Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, January 15, 2010

GYC2009 Hope for Traditionals Dispair to Progressives as we watch reason die

If you are wondering what the future of is for Progressive Seventh-day Adventists is consider the recent Generation of Youth for Christ (GYC), formerly General Youth Conference 2009. When you first click on the following link to the video you will be treated to a song service out of yesterday. Possibly pre 1970’s considering even my Academy Worship programs were a bit more modern than this song service. In any case it is the Seventh-day Adventist traditionalists youth that make up this organization. At the question and answer session a who’s who of Adventist leadership were empanelled. Many General Conference Vice Presidents,two Division Presidents as well as Bill Knott the editor of the Adventist Review. Dr. Mike Ryan, Ted Wilson, Mark Finley, Dr. Ella Simmons, Don Schneider, Paul Ratsara,

GYC 2009 Questions and answers session beginning at 52 minutes (after a period of blank video). Here are a few excerpts that I transcribed from the video. To keep the flow of the event I have footnoted my comments at the end

The first question:

As leaders of the General Conference would you speak to the commitment level of the GC leadership as well as the global leadership to the authority of Scripture even when it cuts across cultural practices?

Mark Finley replies: Culture should never dictate scripture. John 17 verse 17 Jesus said they word is truth the general conference of seventh-day Adventists is clear on the authority of scripture. Scripture always transcends culture. Now there can be cultural aspects in which Paul says I become all things to all men so the methods can be adapted but not theology.


The Second question dealt with net evangelism. Mark Finley defended Net Evangelism by asking how many had attended and by saying that for those who were baptized through the Net Evangelism how much was it worth to them.

The Third question (1:01 min.) dealt with explaining the organization of the Adventist church. I won’t bother with transcribing the question and answer except to note that the explanation by Paul Ratsara President SID began with this statement:

“Our God is a God of order and He has given us a wonderful structure to support the mission of the church.”

He then goes on to explain the levels of the church organization. Concluding with:

“This is a wonderful structure that the Lord has given us.”


Fourth question: (1:03) We understand that the church exists to protect our fundamental beliefs…Some not all of our colleges and Universities continue to hire and protect professors who do not believe in our core beliefs such as creation, many youth have lost their faith under such teachers how can this be stopped?

Dr. Ella Simmons responds:

…[F]irst of all my personal stand and the stand of the church is that Seventh-day Adventist schools at all levels including colleges and universities exist for one purpose. In most countries of the world today there are excellent systems of education but we operate Seventh-day Adventist education institutions to pass on to teach Seventh-day Adventist world perspective, Spiritual understanding scriptural knowledge and so forth. Ellen White says, that we must hold onto this, that education and redemption are one. If our schools are not thoroughly and uniquely Seventh-day Adventist they should not exist. We have no reason for them other than that they are thoroughly Seventh-day Adventist. Then that indicates that in order to give Seventh-day Adventist education we need, have an imperative for Seventh-day Adventist committed practicing Seventh-day Adventist faculty leadership and staff. We have all been in a position in which individuals have been hired into our schools who have not been Seventh-day Adventist we appreciate our colleagues but either they will betray themselves as Christians by teaching what we believe if they are not Seventh-day Adventist or they betray us by teaching something other than Seventh-day Adventist believe in our schools. It is clear from Genesis to Revelation that Academics and spirituality are one, the divisions that you hear about that we read about are false they are work a tool of the devil, clearly. I could go on and on…


So what can we do as young people?

Ted Wilson responds (1:07): It is so important to have leadership at colleges and universities who are absolutely committed to the 28 fundamentals of beliefs, to the word of God, to the three angels messages …


Question 6 (1:08): How do we work through the system what are ways we can stand for truth?

Dr. Ella Simmons responds:

For example I would always say when called upon to answer those questions evolution lets just go right there. I believe that as a scholar I needed to know the theories of evolution but never to accept it as facts. So I would always have to say in class and on my test papers according to you this is what has happened although I still believe that in 6 days God created the heaven and earth and so forth, and there’s a way to do it without creating a problem and people will respect you even while they continue to disagree with you.

[refer to 3]

Mark Finley (1:11) responds:

To follow up on what Ella has said there is a difference between a teacher who makes a comment in class that I may not fully understand and they may have a different perception of truth then I do and a blatant open statement that violates the tenets of scripture and the Adventist church. A comment on Academic freedom. In a sense Academic freedom is a myth and here is why when I agree to teach in an Seventh-day Adventist college by that very agreement I agree to be supported by Seventh-day Adventist tuition dollars from Seventh-day Adventist parents who want a Seventh-day Adventist education so I voluntarily by choice give up freedom to teach contrary to Seventh-day Adventist values and if I can’t do that the thing to do and be intellectually honest is to say I no longer believe that and go teach someplace else where that can be accepted. So Academic freedom there are Catholic universities whose boards meet who dismissed recently teachers because they weren’t teaching Catholic theology in a Catholic university. There are Presbyterian boards and Lutheran boards who meet and so the issue is yes as Adventists you work together we work in harmony and love but the intellectual honest thing to do for somebody who may no longer believe Adventist theology is to find a place where they can teach in harmony with what they believe.


Question: for Don Schneider (1:14)...A question that is for those professors who may not take that integrity position and remove themselves from that…I think this question is directed that way. Recently there has been an online petition asking the General Conference to tolerate monogamous homosexual relationships some of the signers are ministers and professors of our schools some sit on boards of organizations that teach very divergent doctrines, what should be done when church employees receiving a check from the church openly seeks to undermine the very teachings they endorse?

Don Schneider after saying he would sit down and talk and not act as if it were a trial says:

It has been my job to deal with people some of them I have asked to quit. Very rarely almost always as we visit I can find the time to ask a question are you having a lot of fun doing what you are doing. People who are not supportive of this church are by and large not having fun either. And people who are not enjoying what they are doing are not the doing the good job supporting this church often. And that leads me to another point then, hey if your not having fun and your not really into the mission of this church would you want me to help you find something else? Almost always that has taken care of the issue for me. Almost never have I said okay next Tuesday we go to trial be ready cause we’re coming at ya. That just hasn’t been necessary in my experience.


  1. It is hard to believe he really believes this answer. Culture even during the Biblical times changed and theology changed as well. If not then we would still be stoning to death Sabbath breakers adulterers and rebellious children. We would not allow any women to even speak in our congregational assemblies per some of Paul’s comments even though earlier in Old Testament times there was a female judge, Deborah. Finley’s answer certainly indicates that he would in no way allow a woman to serve as a Pastor in the Adventist church.

Ultimately if you do not consider culture Scripture would be incredibly hard to interpret. So culture actually helps define scripture and our culture also redefines scripture. For example our culture through the aid of Western culture and scripture has grown to see slavery as an evil. Yet much of scripture allows for slavery. We can find racist ideas in scripture but our culture has shown us the problems of racism. In fact throughout Christian history as culture became more enlightened our theology of God also became more enlightened, we moved from the God of wrath and retribution to a God of love. Culture and Scriptural understanding grow, they play off of each other, one does not transcend the other, they are both components of our understanding. Truth may transcend culture but we are still on the road to truth, what we say is truth even as Christians has changed as history has noted. Even in Adventism short history truth has changed, such as the shut door concept of the 1800’s. Saying we have the truth or something is the truth is far different from really having the truth.

  1. I don’t think it is wise to tell such untruths to impressionable youth. I am assuming that he actually knows that God did not give the Adventist church instructions upon how it should be organized. The organization is similar in structure to the Methodists system from which many of Adventist founders came. Since he did not offer to explain where God informed the Adventists of their church organizations structure I can assume that he does know that God really did not give us the organizational structure we employ. The only way to make his statement work is to assume that if the structure was decided by Adventists at some conference to frame the Adventist constitution that action is the same as God giving us the structure. Which really gets us into logical trouble when whatever we decide to do becomes the instruction of God…the Reformation was largely fought to get away from such hubris.

  1. The Ellen White quote is: “In the highest sense the work of education and the work of redemption are one, for in education, as in redemption, "other foundation can no man lay than that is laid, which is Jesus Christ." "It was the good pleasure of the Father that in Him should all the fullness dwell." 1 Corinthians 3:11; Colossians 1:19, R.V (Education page 30, 1903)

Of course this is the highest sense and it is expanded upon when she earlier stated: “Love, the basis of creation and of redemption, is the basis of true education.” (Education page 16, 1903) Love as Paul famously said does not always try to get its own way, so education needs to be based upon love rather than traditions or church dictates.

What “thoroughly Seventh-day Adventist” means I don’t really know. Apparently it means that only Adventists can be hired to work at our schools as faculty and staff. Of course the controversy is not about non Adventist faculty teaching evolution it is about Adventists who teach evolution. Because frankly you can’t get anywhere in Science without acknowledging evolution, you can say it is not a fact but for all practical purposes it is a fact. Of course evolution or Darwinism as some critics mistakenly refer to things is not about the first origin it is about change. Those changes are seen, the theory of evolution explains what we see. Saying as Ella Simmons does later that she simply does not believe it because she believes the heavens and earth were created in 6 days is not science, it is not even reasonable it ignores the reality, the evidence, that the theory of evolution is explaining.

She concludes with: “It is clear from Genesis to Revelation that Academics and spirituality are one, the divisions that you hear about that we read about are false they are work a tool of the devil, clearly.” I am reminded of something I learned in College, if someone begins with “it is clear” or “clearly” you are about to hear something that is not clear and is often untrue. You don’t have to say it is clear when something is clear. It is a rhetorical device to try and prop up a weak argument. In this case a gratuitous assertion which is a logical fallacy and really a silly statement as we have great academics who are spiritually not inclined at all.

4. There were several mentions of the desire to have our teachers committed to the 28

Fundamental beliefs during the question and answer period. It appears that contrary to the desires of our church founders and the preamble of the 27/28 fundamentals of belief, Traditional Adventists have taken the fundamental statement as a creed. Wilson also includes the three angels messages which is done with the statement meant as a code word for the doctrines of the Adventist church. Again a very common practice among the Adventist traditionals. (simplified we say the 3 angels message is Present Truth which includes the unique Adventist interpretations of Daniel and Revelation; It encompasses 7th day Sabbath commandment keeping Sunday worship to be the mark of the Beast, Investigative Judgment, Adventist church as the Remnant called out from Babylon the apostate Christian churches, and Ellen White as the Spirit of Prophecy) The goal of all this is to have only church leadership and teachers and staff who are Traditional Adventists. These statements seemed to be met with hardy agreement from the Traditional Adventist young people at the conference.

  1. Academic freedom is a myth if the institution does not hold to such freedom. Not because of the reason Finley gives, a science teacher is not hired to teach the literal 6 days of creation because it is the fundamental belief of the Adventist church, they are hired to teach science. Vague statements like “Adventist values” does not discount the scientific validity of evidence and scientific philosophy to be taught in a Adventist classrooms. In fact one of the biggest Adventist values should be the search for truth and it should demand investigation, including things that may go against the popular beliefs of the Adventist churches leadership or traditions.

I did not find the accounts of Catholic Professors fired for not teaching Catholic theology. I did find some interesting accounts of the misuse of power by Catholic University administrators which amounted to retribution of whistle blowers.

6. Don Schneider presents us with the typical way that happens to whistle blowers or those who go against the power of the leadership elite. That is the retribution that makes their work environment so uncomfortable that they no longer seek to remain employed at their job. Here Schneider attempts to make such things appear as compassionate. When support the church means; do what we say, believe what we say to believe, than indeed who would want to support that church. The church is not God. When it seeks to think of itself as God, as doing what it is doing as being what God wants then the church has sunk to a low from which it will never rise. Well maybe I should not say never. As at one time the Roman Catholic Church behaved that way, it took hundreds of years to correct it’s over reaching dogma and still has a ways to go. But when a church that sees itself as carrying on the Reformation starts acting like the all knowing authority that forced the Reformation rebellion against her abuses; then we have serious problems in the Seventh-day Adventist church.

1 comment:

Bulworth said...

I happened to catch Mark Finley's comment about academic freedom and found it quite revealing.

Essentially his view is that there is no such thing as academic freedom. As a private college, LSU or any other SDA institution can teach whatever they want, particularly if they aren't concerned about accreditation. This is a fine perspective if you're only intent as an institution, academically and beyond, is to keep one's head in the sand, isolated from society. But the larger question Adventism should consider is "What kind of society are we advocating." What would the world be like if we Adventists ran thing? In that context, Finley's view of academic freedom is quite disturbing. They aren't really any different from the Papal power during the Reformation Era. If the SDA church had power, if it was run by the Mark Finley's of the church, it wouldn't look much different than the medieval church and its treatment of dissent.

You also made a good point about the 28 (used to be 27) fundamentals and how traditionalists have gone largely unchallenged in their use of that list as a creed suitable for disqualifying membership and employment.