GC President and Vice President Affirm Church’s Stance on Creation at Conference

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GC President and Vice President Affirm Church’s Stance on Creation at Conference

Seventh-day Adventist Church President Ted N.C. Wilson presented the opening and closing speeches at the International Conference on the Bible and Science: Affirming Creation in Saint George, Utah, August 14-24. His sermons centered on the two points emphasized throughout the conference by various presenters: the authority of Scripture and the interrelation between the doctrine of creation and other doctrines embraced by Seventh-day Adventists.

In his opening address, Wilson stated: “We believe that the biblical creation account in Genesis 1 and 2 was a literal event that took place in six literal, consecutive days recently as opposed to deep time. It was accomplished by God’s authoritative voice and happened when He spoke the world into existence.”

Wilson presented some implications of accepting theistic evolution for the doctrines of the sanctuary, salvation, the second coming, re-creation, and especially the Sabbath, which is “integral to this six-day creation week since it memorializes the literal creation week and provides Seventh-day Adventists with a direct connection to our Creator.” He asserted that “if one does not accept the recent six-day creation understanding, then that person is actually not a ‘Seventh-day’ Adventist, since the seventh-day Sabbath would become absolutely meaningless historically and theologically, and most of our biblically based doctrines centered in Christ and His authoritative voice would become meaningless as well.”

Zion National Park, Utah, August 16, 2014. Photo courtesy of Valentin Filimon.

Zion National Park, Utah, August 16, 2014. Photo courtesy of Valentin Filimon.

Wilson warned against using the higher critical method of interpretation, which is “self-centered and inspired by the devil” and “puts an individual above the plain approach of the Scriptures and gives inappropriate license to decide what he or she perceives as truth based on the resources and education of the critic.” He emphasized the need to use the historical-biblical method of interpreting Scripture, which “allows the Bible to interpret itself.” Wilson also stated that “both the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy are absolutely reliable and are inspired by the Creator Himself,” and called on the attendees to “rely on the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy as the basis of your understanding of origins.”

Among the quotes from Ellen White included in the speech, Wilson read from Testimonies to Ministers and Gospel Workers, pages 135, 136:

Human philosophy declares that an indefinite period of time was taken in the creation of the world. Does God state the matter thus? No; He says, ‘It is a sign between Me and the children of Israel forever: for in six days [not six indefinite periods of time; for then there would be no possible way for man to observe the day specified in the fourth commandment] the Lord made heaven and Earth, and on the seventh day He rested, and was refreshed.’ … The sophistry in regard to the world’s being created in an indefinite period of time is one of Satan’s falsehoods. … When the Lord declares that He made the world in six days and rested on the seventh day, He means the day of 24 hours, which He has marked off by the rising and setting of the sun.

Wilson also quoted from Patriarchs and Prophets, pages 111, 112:

The assumption that the events of the first week required thousands upon thousands of years, strikes directly at the foundation of the fourth commandment. It represents the Creator as commanding men to observe the week of literal days in commemoration of vast, indefinite periods.… It is infidelity in its most insidious and hence most dangerous form…. The Bible recognizes no long ages in which the Earth was slowly evolved from chaos. Of each successive day of creation, the sacred record declares that it consisted of the evening and the morning, like all other days that have followed.

GC President Ted Wilson offers a prayer of dedication, August 23, 2014. Photo courtesy of Valentin Filimon.

GC President Ted Wilson offers a prayer of dedication, August 23, 2014. Photo courtesy of Valentin Filimon.

The church president called on teachers and leaders in SDA educational institutions to “hold firmly to a literal recent creation and absolutely reject theistic and general evolutionary theory.” Church employees teaching “theistic or pure evolutionary theory should not even exist in a Seventh-day Adventist school or church pulpit,” he said. Those who do not accept a six-day, recent creation should do “the honorable thing … to resign from their position of trust.”

In his closing speech, Wilson called on “Seventh-day Adventist teachers, educators, pastors, and church employees living in the end of time” to “not reduce our ‘seventh-day’ distinctiveness but rather trumpet it as a wonderful feature of life.” He urged the participants to “proclaim God’s final message in classrooms, pulpits, websites, hallways, media, and in every way and place, explaining that we love and serve a Creator God who has a direct interest in our welfare and is actively working to bring us into a right relationship with Him in preparation for His soon return to take us home.”

GC Vice President Decries “Weed Planters”

Like Wilson, Michael Ryan, a general vice president of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists, emphasized the uniqueness of the Seventh-day Adventist message that “marks and defines this church” and pointed to the interconnected nature of Adventist teachings.

“Some may think that we have come to define, adjust, and reshape our creation theology,” said Ryan in his Sabbath sermon. He continued:

No. We have a very well-defined and understood theology on creation.… The definition of our creation theology comes from the Bible.… We believe in creation because God is the one who said how it happened. We accept it by faith. We believe in a short chronology. We believe that God is the creator of all things. We believe that the world was created in six literal contiguous days. We believe our biblical doctrine of biblical creation is foundational and inseparably linked to the church’s 28 Fundamental Beliefs. We believe that the Sabbath, the miracles of the Bible, the death and resurrection of Jesus our Savior, the first and second resurrection, the re-creation of the new Earth, and a host of other biblical stories, beliefs, and claims are made foolish by denying the first 11 chapters of Genesis.… We believe that the denial of the literal reality of Genesis 1-11 leaves this church with a compromised message and a mission house that is built on sand.

General Conference Vice President Michael Ryan preaching the Sabbath sermon, August 23, 2014. Photo courtesy of Valentin Filimon.

General Conference Vice President Michael Ryan preaching the Sabbath sermon, August 23, 2014. Photo courtesy of Valentin Filimon.

In agreement with the theologians and scientists who presented throughout the 10 days, Ryan called on Seventh-day Adventists to consider the Bible as “irreplaceable … the guide and anchor to all our endeavors and all our conclusions,” because “we are a community of faith, and to allow a little drop of human conjecture in an ocean of God’s great unknown scientific absolutes, to place faith in the spotlight of higher criticism, is the height of human arrogance…. The truths of science can often be temporary, but God’s statements of faith, they are eternal.”

The church vice-president called out the “extreme liberals and extreme conservatives,” who exhibit “exactly the same characteristics: No. 1: They are undyingly critical of the church. No. 2: They want to be the judge of who is going to be in the kingdom. And No. 3: They only want to accept the portions of Scripture and Ellen White that fit the conclusions of their higher criticism.” Ryan called these individuals “liberal and conservative weed planters,” people who “said they were going to work in the vineyard but they never showed up,” whose “self-worth and standing requires a cluster of smug companions who envision themselves as mavericks, liberated thinkers, enlightened beyond faith and the Word.”

Ryan continued:

Criticism is an essential talent if they are to be credible, card-carrying members of the Weed Planters Union. Oh, how thrilled I am that there are none attending this conference. But they have been known to attend Bible and Science conferences…. Of course, these weed planters will quickly tell you they never read Ellen White, and as a matter of fact are now applying their superior intelligence to rendering a qualified opinion on whether God really knew what He was talking about in the Scriptures.

Zion National Park, Utah, August 16, 2014. Photo courtesy of Valentin Filimon.

Zion National Park, Utah, August 16, 2014. Photo courtesy of Valentin Filimon.

Ryan said he doesn’t find joy in saying this. “I am weeping inside,” he disclosed, as he reminded his colleagues that “eternity is at stake. Time is short. There is a world that is desperately in need of a Savior. This church needs trained members who can give a reason for their faith and whose actions are marked by an uncompromising faith in God’s Word, a life of prayer, and the power of the Holy Spirit.”

The vice-president thanked the participants “on behalf of the world church” for their “faithful service to God’s mission,” for being “giants of faith,” and for “teaching in classrooms around the world and standing though the heavens fall.” In his concluding remarks, Ryan said: “We are a church with a message. We are a church with a mission. And we are a church with a promise—Jesus is coming again. It all stands before us today.”

The transcripts of Ted Wilson’s opening and closing speeches and Michael Ryan’s Sabbath sermon can be found on the webpage of the Adventist Review at the following links:

 

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Adelina Alexe is a Ph.D. student in systematic theology at the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary. She loves God and enjoys nature, arts, and meaningful conversation. Her special research interests are narrative theology and hermeneutics.