Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, March 14, 2008

Valuegenesis and the Enemies of Research

When I went to the previously mentioned Adventist Forum meeting by Bailey Gillespie on the topic; Valuegenesis: What We Know For Sure... I did a little research and found that they were going to do a European Valuegenesis. What I did not realize is that there is an undercurrent in Adventism who is very critical of Valuegenesis. I mentioned something about this on an Adventist forum and one of the Traditional SDA’s responded by saying: Valuegenesis was conducted/led by outsider(s, catholics) who does not understand/share what Adventism actually teaches and whose conclusion may not reflect reality.

This view is based upon the assumption that the leader of the Valuegenesis studies both 1 and 2 is Michael J. Donahue. Since he is listed as a co-author of the book Valuegenesis 2 -Ten Years Later: A Study of Two Generations the authors of which are: V Bailey Gillespie; Michael J Donahue; Ed Boyatt; Barry Gane.

Here is a little information on Michael J. Donahue: He has posted the Valuegenesis Codebook which lists the questions used and some other data. His website also lists some of his other publications Michael J. Donahue: Publications et al. Take a look at his resume it is pretty impressive but you will notice that he was employed as lead statistician by John Hancock Center for Youth Ministry, La Sierra University, Riverside, CA. V. Bailey Gillespie, Director. Development of survey service. 1999-present

Now if it was just some conspiracy minded person who sees a Jesuit behind every corner that would be one thing but there is apparently a big name Adventist agitator who also denigrates the Valuegenesis projects though not as Catholic infiltrators but as Lutheran inflitration).

Pastor Larry Kirkpatrick of writes:

1989: Seventh-day Adventism Infected

In 1989 the Search Institute, originated by Merton Strommen, contracted with the General Conference of SDAs to participate as key consultants for the major study of SDA youth called "Valuegenesis." A "Timeline History of Search Institute," giving a detailed history of its activities and its long-term Lutheran connections, is available on the internet. Scrolling down to 1989, you'll find the Seventh-day Adventist Church mentioned as indicated.15

In a Seventh-day Adventist newsletter called "Action," dated as "Spring 1989," we first spot the phrase "grace orientation" in our own church.16 From here on out we begin to see the phrase sprinkled through SDA literature with ever-increasing frequency.

Grace orientation scary stuff there apparently the problem with Grace is that it is not works and that might be a problem if you theology is works orientated e.g. obedience generates the works needed for salvation. Kirkpatrick later relays his fear that Valuegenesis is meant to cause the SDA church to change:

Valuegenesis: Subtle Questions Used to Drive Change

The reference Bailey refers to is found in the responses of Adventist young people to certain questions they were asked in the Valuegenesis study.23 Consider these yourself as to whether they are truth-statements:

  • "The main emphasis of the gospel is on God's rules for right living."
  • "I must live by God's rules in order to be saved."
  • "The way to be accepted by God is to try sincerely to live a good life."
  • "I have a sense of being saved by Christ."
  • "There is nothing I can do to earn salvation."

You or I might not say that the emphasis in God's gospel is on right rules for living. But what if we had to fill out a form giving us opportunity to agree in gradations with that statement, say on a scale of 1-5 or 1-7? Because that is how most of the Valuegenesis study questions were asked. Still, you or I might not answer that with anything but the most definite "no." But isn't it possible that some of the youth filling out a question like this are not quite as theologically astute as some adults might be? This is a very subtle situation to place a young person in.

If the change is to be grace oriented how would that be a bad thing? To Kirkpatrick it is bad because grace oriented means antinomian (the doctrine that faith in Christ frees the Christian from obligation to observe the moral law as set forth in the Old Testament. ) and obedience to the law is necessary for salvation in his view. In any case the Valuegenesis 2 codebook recognized the difficulty with this section and says the following:

Grace and Works
For each of the following statements, tell how much you agree of disagree.Choose one answer for each.
Items 39-55 have the following response options: (1) I definitely disagree; (2) I tend to disagree; (3) I'm not sure; (4) I tend to agree; (5) I definitely agree

39. I know that to be saved I have to live by God's rules
40. I know that God love me no matter what I do
41. There is nothing I can do to earn salvation
42. Following Adventist standards and practices will cause me to be saved
43. The way to be accepted by God is to try sincerely to live a good life
44. The main emphasis of the gospel is on God's rules for right living
45. I am loved by God even when I sin
46. I am worried about not being ready for Christ return
47. Salvation is the way God rewards us for obeying Him
48. Salvation is God's way of saying thank you for our good behavior
The following statements have to do with salvation (being saved, getting to
heaven, having eternal life). Which statement best describes your understanding of how we obtain salvation?
49. We show we are worthy of being saved by doing good to others.
50. The gift of salvation is free, yet I must keep the law to be worthy to receive it.
51. My salvation depends on whether I keep the law perfectly
52. We must be baptized church members before we really are saved
53. Salvation is God's free gift to us that we don't deserve and cannot earn.
54. We can do nothing to deserve God's gift of salvation
55. My good works are a response to God's gift of grace

The second set of these items was added after concerns that the students may not have understood the initial set properly. (Inasmuch as they address issues which have been at the center of some of the greatest controversies in Christian theology, the inability of grammar and high school students to understand them is perhaps not unexpected.)

In the original Valuegenesis reports, a "Works" scale was constructed using items 31, 42-44, and a "reversal" of item 41 (agree scored high, disagree scored low). This scale was used in the initialValuegenesis 2 reports to allow comparability with earlier data.However, with the expanded item pool, and based on item analysis,
a revised grace scale can be constructed, and it is this revised scale which would be recommended for research on these data. this revised grace scale includes items 39, 42-44, 47-49, and 51.

So here are the changes Kirkpatrick envisions:

Were points such as this understood by those who formatted the Valuegenesis questions? That is an important question. The results of the Valuegenesis study have been used to introduce far-reaching changes in the curriculum of the entire SDA educational system. They are being used now to justify the introduction of a demonstrably non-Adventist salvation understanding into the Sabbath school departments of thousands of our churches worldwide. Those who developed the underlying philosophies of both Valuegenesis and GraceLink were PhDs. These are not simpletons. Generally, we may expect that they have processed all their ideas and, whether right or wrong, they knew what they were trying to do. Gillespie said, "We must launch a comprehensive educational effort that addresses the issue of grace and works orientation." And the church did.

Concluding his Valuegenesis section Kirpatrick writes:

Consider just two more references of interest -- these were authorized to be published in the Valuegenesis book. "In college he [a former student of Dudley's] became enamored with the teachings of a professor who presented righteousness by faith as composed of justification alone. The work of salvation was completely objective -- removed from our experience. It had only to do with the cross; nothing with daily living. . . . [after later being thrown in jail for intoxication] He was particularly sustained by his religion. Remembering what his professor had told him about righteousness by faith, he recalled, 'Not for a moment, even while drunk in that dismal jail cell, did I forget that I was in right standing with God.'" Then follows the author's analysis, and an amazing analysis it is: "Few of us understand righteousness by grace through faith in such a complete sense."36

The amazing conclusion above requires little comment. It is soul-destroying error. But here are some of the author's conclusions for us too: "I think we will have to bend over backwards, in our homes, our congregations, and our schools, to get across a grace orientation to salvation. . . . We have erred so long in the direction of law, we need to begin to focus on grace completely." Continuing, Dudley adds, "Through precept and example, we must do everything possible to clarify grace and to break the hold of legalism."37

Actually, we need to clear the decks of the contemporary antinomian push within our ranks that is at odds with the message of Seventh-day Adventism. For much too long we have permitted an untoward retreat from Adventism by those who do not even agree with its foundations.

So why do these objections to Valuegenesis and Grace upset people like Kirkpatrick. Stay tuned for the Last Generation Perfection Theology Review, because as we all know none of us are truly obedient to all the Old Testament Laws or the instructions that Jesus gave such as those on the Sermon on the Mount. So there must be something else that inspires such traditional SDA’s to reject Grace orientation.

1 comment:

Lapa said...

Coimbra, April 23, 1975.
"A few days ago, during the homily of Sunday Mass in a parish church in rural surroundings, the priest spoke to his parishioners about the forthcoming elections for the Constituent Assembly. Launched hand of the parabola to be better understood and told them:

-- "My dear brothers in Christ: suppose that one of you is owner of a dairy cow; if socialism wins, the brother takes the cow, but will have to give the milk to the party, if the communism wins, we will stand without the milk and without. cow. .." "