Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich Analogy

Peanut Butter & Jelly Sandwich Analogy

The following is an exchange that took place in May 2002 on the Professing Meeting Board (aka PMB).

Paul Abenroth asked “ME”: “Why would a way need to be re-established if it had always been around?”

REPLY by “ME” (unknown author):
Sorry if this confused you. I’ll see if I can clear this up for you by using a little analogy.

Let’s say your way of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich is to use two slices of bread, peanut butter, and grape jelly. And let’s say everyone else followed your way of making a peanut butter and jelly sandwich, but slowly, people started making their sandwiches differently. Like only using one slice of bread, or using strawberry jelly instead of grape. This went on until no one used your way of making the sandwich.

NOW, your way of making that peanut butter and jelly sandwich was always there, but people just didn’t like that way and so they made it their own way.

Then, one day, someone learned of the way you made that peanut butter and jelly sandwich and they decided to start it up again. Thus, they reestablished your way of making the sandwich. See?

So your way was always there, just at one point no one used your way. Then, someone reestablished your way. This is just like what might have happened with God’s way.

BY: Paul Abenroth. Thank you for your reply to my question. I think now I understand what you mean.

From your peanut butter sandwich analogy it appears you are saying the friends and workers believe the following, which I will call Scenario A::

1. The Apostles followed certain methods.
2. For unknown years no one followed those methods.
3. In 1897 William Irvine assembled a group of people who again
began following those methods.

If that is not in summary what you meant, please let me know.

Now, if the above is your belief I wonder if you also acknowledge that many friends and workers believe the following, which I will call Scenario B:

1. The Apostles followed certain methods.
2. Workers and/or friends have existed ever since that time, following those methods.
3. William Irvine was only one of those workers and he became wrong and was excommunicated. (Others may not know much of anything about Irvine.)

My personal guess is that as time passes and more friends and workers learn more about Irvine, their beliefs will switch from Scenario B to Scenario A, holding beliefs similar to yours. So for right now I’ll focus on Scenario A.

I see a fundamental flaw in Scenario A. It defines salvation in terms of works or method — a method or way of doing things — even going so far as to call it “God’s Way”, implying or claiming it is the only method acceptable to God — that salvation is not available to those who choose other methods.

Your analogy is based on the illustration that assumes I only make peanut butter sandwiches using two slices of bread and grape jelly. That is the kind of thinking that caused William Irvine and the earlier workers in 1907 to adamantly declare all other methods as wrong and evil.

It is interesting that at the very time some workers (two with whom I have visited personally) are trying to move away from a works based understanding of salvation, Scenario A which you have presented actually moves back toward that works based understanding. Salvation and “God’s Way” is presented analogous to the right way to do something (make a sandwich). It ignores the real core of Salvation, namely what Another (Jesus) has already done, once for all, never to be “reestablished” by anyone.

Once a man/group defines Salvation in terms of what one does, then two questions must be asked — questions to which workers do not give written answers.

Question 1 — What must be done in order to be saved – what specific methods are acceptable, and who decides what must be done?

Question 2 — How perfectly must this be done, and who decides on an acceptable level of achievement?

Sincerely, Paul Abenroth


Two flaws:
1 – The workers do not make their sandwiches the way the apostles, evangelist, pastors, teachers, and elders made theirs.

2 – The main thing is getting the food (message) and not how it is made (put together or formal structure).

REPLY FROM Paul Abenroth:

Dear Greg, Regarding the two flaws you noted, I agree. I was a little undecided whether o address the flaw #1 as you did. I sort of arbitrarily did not, because even if the workers exactly replicated the methods and practices of the apostles, that would not correct the fundamental flaw I am concerned with, namely the workers’ defacto promotion of salvation as a works-based venture. I do think, however, that it is important to point out both flaws you mentioned.

Sincerely, Paul Abenroth