The students of religion professor Ross Winkle's Theology of Sanctuary class at Pacific Union College wrestle with the symbolism in the Biblical tabernacle and how it affects their understanding of modern-day Adventist theology. In the course of this class, Winkle helps to explain the role of the sanctuary because, as he does so, it helps to expound upon salvation in the way that tangible symbols are presented to the students, just as they were to the Israelites in the Old Testament.
"This is not primarily an apologetics class," says Winkle. "It is not a defense of our beliefs." Rather, in the course of this class, students discover the theological purpose for the sanctuary, undergoing a journey through its history. They also receive insight as to its architecture and the ideology surrounding it and are even provided with a comparison between the sanctuary of the Old Testament and those of other Middle Eastern cultures.
Carla Bartlett, a student in the class, found the whole experience very illuminating. “This class has helped me gain a better understanding of the tabernacle personally and spiritually,” she says. “My favorite part was the projects because they made the tabernacle more personal—having to figure out what went where. This class has helped me gain a better understanding of how the objects in the tabernacle relate to one another and to me, as a Christian.” Theology of Sanctuary was the students’ link to real Biblical people and events, as well as what was happening in other cultures at the same time.
Each of the sanctuaries of the Old Testament, as Winkle asserts there were more than one, was a "microcosm of the universe," or a visual model of God's role—in the grand scheme of things—in respect to humans who have sought divine favor, grace, and salvation throughout history. "The sanctuary was a day-by-day living parable," says Winkle, "one which describes God's great desire to be united with humans again."
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