Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Thursday, October 11, 2007

Kevin Paulson Reponds

I recently received an e-mail from Kevin Paulson in
regards to an earlier blog article I wrote during
the 1844 Investigative Judgment Lesson Study guide
presentation and the excellent coverage offered by
Adventist Today. In reference to his article on
the Adventist Today website
1844; Embattled Yet Enduring Unfortunately the old
link on my blog does not point to the correct location
and the article on the AToday website (link above)
has a good many scripterrors but it is still readable.
I will place Paulson’s e-mail in purple
and intersperse my comments between his statements.

Dear Ron:
     Today I was referred to your blogspot by one
who cited your reference to the recent address by
Dave Thomas at the Adventist Forum. I noted, on
your site, that you also commented--albeit a year
ago--on my article, "1844; Embatttled Yet Enduring."
 Allow me, if I may, to offer some thoughts in reply:
     1.  I was curious that your comments focused
almost entirely on the issue of Ellen White's
authority, whereas my article focused but briefly
on that issue. Most of the article demonstrated
how the arguments leveled by critics against
the Biblical foundation of the 1844 doctrine
are not sound, and that the classic Adventist
position is in fact based on the Biblical consensus.
I did focus upon the issue of Ellen White
and doctrinal authority because I think it
underlies most of the problems current in
the SDA church. I thought Desmond Ford did
a very good job of dealing with Paulson’s
Investigative Judgment issues so I chose
to deal with what I thought was most important
and not dealt with in other articles. At
first glance many people don’t really realize
just how influential EGW is on doctrinal issues.
But this was starkly brought into focus during
the Lesson Study quarter on 1844 the
Investigative Judgment and Gospel. By my
estimation the only reason the 1844 and IJ
doctrine remain is because of the support
supplied to them by Ellen White. How can
an Adventist who claims EGW has authority
disregard a whole chapter in the Great Controversy.
In the 1888 edition the chapter was titled
“Investigative Judgment” in subsequent editions
the chapter is called Facing Life’s Record”.
Ellen White’s writings have institutionalized
the Investigative Judgment in the SDA church.
     2.  You seem to say that because other
Christians do not accept Ellen White's
prophetic authority, that in fact she cannot
possess such authority. I fail to follow your
reasoning here. Should Seventh-day Adventiss,
or indeed any faithful Christians, choose their
beliefs based on majority opinion?
What would Adventists do with the Sabbath, with
our understanding of death and the afterlife,
or with any number of our beliefs, if they
followed your logic?
     Are you in fact an advocate of sola scriptura,
or do you temper your convictions based on what the
majority of professed Christians are ready to accept?
This is no doubt in reference to my comment here:
Paulsen, 1844, Ellen White and Authority

If we let Paulsen’s language pass for the moment and assume that what he means is that “if” Ellen White held the position of a prophet then she should have doctrinal authority. That is a huge “if”, one does not have to be too familiar with the SDA church before they become aware that there are many in and outside of the SDA church who indeed question Ellen White’s role as a prophet. In reference to prophets Paulsen writes:

…yet we find that outside the SDA church there are few who hold to Ellen White as authoritative, which naturally means that she is definitely not viewed as canonical. One thing that is certainly true is that the broader Christian spectrum who have no hesitation in accepting the canonical authority of the prophets recorded in the Bible, do not accept Ellen White as authoritative.

My statement is not that she cannot possess that authority;
it is that for most Christians and even a good number of
Adventists she does not possess that authority. Authority
is an interesting thing. Latter Day Saints have
their authorities and so do Christian Scientists and
Scientologists but because those people accept certain
people as prophetic authorities does not make them
authorities to anyone else. Authority is only given
to those who the follower accepts as an authority.
Christian beliefs are not based upon majority opinion
or else there would not be multiple thousands of
denominations. Yet of those thousands of denominations
there is wide acceptance of the authority of the Bible
and even there we see certain groups who have more
then the 66 books and even denominations who have
the same 66 books as other Christians but only accept
the King James Version of those 66 books
that make up the Bible.
While majority opinion does not decide what we
should believe neither does a church tradition
define what we should believe. The church should
not believe things that don’t make sense or do
not line up with the overall message of the
Bible’s message about God. With this wide
acceptance of the Biblical message there is
little reason to resort to a particular
denomination’s presumed prophet.
     3.  You seem to believe that if in fact
our beliefs are entirely based on Scripture,
then Ellen White's authoritative clarification
is not needed. I have a hard time following
this reasoning as well, especially when one
looks at the sacred record and how, over and
over again, God has been compelled to repeat
the same message in the ears of His hard-hearted
people. The reason for repetitive and authoritative
divine revelation through the ages is the
unwillingness of God's professed people ot
accept earlier declarations of truth. Whether
with the Old Testament, the New Testament,
or any other successive revelation, this principle
seems clear.
As I recall it was EGW herself who said she was
not needed if people had paid attention to the Bible.
It is interesting to see the idea that God repeated
the same message to people. It is true of
Israel in
her nation state, it is not true of the New Testament
writings nor of the period of nearly 2000 years
from the first century till today. So here Paulson
makes the claim about God’s repeated revelations
with only one person in the last 1800 years.
Of course there are hundreds and maybe even
thousands of people in that period of time who
have claimed prophetic abilities. I have a book of a
hundred or so prophets just in the Roman Catholic
Church alone. The mere assertion that God is
repetitive is not persuasive for a claim of the need
for an authoritative prophet, at least when the
earlier declarations of truth are still available.
In fact the Biblical message is more available
today then any time in history.
     4.  Your disregard of Ellen White's interpretation
of Acts 3:19, claiming this as an example of undue
reliance on the King James Version, fails to establish
the point you seek to make. The bottom line is that
all modern translation speak of the "times of refreshing"
which were YET to come, during which the sins of the
penitent would be blotted out. This is a most incredible
statement in view of the fact that the times
of Pentecostal refreshing had already come.
Obviously this is, therefore,talking about a future time.
     If you read the third installment of the
three-part reply to Dale Ratzlaff on the investigative
judgment, to which I refer the reader of my 1844 article,
I address this point in depth.
This is a completely wrong headed view. It calls
for the future fulfillment when the context clearly
explains what it is future to. It is future to the
act of repentance.
(Acts 3:19-20 NIV)  Repent, then, and turn to God,
so that your sins may be wiped out, that times
of refreshing may come from the Lord,and that he may
send the Christ, who has been appointed for you
--even Jesus.
Both historically and contextually this is not
a verse about sins being blotted out at some future
investigative judgment. That is the important
part. It is true that in Christianity many people
take statements which are somewhat vague and make
the pretexts for a particular view (baptism
for the dead, spirits in prison etc.) but when
viewed in the context of the words it is hard to
make the Investigative judgment claim upon
Peter’s sermon which was focused upon the messiah
who was and is and who forgives and lives inside
the believer. I am sure you do address the point
at length, it is usually necessary to address
something at length when the simple logical
position has to be refuted to maintain a tradition.
You can find examples of this technique in many
religious groups from Roman Catholic to Latter day Saints.
         In sum, you try to depict the entire 1844 issue
as a discussion of Ellen White's authority, when in fact
that is only part of the issue. Your comments about my
article offer a near-exclusive focus on the Ellen White
issue, ignoring all the other Biblical and historical
evidence I present against the critics in favor of our
classic teaching. Moreover, you seem to take for granted
the popular criticism of Ellen White from both within and
outside Adventism, assuming therefore that her prophetic
voice cannot be trusted.

In reply, I would urge you to go to and read my eight-part response to
he new books by Graeme Bradford which seek to undermine
Ellen White's prophetic authority. I would be curious as
to how you answer the evidence I have assembled in my
reviews of his books.

God bless!

Pastor Kevin Paulson

P.S. My last name is spelled with an o, not an e as is
the General Conference president's.
I can’t agree with your summation as there were also numerous blog posts upon many areas involved in the IJ doctrine. Your response is to only one of the many posts and that post happens to deal with Ellen White. It is true that I do not trust Ellen White’s prophetic voice for a number of good reasons. But then why is it so important to hold to Ellen Whites views anyway if as is often claimed their purpose is to point to the Bible. Aside from Adventists no other Christian groups have found the Investigative Judgment in the Bible and it is based upon a chain of assumptions which has multiple breaks in the chain.

I have not read more then sections of Bradford’s book it seems to me from what I have read to be a far healthier way of looking at her work. I have no problem with those who use her in a pastoral way. The problem comes when people use her unquestioningly as an inspired commentator on the Bible. I can accept her numerous mistakes and misinterpretations the way I can accept them in my local pastor: realizing that my pastor, Martin Luther, Max Lucado and Ellen White can be wrong. Yet still be open to looking for ways to bring meaning from our different perspectives. Indeed I realize that those who have given Ellen White prophetic authority will see anything short of their view of her authority as undermining her work. But for those who have not given her such authority it seems contrary to logic to expect them to grant her such authority merely because there are others who claim such authority. Unfortunately we violated the pioneers ideas and created a creed known as our 28 fundamental beliefs and one of them which is not actually held by many Adventists is that Ellen White is a continuing source of truth. But we do know that she was not speaking truth about volcanoes, vital force, or God destroying San Francisco to close down the saloons and numerous speculative elements which she read into Bible stories. We have a fundamental belief that asserts something that probably most Adventist don’t really believe though they are able to take her in a pastoral way, yet through a method of cognitive dissonance most will still claim to give her prophetic authority. I think Bradford’s book is useful in understanding that process.


Dick Larsen said...

"I did focus upon the issue of Ellen White and doctrinal authority because I think it underlies most of the problems current inthe SDA church." This is the truth. Why else would we spend so much time defending the IJ?

Ron Corson said...

Sorry about the formating on the above article, but I think I have the problem solved.