Adventist Media Response and Conversation

Friday, June 25, 2010

The Exodus Begins

As many have predicted the Adventist church has committed itself to a return to Adventist traditionalism. To this end Ted N. C. Wilson “was appointed by the church's 246-member Nominating Committee and confirmed by the General Conference Session delegation…” as president of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination; as the Adventist News Network reported.  

What this appointment, quasi election demonstrates is a return to Adventist traditionalism and an open opposition to Progressive Adventism. Here is a section from the ANN report:

"This is not just an organization, this is not just another denomination. This is God's remnant church," Wilson said in an address to delegates after his appointment.

"I do not know everything, but I shall seek wisdom from counselors and from the Bible and from the Spirit of Prophecy," he said, referring to the writings of church co-founder Ellen White.

"The Spirit of Prophecy is one of the great gifts God has given to the
Seventh-day Adventist Church," Wilson said. "It applies to the past and to the future. And, we are going home soon."

J. David Newman, Editor of Adventist Today further reports:

“Another priority will be to lift up the Spirit of Prophecy to be more than devotional-level reading, and to employ them for instruction and counsel. Another issue he addressed was the use of Scripture. In interpreting Scripture, we must make sure we are not following the historical critical approach, he warned.”

What these brief excerpts demonstrate is a return to historic/traditional Adventism. They can be summed up by these three points which are foundational to the interpretation of Traditional vs. Progressive Adventism.

  1. Adventist church is the Remnant church of God.
  2. Ellen White as more than pastoral or devotional but as an authority on truth.
  3. Biblical interpretation limited to Ellen White’s method of Bible interpretation, her version of historical grammatical approach.

If we looked further at the above 3 principles we see that they are contrary to Progressive Adventism. Progressive Adventism does not see the Adventist church as the Remnant but that it makes up a part of the Remnant. The Remnant being found throughout the numerous denominations of the Christian world, that the Remnant is the people not any denominational organization. See To be the Remnant or to be part of the Remnant

Ellen White is viewed by Progressive Adventists not as an authority on the truth but as a pastoral writer. Someone whose writing contain errors in theology and science and history, that even if one accepts her writing to be derived from the gift of prophecy that does not equate to being a Prophet of either Old or New Testament standards.

Regarding Wilson’s intention to avoid the historical critical approach in favor of the historical grammatical approach favored by Adventist Traditionalist like Dr. Samuel K. Pipim. “The historical-grammatical method distinguishes between the one original meaning of the text and its significance.” What this means is that “The original passage is seen as having only a single meaning or sense. As Milton S. Terry said: "A fundamental principle in grammatico-historical exposition is that the words and sentences can have but one significance in one and the same connection. The moment we neglect this principle we drift out upon a sea of uncertainty and conjecture." (Above quotes from Wikipedia) Of course there are a number of assumptions here as well. For example if we take the Genesis creation chapters using the historical grammatical method we would assume that the author thought that what he wrote down was how events happened and that the first hearers would have understood it in the same literal fashion. Thus the single meaning of the creation story is the literal story. I alluded that this is based upon assumptions of history but also assumptions of traditions. For example the Isaiah 14 text about Lucifer was neither intended by the author nor was it understood by the first people to hear the text as a reference to Satan, but that will still be the interpretation of those holding the historical grammatical method of exposition.

Progressive Adventists  see the value and the application of using the historical-critical method. Unfortunately it appears that some of the abuses of the historical critical method such as assumptions that there is nothing supernatural have affected Wilson’s understanding about how the interpretations can be useful within the Christian community.

It appears to me that the shift in leadership will serve to force out Progressive Adventists and seek to perpetuate 19th century Adventist Ellen White dominated theology.

So the exodus begins.


David R. Larson said...

The Exodus has not begun at our household. The pendulum has swung one direction and in time it will swing the other way again, particularly as the children and grandchildren of today's more conservative leaders start making their presence felt. After all, many progressives today come from very conservative backgrounds. Meanwhile, we must not lose heart! We must also cooperate wherever we can do so in good conscience.

Ron Corson said...

That will be the real question, how can one cooperate in good conscience with the Churches new emphasis are directed at the very foundation of Progressive Adventist differences with traditional Adventism. Can you in good conscience extol the SDA church as God's remnant church e.g. denomination? Can you disregard the logic of historical critical hermeneutics? Can you accept and proclaim Ellen White as an authoritative source of truth?

Will Professors retain their freedom to disagree with the church, something that elementary and secondary teachers cannot do and something that will no doubt silence many in the pulpits from expressing their real beliefs.

What will be the training of Adventists be in the next five years under the leadership of the Conservative/traditional Adventists who placed Wilson in office and who will in turn guide the placement of other office holders.

Today it is thought that there are currently as many former Adventists in North America as current Adventists. What will the next 5 years bring to such a statistic?

From 1900 to 1980 there was a pretty traditional reign of leadership and thought in the Adventist church. From 1980 to present is 30 years and we see clearly the pendulum swinging back to traditionalism. The momentum of Progressive Adventism is clearly on the losing side in that equation. That and the fact that change is always harder then not changing predict that soon there will not be a place for Progressive Adventists in the Adventist church.

But I hope to hearing a contrary opinion and convincing opinion.

Anonymous said...


You see only two polar points. I think that in reality there has always been both, I teach the young adults yet I agree with you on certain points, i.e. Remnant vs part of Remnant.

I can easily live within a church that continues to "tremble with stress" because it makes a better church.

This is why I support you while not usually agreeing with you.

The church will always be stronger because we "tremble with stress" I believe God wants it this way and He is after all - both Progressive and Traditional.

Will the Traditionalist force you out? NO, but if you and others like you choose to leave, we all lose. If that happens, the Exodus will be a sad day for both Traditionalist and Progressives.

Anonymous said...

Sorry Ron, I forgot to sign this.


GraemeGreenMonk said...

Hi Ron

I wish you would not predetermine the conclusion of Wilson's presidency, or the ascendancy of conservatives. It does not follow logically or at all.
Instead, progressives may be further energized and more actively engage fundamentalists and conservatives, winning more hearts and minds than ever before.

There is no reason for progressives to back away. Even if a "purge" occurs here and there, the internet and freedom of speech remain. Liberal and progressive SDAs have yet to publish more than a handful of well-argued books. The hackneyed arguments offered by conservaties on inspiration, creation, authority etc. can be demolished, but it will take time and influence.

Progressives should not express defeatism.


Parliament Media

Ron Corson said...

One thing you have to remember is that I write from the perspective of my experience. My church has rejected my contribution to helping out in my daughters early teen class do to the article I wrote see more at
I sent email to two of the three church pastors in the area to ask how they feel about Progressive Adventists in their churches. The results were not good. see

Wilson is the product of the times. He will not change the church he is the result of a changed church. His goals are the stated goals of the SDA leadership. See my article on GYC 2009.

I think a lot of people are optimistic because they know that our college age youth are mostly progressive. They are also leaving the Adventist church. We will lose half of them. I suspect we will lose more than half of them in the near future when they go to their churches and find that they are being indoctrinated into Traditional Adventism with maybe one Progressive Sabbath school class and everything else set against it.

Now of course there will be places where there is a more Progressive Church available, but they are few and far between. Progressive Adventists have no structure, no organization no communication between the various churches or regions.

We depend on 2 magazines and their websites. I posted an article on my blog as well as Adventist Today on why I am still a Progressive Adventist which included an attempt to encourage just the registration of progressive Sabbath school classes. responses at all. The article was never published in the print version but what does that cover 5000 subscribers?

You may think and you may hope that everything will change and suddenly we will win hearts and minds without any organization and with leaders, who if church employed, are constantly afraid of losing their jobs if they speak out (the exception seems to be a few pastors and college level instructors) but I don't think that is terribly reasonable to expect.

And that is not even dealing with the problem of progressive Adventists who think of their Progressive status in term of being politically progressive, which further divides progressive Adventists because they think that to be progressive is defined by giving more power to big government. Which by the way I think has been very destructive to Progressive Adventism.

But thanks for the attempt at being optimistic, maybe some can still provide me a reason for hope.

Anonymous said...

Ron, I guess part of my comfort level with the Traditional Church is that I really have no desire to change it, my greatest desire is for Christ to change me.

So my focus is not on structure but on individuals.

This is where REAL change takes place!

I want to invite you to come see.



Ron Corson said...

Yes I am sure that there is a very large number of Adventists who are comfortable with the traditional Adventist church. Any new idea or method of doing things are not well accepted in traditional circles. And if the goal of a traditional church is to propagate more traditional Adventists. then there is no reason for change at all.

But yet you say you want Christ to change you. Now how does that work, what if He changes you into someone who is no longer Traditional SDA. What if you feel to reach the world the people of the church need to think and act in ways that makes them accepting rather than rejecting.

About the only structural change I have suggested is discarding the sermon motif where everyone sits and hears a sermon and rather then have some type of active participation where people communicate with each other, get to know each other and feel free to express their ideas and listen to other's ideas and respond.

But what that means is that the individuals have to learn to listen and to be open to the concept that different people have different ideas and that we can't simply appeal to our traditions as if they answer anyone's questions.

Right now as you read Spectrum blog or Educatetruth you see people saying that this is the shaking. Why because it seems to be a way to get rid of those who aren't traditional Adventists. So the question is are they really the ones that God is changing or are they simply static in their ideas rather like the Jews when Jesus came.

I suppose one could say of Martin Luther that he should have simply remained in his church rather then seek to change it. But it seems to me that the change came in him first and then he sought to change the Roman catholic church. Because change actually does change things, beyond just the individual.

Anonymous said...

Ron, it is NOT that we are "comfortable" with the "Traditional" church, it is that change is taking place and always will. I look at the church of 1975, now THAT was the traditional church.

The church today has already changed. Let me explain. It, on the local level, is willing to accept change, nobody pushes EGW, no one pushes IJ, no one pushes REMNANT until someone pushes back and you do.

I have 8-12 young adults in my class, an astonishing amount in this world, I praise God for these kids. They don't care about EGW, IJ or.... They care whether Jesus loves and accepts them!

My mission with God's help is to convince them of THAT truth. You need more, I recognize that but the typical bench sitter needs the Love and Acceptance.

Now you may think that shallow but traditional or progressive? The kids, the bench sitters, they just want to live in Christ's Kingdom to learn to love and accept and to learn to be loving and accepting. I think that works in both churches.

Anonymous said...

Ron, I can't think of a time that I have agreed with you but appreciate the honest and clear way that you describe Progressive Adventism. Your summary of the three points and how they differ from Progressive Adventism is something that many who call themselves Progressives would not so boldly articulate. I appreciate a person who plainly and unashamedly states their position. We completely disagree, but at least I can identify where we disagree.

Ron Corson said...

Anon. wrote:
"I appreciate a person who plainly and unashamedly states their position. We completely disagree, but at least I can identify where we disagree."

What I would like to know is why you disagree with me on those points. Why should Ellen White be given any authority above devotional writer. Does not the Bible give us enough on those Biblical issues did God really make a mistake in waiting 1700 years before giving us all that information? Seems doubtful to me yet you seem to disagree.

Wilson put forth today his version of interpretation. the first 11 chapters of Genesis are literally true. Really than Wilson God really repented of making man as the flood story states. Apparently not too all knowing that God in the first 11 chapters but if you want to take it literally there it is.

You know as well as I do that even people like Wilson do not hold those 11 chapters as literal. They just don't expect anyone to press them so that their simplistic ideas will seem appropriate. No they hold to the extra-biblical authority of Ellen White and her numerous additions to the Bible even though that would totally contradict the historical grammatical system of interpretation that he favors.

So the question remains if one disagrees with me on those three points upon what logical argument is the disagreement based. My guess it is totally based upon tradition.