Framing the Investigative Judgment Argument

I’ve had hundreds of conversations with Adventists, ex-Adventists and Evangelicals regarding the Investigative Judgment, and, the majority of them, as soon as they realize that the soteriological objection against the Investigative Judgment doesn’t hold water, lose interest. But a second issue that has confused a lot of people who are still concerned about the veracity of the doctrine itself, has been the way in which the doctrine has been framed.

It has been portrayed as a theological construct that is heavily reliant on a long series of prerequisite assumptions. To illustrate, picture a house of cards where the pinnacle represents the Investigative Judgment itself. This pinnacle is carefully balanced on top of another set of cards which represent things like the connection between the Investigative Judgment and the Old Testament sanctuary, our interpretation of the sanctuary passages in Hebrews, and the link with Dan. 8:14. But these cards are also set on top of another layer of cards which represent the correct translation of the Greek and Hebrew terminology (Hebrews and Daniel), the day for a year principle, the correct decree to rebuild Jerusalem etc. The idea being that if Adventists are wrong on any one of these points, the entire house of cards collapses and the doctrine along with it.

Now by framing the doctrine this way, the job of the critics is made much, much easier. They no longer have to disprove the doctrine itself. They do not even need to disprove any one of the assumptions the doctrine allegedly rests on. All they need to do is insinuate doubt regarding those assumptions. After all, would God really put His people in the position of having to rest their eternal salvation on a large number of presuppositions many of which cannot be verified? Or, would He ask them to align themselves with a peculiar group of people who’s central tenant stands on such shaky a foundation?

Moreover, the job of those who were called to defend this doctrine was made especially difficult having to carry such a huge burden of proof. If they could not show beyond a shadow of a doubt that every single one of these assumptions was undeniable, their work was a failure. It is no wonder that people stopped preaching the Investigative Judgment altogether.

In reality, the Investigative Judgment does not need any of these assumptions. As mentioned in other articles, the doctrine rests on only three presuppositions: Arminian Soteriology, Arminian Theodicy and Soul Sleep Theology. If an Arminian comes to accept the idea that a person does not go to heaven or hell at death, they will no longer have to force the judgment immediately after death but can place it at the end of history like the Bible describes it. All the other elements normally associated with this doctrine, the ‘dozens’ of assumptions or prerequisites, are useful but not essential to the doctrine. It is because the Investigative Judgment stands on a solid foundation that these assumptions can also be accepted with confidence, rather than vice versa.

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