe this next quote is even better, because it’s taken from the chapter in Desire of Ages that’s based on John 5, which if you remember, was one of the chapters that Priebe cites as proof that Christ’s will was contrary to His Father’s and that it was “tending toward the negative.”

“Jesus repelled the charge of blasphemy. My authority, He said, for doing the work of which you accuse Me, is that I am the Son of God, one with Him in nature, in will, and in purpose.” {Desire of Ages 208}

So, in the very discourse where Jesus was claiming His oneness with God“The humble Nazarene asserts His real nobility. He rises above humanity, throws off the guise of sin and shame, and stands revealed, the Honored of the angels, the Son of God, One with the Creator of the universe” (pg. 210)—and where Ellen White tells us that Jesus Himself said, “I am one with Him in will,” Dennis Priebe interprets Christ as informing us that “His own will was tending toward the negative.” To me, it’s undeniably clear that Priebe is in serious conflict with what Ellen White teaches.

And as an answer to the frequently asked question, “Why did Jesus say “I seek not mine own will?” First, He was trying to make them understand that everything He did was from God the Father—whom they acknowledged as their supreme ruler (Jesus they didn’t acknowledge), and that in rejecting Him, they were in reality rejecting the Father. “He that honoureth not the Son honoureth not the Father which hath sent Him.” (Jn 5:23)
Jesus made a similar statement in chapter seven, where He said, “My doctrine is not mine, but his that sent me.” (vs.16) Surely no one believes Jesus was saying that His doctrine was different from His Father’s. Again, as with chapters 5 & 6, He was trying to make them understand that in rejecting His doctrine, they were in reality rejecting the Father’s doctrine.
And second, we’re told that Jesus was giving them an example of submission and surrender to God, just as He was baptized as an example. (see pg. 208 & 209) And in the midst of telling us that, she quotes Psalms 40:8, applying it to Jesus“I delight to do Thy will, O my God.” 
The other part of that quote that I want to look at concerns Christ’s inclinations. Priebe says, “His own inclinations were tending toward the negative.”
Compare that with what Ellen White has to say concerning Christ’s inclinations:

“Never, in any way, leave the slightest impression upon human minds that a taint of, or inclination to, corruption rested upon Christ.” {5BC 1128}

In my mind, it’s undeniably clear that Priebe does precisely what Ellen White so strongly warns against doing.
Because I believe this is so important, and so misunderstood, I want to share a couple more quotes on inclinations; but these are about our inclinations, not Christ’s inclinations:

“In returning to God, the inclinations…are brought into higher, holier channels.” {Review & Herald 3/1/1887}

“Of ourselves, we are not able to bring the purposes and desires and inclinations into harmony with the will of God; but if we are “willing to be made willing,” the Saviour will accomplish this for us.” {Acts of the Apostles 482}

Yes, there are many quotes saying that we need to “control,” and “deny,” and even “war against” our natural “inclinations,” but as you just saw, God offers us a higher experience than just controlling our inclinations. Clearly, and wonderfully, if we’re “willing to be made willing,” “the Saviour will bring our inclinations into harmony with the will of God.” And I have to say, I’ve never met a believer in the teachings of Dennis Priebe who truly believes that. (Surely, if one believes that Christ’s inclinations were “tending toward the negative,” they certainly can’t believe that their own inclinations won’t be tending toward the negative.)

                                                                              Quote #2
“He knew what it was like to want to go wrong. He knew what it was like to feel the temptation to rebel against God, and that temptation arose from within His nature.” {FF 60}

There are also two points in this quote that I want to examine. First, Priebe says, “He knew what it was like to want to go wrong.”
Let me start by saying: I’m sure many of you—those of you who aren’t real familiar with what Dennis Priebe teaches—will have a hard time believing that he’s actually teaching that Christ “wanted to go wrong. But I assure you, that’s precisely what he teaches. (Surely it goes hand-in-hand with teaching that “His own will and His own inclinations were tending toward the negative.”)
I believe this point is absolutely critical, because if one believes that Christ wanted to go wrong, then it inevitably follows that they’ll believe that we’ll always want to go wrong. (Surely no one can believe that we’ll have a higher experience than Christ had.)
To begin trying to show you how out of harmony this teaching is with the Spirit of Prophecy, I want to share a handful of quotes about Christ. Three contain the word evil, and one contains the word sin. As you read each quote try to consider what they tell us about Christ, alongside the idea that He “wanted to go wrong.”

“Never lived there another who so hated evil.” {Education 79}

“Never before had there been a being upon the earth who hated sin with so perfect a hatred as did Christ.” {1 Selected Messages 254}

“As the sinless one His nature recoiled from evil.” {Steps to Christ 93, 94}

“The refined sensibilities of His holy nature rendered contact with evil unspeakably painful to Him.” {7BC 927}

I’ve had people disagree with me, but I think it’s impossible to want to do something that you not only have a “perfect hatred” for, but also that your “nature recoils from,” and that you find “unspeakably painful” just coming in to contact with.
Now let me try to convince you from another angle. We’re told:

“In the heart of Christ, where reigned perfect harmony with God, there was perfect peace.” {Desire of Ages 330}

Again, some may disagree with me, but I think it’s impossible to be in perfect harmony with God in your heart, and at the same time “want to go wrong.”
That’s all the time I’m going to spend on that part of the quote. Now I want to look at the other part—“He knew what it was like to feel the temptation to rebel against God, and that temptation arose from within His nature.”
I agree that Jesus “knew what it was like to feel the temptation to rebel against God.” But I don’t agree that, “that temptation arose from within His nature.” Here’s why:

“Temptation is enticement to sin, and this does not proceed from God, but from Satan and from the evil of our own hearts.” {Mount of Blessings 116}

According to that quote temptation comes from two places: #1—“from Satan,” and #2—“from the evil of our own hearts.” I would think all would agree: the first of those temptations is from without, and the second is from within. Priebe says Christ’s temptations “arose from within.” (I’m sure he realizes that Christ had them from without also.) All I’ll say is: What Priebe teaches looks incredibly bad in the light of that Ellen White quote.

                                                                       Quote #3
“Are not our problems basically self and pride and the desires that come from our fallen nature? Do we not fall most often because of the inner desires that lead us astray? If Jesus did not have any of these, could it really be true that He was tempted in all points as we are?” {FF 59}

I can’t help but ask: Why did Priebe include “self and pride” there? If he doesn’t think self and pride were a problem for Christ why did he include them there? To me, at best it’s irresponsible, and at worst it’s a horrible misrepresentation and misunderstanding of Christ’s humanity.

“…pride, selfishness, and covetousness… are sins that are especially offense to God; for they are contrary to the benevolence of His character, to that unselfish love which is the very atmosphere of the unfallen universe.” {Steps to Christ 30}

                                                                        Quote #4
“If Jesus’ life is to have any meaning as an example for us, then it is crucial that He inherit just what I inherit.” {FF 55}

(That’s a very strong word Priebe uses there—“crucial.”)
Now, on page twenty-seven of his book he says, “We do inherit badness, weakness, and corruption.” I’ll just ask: Do you believe Jesus inherited “badness” and “corruption?”
Second, and far more importantly in my mind, on page fifty-four of his book he says, “our inherited bent to evil.”
    So, if it’s “crucial” that Jesus inherit just what I inherited, and I inherited a “bent to evil” (which of course I did), then Jesus must have also inherited a bent to evil. And that’s precisely what Priebe and all who have been influenced by him believe.
Now, let me show you that not only did Christ not inherit “just what I inherited,” but neither did He inherit a “bent to evil.” (Three times in this next quote Ellen White uses the word “propensity.” Please note carefully each of them.)

“Be careful, exceedingly careful as to how you dwell upon the human nature of Christ. Do not set Him before the people as a man with the propensities of sin. He is the second Adam. The first Adam was created a pure, sinless being, without a taint of sin upon him; he was in the image of God. He could fall, and he did fall through transgressing. Because of sin his posterity was born with inherent propensities of disobedience… but not for one moment was there in Him an evil propensity.” {5BC 1128}

Clearly, and everyone agrees on this, you and I are “born with inherent propensities of disobedience.” Just as clearly, in my mind at least, if “not for one moment was there in Christ an evil propensity,” then He couldn’t have been “born” with them, and He couldn’t have “inherited” them. So once again, Priebe is teaching something that’s directly contrary to what Ellen White teaches.
That’s all I’m going to share from Dennis Priebe’s book. Hopefully you’ve seen enough to cause you to realize that there are some serious problems with his “gospel.” (I call it his “gospel” because that’s the name of his book, “Face to Face with the Real Gospel.”)
Now, going back to that last point: because to me, what God intends for us to become is infinitely more important than how we’re born, I want to share a few quotes; quotes that to me are some of the most important and wonderful in all her writings. (All of them have wonderful news concerning that troublesome fallen nature we’ve inherited.)

“Having taken our fallen nature, He showed what it might become.” {3 Selected Messages 134}

“Teach the children that because of God’s great love their natures may be changed and brought into harmony with His.” {Thoughts from the Mount of Blessing 98}

“Jesus took upon Himself man’s nature, that He might leave a pattern for humanity, complete, perfect. He proposes to make us like Himself, true in every purpose, feeling, and thought—true in heart, soul, and life. This is Christianity. Our fallen nature must be purified, ennobled, consecrated by obedience to the truth.” {5 Testimonies 235}

“The forgiveness of sins is not the sole result of the death of Jesus. He made the infinite sacrifice, not only that sin might be removed, but that human nature might be restored, rebeautified, reconstructed from its ruins, and made fit for the presence of God.” {5 Testimonies 537}

As one of those quotes said: Our “natures may be changed and brought into harmony with His.” And as another of them said: “This is Christianity.” Some may disagree with me, but this simply isn’t the gospel Dennis Priebe teaches. Yes, his gospel teaches obedience and overcoming sin, but it’s an obedience that ever leaves our “will” and our “inclinations” “tending toward the negative,” and a part of us always “wanting to go wrong.” (There are times in our Christian experience when it’s truly victory to have that kind of experience, but that’s not the ultimate experience God is calling us to, and it certainly was never the experience that Jesus had.)

I’m going to stop there and just say, if you see any light in what I’ve shared, I’ve written a book that deals much more thoroughly with this whole subject. (But I don’t mention Priebe or anyone else.) You can read it online for free.

We look forward to hearing from you! You may write us at:

Al & Tammy Roesch

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