The One Project: The ‘Jesus. All.’ Paradox (Part 3)

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The One Project: The ‘Jesus. All.’ Paradox (Part 3)

Editorial Note: This article is part 3 of a series on covering the One Project. To read the previous installments please click here.

It is the complex interplay between the religious factions within Adventism that gives rise to “once in a generation” ministries that have the ability to redefine the Church.[1] The One Project is potentially one such ministry. Almost since its inception, the One Project has been a lightning rod for criticism for some and for others a beacon of hope for better things to come in the Church. Its influence reaches from local conference youth departments to centers of higher learning, to local churches and various administrative levels in the Church. There have been prior attempts to classify this ministry, attempts that vary in their accuracy, replicability, and usefulness.

Methodology for Classification

The following steps outline my process for classifying the One Project. For historical context, I explore the Greek philosophical concept of Being (what God is like), and the influence it has on Catholic theology, Catholic soteriology (the doctrine of salvation), Catholic ecclesiology (the doctrine of the church) and its influence on the Protestant Reformer Martin Luther’s soteriology. Next, I establish a theological context, by exploring the macro-hermeneutical[2] articulating principle (the principle that is the basis for a system of beliefs and is essential to correctly interpreting Scripture) that undergirds much of Protestantism and contrast it with that of the early Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Hermeneutical Cycle

The Hermeneutical Cycle begins with the macro level that provides a worldview and presuppositions about reality.

I then look at the shifts that have taken place at the macro-hermeneutical level within the Seventh-day Adventist Church and trace the rise of four major factions within Adventism. I use the macro-hermeneutical framework for the classification of the One Project ministry and invite the readers to consider the ‘fit’ of my classification in the next article that will assess the One Project’s “Create Conference.” My central thesis is that the One Project ministry is the natural and logical result of the dynamic play and counter-play within the various factions in Adventism.

In order, to keep the article accessible for the intended audience, I try to avoid technical jargon and express in a simple way the concepts that build a framework for evaluation. However, where I have resorted to technical jargon for specificity, I have tried to provide detailed explanations of the terms in the endnotes. Those with more advanced theological backgrounds/training may read the endnotes of this article for further discussion and additional resources as well.[3]

Section 1: A Selection of Christian History

The Influence of Greek Thought on the Early Christian Church

Greek philosophy began as a serious attempt by the Greeks to separate mythology (which until then had pervaded every aspect of their lives) from reality. In mythology, the gods warred constantly against each other, or were involved in love-making. Their conquests and defeats, and more amorous activities were tied to everyday occurrences such as the rising and setting of the sun, the harvesting of crops, the movement of the stars in the heavens, etc. The philosophers attempted to distinguish what was real and what was imagined through logically or mathematically deducible axioms and careful thinking about natural phenomena. ‘Reality’ has very different connotations for us today. Work, kids, mother-in-laws, etc. qualify as ‘reality.’ However, for the Greeks, distinguishing between what they could perceive through their senses and what they could imagine with their minds was a matter of spirited debate. Some of these debaters’ ideas became schools of thought and eventually actual academies of learning formed around their central principles. These central principles became a way of life for them and still affect us today in the areas of ethics, healthcare, government, law and religion.

As time passed, the Greeks began to construct, through deductive reasoning, ideas of what God could be like. They worked from what they knew and ascribed to God attributes that their mythical gods possessed. The most influential, in terms of Christianity, was their ‘Timeless View of God.’ Today we use the word timeless in a different way than the Greeks did. For us, it may mean that something will stand the test of time in value or in appreciation. Theirs was the idea that God is an “ethereal or timeless” Being who is far removed from the human “temporal” domain and without a past, or a future. [If you have a problem visualizing this concept, please read the footnote before proceeding further.][4] This view of God was considered by the philosopher Parmenides to be a foundational presupposition for the work of philosophy. According to Dr. Norman Gulley in his Systematic Theology: Prolegomena, later theologians used Parmenides’ ideas to define God’s attributes. The idea of timelessness is a foundational idea that has affected much of Christian theology.[5] Plato, the greatest of all Greek philosophers, founded an academy that lasted for nearly a thousand years. He described God as an immovable Being while His creation as ‘in motion.’ He posited that God, ‘dwells in space, and created beings dwell in time.’[6] Aristotle, Plato’s brightest and most famous pupil—as well as the future teacher of Alexander the Great—‘impacted theology all through the Middle Ages,’ in all three of the great monotheistic religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam.[7] In Aristotle’s view, God was the ‘unmoved mover,’ the eternal immovable Being. God was an eternal being that was far removed from temporal ‘earthly’ affairs of life.[8] As the Greek empire spread under Alexander and was established by his succeeding generals, and later through the Roman Empire, Greek philosophy influenced many cultures and peoples. One such individual was the Jewish philosopher, Philo, whom having been influenced by Greek thought, in turn influenced the early Christian Fathers of the second and third centuries. Christian theologians have adopted these man-made presuppositions about God, and these presuppositions have become the basis for Christian theology, in one way or the other, for the last two thousand years.[9] In the book, Basic Elements of Christian Theology Dr. Canale states: “It is interesting to note that Philo (c. 20 BC – after 40 CE) was writing his theological system in the light of Plato’s dualistic cosmology, at the same time, that Jesus was advancing theology in the light of the Old Testament view of reality (Luke 24:27).”[10]

But is God really an ‘unmoved mover,’ as Aristotle posited, a Being incapable of acting and reacting to human beings? Is He restricted to the now and unable to affect the future or think of the past as Greek philosophy suggests? From the very first chapter of Scripture, we see an active temporal (able to reach into our daily lives) God, who brought into existence an entire new order of creation with His words (Gen. 1:1-3, John 1:1-3). We see Him, with His own hands, forming clay into the first human being and breathing into this clay ‘model’ the breath of life (Gen. 2:7). The biblical account continues with Adam’s need for a companion and God acting again, this time through ‘divine surgery’ to produce yet another being who was a complement to Adam (Gen. 2:18). And then Scripture describes God interacting with human beings on the seventh day which was designated especially so they could spend time with Him (Gen. 2: 1-3). It goes on to describe human beings who have physically encountered God, as He appeared to Abraham at noon near his tent and to Moses at the burning bush and He wrote the Ten Commandments twice into stone tablets and requested that the Israelites build for Him a sanctuary that He may ‘dwell among’ them (Gen. 18:1, Ex. 25:8). Thus, we see that the creation account, and the sanctuary[11] in Scripture shatters the foundation of Greek philosophy regarding God and His supposed distance from human beings.

Early Church Fathers and the Formation of a Centralized Authority on Scriptural Interpretation

After the apostles passed off the scene of history, second and third century church fathers began to look to their local culture, science, and philosophy, to interpret Scripture and defend Christian beliefs in debates with pagan philosophers. Justin Martyr, an early pre-Nicene father and a convert from Greek philosophy, sought to borrow from philosophy the precision that he felt was lacking in Christian theology. Origen, another early father, introduced allegory as a new interpretive hermeneutic for Scripture.[12] Augustine of Hippo, a post-Nicene father, borrowed heavily from Greek philosophy to introduce the concept of Original Sin. Thomas Aquinas, one of the greatest of all Catholic theologians built Catholic “Natural” Theology on Aristotelian philosophy.[13]

Alistair McGrath in his book, Christianity’s Dangerous Idea, shows that over the course of centuries medieval theologians more-or-less settled,

 

‘on a “Quadriga” or “fourfold sense of Scripture.” ‘This approach held that the bible could be read at four different levels: literally (the most basic level), allegorically (in which a text was interpreted doctrinally), tropologically (in which a text was interpreted morally), and anagogically (in which a text was interpreted as relating to the Christian hope).’ Whatever differences in interpretation existed beyond this Quadriga were mediated by the Church which was then considered to be the supreme interpreter of the Bible. There were some significant debates over precisely where this authority resided within the church: With the pope himself? Or with councils of leading cardinals and theologians?’[14]

 

Even so, by the end of 1200 CE, Scripture was almost completely eclipsed as the Catholic Church reigned supreme over matters of Church and State and held that it was the sole determiner of the meaning of Scripture.

Protestant Reformers Attempt to Go Back to Sola Scriptura

The Catholic Church’s system of centralizing the interpretation of Scripture under one entity and thus concentrating power through their claim to the authority to interpret Scripture, received a jolt from English theologian, John Wycliffe. He came to reject the Catholic Church’s claim as the final authority on Scripture, advocating for the biblical concept of a priesthood of all believers, and for the separation of Church and State. His revolutionary idea was to translate Scripture into the common language thus making it accessible to the common folk. His writings influenced Czech reformer Jan Huss who denounced papal corruption from the pulpit and whose powerful writings in turn influenced Martin Luther. Luther’s tortured conscience led him to “Pilate’s Staircase” at Rome and in a flash of inspiration he saw the true meaning of the text, ‘The just shall live by faith’ (Rom. 1:17).[15] His ninety-five theses, nailed to the door of his university church, and later spread far and wide through printed tracts, helped to unleash the forces that became known as the Protestant Reformation. The Protestant mantra of Sola Scriptura put the focus back on Scripture. However, the shackles of philosophy weren’t easily shaken off, as Luther and other Reformers continued to build on Augustinian and Thomistic theological-philosophical presuppositions. To reform the Catholic understanding that had shifted salvation from God to the individual (i.e. righteousness by works), Luther and other reformers sought to shift the focus back to God. Their debates over the freedom of the will of the person to accept or reject God’s offer of salvation shows to some extent how far Greek presuppositions continued to color their thinking, especially in the area of soteriology.

A Case Study: Martin Luther’s Views on Predestination & Justification by Faith

We will now consider a case study of how Greek concepts, by way of the Christian father Augustine, affected Protestant Reformer Martin Luther’s views on soteriology. For a quick review on Augustine’s beliefs on predestination please see the excerpt in the endnotes, from McGrath’s book, Reformation Thought.[16]

According to Dr. Roy Graff’s recently defended doctoral dissertation, The Principle of Articulation in Adventist Theology, Martin Luther continued to be influenced significantly by the Church Father Augustine and it affected his concepts regarding God, which in turn affected how he thought God interacted with humanity in the context of salvation. He believed, in the (Neo –Platonic) dualism of human nature, that the soul was immortal (timeless). He believed that Original Sin, an Augustinian concept, deeply affected the entire human condition. Luther’s approach to theology is through soteriology.’ In that context, he grants a central role to Christ as the divine representative that articulates the relationship between God and the world. Christ is the one who reveals the eternal, timeless God.’[17]

Luther understood the doctrine of justification by faith from the perspective of eternal predestination. Thus, Luther conceived salvation as a ‘creation work.’ There is ‘no real participation’ of human will. God makes ‘everything out of nothing’. True righteousness of God therefore, is completely ‘passive’, because God is the one who declares the believer as righteous independently of any human work or action. For Luther, ‘active’ righteousness related to the works of the law but since the righteousness believers possess is completely ‘passive,’ they are not to attempt to obey the law but are to actually live as if no law didn’t exist. The law’s only purpose was to terrify, humiliate and to produce contrition among unbelievers. This view was essential to him to avoid even the slightest hint of man’s “work” in “voluntarily choosing” God’s plan of salvation. Faith to him was, ‘something that is done to us rather than something we do.’ The sinner is declared or considered righteous while he/she is still a sinner. After being declared justified, a Christian remains a sinner yet. ‘A Christian man is righteous and a sinner at the same time, holy and profane, an enemy of God and a child of God. Justification, for Luther, removes the sin forensically but not substantially.’[18] From this perspective, Luther understood God’s forgiveness to cover the believer’s past, present and future sins in one eternal timeless instantaneous decision by the will of God in His predestination. Justification is ultimately salvation itself, once and forever. Consequently, Luther’s soteriology held that the ultimate cause of salvation is not the sacrifice of Christ on the cross but God’s election from the “realm” of timelessness. The cross is an intermediate cause but not the final one. Christ’s death is the way through which God makes possible in time, His timeless decision from eternity. Sanctification then, is a consequence of salvation, not part of it. There is no possibility of sanctification being understood as a perfection of character. Thus, Luther understood Paul’s letter to the Romans to be purest gospel and in sharp contrast to the epistle of James, which emphasizes the human role in the Christian life. He viewed James as flatly against Paul and the rest of Scripture and thus assigned varying degrees of inspiration to different parts of Scripture, a phenomenon now known as a ‘canon within a canon.’ This led him to form a Christ-centered hermeneutic which distorted to a degree the biblical plan of salvation.[19] In short, Luther’s neo-platonic views of God, and his dualistic view of human nature affected his views regarding God’s plan of salvation and the work of Christ on the Cross.

Dr. John Peckham, in a paper on Luther’s written views on predestination and free will notes that ‘His [Luther’s] primary authority was not the canon of the Bible, but the gospel that he found in the Bible and that was the touchstone for its interpretation.’ In his conclusion, he recognizes Luther’s sincerity:

‘[He] stands as a pillar of faith and reform, and Christianity owes a great debt of gratitude to his faith and courage in standing up against persecution for a biblical faith in Jesus Christ… This should not be taken as a rebuke of Luther, his reforms, or his whole theology, but as a wrestling with the need for further reform and theological diligence. It is apparent that Luther was sincere and faithful in his desire to protect God’s sovereignty and grace from injury. That God sent His Son to save us is at the heart of Luther’s argument, as it should be in all biblical theology.’[20]

The Multiple Sources of Authority & Its Fragmentation Effect

Most Protestant theologians accepted the Catholic dogma regarding the multiplicity of sources for the interpretation of Scripture and continued to build on the shifting ground of human philosophy. This decision to accept multiple sources as authority inevitably leads to conflict. The Catholic Church tried to solve this dilemma by centralizing its authority under a single entity: The Holy See. However, by the time of the Protestant Reformation, it was clear that the authority had long since been abused and had given rise to unbiblical practices such as the granting of indulgences that, on payment, would instantly release the soul from purgatory.

Most Protestant denominations tried to do without a centralized authority for interpretation. The idea that lay at the heart of sixteenth-century Reformation according to McGrath ‘was that the Bible is capable of being understood by all Christian believers and that they all have the right to interpret it and to insist upon their perspectives being taken seriously.’[21] Despite their Sola Scriptura (the Bible Alone) emphasis, as they left open the multiple source matrix for interpretation, they sowed the seeds of fragmentation. At first, the reformers tried to mediate the interpretation of Scripture through local governments, but this proved futile because local governments were vulnerable to shifts in public opinion and the interpretations of Scripture inevitably would reflect shifts in civic leadership. John Calvin’s Institutes of the Christian Religion sought to bring the interpretation back to Scripture. But, as he aged, later editions of the Institutes began to reflect more so the hardening of his positions against his enemies rather than expounding Scripture. Over the next two centuries, multiple interpretations of Scripture led the Protestant ‘State Churches’ to fragment into denominations which then fought over differences in biblical interpretation (hermeneutics). This led to differences in doctrine (theology), mission and practice (ecclesiology) giving rise to thousands of denominations, each claiming to be the ‘True Church.’

Catholic theology differs from Protestant Theology in its adherence to tradition as a divinely authoritative norm. However, this multiplicity of sources—Scripture, tradition, philosophy—is not exclusive of Catholic Theology.[22] Graf cites Protestant theologian Alistair E. McGrath’s use of John Wesley’s “quadrilateral,” of Scripture, reason, tradition, and experience. He also mentions evangelical scholar Grant R. Osborne’s ‘Scripture, tradition, community, experience, and philosophy, and post-modern theologian Stanley J. Grenz’s proposal that the Bible as “canonized” by the church, tradition as shown in church history, and “the-thought-forms” of contemporary culture as representative examples of the wide range of sources used for the interpretation of Scripture.

Meeting the Challenge of Modern Science

Dr. Norman Gulley rhetorically asks, “What happens when philosophy becomes outmoded or when science reverses its previous finding with a new one?” The foundation relied on by Christian theologians during the Dark Ages, which was based on a Greek philosophy of God and reality, was shattered by Galileo. Galileo found that many of Aristotle’s confident proclamations about the natural world were in fact hopelessly wrong. Despite persecution, other early ‘scientists’ were beginning to question the confident claims of theologians and their interpretations of Scripture.

Modern philosophers such as Descartes, Kant, Locke, Hume, and others began to articulate principles and ideas that began to shake the foundations of the civil government structures. An Empire shed slavery and a new nation declared that “all men are created equal and are endowed by their Creator with certain inalienable rights.” Isaac Newton published his Philosephe Naturalis Principia Mathematica and ushered in the modern scientific age. Copernicus, Galileo, and Newton overthrew Aristotle’s “scientific” worldview. Science began to make progress in every field of knowledge and revolutionized humanity’s conception of reality, shifting it from a philosophical and theological foundation to an empirical foundation.

This newest challenge brought with it doubt and skepticism of Scripture’s claims as its foundations were increasingly built on the presupposition of naturalism. Darwin’s theory of the origins of life began the shift from the biblical account to what was directly observable through nature. Geology and Paleontology posed seemingly unanswerable questions regarding the biblical account of a global flood and a recent creation. Sensing this new threat, the Catholic Church convened the First Vatican Council (1869-1870) and declared the infallibility of the Pope. Protestant Churches also saw the threat that Science posed to theology [23] and diverged into two distinct approaches to counter this threat. One approach that some Protestant theologians took was to embrace science and the new narrative of evolution. Just like the early church fathers, they advocated the acceptance of science as an authoritative source and reinterpreted the nature of God, and His dealings with human beings, in the light of its newest discoveries. Liberal theology, Process Theology, Liberation Theology among other approaches would take this concept in diverse directions by reinterpreting Scripture, calling into question the historicity of its narrative, questioning the miracles of Christ, and reimagining the role of the gospel as a liberation political movement. Process Theology, in particular, has found a home in the minds of some influential panentheistic-leaning Adventist theologians. Panentheists imagine a God that is ‘present’ in the world rather than timeless and ‘absent’ as in Classical Theism. In contrast to this, the second approach to dealing with science saw theologians hold their ground and insist that Scripture was ‘inerrant’ and therefore could not be wrong. These ‘fundamentalists’ as they were later called, gave rise to interpretations of Scripture that still hold sway today in some denominations.

The Failure of Protestant Systematic Theology & the Return to Rome

The inability of Christian theologians to develop a universally accepted ‘system’ of truth despite the fact that all theology has a single source, the Bible, led some to see the ‘certainty’ of theologians as the enemy of human progress and unity. This certainty on interpretations of Scripture in the past had led to decades-long wars, crusades to the Holy Land, and classifications of people into believers and non-believers. This gave rise to systematic persecution, torture, and death, as an instrument of the Church to ‘save’ those who were ‘lost.’ As World War I decimated the idea that increases in science would make human beings less prone to violence and World War II shattered the veneer of Christian virtue as many Christians actively participated in mass genocide, Christian theologians began to think anew about the foundations of theology.

Postmodern philosopher Martin Heidegger questioned the notion of the timelessness of Being and opened new methods in hermeneutics that Gadamer and others positively developed further. Jacques Derrida introduced what was later called deconstruction ‘which generally tries to demonstrate that any text is not a discrete whole but contains several irreconcilable and contradictory meanings; that any text has more than one interpretation; that the text itself links these interpretations inextricably; that the incompatibility of these interpretations is irreducible; and that an interpretative reading cannot go beyond a certain point.’[24]

 

As the focus has shifted from the Text to the personal experience of the believer, subjective interpretations of the Text are now championed in inter-denominational movements. No longer can one argue on the meaning of the Text alone because the source of the meaning has shifted from the object [the text itself] to the reader [the subject] giving credibility to subjective interpretations of Scripture. Since the 1960’s, at the forefront of this poststructuralist philosophical revolution[25] is the Pentecostal movement which suggests that the Holy Spirit is leading individuals individually and it is their collective experience that gives rise to ‘communal authority.’ The Emergent Church[26] is well situated within this matrix of post-text, cultural, personal experience and communal authority. The Catholic Church too saw need for reform within its own ecclesiastical body and convened its Second Vatican Council. Calling upon the best and brightest among its own ranks and from Protestantism, the Catholic Church sought to deal with the shifting ground. The Second Vatican Council recognized for the first time that the Holy Spirit was working in other denominations outside the Catholic Church.[27] This spurred ecumenical efforts and dialogue between the Catholic Church and Protestant denominations.[28]

Since 1968, one after the other, mainline Protestant denominations have begun their journey towards reconciliation with the Catholic Church, leading one theologian, the late Episcopal Bishop Tony Palmer to declare that Luther’s protest against Rome has ended.[29] Kenneth Copeland, a charismatic movement leader, citing an agreement between the Catholic Churches and Lutheran Federation of Churches, declared that ‘This resolves the conflict over the nature of justification, which was at the root of protestant reformation. In other words, the protest, is over. This was brought about by a “Spirit-filled” Pope and “Spirit-filled” Lutherans. They got together in the “Holy Ghost.”’[30]

The Search for a Better Way

This acceptance of a multiple source matrix for the interpretation of Scripture is still practiced by theologians today and doctrinal and ecclesiological fragmentation is attendant to it. Incompatible theological doctrines give rise to incompatible missions and local expressions of belief. This theological pluralism manifests itself across Protestantism where pluralistic views of God, that are supposedly derived from Scripture, simultaneously exist and are considered equally valid.

For example, God created the world in six literal days and over millions of years.

He has already destined you to heaven or hell or lets you choose your destiny.

God simultaneously is a person or an immaterial mystical force, He is both present and absent, reachable and not, unchanging or changing, transcendent or immanent, a loving Father and a vengeful angry Judge.

Which of these inherently contradictory theological views of God would you use to derive other relevant doctrines and mission from?

At the center of all theological conflict, whether in theory or in its practice, lies the mediation between the sources of authority in the interpretation of Scripture. The more sources, the greater the chances that the mediation between them, coupled with mutually exclusive hermeneutical approaches, will fail to produce compatible doctrines from which a coherent message can be proclaimed, a mission carried out, and a meaningful life can be lived. Is there a better way? There is.

Section 2: Adventist History of Hermeneutics

Early Adventist Eschatological Theology

Adventist history begins with Scripture. [31] William Miller decided to read the Bible from start to finish using nothing but the margin references and a concordance. He laid aside his presuppositions and allowed Scripture to define and interpret other parts of Scripture. His process of careful study distilled fourteen principles of biblical hermeneutics. Using these hermeneutical principles enabled him to realize that the Bible predicted the exact year of when a particular prophecy found in the book of Daniel (Dan. 8:14) would end. Despite his careful efforts, he mistakenly substituted a commonly-held extra-biblical interpretation of the earth instead of the heavenly sanctuary as the object being cleansed in Daniel 8:14. This error led to the Great Disappointment on October 22, 1844. Millerites,[32] as they were then known, and who were the theological precursors to Adventists, learned a bitter lesson.

Early Adventist Development of Doctrine, Mission & Organization

Seared from their experience, post-disappointment Adventists resolved to go back to Scripture and continue to build on it the entire foundation of their faith. As former friends and associates mocked the certainty of their prophetic views, and, as they tried to defend their newest beliefs, they found themselves disfellowshipped from the Protestant churches where they were members. Caught between their newest discoveries from Scripture, the ridicule from their former friends, and splitting factions within the Millerite movement, they developed the theory of a ‘Shut Door.’ This helped explain the delay in Christ’s coming and why those who had previously seemed so open to prophecy and Scripture when they thought that the world was going to end in a few months, were now ‘shut out’ from the new light.

For some contemporary Adventist historians and theologians, the main lesson of the Shut Door experience is to guard against the certainty of convictions from Scripture and to be ever open or inclusive of new ideas; to be progressive. A careful study of what Scripture says in its entirety and using sound principles of interpretation in conjunction with prayer for aid in comprehension, will always lead the believer into the truth, safeguarding the reader from the error that results from extra-biblical notions. Present Truth will not contradict the previous leading of Christ in His word. Errors result when people read into Scripture their own ideas or presuppositions, or emphasize one portion of Scripture over another, or doubt the divine authorship of Scripture. Safety lies in the principle of Sola-Tota Scriptura (The Bible only and the whole Bible). Scripture is its own ‘self-check, and self-corrector’. The ‘Shut Door’ experience is a classic case study of how the study of Scripture led early Adventists out of their extra-biblical presuppositions and prepared them toward the adoption of a worldwide message and mission.

We do not have to cover ground in this article that is familiar to most Adventists except to say that the doctrinal discovery and development period for early Adventists extended from 1844 to the founding of the General Conference of the Seventh-day Adventist Church on May 21, 1863. The push for organization was built on the principle of stewardship and informed by the sense a ‘worldwide mission based on the Three Angel’s Messages’[33] that was rooted in Scripture.

Early Adventist Hermeneutics

In his paper, From Vision to System: Finishing the Task of Adventist Theology, Dr. Canale traces the history of Adventist hermeneutics by first mentioning Mrs. White’s praise for Martin Luther for applying the Sola Scriptura principle which she identified as the “Protestant Principle.”[34]

 

At the end of time, she assures us,

 

“God will have a people upon the earth to maintain the Bible, and the Bible only, as the standard of all doctrines and the basis of all reforms.”[35]

 

Canale goes on to note that there are differences between Adventists and Protestants despite the fact that they received the same ground or foundation (The Bible) on which they built their theologies.

 

He asks, ‘[If] both built on the same ground, why did early Adventist believers feel the need to leave all Protestant denominations behind and build a new one?’ [Italics mine] What makes Adventist theology unique? He suggests that ‘If the difference between Adventist and Protestant theologies cannot be explained in relation to the source of theology, it might be apparent if we consider the method and hermeneutical principles each tradition used in building their theological views.’[36]

 

Dr. Denis Fortin agrees by showing in, “Nineteenth-century Evangelicalism and early Adventist Statements of Beliefs,” a paper derived from his doctoral dissertation, L’adventisme dam les Cantons de l’Est du Qukbec: implantation et institutionnalisation au XIXe siecle that of the three groups that split from the Millerites after 1844, “Seventh-day Adventists were the most theologically removed from evangelicalism in emphasizing their doctrine of the sanctuary as the center of their theological articulation.”[37]

 

Late Adventist Church Historian C. Mervyn Maxwell identified four basic characteristics of the hermeneutics and method on which early Adventist theology was constructed: deconstruction of Tradition, the Tota Scriptura principle, typological understanding, and the Vision.[38]

 

  • Deconstruction of Tradition: While Protestant reformers rejected some customs and traditions as we noted earlier, Adventist writers manifested a sharper rejection of tradition. Early Adventists were aware of the traditions of Christianity their former churches embraced. Yet, instead of taking them as either sources of theology or hermeneutical guides for interpretation of Scripture or understanding doctrines, they decided to engage them critically. Unless we deconstruct tradition and distinguish it from Scripture we may be in danger of confusing ideas received from tradition with biblical ones.
  • The Tota Scriptura Principle: Luther was well known to have rejected the Epistle of James and made very little use of the book of Hebrews, and set up a cannon within a cannon. Calvin virtually rejected the book of Revelation. Contemporary theologians of the Adventist pioneers rejected the entire Old Testament. The Adventist pioneers however insisted on taking truth from the entire Bible.
  • Typological understanding: Maxwell remarks that ‘whereas the Reformers made enthusiastic use of the Old Testament types of the cross, Adventist writers made richer use of biblical types and antitypes that were seen to anticipate last day developments.’ The Adventist pioneers used the first three characteristics of their hermeneutics to derive the fourth one.
  • The [Macro-Hermeneutical] Vision: The final difference between Protestant and Adventist hermeneutics should be traced back to the early pioneers use of prophetic fulfillment as a hermeneutical tool. Once established as scriptural, the fulfillment of prophecy in the Second Advent movement became a hermeneutical tool for helping establish the Sabbath, sanctuary, spiritual gifts, the true church (remnant), Second Advent and other doctrines.

 

Adventists Rediscover a Complete System of Truth

Canale goes on to note that Ellen White expressed the same hermeneutical vision in different words, “The subject of the sanctuary was the key which unlocked the mystery of the disappointment of 1844. It opened to view a complete system of truth, connected and harmonious, showing that God’s hand had directed the great Advent movement, and revealing present duty as it brought to light the position and work of his people. Shortly put, “light from the sanctuary illumed the past, the present, and the future.” Alberto Timm stated that the ‘configuration of the whole system’ was one of the original contributions of early Adventist theology.[39] Canale suggests that, “The sanctuary doctrine is the most comprehensive doctrine or motif in Scripture and therefore plays a decisive role in guiding biblical interpretation and the construction of Adventist theology.”[40] James White saw that “the present truth is harmonious in all its parts; its links are all connected; the bearings of all its portions upon each other are like clockwork,” LeRoy Froom wrote of early Adventist theology as the “base of a coordinated system of truth.” George Knight, writes that “Sabbatarian Adventists produced an integrated theology rather than a list of discrete doctrines, and Alberto Timm states that these beliefs were an integrated system related to the attributes of God.”[41], [42]

The Shift Away from the Sanctuary towards ‘Christ’

As the Church grew in number and organizational complexity, so did interpretations on various sections of Scripture. Adventists have always kept an eye on history as well as current events. This vigilance is born from a deep desire to be with Jesus and His command to be ever ready for His coming. Just because Adventists were continuing to build their faith on Scripture alone did not mean that they were immune to personal feuds, the temptation of professional rivalries, or pride. These disagreements though usually kept away from the public eye, occasionally burst out into the open. Some of these disagreements, the Daily, the Horns in Daniel 7, the Law in Galatians[43], are now part of the Adventist story. But back then, questions over these issues raised alarms that the ‘waymarks’ or pillars of Adventism were being supplanted or erased. With the benefit of hindsight today, it is apparent that some of these battles were fought as proxy wars for other issues but there are some theological “waymarks” or lessons that we can draw from the sites of these pitched battles.

Human beings are creatures of habit. Sermons that once were preached with vigor and the freshness of a new discovery had, by the 1880’s, grown, as Ellen White put it, as “dry as the hills of Gilboa.” The emphasis had shifted from what Christ was doing for us to what we could ‘do’ for Him. In other words, the message of righteousness by faith had become righteousness by the law.

E.J. Waggoner and A.T. Jones were the main presenters at the 1888 General Conference Session, and their focus was on Christ and righteousness by faith. The message and the messengers earned their place in history during that session and the years that followed. But not everything they proclaimed was, in agreement with Scripture. Mrs. White affirmed them where she could, and in letters to them in private, she counseled them regarding where they strayed from the Bible.[44] The messengers were human. And, like the Catholic Fathers and Protestant Reformers before them, they were not immune to borrowing from extra-biblical sources. And it was those seeds of extra-biblical notions that led to their eventual and inevitable separation from the Church.

Graf meticulously shows the shift in Waggoner’s thinking in the years after 1888. The emphasis on Justification apparently led Waggoner to see the issue of justification by faith as the essential articulating action of Christ, the very center of Adventist theology.[45] In 1891, he declared that Adventists tended to think that they had ‘the third angel’s message, consisting of a system of truth comprising such subjects as the law, the Sabbath, nature of man, advent, etc., and that to this we have superadded a little gospel, the idea of justification by faith.” Waggoner, then, explained that righteousness by faith was not a doctrine among others in the context of the third angel’s message. It was the very center of that message. “Nothing can be added to the preaching of the righteousness of God by faith of Jesus Christ…All of these doctrines are simply divisions, lines depending upon that one thing, all summed up in the doctrine of righteousness by faith. We can preach nothing else.” His own emphasis on justification by faith pushed Waggoner to see the articulation of the Adventist message from a soteriological view, with all the other doctrines revolving around it. Remarkably, he did not mention the sanctuary, in his enumeration of doctrines.[46]

Ellen White supported, with qualifications, Waggoner and Jones’ position on Justification during the 1888 General Conference and even after it, even though she differed theologically with them.[47] She understood justification by faith from the general perspective of the work of Christ in the Sanctuary. Justification, for her, was not a punctual fact once and forever at the beginning of the Christian experience as Luther had held.[48] It involved the entire lifetime, requiring the continuous intercession of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary in favor of the believer. For her, justification was not something apart from sanctification. Obedience and sanctification were closely related to justification because ‘in order, for a man to retain justification, there must be continual obedience, through active, living faith that works by love and purifies the soul. Obedience, though, did not carry any meritorious value. And despite her differences with Waggoner, her charitableness shines through her correspondence with him. She writes of Waggoner: “I have no reason to think that he is not as much esteemed of God as are any of my brethren, and I shall regard him as a Christian brother, so long as there is no evidence that he is unworthy.”[49] Analysis of Jones and Waggoner’s sermons today reveal shifts in their theology due to their drawing from protestant sources. As the years passed, and the 1888 session faded into history, these macro-hermeneutical shifts affected not only the denomination but held personal implications for Jones and Waggoner that became apparent within a few years. For the denomination though, the effects of this shift were slow to develop at first, but develop they did.

One person who was influenced by these messages was W.W. Prescott. Prescott was a person that, as Dr. Kellogg once noted, if he accepted something, he would bend over backwards to implement it in his life.[50] Dr. Gilbert Valentine, in his biography of Prescott notes that, “sometimes he created the impression of an extremist by overstating his case and by keeping up agitation after he had made his point.”[51] “The new Christological emphasis, for Prescott, constituted the essence of the “Minneapolis Message”. And later as he accepted health reform in his own life by giving up meat eating, he saw this as theologically related to the gospel. The new “gospel context” at last helped him to also see a strong theological basis for unity of both the medical and the ministerial interests of the church which he enthusiastically promoted in a campaign known as the “The Forward Movement” in 1901.[52]

 

With the shift, away from an eschatological to a soteriological emphasis in 1888, by Jones and Waggoner,[53] Canale explains a further shift that occurred in Adventism through Prescott some thirty-two years after Minneapolis. “Prescott felt that ‘the traditional Seventh-day Adventist approach to doctrine resulted in a compartmentalized system that did not integrate beliefs with the person of Christ. To fix this problem, Prescott published a textbook in 1920 entitled The Doctrine of Christ.[54] Prescott’s purpose was not “to develop a scheme of systematic theology” but to emphasize “the meaning of the revelation of Christ as an experience in the life.” In other words, “Jesus. All.” Nevertheless, later in his book he affirms that the great facts concerning Christ, [His life, death and resurrection] are among the grounds of a whole system of thought and habit of feeling, and when taught as such they grow into a scheme of doctrine. According to Canale, this apparent contradiction between these two statements reveals the tension that exists between the early Adventist theological vision and the classical Protestant vision implicit in Prescott’s Christological Approach. As time passed, other Adventists thinkers interpreted Scripture and understood Adventist doctrines from this new perspective.[55]

Prescott contributed edits to the second edition of Mrs. White’s book The Great Controversy that he felt would make the book more historically accurate. Unfortunately, the influence of his education at Dartmouth College may have played a role in his selection of historical sources as Mrs. White, according to Arthur White, flatly rejected fifty percent of his suggestions as un-Adventist.[56] Dr. Gilbert Valentine, in his biography of W.W. Prescott, softens the charge of disagreement over the Great Controversy edits, but agrees with Arthur White that half of them were turned down by Mrs. White and her team. In his devotionals at the 1919 Bible Conference, according to Matthew Campbell’s dissertation, “W. W. Prescott focused particularly on making Adventist theology more Christ-centered. The preacher revealed Christ in the “converting word.” This was the real power of Adventist preaching, he averred, and by so doing Adventist preachers would have a unique approach to sharing God’s Word.[57] Valentine writes, “By and large, the delegates appreciated the professor’s emphasis on the centrality of Christ as it became clear that his purpose was not to present a theory about the person of Christ but to bring people to a knowledge of Him. “The preaching of the gospel is not to persuade people to agree with me in my theological view,” he asserted. “The preaching of the gospel, so far as I am concerned, is to bring people into personal association with that person with whom I have fellowship.”[58] We must positively affirm here the contribution of Prescott on bringing the focus back to Christ as the person behind all our beliefs and movement.

Canale contends that since 1888,

“Two hermeneutical visions have implicitly coexisted in Adventism. As the ‘righteousness by faith’ vision joined the “sanctuary” vision, an imperceptible process of forgetting the latter was set in motion. The inner incompatibility of these two visions, however, didn’t become apparent until almost a century later.”

Canale is not suggesting here that Justification by Faith and the biblical Sanctuary are incompatible. It is their use in the macro hermeneutical role in the construction of Christian theology which is incompatible.[59] Is there a conflict between Christ and the Sanctuary? In a paper presented at the 2015 Seminary Symposium at Andrews University, Ingram London, analyzing Canale’s macro-hermeneutical principle using Christ, the Sanctuary, and Eschatology, notes, “Christ is the principle of articulation but the sanctuary is his designated tool of choice by which he articulates reality to and through himself. Consequently, to try and use Christ as the principle of articulation without the proper context of the sanctuary will lead to theological errors.”[60]

As World War I came to a close, the Church began to confront the rise of science, and the need to develop a theological foundation from Scripture became urgent. Mrs. White’s passing away in 1915 also raised questions about how the Church would deal with not having a prophet; a new reality that had never been experienced since the inception of the Church. A.G. Daniells felt that a Bible Conference would be a good venue to discuss the need for the development of the theological education of teachers and preachers in the denomination. A discussion was also needed regarding the Fundamentalist movement that was reacting to the spread of modern science and in particular evolution’s alternative paradigm. In 1919, he called a conference of experienced teachers, preachers, and administrators who could discuss the issues and develop some plans. Some in the denomination saw the rising fundamentalist movement in other churches as something that they could enthusiastically unite with because of the movement’s strong insistence on the Bible. Others were not so certain. What some of the pastors were saying in the pulpit was also cause for concern for A.G. Daniells. Our preachers were saying things that could not be defended from Scripture. They were making connections between prophecy and current events that had previously not been made and were manifestly suspect theologically. The conversation turned toward the 1911 revisions of the Great Controversy book that were made to correct historical inaccuracies and the uncited sources which made it difficult for a discerning reader to research for themselves the historical information contained within the book. A.G. Daniells was familiar with the process that Mrs. White had employed and had served on her editorial team in the past. Some of the details of just exactly how the ‘workflow’ proceeded before a book or testimony was published was ‘news’ to some attending the conference. They thought that Mrs. White’s inspiration could be classed under a ‘Verbal Inspiration Model’ where God gave her or showed her the actual words and she wrote them down.

Unfortunately, later on during a smaller sub-conference the discussions turned into a fighting match with several factions jockeying for a theological vantage point. The specifics of the status of Christ in the Godhead as well as the ‘Daily’ issue, arose again as part of the subtext of the debate over specifically how Mrs. White was inspired (mechanical, verbal, thought, etc.) and what role her writings should play in Adventist Theology. The golden opportunity to continue to build a theological system from Scripture slipped away with the end of the Conference.

Spurious personal character attacks over the issues of revelation-inspiration and the role of Ellen White in the Church, and some in which he was labeled as the ‘Omega,’ saw A.G. Daniells lose the General Conference presidency, in 1922. He advocated a vision to professionalize the education of young ministers at the 1919 Bible Conference, and, in 1926, he started the Ministerial Association and Ministry Magazine. These were intended as vehicles for educating ministers and were launched later with the help of an energetic young minister, Le Roy Froom. Daniells’ visionary efforts led to the creation of the Advanced Bible Training School at Pacific Union College. It later moved to Takoma Park near the GC headquarters and then moved for the third time to Andrews University. The Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University is the embodiment of his dream.[61] As Adventists engaged in graduate studies and scholarly research, they focused on chronological, archeological, historical, and exegetical issues. This concentration moved theology away from the systematic nature and dynamic of early Adventist thought. Interconnectedness of thought was neglected, and Adventist believers began to experience the doctrines of the church as disconnected affirmations severed from the experience of salvation and the mission of the church.[62]

From 1919 to 1952, two theological trends within Adventism developed and matured during the fundamentalist era and later converged in a mix that proved to be explosive in 1957 in response to conversations with Reformed-Evangelicals.

The Early Historical Adventism Trend

Milian Laurtiz (ML) Andreasen, the best representative of this particular trend, integrated themes on character development, sanctification, and perfection from the writings of early pioneers, E.J. Waggoner, A.T. Jones and Ellen White to construct his theology[63] which later became known as ‘The Last Generation Theology’ (LGT). In his view, there will be a generation at the end of time, who will play a pivotal role in the resolution of the Great Cosmic Conflict. Over the course of several decades, M.L. Andreasen came to be regarded as the foremost authority in the Church on soteriology, and his book, The Sanctuary Service, is an Adventist Classic.

In his retirement, he was involved in a very public argument with the administration, which Dr. Herbert Douglas covers ably.[64] He pointed out what he believed to be historic departures from the traditional Adventist views on Christology, hamartiology, and soteriology. This led to his credentials being withdrawn but later, a near death-bed personal reconciliation without a reversal of his theological views, saw a posthumous restoring of his credentials by the Church.

The Early Evangelical Adventism[65] Trend

LeRoy Froom, who is the best representative of this trend, did an extensive study in historical theology and biblical philosophy for over two decades. He gained recognition in and out of the Church for his works The Prophetic Faith of our Fathers,[66] The Conditionalist Faith of our Fathers,[67] and later, in retirement, Movement of Destiny.[68] Canale cites Froom as an example of the ambiguities that were brewing in Adventist thought, “Adventists differentiated between so-called “eternal verities” and “testing truths.” Implicitly or explicitly, the conviction that “practically all Seventh-day Adventist beliefs are held by one or more Christian groups” has become widely accepted in all sectors in Adventism. According to this view, we hold together with most Christian churches the “eternal verities” which include the foundational issues of theology, including the way of salvation. We differ in our views on the existence of a Heavenly Sanctuary, the Investigative Judgment, the Spirit of Prophecy, and the Three Angels’ Messages of Revelation 14. Canale concludes that “Adventists began to relate to the biblical Sanctuary as a doctrine among others without explicitly perceiving its guiding hermeneutical role. Thus, over fifty years ago, some sectors in Adventist leadership began to think that there was very little difference between Adventist and Evangelical doctrines. For some, the Adventist Church was no longer the remnant church in the sense of the only true visible church on earth. Instead, they saw Adventism as just another Evangelical denomination. The Sanctuary and the Three Angels Messages were no longer conceived as pillars on which a complete system of truth stood, but as pieces of the Evangelical building of truth.”[69]

Neither trend (Historical or Evangelical Adventism), however, built their theology on the Sola-Tota Scriptura principle. And, since 1922, succeeding administrations learned well the lesson from the 1919 and 1922 debacles and pursued the strategy of preventing theological controversies from making “waves” among the wider membership of the Church. This policy has “succeeded” because no one in administration has lost their position over a theological dispute since 1922. The Church waited out the economic depression and World War II by developing the ministry into a professionally educated force. Internally the Church was relatively calm. However, over the next few decades, the church faced two additional “stress tests;” one external, one internal. The external stress test came innocuously framed as “Questions” from evangelicals. The internal stress test came as an “Answer” that spoke to the hearts of many members who longed for the assurance of salvation. Both stress tests would take the General Conference administration to their absolute limits.

Evangelicals and Adventists Talk

The conversations between a small group of Adventist theologians and some evangelicals culminated in the production of the book, Seventh-day Adventists Answer Questions on Doctrine (QOD). The discussions were wide-ranging and, looking back now, it is no wonder those talks did not go very well. Different presuppositions related to revelation-inspiration, manifested themselves in differences in soteriology[70], eschatology, hamartiology, Christology, and anthropology.[71] This predictably caused conflict between the two parties as well as with various observers inside the denomination, most notably, as mentioned above, with the historical Adventist group. The discussions succeeded in one respect; the evangelicals dropped the cult charge against the Seventh-day Adventist Church. But the effort has since proved costly. It laid bare the Church’s shift in its hermeneutical key, the Sanctuary and the eschatological messages of Revelation 14, to the protestant ‘Christo-centric’ or ‘Gospel-based hermeneutic.’

Coming to a Ford in the Road

Decades of teaching members to ‘prepare’ for the Judgment had led many to develop an unhealthy fear of it. Dr. Desmond Ford,[72] a preeminent Australian theologian, brought to the attention of the Church his rejection of the Sanctuary doctrine as a foundational “pillar” of Adventism. He replaced it instead with the soteriological vision of Protestant theology. Depicting his own perspective as a solution to the ‘fear’ that people felt regarding the Judgment, he emphasized the ‘assurance’ we could have by knowing the essence of the Gospel. When speaking to lay audiences, he emphasized that our righteousness is “external” and in “heaven” and that this is why we can’t “lose it” as long as we believe in Jesus.[73]

Ford felt compelled to abandon the doctrine of the Sanctuary not merely because he believed Adventist exegesis builds on “highly debatable” assumptions and an unpopular method of prophetic interpretation, but because it conflicted with the Protestant soteriological vision. Because he conflated the Protestant interpretation of Justification by Faith originated by Luther with Paul’s teachings in Romans, he correctly perceived its inner inconsistency with the Adventist teaching of the investigative judgment. Because Ford was persuaded that, “we, as with all other Christians, have been entrusted with ‘the everlasting gospel’, it is essential that nothing in our doctrinal presentation should compete or clash with that gospel, in short, the Sanctuary doctrine had to go.[74]

The Seventh-day Adventist Church rallied to the defense of the Sanctuary doctrine at Glacier View, in 1980.[75] Ford, who had presented[76] on the subject at a local chapter of the Association of Adventist Forums (now Adventist Forums), was given six months paid-leave to prepare his statement and supporting documents and the Church arrayed a number of theologians, historians, and administrators to consider his views. The Church also published a series of papers on Daniel and Revelation collectively known as the Daniel and Revelation Committee (DARCOM) Series.[77] The administration pursued the strategy of dealing with one individual (Ford) rather than recognizing the systemic trends that underlay Ford’s soteriological attack. Unlike other dissenters in the past, Ford encouraged many young ministers sympathetic to his views to stay in the Church and change it from within.

A comparative analysis of the Glacier View transcripts[78] with the 1919 Bible Conference[79] reveals remarkable similarities. The same issues regarding biblical hermeneutics and revelation-inspiration are voiced in both events despite being spaced over sixty years apart. We noted earlier that two theological trends:[80] Historical Adventism and Evangelical Adventism emerged after 1919, and came into conflict in 1957. Post-Glacier View, we now see a splintering of the two major trends into four theologically significant factions. Each faction carries the ‘theological DNA’ of its precursor group before it. These mutually exclusive factions, like the ever-expanding Pleiades star cluster, are now held tenuously together by our worldwide administration. As Canale puts it, “Adventism is administratively united but theologically divided.”[81]

Section 3: Classification of Factions within Adventism

We will now see how, like other denominations before it, having sowed to the wind through extra-biblical theological borrowing that resulted in a hermeneutical shift, the Seventh-day Adventist Church has reaped the whirlwind and has fragmented into mutually exclusive factions that exist to this day. These intrinsic theological incompatibilities only become evident when we compare them with other factions.[82]

Historical Adventism

Historical Adventism’s answer to the shifts from the Sanctuary-based hermeneutic to a Gospel-based hermeneutic was to “go back to where we last saw the light,”[83] and try to rediscover a “pristine” or “primitive” Adventism. The easiest and most accessible way was to deduce lessons from history and principles from the study of Adventist pioneer writings and the writings of Ellen White. In a general way, since QOD, and more intensely since Ford’s trial and dismissal, historical Adventism continued the widespread practice of doing theology[85] Historical Adventism seeks to restore Adventism to its primitive state and pursues a strategy that attempts to counter the “New Theology” infiltrating Adventist thinking.[86] The internal logic of historical Adventism’s foundational principles and mindset can be best understood when contrasted to the official Seventh-day Adventist Church. It interprets Scripture from a perfectionist lens[87] through the writings of Ellen White[88] in contrast to the ‘Sola Scriptura’ stance of the Church. It follows the “blueprint” model for education which for them means unaccredited education[89] in contrast to the Church’s accredited university-based system, sanitariums in contrast to the Church’s vast billion-dollar healthcare network, and a tithe funded “independent ministry” model of organization in contrast to the representative-based polity of the Church with its tithe-funded structural levels of organization and the General Conference Session as its highest authority.

Canale writes, “By closely following Ellen White’s writings, Historical Adventism reaffirms the traditions and teachings of Adventism. On the positive side, this approach keeps alive the hermeneutical vision that originated with Adventism. On the negative side, Historical Adventism interprets the Sanctuary doctrine from the ontological “vision” of Christ’s sinful human nature: Christ incarnated in sinful human flesh, sharing the same tendencies we have. This implies that real Christians must achieve absolute perfect sinlessness[90] before the second coming of Christ. Sinless perfection becomes the final and decisive chapter in the Great Controversy before the coming of Christ.[91] [92]Canale ends his analysis of Historical Adventism by saying that its “failure to build doctrines and theological understanding on Sola Scriptura [despite Ellen White’s recommendation to do so] has contributed in no small degree to the divisions in Adventist theology. Besides, their theological strategy overlooks the theological, methodological, and intellectual issues undergirding Evangelical and Cultural [Modern] Adventist thought.”[93]

Historical Adventism, in the years leading up to 1980 and afterwards, developed as an alternative to other factions in Adventism. Its main presupposition was that “New Theology” had come into the Church and produced incompatibilities that prevented the Church from accomplishing its God-given Calling and Mission. It also viewed with suspicion the ever-increasing levels of organization in the Church (the 1970s and early 80s saw major restructuring of Adventist Healthcare). It sought to restore a horizontal organization or collective of ministries that pursued a common goal, the promulgation of the Three Angels’ Messages. It restored education to a more theologically-based sectarian curriculum and emphasized ‘character development.’ Through its own sanitariums, camp meetings, publication houses and media, it sought to provide a version of Adventism that it felt adhered more closely to the Adventist ideal.

Its internecine warfare based on differences in interpretations of the pioneer writings and Ellen White between its leaders has led to “growth” by division as ministries and even local churches have split. Where a few ministries have succeeded financially and are viable, there are hundreds if not thousands of ministries that have not, leaving a trail of broken marriages, disillusioned followers and donors. In North America, most of its independent institutions are chronically on the verge of financial collapse. The workers are often paid low wages and are close to the Federal poverty line. Many are dependent on government aid for food and basic health insurance and are caught in a vicious cycle of not having marketable skills and not having the means to acquire them. Its model of independence has proved to be inherently self-limiting. By its own standards it has failed.

Historical Adventism’s insistence on independent ministry models and unaccredited education has led to a generational loss of young adults in the Church. This loss is felt most deeply in the Church in the areas of administration, ministry, medicine, and education. We note here that the majority of the research done by the detractors of the One Project ministry follows the classic theological construction and research methodology of Historical Adventism.

There are some signs of a renewed attempt at reunification with the Church. Bowing to reality, Weimar College recently reversed its non-accreditation educational stance stating that “accreditation is not government control.”[94] Hartland Institute saw the election of Elder Ted Wilson to the General Conference Presidency as well as other actions taken by the GC leadership positively and have “taken steps to draw nigh unto the brethren” reversing their long-held stance on withholding/diverting tithe from the General Conference.[95] It remains to be seen if other institutions will follow suit but most importantly if they will begin to build a theological foundation from Scripture.

Evangelical Adventism

Evangelical Adventism espouses the Protestant notions of sola scriptura and sola fide. We will now consider evangelical Adventism from the perspective of its principle of articulation and classify the source and nature of its soteriology here.

Evangelical Adventism, according to Graf, [96] considers that the evangelical emphasis on the Gospel as more in harmony with the purpose of Adventism historically, especially when taking into account Adventism’s mission to prepare the world for the second coming of Christ. They usually interpret the “everlasting gospel” of Rev. 14:12 in terms of the evangelical understanding of the Gospel. From this perspective, the Gospel is virtually the equivalent of justification, redemption, forgiveness, and salvation. Evangelical Adventists perceive themselves as being in line with the emphasis on justification by faith that goes back to the General Conference Session in Minneapolis, in 1888.[97]

They also identify themselves with the evangelical emphasis on the Gospel and justification by faith as presented by Adventist Church leaders such as A.G. Daniells, and evidenced in relevant events and church documents during the 20th century. From a wider perspective, evangelical Adventists also consider that Adventists are—or they should be—in continuity with evangelicals and the Protestant Reformation in their understanding of the centrality of the Gospel and of justification by faith. In their view, Adventists are essentially evangelicals. Consequently, Adventist distinctive doctrines should never eclipse the Gospel or be the focus of the Adventist faith. “By insisting on maintaining the cross as the central truth of Adventist doctrine and evangelism, evangelical Adventism guards against the temptation to make distinctive Adventist doctrine into the gospel. The most paradigmatic representative of this faction is Desmond Ford, the crystallizer of evangelical Adventism. He has emphasized the centrality of the Gospel in harmony with the evangelical or Protestant view as no one else. Ford, it must be noted, was a Historical Adventist before his famous switch to Evangelical Adventism when he encountered Robert Brinsmead’s arguments for perfectionism and opposed them publicly.[98], [99]

Evangelical Adventism apparently faces difficulties in finding a suitable connection with its protestant brethren despite its common soteriology. Essentially, while this segment of Adventism is attempting to build bridges with evangelical theology, the evangelicals themselves have moved on. David Bebbington according to Wikipedia, is widely known for his definition of evangelicalism, referred to as the “Bebbington quadrilateral”, which was first provided in his 1989 classic study Evangelicalism in Modern Britain: A History from the 1730s to the 1980s. Bebbington identifies four main qualities[100] which are to be used in defining evangelical convictions and attitudes:

  • Biblicism, a particular regard for the Bible
  • Crucicentrism, a focus on the atoning work of Christ on the cross
  • Conversionism, the belief that human beings need to be converted
  • Activism, the belief that the gospel needs to be expressed in effort.”

In a penetrating analysis, Brian Harris, a principal at Vose Seminary, critiques Bebbington’s Quadrilateral by quoting Stanley Grenz’s post-foundationalist ideas and suggests that it may be time for Evangelicalism to move past Biblicism, conversionism, and even crucicentrism. In his analysis, he states,

‘There is slowly a shift away from a focus on the Cross as a substitutionary act of atonement to appease an offended Deity (or the cross as retributive justice), to an exploration of the cross as a vehicle of restorative justice. Rather than ask whether the cross represents a victory over sin, death, or the devil, it would seem appropriate for postmodern evangelicals to respond, ‘all of the above, and more beside…’

He continues,

‘While Bebbington’s priorities remain relevant, contemporary evangelicalism might be better characterized as being a community of passionate piety. While at a popular level, the doctrinal focus of the past has receded, the experience of a transforming encounter with Christ remains.’

A little while later, he finishes rather hopefully,

“Gathered around an expansive theology of the cross (a deeper embrace of the crucicentrism and committed to a holistic view of salvation (including but moving beyond mere conversionism), and shaped by the transforming narrative of the acts of the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, as illuminated in the Spirit inspired Scriptures (more than mere biblicism), such a community would have every reason to be actively passionate. It would be a community where the title ‘Evangelical’ names not an identity, but an aspiration. It would also be a community that having gained much from Bebbington’s insights, now seeks to constructively move beyond them…” [101].

Evangelical Adventists, Canale contends, “ …using this new hermeneutical vision to understand the system of Christian thought and doctrines become convinced that the pioneers’ understanding of the Sanctuary was wrong and the Church should recognize this error and rectify it for future generations. A going back to Protestantism replaces the early coming out of Protestantism by the Adventist pioneers. Evangelical Adventism leads either to a radical reinterpretation of doctrine or to defection. The problem with ignoring, rejecting, or replacing the Sanctuary doctrine is that, as Froom put it, without the Sanctuary doctrine, Adventism has “no justifiable place in the religious world, no distinctive denominational mission and message, no excuse for functioning as a separate church entity today. Not surprisingly, some advocate ecumenism while others in this group leave the Church to join Protestant denominations.”[102] Without the Sanctuary doctrine’s hermeneutical role, Canale concludes, the only reasons that remain to explain Adventism to the world are cultural. The best proponents of this multiplex source-based theology of Adventism, of which culture plays a significant role in biblical hermeneutics, are the Modern or Progressive Adventists. However, Evangelical Adventism continues to pose the most formidable challenge to Biblical Adventism.

Modern (Progressive) Adventism

Progressive Adventism arose relatively recently in the late 1960’s with the founding of the Association of Adventist Forums (AF) with the significant support and intellectual contributions from individuals such as Dr. Alvin Kwiram, Adventist theologian Dr. Raymond F. Cottrell, physician-theologian Dr. Roy Branson, and Adventist educator-theologian Dr. Charles Scriven, among others. There are however some other credible versions of history that connect the rise of Progressive Adventism to W.W. Prescott. Members of the Church administration initially welcomed the AF. However, that era of good feeling between the two entities descended into mutual distrust as AF’s magazine, Spectrum, published excerpts from the 1919 Bible Conference transcripts and over the years has adopted an increasingly adversarial stance against succeeding General Conference Administrations.[103]

 

According to Graf, “‘Modern Adventism claims to hold a non-fundamentalist vision of Adventism—in contrast with the alleged fundamentalist perspective of traditional Adventism—that promotes open dialogue through a free press and academic freedom for Adventist theologians and scientists.’ Canale asserts that the Modern view draws ‘from a multiple-source matrix that Roman Catholic and Protestant theologians constructed their theological views on.’ ‘That Progressive Adventists are serious about radically changing Adventism becomes clear when one learns their views about origins. Their deep certainty that we should build our beliefs on a multiplex of sources leads them to the unavoidable conviction that science, not Scripture, tells the truth about the history of life on earth. Thus to [Progressive Adventists] to reject scientific “truth” is tantamount to rejecting “present truth.”[104]

Graf continues by stating that ‘Progressive Adventism represents a radical re-approach to Adventist theology. It frequently implies a questioning or rejection of historical Adventist doctrines such as the sanctuary and the investigative judgment. It also involves an inclusive view of the remnant—as an entity that includes Christians from different creeds—and a rejection of an eschatological role for the Sabbath. Progressive Adventists feel that historical doctrinal positions require revision in light of the current times and pluralistic interpretations are welcome. The Bible itself reflects different views about God that are not reconcilable. Revelation is progressive. Consequently, science has an important role. Science is not derived from the Bible, but it does illuminate our perspectives, both spiritually and physically.

La Sierra University’s professor emeritus and theologian Fritz Guy is one of the best representatives of this faction. Guy, like Canale, also considers that the Reformation motto of Sola Scriptura, by scripture alone, popularly interpreted as the Bible and the Bible only, ‘has always been a polemical exaggeration but he offers a radically different solution on how to deal with Sola Scriptura which is well expressed in his book Thinking Theologically: Adventist Christianity and the Interpretation of Faith.[105] , [106] He suggests that Scripture and theology cannot ignore science. The interpretation of the Scriptures should follow the scientific standards of higher criticism. Consequently, it is necessary to read the Bible as a culturally conditioned book. Even the assumptions of Jesus Christ regarding the real existence of Adam, Eve, and Noah should be understood in terms of human cultural perspectives and the assumptions of His time and place. Another important aspect regarding the epistemological assumptions of modern Adventist thought is that theology involves more than the Bible as the source for theology. According to Canale, Progressive Adventism uses ‘an idiosyncratic’ understanding of revelation-inspiration commonly known as “thought inspiration.” According to this view, God inspired thoughts but the not the words. Biblical “errors” like the six-day literal creation account may be explained as originating in the writers’ words, not in God’s ideas.

The understanding of the sources of theology in the context of modern Adventist theology is that theology is not the systematic study of the Scripture, or the study of reality (God, world, human being, and their relationship) from the perspective of the Scripture. Instead, theology is the study of the Bible as understood and interpreted by the community of faith. In this view, the object of theological reflection is Christian doctrine or Christian belief. In other words, church doctrine (or belief) in connection with its tradition and experience, takes precedence over the biblical interpretation itself. From this understanding of theology, doctrines are not so much a precise description of ultimate reality; of God, the world, etc. They are rather symbolic expressions that arise from the underlying religious experience that can be expressed in different ways or through different doctrinal formulations. Consequently, the veracity of the doctrinal beliefs—or the reality of what they describe—in relation to their biblical foundation, is not necessarily denied, but is a secondary issue. What is important is the meaning of doctrines as symbolic manifestations of the experience of the believers.’[107]

Other able representatives of this faction include Loma Linda University theologians Dr. David Larson, a former president of Adventist Forums, Dr. Richard Rice as well as Walla Walla Adventist University theologian, Dr. Alden Thompson. Since all of Christian theology can be distilled to God and His relationship with His creation and their relationships with Him, free will or the absence of it plays a major role. Does God allow for the existence of free will? And does the presence of free will imply that God’s foreknowledge has limits? And does His foreknowledge impede on free will? Rice’s major contribution to theology is his coining of the phrase “Open View” to describe “Open Theism’s” view of God in which he tackles these questions. I have yet to read any of Rice’s works but Graf cites George L. Goodwin, who states that ‘Rice’s open theism represents a position of compromise between a modern theology – particularly its version of process theology – and classical theism.[108] Larson, a specialist in Whitehead’s Process Philosophy,[109] suggests that Rice didn’t go far enough.[110] According to Graf, Larson is the most outspoken modern Adventist theologian who affirms a panentheistic view of God based on Process Thought with some modifications. Larsen proposes that panentheism—in its process theology variety—is congruent with Adventist thought in several aspects.[111] Alden Thompson’s book on biblical inspiration, Inspiration: Hard Questions, Honest Answers suggests that Adventism take the approach that the Bible is a ‘casebook’ rather than a ‘codebook’ and in another book, Beyond Common Ground, he argues for a pluralistic theological diversity by stating that liberals need conservatives and conservatives need liberals in the Seventh-day Adventist Church in order to balance each other out and reach the world for Christ.[112] Elsewhere, serious philosophical-theological efforts by lay-individuals such as Dr. Ronald Osborn in Death before the Fall call into question the literal interpretation of Scripture’s account of creation. Osborn argues for evolution as a viable tool in God’s arsenal for creation and offers a unique theodicy view for animal suffering. He correctly suggests that some of the departures of young adults from Seventh-day Adventist Church membership are due to the administration’s inability to resolve conflicts with the Church’s theology and science’s discoveries.[113], [114] Progressive Adventism’s widespread influence through its professional publications, robust theological-philosophical research, and a growing presence in Adventist higher education and the gospel ministry, also represents, after Evangelical Adventism, the most formidable challenge to the final sector of Adventism we will consider here, Biblical Adventism.

Biblical Adventism[115]

Canale notes one of the contributions of this sector of Adventism to the biblical thinking of the church as the ‘the publication of the Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary (1953-1957). As a response to Ford’s Evangelical reinterpretation, the Biblical Research Institute produced a series of substantial studies on related issues of biblical interpretation. At the turn of the century, a team of leading Adventist theologians led by Raoul Dederen published a biblically-grounded systematic exploration of the 27 fundamental beliefs in the Handbook of Seventh-day Adventist Theology. Other theologians making substantial contributions to biblical Adventism in various areas of research include Edward Heppenstall, Hans La Rondelle, Gerhard Hasel, Samuele Bacchiocchi, and Richard Davidson.’[116] In spite of these and other important contributions, Canale asserts that ‘Biblical Adventism has also neglected the macro-hermeneutical role that the doctrine of the Sanctuary plays in Adventist theology. This is partially due to inherent differences in the disciplines of Biblical Theology (Exegesis) and Systematic Theology. On the one hand, Adventists, if you recall, are supposed to take the entire Scripture into account and each text in the Bible is subject to all other texts that have direct bearing on it. In other words, we let Scripture interpret itself. We endeavor to build theology based on Scripture. On the other hand, the science of hermeneutics has some inherent limitations in that it does not “allow” the exegete to consider other texts outside of their local context (verse, chapter, book). Thus, texts in Revelation and Job on the cosmic controversy technically “cannot” have bearing on texts in Genesis. Further, pursuing a hermeneutical method does not mean that the exegete will automatically “drop” his or her own presuppositions when they begin to study the Bible. Thus, if for example, an exegete does not believe that God is active in our daily lives (Classical Theism), or believes that God “changes” with us as we go (Process Theology or Open Theism) and thus His ability to predict the future (prophecy) is limited to “probabilities,” then Scriptural texts such as Daniel 8:14 and connections to the book of Hebrews will not lead them to see a Sanctuary in Heaven with Christ doing His work on our behalf in the investigative judgment.

Systematic theologians look at truth as it is expressed in the entire Bible and construct their theology from it. However, systematic theology has its well-known limitations due to the philosophical borrowings which we have noted above. Recent Adventist systematic theology, however, is rebuilding its foundation from the Bible and eliminating extra-biblical and philosophical notions from its process and conclusions.[117] Biblical Adventist systematic theologians, such as Dr. Gulley, who built his system around the Great Controversy (Theodicy Model), are showing that serious responsible scholarship can produce excellent results that build towards a master system that the Church can adopt some day at a General Conference Session.

It will take a combination of expert Adventist biblical exegetes working in tandem with highly trained Adventist systematic theology experts using the Sanctuary-based macro-hermeneutic to finish the task of building a coherent Adventist theological system. From there, Adventist administrators will need to build global consensus and craft policy and initiatives at all levels of the Church to help foster the conditions for local churches to thrive and grow in a biblically-based environment. Individuals can then learn to study the Bible for themselves and by truly focusing on Christ in all aspects of His work on our behalf, to communicate the everlasting gospel to their friends and neighbors through an exemplary life and through conversations and shared experiences.

Getting there though is a long hard road and a daunting task for biblical Adventist administrators. I’ll cover those challenges in the last article of this series but for now here is a foretaste of the deep-seated conditions in the Church that Biblical Adventists face.

On the one side, because biblical Adventists have a high regard for Ellen White’s writings they are marginalized or get “straw-manned” or lumped together with Historical Adventists and the result is that their scholarly research is disregarded. Evangelical Adventists accuse them of being “Old-Covenant,” “works-based” Adventists and justify their own soteriological hermeneutical shift as pursuing the “pure” Gospel of the Reformers. Canale notes that scholarly reaffirmation of the Sanctuary doctrine by Biblical Adventists has not persuaded Evangelical or Progressive Adventists. The fact that scholarly research has failed to convince Evangelical and Progressive Adventists of the Sanctuary doctrine reveals the depth of the theological divisions in Adventist thinking. “They reach the very foundations of theological thinking and method. They divide us at the level of (1) the Sola Scriptura cognitive ground of theology and (2) the hermeneutical vision from which we should strive to understand all theological issues. As a result, incompatible theologies and practice coexist in the Church.”[118]

Biblical Adventism has also come under withering attacks from the Progressive side of Adventism over the years but most notably by Raymond F. Cottrell, a past theological giant in Adventism.[119] The Progressive Adventist movement in the Seventh-day Adventist Church is deeply indebted to Cottrell’s intellectual contributions. Cottrell’s career spanned the ‘middle ages’ of Adventism from 1930 to 1977. Cottrell’s many positive contributions include the production of the SDA Bible Commentary. He writes that at one point in his career pre-1957, he wrote to all the bible teachers in the colleges in at least the North American division and most if not all of them were in agreement with him on the ‘Historical-Critical’ Method of bible study and his view of the Sanctuary doctrine. He has written a critique of the Sanctuary doctrine and reportedly a commentary of the book of Daniel and Hebrews (I believe) that is to be published posthumously when the “conditions are right in the Church.” Paraphrasing Cottrell’s very lengthy critique,[120] he gives a very personal version of the history of Adventist hermeneutics in which he asserts that the ‘biblical’ or historico-grammatical (also known as the historical-grammatical or historical-biblical) version of interpretation that Canale, Gulley, Dr. Richard Davidson and other contemporary biblical Adventists are championing is a ‘welding’ of the ‘old pioneers’ ‘literal’ hermeneutics with a modern linguistics model developed at Vanderbilt University where Gerhard Hasel studied for his doctorate degree. He argues that at the time of the creation of the Biblical Research Institute to replace its earlier iterations, it was ‘stacked’ with the ‘one-sided view’ on biblical hermeneutics, one that the then GC administrators preferred. Nevertheless, evidence shows that the Church rejected the Higher Criticism (Historical-Critical) Method of Bible study at the 1985 GC Session and affirmed the historical-grammatical hermeneutical method. Some biblical[121] Adventists started a society together in the mid 1990’s, to do biblical scholarship using the historical-grammatical method and regularly produce materials for scholarly and lay consumption.

On the other side, Historical Adventists often see Biblical Adventists from the perfectionistic lens or from the Nature of Christ lens and discredit them because they have variations of stated beliefs on those issues, according to Dr. Richard Davidson in an interview reproduced here in the endnotes of this article. [122] He wrote, “There is now just as much problem in our church from the radical right (ultra-conservatives) as we used to have from the liberal left (the historical critical method). The ultra-conservative movement is tied up with views of the nature of sin, Christ, and salvation that lead them to pay lip service to sola Scriptura but in my view, they interpret Scripture through their perfectionistic lens that distorts everything they study. There must be a way of opening the eyes of these people to see that they are not truly following sola Scriptura but a distortion of Scripture.” He went on to confirm that the Church has never really taken an official stance on soteriology and thus we have two distinct streams of thought on this issue. In an excellent paper, Back to the Beginning: Genesis 1-3 and the Theological Center, Davidson affirms with biblical exegetical analysis what Canale, Graf, and Fortin have said above regarding the Sanctuary being the hermeneutical principle that ties together the entire Bible from end to end, providing yet another example of biblical exegetes working with systematic theologians toward a common goal: a return to the macro-Sanctuary hermeneutical system.[123]

 

But opening the ‘eyes of people’ is hard. Reputations, incomes, and vested interests stand resolutely and at the ready to defend the status quo. Because historical Adventism lacks a biblical foundation, it instinctively clings to methods and practices. The constituency of “We’ve always done it this way” gains new members every day even in the face of diminishing returns. Old methods that have long since lost their effectiveness find fresh new recruits every time someone cracks open an Adventist history book. And finally, its reflexive anti-organization and anti-administration stance makes it hard to create bridges for dialogue.

 

Section 4: Classification of the One Project

The One Project Ministry[124]

The One Project claims support from the General Conference, Divisions, Unions, Conferences and Missions. It considers itself to be “part of the Church” rather than an independent or supporting ministry. It is funded through donors and “partners.” It has not publicly disclosed its finances to my knowledge. It is connected to the Boulder Seventh-day Adventist Church. The founders have stated in interviews here that their theology was formed before they sought post-graduate education outside the denomination. I find this assertion by the founders to be consistent having done an analysis of sermons preached before and after they went to seminary at George Fox University.

The One Project is potentially a ‘once in a generation’ ministry despite its founders espousing a version of Adventism that has been around for decades. Their theological ‘DNA’ can be traced back to the education they received within the Seventh-day Adventist system. They are entirely sincere in their beliefs and open to sharing how they arrived at their beliefs and their reasons for retaining those beliefs. Each founder is unique in his emphasis on doctrinal matters and expresses his theology in different ways. After analyzing my interviews with the founders, their sermons and published books, other’s analysis of the ministry, and interviews given elsewhere, I find that their views are a good case study of the effects of the decades-long macro-hermeneutical shift in Adventist theology. [125] I find the ministry to fit within the Evangelical Adventism faction of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and classify the founders as Evangelical Adventists. Evangelical Adventism has important implications that we can delineate here in the areas of macro-hermeneutics, theology, soteriology, eschatology, mission, ecclesiology and church administration.

 

Evangelical Adventism’s Implications as a Key to Understanding the One Project

The Gospel as Macro-Hermeneutical Articulating Principle: First, its macro-hermeneutical articulating principle is the Protestant soteriological (gospel-based) hermeneutic. For evangelical Adventism, Christ died on the Cross, paid the price for sin and made salvation available to everyone who believes. The Sanctuary Doctrine is part of the historical-doctrinal “heritage” but is not the macro-hermeneutical articulating principle.

 

Theology: Theology is constructed on the macro-hermeneutical foundation of the gospel-based hermeneutic. Theological pluralism is celebrated and defended as necessary ‘diversity.’ Attempts to unify under a common system are rejected as being ‘creedal’ and thus antithetical to Evangelical Adventism. Doctrines are individualized statements of belief. Distinctive doctrines are what distinguish the Adventist Church from other protestant denominations.

 

Eschatology: Eschatology is centered around the Second Coming of Jesus as the focus of the Church’s message to the world but with less of a focus on the three Angel’s Messages. Thus, there is less of a need for a unique identity or a calling-out of people from Babylon. This means that the Church is primarily occupied with making an impact in the world harnessing the power of culture to reach people. It means remaking the Church’s identity from an end-time focused movement into a present-day movement with an emphasis on being the kingdom of God on earth. Logically then, since every protestant church is preaching about Jesus and the Gospel; there is no need to be in ‘competition’ with other ‘tribes’ in Christianity. The Church’s identity is defined largely through cultural accommodation rather than through a doctrinal system of beliefs. The Three Angels’ Messages need to be reinterpreted in light of the 21st century.

 

Soteriology as Forensic Justification by Faith: Soteriology, in line with Protestant theology, involves accepting Christ as a personal Savior and His sacrifice on the Cross. Forensic justification by faith is the priority, and consequently, the Christian life is more about accepting Jesus. Sanctification plays a minimized or non-existent role in salvation. While early Adventist evangelicals like Froom believed in the Sanctuary doctrine, modern Adventist evangelicals display ambivalence towards it.

 

Mission as Good Works: The mission is defined largely in humanitarian terms. Being missional means being like Christ in the book Desire of Ages: feeding the poor, clothing the hungry, protesting against unjust and anti-gospel systems etc. This means that bringing about the Kingdom of God on earth right now through acts of care, social justice, and community action is prioritized over giving a “message” to the world. As Harris put it above, the Cross, for post-evangelicals, represents a ‘vehicle for restorative justice’.

 

Ecclesiology as A Sense of Belonging: Ecclesiology is defined mainly by accessions within membership rather than through outward focused “traditional evangelism” with conversion. Belonging takes priority over believing but the hope is that the person eventually will transition to some level of belief that is meaningful to them.

 

Administration: Localized administration is preferred to the global ‘corporate machinery.’ Localized distribution of resources, talent, time, money effort, etc. is preferred. Theological pluralism is celebrated as diversity. Theological pluralism is defended as being an essential part of the Adventist identity. Syncretism is discouraged, but attempts at contextualization may see syncretism in the areas of worship, lifestyle, and practical theology.

 

Questions: Evangelical Adventism as a whole raises some important questions from Biblical Adventism. Why did we leave the Protestant Churches in the first place? Do we really need to exist as a separate body? After all, if every other Church on the planet is preaching about “Jesus,” what need is there for us to be separate from them? What need is there for a global administration if we no longer have a global message but a personalized local one? What practices should our local churches embrace? Should we do “evangelism” or would that be stealing sheep from other churches? If our soteriological message is exactly the same as those of the Protestants then why don’t we join other Wesleyan, and Baptist brothers and sisters? Will we experience the same kinds of schisms that protestant Christianity is experiencing and Catholic Christianity experienced before it?

 

Conclusion

In this article we have looked at how Classical Theism conditioned Catholic theology and later Luther’s soteriology and Protestant theology in general. We also considered the effects of using multiple-sources of authority (which include the Bible) on biblical hermeneutics and how this contributed to the fragmentation among protestant denominations. There are four basic characteristics of the hermeneutics and method on which Adventist theology is constructed: A sharp rejection of Tradition, the Tota Scriptura principle, a deeper use of Typology, and the macro-hermeneutical use of the Sanctuary. The shifts at the macro-hermeneutical level first introduced by A.T. Jones and Waggoner were corrected by Ellen White in her book the Great Controversy. The Christo-centric shift, accelerated by Prescott and Daniells and institutionalized by Froom and others, saw the rise of Historical Adventism and Evangelical Adventism. Stark differences between these two factions led directly to the Questions on Doctrines clash between the two, in the 1950s. Post-1950’s saw Ford develop the Protestant soteriological emphasis with a rejection of the Sanctuary doctrine. His ‘trial’ led to his dismissal from Church employment but also saw the rise of four factions in Adventism. Evangelical Adventism and Progressive Adventism share important similarities and crucial differences but together pose a challenge to biblical Adventism. Biblical Adventism’s insistence on Sola-Tota Scriptura brings it into conflict with the other three factions in the Church. Historical Adventism’s emphasis on Ellen White has been both a positive and a negative contribution to the Church. It is currently at the crossroads regarding its viability.

 

We are beginning to see the fragmentary effects of multiple sources of authority in the interpretation of Scripture in our Church that Protestantism has seen in its denominations. Mutually exclusive and theologically incompatible beliefs are being promoted and encouraged as ‘diversity.’ These intrinsically incompatible belief systems are the result of decades-long shifts in the Church at every level: theology, eschatology, soteriology, mission, and ecclesiology.

 

The One Project ministry, with its renewed focus on Christology, has received either praise or sharp criticism from all factions in the Church. I find the One Project to be one of the ideal expressions of Evangelical Adventism in the Seventh-day Adventist Church today. It is consistent with Evangelical Adventism’s macro-hermeneutic, which is the Protestant soteriological emphasis of the Cross rather than the Adventist macro-hermeneutic of the Sanctuary. This is evident in their sermons and their theology.

 

With the various factions in Adventism now in context, let us see what the One Project has to say about the Church and its problems and consider its proposed solutions to those problems. I also invite you to judge the “fit” of my classification of this ministry with the data from the next article.

Click here to read the rest of this series on the One Project

______

Notes.

[1] Typically, “Church” denotes all Christian denominations. However, in this article I use the word “Church” to refer to the worldwide Seventh-day Adventist denomination only.

[2] Hermeneutics is the art/science of interpretation. Macro-hermeneutical denotes a level of interpretations that is foundational and essential to every other level of interpretation. Again, Macro denotes the most essential and basic philosophical presuppositions/assumptions about reality, followed by Meso (an intermediate level of interpretation that correlates to doctrinal formation), followed by Micro, which denotes detailed approaches to analysis of texts (also known as the exegetical method).

[3] This decision comes with some risk: loss of precision, nuance, and concision that comes from over-generalizing some vast expanses of history.

[4] Canale, Fernando L. “Basic Elements of Christian Theology”. Pg. 45, 46 Excerpt: What is Timelessness? We often use the adjective “timeless” to indicate that something is not restricted to a specific period. Thus, we say Beethoven’s ninth symphony is timeless because of its appeal communicates beyond time of its creation and its author’s culture. Philosophically speaking, the adjective “timeless” indicates something quite different. Something is “timeless” when it does not relate to time in any way. Specifically, we say that a reality is “timeless” when it does not exist in time; that is to say, when reality does not exist in the future-present-past flux of time… Aristotle not only reinterpreted God’s reality as timeless and spaceless but also devised the general pattern of what a timeless God can and cannot do. Aristotle recognizes three types of activities: 1) Manual labor: which produces a product after the work is complete eg. A carpenter making a chair. He called that “poiesis” 2) Human interactivity: Example, teaching, politics, ministry. He called this “praxis”, and 3) Contemplation of nature: Example, what philosophers do. At the end of the day, nothing is produced (product) and nothing has changed in relation to others (teaching, ministry etc.) He called this “theory”. Aristotle reserved “theory” or contemplation as the ‘act’ of God. In this God, can only think of Himself and contemplate Himself. The God of Aristotle, cannot know the world because that would imply no only change in God’s assumed immutability but also would make Him dependent on something outside of Himself thereby violating His self-sufficiency. This “self-sufficient” God relates only to Himself is the highest embodiment of self-centeredness and stands opposite to the relational nature of divine love.

[5] Gully, Norman R. “Systematic Theology: Prolegomena”. Published by Andrews University Press, 2003. Pg. 5. Note: Gulley holds that Parmenides was the first to explicitly state that thinking is being, or being is thinking. His thinking was the beginning of ontology. The Greek sense of being as stable and permanent was determined by Parmenides. Whereas Heracleitus is considered “the philosopher of Becoming.” Parmenides is considered “the philosopher of Being.” He was the first to add unchangeability to eternity as an attribute of universal being. He added the condition of qualitative constancy to that of quantitative constancy. Parmenides does not call “being” God, but his signs of being were used by later theologians to define God’s attributes. His influence has been enormous. The idea of God’s timelessness is a foundational idea that has affected much of Christian theology.

[6] Ibid., Pg. 7

[7] Ibid., Pg. 7

[8] Charlesworth, Max. “Philosophy and Religion from Plato to Postmodernism.” Excerpt. “It remains true, however, that for Aristotle religion is primarily a matter of vision and contemplation of God without there being any expectation of reciprocal interest or concern from God. For Aristotle, we contemplate God, but we do not love God or enjoy God’s love in return. Read this book on Scribd: https://www.scribd.com/book/248822439

[9] Gulley, Norman R. Systematic Theology: Prolegomena.

[10] Fernando, Canale. L. “Basic Elements of Christian Theology.” Pg. 44

[11] Gulley, Norman R. “Systematic Theology: God as Trinity.” Excerpt: “Those who accept a timeless God accept a Platonic view of God, which cannot do justice to history, for a God in history experiences sequential moments, rather than being bound by simultaneity. Jesus lived in time on planet earth, and after His mission was completed, He went to heaven to enter a heavenly ministry in which He acts in time in the heavenly sanctuary just as He acted in time while in His pre-incarnate state when dwelling in the earthly sanctuary and temples. Historicism in prophetic interpretation is compatible with Jesus Christ who acts in history on earth and in heaven. The plan of salvation unfolds in history on earth and in heaven. This is not compatible with Platonic philosophy. Ronald Williamson argues that Hebrews is different from Platonic-Philonic writings, because the temporal historical sequence of movement in Hebrews in absent and opposite to the eternal/timeless reality in Plato and Philo, an observation also made by Richard Davidson in his doctoral dissertation. William G. Johnsson demonstrates that “the concepts expressed in the Epistle are contrary to those entertained by Philo.” Theologians do not need to import a system into Scripture, for God provides the sanctuary within Scripture as a biblical system for theology. Pg. 442-443.

[12] Gonzalez, Justo. L. “The Story of Christianity”. Vol. 1. Pg. 94. Excerpt: However, once these points [about The Father, the Son and the Holy Spirit] have been affirmed. Origen feels free to rise in great speculative flights. For instance, since the tradition of the apostles and of the church gives not details as to how the world was created, Origen believes that this a fair field of inquiry. In the first chapters of Genesis there are two stories of creation, as Jewish scholars had noted even before the time of Origen. In one of these stories, we are told humankind was created after the image and likeness of God, and that “male and female He created them.” In the second, we are told that God made Adam first then the animals, and then formed the woman out of Adam’s rib. In the Greek, version of the first narrative, the verb describing God’s action is “to create,” whereas in the second it is “to form” or “to shape”. What is the meaning of these differences? Modern scholars would speak of joining of separate traditions. But Origen simply declares that there are two narratives because there were in fact two creations. According to Origen, the first creation was purely spiritual. What God first created were spirits without bodies. This is why the text says “male and female” – that is, without sexual differences. This is also why we are told that God “created,” and not that God “formed.” God’s purpose was that the spirits thus created would be devoted to the contemplation of the divine. But some of them strayed from that contemplation and fell. It was then that God made the second creation. This second creation is material, and it serves as a shelter or temporary home for fallen spirits. Those spirits who fell farthest have become demons, while the rest are human souls. It was for these human souls- fallen preexistent spirits- that God made the bodies we now have, which God “shaped” out of the earth, making some male and some female. This implies that all human souls existed as pure spirits – or “intellects,” as Origen calls them – before being born into the world, and that the reason why we are here is that we have sinned in that prior, purely spiritual existence. Although Origen claims that all this is based on the Bible, it is clear that it is derived from the Platonic tradition, where similar ideas had been taught for a long time.

[13] Thomas Aquinas. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Aquinas

[14] McGrath, Alistair, “Christianity’s Dangerous Idea.” Pg. 40 Direct Quote.

[15] White. Ellen, G. “The Great Controversy” (Mountain View, CA: Pacific Press Publishing Association, 1888.1911), 125, 126.

 

[16] McGrath, Alistair. “Reformation Thought.” Pg. 192. Excerpt: Grace is a gift, not a reward. This insight is fundamental to Augustine of Hippo’s understanding of how salvation is secured. If grace were a reward, humans could pursue their salvation through good works. They could “earn” their redemption. Yet this, for Augustine, would be totally contrary to the New Testament proclamation of the doctrine of grace. Grace, according to Augustine, is nothing more and nothing less than a gift, reflecting the liberality of the one who gives. If grace were given in response to a human action or ability, it would be a reward, not a gift. But God is not obliged to give the gift of grace to all people. Grace is only given to some. Augustine’s defense of “the graciousness of God” partly rests on his belief that God must be free to give or withhold grace. If this insight is linked with the Augustine’s doctrine of sin, its full implications become clear. All humanity is contaminated with sin, and unable to break free from its grasp (total depravity). Only grace can set humanity free. Yet grace is not bestowed universally; it is only granted to some individuals. As a result, only some will be saved – those to whom grace is given. Predestination, for Augustine, involves the recognition that God withholds the means of salvation from those who are not elected. “This is predestination of the saints, and nothing else: the foreknowledge and preparation of the benefits of God, whereby whoever are set free are most certainly set free.” Augustine emphasized that this did not mean that some were predestined to damnation. It meant that God had selected some from the mass of fallen humanity for salvation. The remainder were not, according to Augustine, actively condemned to damnation; they were merely not elected to salvation. Augustine tends (although he is not entirely consistent in this respect) to treat predestination as something that active and positive. It is a deliberate decision to redeem on God’s part. This can be described as the doctrine of “single predestination” in that God makes one electing decision – to redeem certain people. However, as his critics pointed out, this decision to redeem some was equally a decision not to redeem others. This concept would resurface later in Calvinism. In the Middle Ages, predestination proved a controversial matter. The via modern tended to interpret the idea as “foreknowledge.” During the fourteenth century, however, the school Augustiniana reasserted a doctrine of “double predestination.” God was totally in control, and actively saved some and condemned others.

The Reformation debates over predestination take place against this background. Luther affirmed Augustine’s emphasis on the “gratuity of grace”; however he interpreted this primarily in terms of his doctrine of justification by faith. God gives justifying righteousness to people without the need for any merit on their part. Calvin, however, used the doctrine of predestination to affirm the graciousness of salvation, and developed a doctrine of “double predestination” similar to that of the “modern Augustinian school.” It is possible that Calvin knew this approach to predestination, whether directly or indirectly. For more analysis on Luther’s soteriological views in light of predestination, please see Dr. Peckham’s paper cited below.

[17] Graf, Roy, “The Principle of Articulation in Adventist Theology.” Dissertation. AIAS. 2017. Note This dissertation is currently undergoing the process of being published and will be available to the public shortly. After undergoing editing for publication, it is possible that the cited quotes and pagination may be slightly different than is cited/quoted in this article, but essentially the concepts will be the same. Pg 116.. Excerpt: Luther’s interpretation of the ontological and epistemological presuppositions is not explicit. However, Luther, as a former Augustinian monk was highly acquainted with Augustine’s works that were a main influence in his theology. Citing Albrecht Beutel, “Luther’s Life”… “In general, Luther had a negative attitude toward scholastic theology and Aristotle, but a much more positive attitude Augustine.” In consonance, Luther distinguishes between temporal and timeless reality. The first one is a God’s creations. The second one is God’s realm. Luther assumes God’s timelessness, immutability, simplicity, and spacelessness. He believes that God does not experience time. Consequently, God does not know the temporal events in a successive way but in a simultaneous way. This understanding of God’s knowledge is in line with Aquinas’ idea that ‘which he created does not affect him.’ God’s timelessness and immutability involves His will. God is not literally sitting on a throne in a temple in heaven as biblical prophets frequently describe. In consequence, God is a hidden reality accessible only through faith. Luther also believed that reality is divided in a timeless realm and in a temporal one.

[18] Ibid. Pg. 123-125 quoted and paraphrased in part.

[19] Hasel, Frank, M. Christ-Centered Hermeneutics: Prospects and Challenges for Adventist Biblical Interpretation. Source:https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2012/12/christ-centered-hermeneutics

[20] Peckham, John. “An Investigation of Luther’s View of the Bondage of the Will with Implications for Soteriology and Theodicy. Pgs. 24, 28. Source: http://www.atsjats.org/publication/view/353

[21] McGrath, Alistair, “Christianity’s Dangerous Idea.” Pg. 8. Note: McGrath puts the reasons behind the reformation as a social-economic-nationalist movement. In this telling of history, Luther plays a prominent role but is relegated to the background as “humanism’s” ideas see princes, and emperors as well the common folk rise to new possibilities that the Reformation’s ideas espoused. I think the Great Controversy’s emphasis on Scripture as being the starting point for the Reformation is more accurate. It is still interesting to see the socio-economic and political movements that played a role in accelerating the reformation in this book.

[22] Graf, Roy, “The Principle of Articulation in Adventist Theology.” Dissertation. AIAS. 2017. Pg 65.

[23] It is important to note that science overthrew Aristotle’s view of the reality and world not that of the Scriptures.

[24] Deconstruction. Direct Quote: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deconstruction

[25] For a good discussion of the post-foundational movement see Stanley J. Grenz and John R. Franke’s book Beyond Foundationalism: Shaping theology in a postmodern context and of the poststructuralist movement in the essay, Death of the Author (1967) by Roland Barthes sourced here: http://www.tbook.constantvzw.org/wp-content/death_authorbarthes.pdf A discussion on Barthes’ work Death of the Author in the context of Christian hermeneutics can be found here: http://www.dartmouthapologia.org/apologia/in-search-truth-in-text-post-structuralism-and-christianity/ “In 1967, Roland Barthes published his signature post-structuralist piece, The Death of the Author. In this essay, Barthes claims text does not have a “single ‘theological’ meaning.” He argues that literature has wrongly elevated the role of the author to a deity, the “Author-God,” because for many critics, “the explanation of a work is always sought in the man or woman who produced it.” Instead, Barthes believes multiple meanings exist inside a text and to focus on finding the author’s intention incorrectly constrains a text to only one meaning – the author’s. He develops his argument further to claim: “In the multiplicity of writing, everything is to be disentangled, nothing deciphered,” for Barthes believes the reader’s role is to discover the text’s multiple meanings. All of this ends with a staggering claim on the effects of his philosophy: “To refuse to fix meaning is, in the end, to refuse God and his hypostases – reason, science, law.”

[26] Five Streams of the Emergent Church. Christianity Today 2007. Accessed here: http://www.christianitytoday.com/ct/2007/february/11.35.html

[27] For an excellent overview of theologian Karl Barth’s contributions to Vatican II read the book “Reforming Rome: Karl Barth and Vatican II by Donald Norwood.

[28] Catholic Church and Ecumenism. “The Catholic Church has been irrevocably committed to the modern ecumenical movement since the Second Vatican Council (1962-1965), but has always held the unity of the Church as one of its necessary characteristics.” Source: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_and_ecumenism

[29] Palmer, Tony. “The Protest is Over…No more Protestant Church. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=fxup_QnfSHg

[30] Copeland, Kenneth. “Copeland Announcing that the Protestant Reformation is Over” Source: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4TCxH36ovC0

[31] Graf, Roy. The Principle of Articulation in Adventist Theology. Pg. 19 Our study of Adventist history will focus on the macro level of hermeneutical level of interpretation. Graf cites Dr. Canale’s “Macro-hermeneutical level” in his analysis to develop the articulating principle of Adventist theologians.

There are three levels of hermeneutical interpretation “micro” (at the level of the textual or exegetical interpretation), and “meso” (at the level of doctrine-theological interpretation) and “macro” (the presuppositions of the mind). Macro hermeneutical presuppositions are the ‘most basic presuppositions the mind needs to be able to function and to get acquainted with reality as such.’ Human reason operates on presuppositions (assumptions) and these condition the views that we bring to the Bible or anything we want to consider. Over the course of our gathering of information and comparing it to what we already know from prior experiences or learning or interaction with the object we are studying, these presuppositions ‘unify’ to form a ‘coherent’ ‘system’ of understanding or a framework on which reason rests. This ‘systematic framework’ or presupposition framework is called this ‘Articulating Principle’.

[32] Note: Post-Disappointment Millerites developed into at least three distinct groups according to Dr. Dennis Fortin. Here is an excerpt of his paper on the subject. Evangelicalism was first of all a religious temperament. Using Doan’s paradigm to analyze the nineteenth-century statements of beliefs of Advent Christians, Evangelical Adventists, and Seventh-day Adventists, one can conclude that Adventism was truly part of evangelicalism. Whether it be in its Arminian soteriology and Pietist lifestyle, biblical message, emphasis on mission, and premillennial eschatology, Adventism reflected the broad evangelical religious perspectives. Our study also demonstrates that these three Adventist denominations had common evangelical religious roots and temperament.

The theological comparison of Adventist statements of beliefs with the Basis of the Evangelical Alliance shows theological similarities and differences between Adventists and evangelicals. Evangelical Adventists were clearly in the same theological tradition as other evangelicals; the theological similarities between the two statements are evident. For their part, Advent Christians and Seventh-day Adventists shared basic evangelical theological roots and, at the same time, showed important theological differences with evangelicalism. Each had a different understanding of anthropology. Seventh-day Adventists were the most theologically removed from evangelicalism in emphasizing their doctrine of the sanctuary as the center of their theological articulation.

Source: http://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=2384&context=auss

[33] Adventist Doctrinal & Organizational Development. For a lay-oriented discussion on 1884 and its aftermath which led to the founding of the Seventh-day Adventist Church please read Magnificent Disappointment: What really happened in 1844 by C. Mervyn Maxwell available for purchase on Amazon and online here to Scribd subscribers: https://www.scribd.com/document/310349801/Magnificent-Disappointment-What-Really-Happened-in-1844-and-its-Meaning-for-Today-C-Mervyn-Maxwell-pdf

For a comprehensive discussion on the development of the Three Angels’ Messages and the Doctrinal Development of the Seventh-day Adventist Church please read P. Gerard Damsteegt’s book Foundation of the Seventh-day Adventist Message and Mission. Available for purchase here: http://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/adventist-studies-books/8/. For an advanced discussion on the Organization of the Seventh-day Adventist Church and the Influence of James White please read Andrew G. Mustard’s dissertation on James White and the Development of Seventh-day Adventist Organization, 1844-1881.

[34] Canale, Fernando. From Vision to System: Finishing the Task of Adventist Theology Part 1: Historical Review. Page 8. He is quoting EGW from the book Great Controversy pg. 204.

[35] Ibid. Pg. 8

[36] Ibid. Pg. 8

[37] Fortin, Denis. “Nineteenth-Century Evangelicalism and Early Adventist Statements of Beliefs.” Andrews University Seminary Studies (AUSS) 36.1 (1998): Available at: http://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/auss/vol36/iss1/4

[38] Ibid. Pg. 8-10.

[39] Ibid. Pg. 11. He quotes Alberto R. Timm, Dissertation: “The Sanctuary and the Three Angels’ Messages 1844-1863: Integrating Factors in the Development of Seventh-day Adventist Doctrines.”

[40] Canale, Fernando. From Vision to System: Finishing the Task of Adventist Theology Part 1: Historical Review. Pg. 11 “The fact that Ellen White reported one of the pillars, the doctrine of the Sanctuary, as opening to view, “a complete system of truth connected and harmonious” suggests the pillars functioned as hermeneutical principles guiding the interpretation of Scripture and the understanding of its doctrines. Arguably, the sanctuary doctrine is the most comprehensive doctrine or motif in Scripture and therefore plays a decisive role in guiding biblical interpretation and the construction of Adventist theology.”

[41] Ibid. Pg. 11

[42] Cited here from Canale’s Vision to System Part I: Historical Review Pg. 12

In his dissertation, Timm concludes that “appraisal of the interrelationship between such foundational themes as (1) God, (2) the cosmic controversy, (3) the covenant, (4) the sanctuary, (5) the three angels’ messages, and (6) the remnant shows that the subjects of the sanctuary and the three angels’ messages were not regarded as ends in themselves. These subjects were perceived as connectedly dependent on the transcendent realities of God, the cosmic controversy, and the covenant, with the missiological purpose of preparing a remnant people to live with God throughout eternity. (474)

[43] Note: The events leading up the 1888 as well as other famous disputes in the church are multi-layered with significance. No single article can describe everything but we can look at a few factors. 1) The personal dynamics between A.T. Jones and Uriah Smith over the prophetic interpretations where Jones called out Smith’s presuppositions on Scottish Commonsense Philosophy, is well covered by Gary Land in his biography of Uriah Smith Pg. 168-186. 2) The problem of the “Daily” referred to Uriah Smith’s interpretation of Daniel 8. 3) Smith, and later Haskell seemed to remember a vision that Mrs. White had in 1856 confirming his view on the ceremonial law in Galatians however Mrs. White couldn’t find that testimony and she argued that Waggoner’s views should be judged anew on their own merits. To Haskell, and Uriah Smith, this was suspicious as it represented to them a ‘reversal’ of E.G. White’s vision from God on the matter. To Ellen White, their treatment of Jones and Waggoner was the bigger issue at the moment rather than the theological problems, if any. Mrs. White would go on to publish the Great Controversy book in 1888, in which she would affirm Christ’s work in two places: the cross and the sanctuary in heaven. She would also go on to discuss the delay and assert that Christ could have returned shortly after 1844 had everyone held on to their faith and moved together. Haskell would have problems with Prescott over the Daily issue and request Mrs. White republish the Book Early Writings to ‘confirm’ his position. She denied that request. Haskell, then went to the Southern Publishing Association and requested that they publish it. They also denied him. Finally, he found a private source who would publish the book. His motivation was to protect the Spirit of Prophecy from attacks. Unfortunately, this ugly saga cast suspicion on Prescott for the rest of his career. Regardless, we must take some lessons from this period, the greatest of these should be the example of Mrs. White’s Christ-like dealing with all parties involved. She was consistent with Scripture and yet found a way to be kind in her corrective testimonies and personal counsel. If she could do that with the backdrop of the Sunday law being considered by the US Senate, we surely can resolve our differences through prayer, dialogue, and in-depth study of Scripture.

[44] White. Ellen, G. “The 1888 Materials”. https://text.egwwritings.org/publicationtoc.php?bookCode=1888

[45] Graf, Roy. Principle of Articulation in Adventist Theology. Pg. 180.

[46] Ibid. Pg. 181. In italics, Graf is quoting Waggoner’s views. Ellet J. Waggoner, Bible Study: Letter to the Romans – No. 1, General Conference Daily Bulletin, March 8, 1891, 33. Emphasis Graf. Graf adds this analysis in his footnote: “The time would demonstrate that this change would have an enormous potential to [sic] reorientate Adventist theology. Waggoner’s germinal change was accompanied by a subtle change in the understanding of God’s ontology. As early as 1891, he explained that God’s eternity is an eternal now or timeless present. “What is eternity? – It is something that has neither beginning nor ending… Past, present, and future are present with God. He lives an ETERNAL NOW.” Ellet J. Waggoner, Bible Study: Letter to the Romans – No. 1, General Conference Daily Bulletin, March 8, 1891, 203. Capital letters in original. Apparently, Waggoner also held that God’s knowledge was unchangeable. “God has not changed a hair’s breadth from the plan which He knew before the world began.” Ibid. 202

[47] Graf, Roy. Principle of Articulation in Adventist Theology. Pg. 180.

 

[For Ellen supporting Jones and Waggoner he cites Ellen White’s letter to Ole A. Olsen, May 1, 1895, in E.G. White Manuscript Releases, 14:114-135. See especially pp. 128-129.

 

For differences between Ellen White and Jones and Waggoner, see Knight, Guide to the 1888 Message, 73-76.]

 

For her attitude in regard to the differences of opinion please see her comment “I have no reason to think that he is not as much esteemed of God as are any of my brethren, and I shall regard him as a Christian brother, so long as there is no evidence that he is unworthy.” E. G. White, Testimonies to Ministers (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1944), p. 374.” Sourced Here: https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1988/02/must-we-agree

 

[48] Pederson, Gunnar. “The Soteriology of Ellen G. White compared with the Lutheran formula of Concord: A Study of the Adventist Doctrine of the Final Judgment of the Saints and their Justification before God.” Dissertation. His in-depth study concluded that Ellen White’s soteriology transcends Lutheran Soteriology because of her eschatological dimension and because Luther lacked a temporal view of God. Accessed here: http://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1125&context=dissertations

[49] White, Ellen. G. “I have no reason to think that he is not as much esteemed of God as are any of my brethren, and I shall regard him as a Christian brother, so long as there is no evidence that he is unworthy.” E. G. White, Testimonies to Ministers (Mountain View, Calif.: Pacific Press Pub. Assn., 1944), p. 374.” Quote Sourced Here: https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/1988/02/must-we-agree

[50] Valentine, Gilbert. M. “W.W. Prescott: Forgotten Giant of Adventism’s Second Generation”. Pg. 169. Review & Herald Publishing Association. Excerpt: Kellogg never succeeded in converting Prescott to vegetarianism. It was Dr. Daniel Kress who did that in England in 1899. Kress, who at the time tended to be an extremist himself on ‘health reform,’ convinced both Waggoner and Prescott to stop eating meat completely. The two became eager disciples and for a time were even more conscientious than Kress himself. As Kellogg later reported it, “in straightening up, they bent over backwards” and in their “enthusiasm” caused problems for their English coverts. They “taught the people stricter doctrines than they were prepared to receive.”

[51] Ibid. 76

[52] Ibid. 169

[53] Canale, Fernando. From Vision to System: Finishing the Task of Adventist Theology Part 1: Historical Review. Pg. 12

According to Froom, E.J. Waggoner was convinced that the supreme truth of redemption ‘was in no sense a diverting from the great structural framework of ‘present Truth,’ as some had unfairly asserted. Instead, it invested the Message with greater power, strength, and attractiveness. Most Adventists, Canale concludes have shared this view over the years.

[54] W.W. Prescott, “The Doctrine of Christ: A Series of Bible Studies for Use in Colleges and Seminaries.” Takoma Park: Review and Herald, 1920, 37.

[55] Canale, Fernando. From Vision to System: Finishing the Task of Adventist Theology Part 1: Historical Review. Pg. 13

[56]White, Arthur. “‘The Prescott suggestions which would have resulted in sweeping changes in the book were, after careful consideration, rejected outright.” See Arthur White’s Paper here: http://www.whiteestate.org/issues/GC-Prescott.html . Here Aurthur White and Dr. Valentine diverge in their analysis of the Great Controversy revision process. White takes a hardline view of Prescott while, Valentine asserts a softer view arguing that Prescott had collaborated with Mrs. White on several occasions (such as her articles on Ezra) and other revisions of Adventist works to make them more historically accurate and therefore his revision suggestions were not out of the ordinary, or treated as hostile. Valentine does note however, that W.C. White, didn’t share with Mrs. White the source of the revisions and that she heard from ‘rumors’ that Daniells and Prescott were behind the revisions [Pg. 260]. The scope of this issue exceeds that of this series, but it is possible to say accurately, that Prescotts “new” views on the ‘daily’ and his views on the “Trinity” caused some consternation among the “old view” adherents on the daily and among those such as Uriah Smith who were semi-arian in their views regarding Christ. Prescott was correct in his views on the Trinity and of Jesus’ place as co-eternal among the other two in the Godhead. His views on the “daily” and others’ placing it a level of heightened importance of it as an issue were downgraded by Mrs. White. I therefore, do not take a view on either side of the ‘daily’ in this article. As for the edits, we can confidently say, that his edits were 50% accepted and 50% rejected. The actually suggested edits and their reasons for rejection are given in the link above in this reference.

For an advanced discussion on the 1919 Bible Conference and on the topic of SOP Revelation-Inspiration, please see Mathew Campbell’s dissertation on the 1919 Bible Conference, “The 1919 Bible Conference and its significance for Adventist History and its Theology.” Sourced here: http://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/dissertations/21/

[57] Campbell, Michael W., “The 1919 Bible Conference and its Significance for Seventh-day Adventist History and Theology” (2008). Dissertations. 21.
http://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/dissertations/21

[58] Valentine, Gilbert. M. “W.W. Prescott: Forgotten Giant of Adventism’s Second Generation”. Pg. 279. Review & Herald Publishing Association. For more on Prescott’s Christo-centric emphasis please see pages 82, 86, 113, 115 “Ellen White too was ecstatic over Prescott’s sermons and the quality of the people attracted by his exaltation of Jesus. They represented the very best class of society…Testimonies went out encouraging others to follow the professor’s example. Clearly Ellen White [Valentine’s analysis here] applauded his refocusing of the denomination on Jesus in this fresh new way. It took a long time, however before others caught the same vision,” Pages 169, 182 [Here Valentine refutes the pantheism charge against Prescott], Page 185 “Prescott’s own preaching would typically emphasize the indwelling Christ. In the same sermon, however, he would distinguish between this and God as an essence pervading all nature. Often he would cite Ellen White to support the distinction he was making. If God dwells in all human beings, then “man has only to develop that which lies within him” to attain holiness. “These theories do away with the necessity of the atonement.” [Valentine’ Analysis here] Adventist preaching and teaching, he argued, should be thoroughly Christocentric. The theme became Prescott’s lifelong consuming passion. Page 216, “For Haskell, the statement [Ellen White on the Daily 1850] was clear-cut. Further discussion was quite illegitimate. Ellen White had spoken, and that settled it. The actual interpretation itself and the arguments for and against it were not that critical, Haskell explained. “Personally, it don’t amount to a hill of beans to me.” What did matter, though, was the authority of Ellen White. To adopt any interpretation other than that which she had indicated was to undermine her authority. Haskell saw no way around it. Prescott on the other hand, understood the term daily to refer not to paganism but to Christ’s mediatorial ministry. It was an expression drawn from the tabernacle services that clearly pointed to Christ. Through its doctrine of the Mass and its corollary emphasis on the mediation through human priesthood, the Roman Catholic Church had obscured or ‘taken away’ the mediatorial role of Christ. Such a “new view,” according to him harmonized better with the biblical context and with the facts of history. More important than that, however, it made the interpretation of the whole prophecy of Daniel 8 thoroughly Christocentric. It focused on the gospel rather than on dates, forgotten nations, and questionable events in the past. Daniells concurred with the professor. Page 233 on his correspondence with W.C. White on the daily issue. Pages 235, 258 cover his education at Dartmouth and just how broadly he read whether or not this affected his thinking regarding some of the edits or not, Valentine does not say. Arthur White holds that Mrs. White rejected the edits because it was a ‘wholescale revision’ of what we believed. According to the 1919 Transcripts, A.G. Daniells’ confirmed that Mrs. White told him God told her that 1844 and the 2300 days were correct. She was sure of that.

[59] Canale, Fernando, “From Vision to System Part I: Historical Review” Pg. 14

[60] London, Ingram. “A Biblical Critique of Fernando Canale’s Notion of the ‘Sanctuary as a Principle of Articulation.’ Excerpts: ‘It should be noted however that in both arenas, philosophical and theological, that Christ is the true philosophical and theological principle of articulation, but as will be shown later, the Sanctuary is the mechanism or tool that the historical and real Christ uses to articulate reality and theological truth to and through himself.’ Nevertheless, the absence of this component (a sanctuary) in the future, that has played such a critical role as a component in salvation history in the future does not negate the reality of its function now as attested by Hebrews. The heavenly sanctuary functions as the environment in which Christ performs his work as High Priest. Once this phase of his ministry is over, perhaps the Sanctuary will simply become a relic with direct access to God being granted through Jesus Christ. (49)

This study has shown that from a biblical perspective, the sanctuary is a viable and likely candidate to be a principle of articulation philosophically as well as theologically. Canale is correct in his basic identification of the sanctuary as a principle of articulation. However, the role of the sanctuary can be more easily grasped if understood as operating within at least two wholes. Within these wholes the principle of articulation functions in the arena of doctrinal articulation and philosophical articulation. The sanctuary provides a framework for the organization and presentation of the major Biblical doctrines given its eschatological-teleological components. Additionally, the sanctuary as a reality can also serve as a philosophical articulating principle since it implies the compatibility of the nature of God and humanity and the actual interaction between God and humanity. However, to this author’s knowledge, it the sanctuary as principle of articulation has only been alluded to with philosophical approaches and via historical surveys of Adventism. That being the case, with this study it has been shown that Canale’s assertions can stand under the scrutiny of the Biblical data, and are the better for it. It has also been shown that the same assertions can be demonstrated and supported by conceptual or thematic studies along with traditional exegetical word studies. Finally the notion of principle of articulation has been defined as an interconnecting idea, person, or object for a system of thought or reality as a whole. Ultimately and teleologically, Christ is and ever will be the principle of articulation. But for the time being the sanctuary is a valid articulating principle apparently chosen by God in which Christ articulates reality to and through himself. (57)

[61] Campbell, W. Mathew. “A High and Sacred Calling: A look at the origins of Seventh-day Adventist Ministerial Training. https://www.ministrymagazine.org/archive/2007/04/a-high-and-sacred-calling.html

[62] Canale, Fernando, “From Vision to System Part I: Historical Review” Pg. 15

[63] Evans, Paul, M. “A Historical-Contextual Analysis of The Final Generation Theology of M.L. Andreasen.” Excerpt from his conclusions: This study found all of the basic components of Andreasen’s final-generation theology expressed by previous Adventist writers. In regard to complete overcoming of sin on the part of believers anticipating translation, a rather consistent correspondence was observed over the period investigated. Less agreement was seen regarding the relationship between an end-time blotting out of sins and an end-time maturation of the saints, with A. T. Jones and Andreasen seeing a clear connection, while Ellen White, significantly, refrained from explicitly joining these two end-time phenomena. When attention was turned to the relationship between the end-time overcoming of the saints and the vindication of God in His controversy with evil, much less correspondence was observed. While antecedents for this part of Andreasen’s theology seem implied in several passages from Ellen White, they become quite explicit in the writings of E. J. Waggoner. In the post-1888 years, Waggoner’s view of an end-time vindication of God based on the overcoming of His people, seems to have been spreading, as witnessed in the writings of W. W. Prescott, I. H. Evans, and Uriah Smith. The study concludes that while Andreasen did not invent the concepts on which his final-generation theology is based, he did craft them into an end-time scenario by which he links the end-time saints to the [successful] outcome of the cosmic controversy much more emphatically than does any previous Adventist writer.

[64] Douglass, Herbert C. The QOD Earthquake – Attempted Merger of Two Tectonic Theological Plates. Questions on Doctrine 50th Anniversary. He takes the view the Calvinist Armenian divide made it impossible for Adventists and Reformed Evangelicals to have a conversation on Soteriology. Further missteps by the Adventist QOD committee members in their presentation of Adventist beliefs led to a collision with M.L. Andreasen. He states that some of the work done by the QOD team was deceptive in nature at its worst. Sourced here: http://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1000&context=qod

[65] Not to be confused with ‘Evangelical Adventists’ who were a group that split from Millerism. They adopted a stance on revelation-inspiration that was closer to that of the broader evangelical movement. Seventh-day Adventists, noted by Dr. Fortin above, developed their theology with the Sanctuary as the articulating principle.

[66] Froom, Le Roy. Prophetic Faith of our Fathers

Volume 1. http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Books/PFOF1950-V01.pdf

Volume 2. http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Books/PFOF1948-V02.pdf

Volume 3. http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Books/PFOF1946-V03.pdf

Volume 4. http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Books/PFOF1954-V04.pdf

[67] Froom, Le Roy. Conditionalist Faith of our Fathers.

Volume 1: http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Books/CFOOF1966-V01.pdf

Volume 2: http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Books/CFOOF1965-V02.pdf

[68] Froom, Le Roy. Movement of Destiny. http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Books/MOD1971.pdf

[69] Canale, Fernando. From Vision to System: Finishing the Task of Adventist Theology Part 1: Historical Review. Pg. 16

[70] A good discussion on 3 soteriological perspectives is Dr. Roy Adam’s Dissertation. This investigation studies the Adventist theology of the sanctuary as it found expression in the writings of Uriah Smith (1832-1903), Albion Fox Ballenger (1861-1921), and Milian Lauritz Andreasen (1876-1962). Sourced here: http://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/dissertations/4/

 

[71] Note: Adventists are “physicalists” while evangelicals are mostly ‘platonic-dualists’ when it comes to the nature of man. This is an irreconcilable difference and proved to be a minefield for those involved in the conversations and publication of the QOD book. A good discussion on the topic of ‘Original Sin’ is Dr. Edwin Zackrison’s dissertation found and cited here:

 

Zackrison, Edwin Harry, “Seventh-day Adventists and Original Sin: a Study of the Early Development of the Seventh-day Adventist Understanding of the Effect of Adam’s Sin on His Posterity” (1984). Dissertations. 170. http://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/dissertations/170

 

[72] Desmond Ford Wikipedia Entry. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Desmond_Ford

[73] Ford, Desmond. “Seventh-day Adventism: At the Crossroads” Source: https://youtu.be/RnO8BfYqbbg?t=22m48s

[74] Canale, Fernando. From Vision to System: Finishing the Task of Adventist Theology Part 1: Historical Review. Pg. 18

[75] Glacier View Transcripts. https://archive.org/details/SanctuaryDebatespectrum1980

[76] Reid. George, W. ABC’s of Dr. Desmond Ford’s Theology. https://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/sites/default/files/pdf/desmondfordtheology_0.pdf

[77] DARCOM. Volume One: https://www.adventistbiblicalresearch.org/sites/default/files/pdf/selected_studies_on_prophetic%5B1%5D.pdf

[78] Glacier View Transcripts. https://archive.org/details/SanctuaryDebatespectrum1980

[79] General Conference Archives. “1919 Bible Conference Transcripts” http://documents.adventistarchives.org/Resources/Forms/AllItems.aspx?RootFolder=%2fResources%2f1919BC&FolderCTID=0x01200095DE8DF0FA49904B9D652113284DE0C8000B5857BEC3C5DB4F96C32A1C24765988

[80] Campbell, Mathew. “The 1919 Bible Conference” Dissertation. http://digitalcommons.andrews.edu/cgi/viewcontent.cgi?article=1020&context=dissertations

[Please Note that in this article, I use the term ‘Historical Adventism’ while Campbell used the term “Fundamentalists” to describe the Fundamentalist movement in the United States, “Traditionalists and Conservatives” to describe what I call “Historical Adventists” in this article and “Progressives” to describe what I call “Evangelical Adventists.”] His (2) Primary Conclusions and (7) Secondary Conclusions are significant for this article: The 1919 Bible Conference did not become a “historic” event until the transcripts of the meeting were discovered in 1974. Five years later some excerpts of the controversial discussions about Ellen White were published in Spectrum. Their publication in this form challenged traditional assumptions about Ellen White. Adventists discovered just how ambiguous church leaders had felt about her life and ministry, as well as the authority of her writings for the church, so soon after her death. There is no evidence to suggest that conferees who attended the actual Bible Conference viewed this meeting as an event with “historic” significance. Evidently, conferees in 1919 were largely unaware of just how significant their discussions about Ellen White would later become. Presumably for many of them, this meeting was just one of hundreds they attended in a lifetime of service to the denomination. Since the 1979 publication of the transcripts in Spectrum, however, Adventist history has been revised to include the 1919 Bible Conference as one of the most important events in the development of Adventist theology. The reason for this is the ongoing theological need to define Ellen White’s continuing relevance for the church. Thus, since 1979, the 1919 Bible Conference has been deemed significant largely because of the discussions about Ellen White. The primary conclusion of this dissertation is that the 1919 Bible Conference, taken as a whole, was less significant for Ellen White studies than has been generally thought since 1979. First, the conference as a whole was not about Ellen White, but about eschatology. In its historical context, the 1919 Bible Conference is clearly seen to have been largely driven by Adventist eschatology. Repeated appeals for unity were directed specifically toward the united front the denomination needed with regard to end-time events. In the just-concluded World War I, Adventists had been disappointed when Turkey did not fulfil an apocalyptic role as the “King of the North” and usher in the final chain of events, as most Adventist expositors had predicted. Almost every other topic discussed at the Conference, including the significance of Ellen White’s writings, was considered in the context of Adventist eschatology. Second, the portions of the transcripts published in Spectrum represent only the last two of four Conference discussions on the life and ministry of Ellen White. Third, the controversial discussions about Ellen White did not take place during the main part of the conference with all the conferees present, but were an after-thought, during extended meetings attended by less than a third of the conferees. The importance of the Conference discussions about the role and authority of Ellen White is that, in view of the failure of Adventist expectations regarding the eschatological role of modern Turkey, progressives were open to reexamining their previous interpretations of primary sources of authority, particularly Scripture and the writings of Ellen White. Conservatives were much more cautious, lest too much be conceded regarding prophecies which might yet be fulfilled. In short, the discussions provide a snapshot of changing Adventist thought during a time of crisis. By analyzing the historical context, the personal dynamics among the conferees, and the theological content of the 1919 Bible Conference, this dissertation illuminates other major aspects of this Conference, leading to seven secondary conclusions. These conclusions show that although the discussions about Ellen White certainly deserve the attention they have received, the reasons for their significance are more complex than previously realized.

Secondary Conclusions

First, the Conference brought together the most academically educated group of Adventist leaders to meet, up to this point, including the first academically trained Adventist historians. Several conferees had doctorates, other graduate-level training, and/or a working knowledge of biblical languages. Furthermore, an attempt was made to have controversial topics addressed by more than one presenter, from different perspectives. Second, the 1919 Bible Conference was a meeting designed as an educational conference. The largest single group at the Conference was that of educators interested in the pedagogical application of what they learned during the meetings. Unfortunately, the extended educational meetings were also the area about which the least is now known, because extant transcripts are lacking. During this portion of the Conference, W. E. Howell and W. W. Prescott set a lofty vision for an Adventist philosophy of education. In addition, E. F. Albertsworth and C. L. Benson shared their vision for the potential benefits of the understanding and use of historical method in Adventist education. A. G. Daniells, as leader of the 1919 Conference, shared his passion for ministerial education in the denomination. Third, the 1919 Bible Conference reveals the extensive influence of Fundamentalism upon Seventh- day Adventism. From 1910 to 1922 Adventists largely ignored the publication of The Fundamentals, but were enthusiastic supporters of the prophetic conferences. As they attended various prophetic conferences, Adventists discovered that they had more in common with Fundamentalists than previously realized. Adventists admired Fundamentalists for their evangelical emphases, especially their premillennial proclamation of the Second Advent, their antipathy toward evolution and Modernism, and their belief in the authority of the Bible. But while Adventist leaders recognized some theological differences regarding the Sabbath, human nature, and eschatology, few seemed to recognize that the Fundamentalists’ position, especially their stance on inspiration, was not the only alternative to Modernism. [Italics Mine] As Adventists attended the major prophetic conferences they were nothing short of enthusiastic about what Fundamentalists were doing. In published accounts church leaders described the Fundamentalist prophetic conferences as among the most significant events in the history of Christianity. The delay of the eschaton forced Adventists to confront new issues they had never faced before. The Adventists’ concern over the problem of delay was exacerbated by the Fundamentalists’ considerable success in drawing the attention of the American public to the Second Advent—success that Adventists wished they had been able to achieve. According to the vision set forth by Daniells on the opening night of the 1919 Bible Conference, Adventists were the true Fundamentalists who needed to harness this interest in the Second Coming for their own mission. The Fundamentalists were their friends who simply had not yet taken their views of the authority of Scripture far enough—that is, to Adventist conclusions. The clear implication is that the 1919 Bible Conference was intended to become an Adventist version of the Fundamentalist prophetic conferences. Although the 1919 Bible Conference was by invitation only, there is the distinct impression that as they achieved harmony, this first Conference might lead to more public meetings. Fourth, the 1919 Bible Conference was primarily a meeting about Adventist hermeneutics. All of the issues at the Conference revolved in some way around the interpretation of inspired writings. There were areas of consensus, some areas of disagreement, and a few of wide disagreement. The largest portion of the presentations at the 1919 Bible Conference centered upon the Bible and hermeneutics. All conferees agreed that there were principles involved in how to interpret inspired writings. The significance of hermeneutics became obvious when it led delegates to develop two divergent hermeneutical approaches. Fifth, the 1919 Bible Conference was a continuation of the theological polarization between so-called “progressives” and “traditionalists.” This debate was a continuation of the same dynamics that had begun in the famous 1888 General Conference Session. It was at this meeting that the young A. T. Jones and E. J. Waggoner challenged the established positions on prophetic interpretation of the venerable Uriah Smith and G. I. Butler. By the time of the 1919 Bible Conference “progressives” saw a course of development in Adventist eschatology and sought to reconcile beliefs to new research they had done. “Traditionalists” placed greater stock in generally accepted positions and questioned why change was necessary. The difference between them had implications for how they approached inspired writings. The “progressives” emphasized the historical and literary context for each statement; the “traditionalists” appealed to Adventist tradition and took a more literal approach to Scripture. Although the “progressives” appear to have dominated the Conference, their leaders suffered major reverses at the 1922 General Conference session and diminished influence in the decade afterward. In a way, both the “progressives” and “traditionalists” recognized that the world in which they lived had changed. By consistently praising the work of Fundamentalists, it seems quite possible that “progressive” church leaders such as A. G. Daniells and W. W. Prescott, whether or not they realized it, actually helped push the denomination toward Fundamentalism. Sixth, the discussions about Ellen White reveal a more nuanced picture of the denomination’s understanding of inspiration after Ellen White’s death than is available from any other contemporary source. At four pivotal points during the Conference, the discussions culminated in sensitive conversations about the inspiration and authority of Ellen G. White in the church. These discussions about Ellen G. White began in the context of whether it would be appropriate to posthumously revise her writings. “Progressives” and “traditionalists” also differed as to whether Ellen G. White’s writings were verbally inspired. The “progressives” said they knew from seeing her revise her own writings, that they could not be regarded as verbally inspired. The “traditionalists” argued against any distinction between the two groups of inspired writings—either they were both verbally inspired or they were not. The lack of clarity about inspiration and the leaning toward Fundamentalism created an Adventist version of Fundamentalism that still remains one of the major competing theological strands of Adventism. Seventh, the discovery and subsequent publication of excerpts about Ellen White from the 1919 Bible Conference transcripts caught many Adventist intellectuals by surprise and injected explosive new primary source material into the debate over Ellen White’s continuing legacy. By the 1990s, historians, apologists, dissidents, and revisionists began to incorporate the 1919 Bible Conference as a major historical event, although from very different perspectives.

[81] Canale, Fernando. From Vision to System: Finishing the Task of Adventist Theology Part 1: Historical Review. Pg. 37.

[82] We can consider each faction without prejudice i.e. questioning the status of their salvation.

[83] See the 1888 Message Study Committee and Ty Gibson’s article: “Adventism’s Massive Unrealized Potential” sourced here: http://www.adventistreview.org/massive-potential for some representatives of this school of thought.

[84] The method primarily followed by collecting quotes from Mrs. White’s writings on a certain subject and then analyzing her thoughts on the issue and then going to the Bible and constructing a theological view. The logic that guides this method is the revelation-inspiration views of Historical Adventism’s adherents. Even though they give the Bible prominence over Mrs. White’s writings in theory, in practice, they maintain that the same “Source” inspired both and thus they follow a specialized ‘Prima Scriptura’ method in which the Bible is one among other sources considered to be authoritative. Haskell used this quote-collection method to determine that Ellen White’s views on education did not include the ‘conferring of degrees’ and constructed an early precursor the philosophy of Adventist education that Historical Adventism follows. The positives of this method are that they give prominence to Mrs. White’s writings. [T]he downsides are that they do not realize that their [syntactic] organization of the quotes misses the context of the quotations and often is contradictory [because she was dealing with different subjects and circumstances] and their own syntactic organization is an argument in and of itself, independent of her writings. Ford’s trial featured ‘C. Haynes’ who somewhat unartfully said, “I read Ellen White and then I go to Scripture.” His view captures this method perfectly.

[85] For good representatives of this school of thought and continuing in M.L. Andreasen’s tradition please see Dennis Priebe http://www.dennispriebe.com/new/ and Eugene Prewitt http://www.bibledoc.org/

[86] See Russell R. Standish and Colin Standish’s books, ‘Deceptions of the New Theology,’ ‘Adventism Challenged: The Gathering Storm,’ ‘The Greatest of All Prophets’ Consequences of the New Theology in which the authors explain their concerns about the Church and their inerrant views on Scripture sourced here: https://www.andrews.edu/library/car/cardigital/Periodicals/Remnant_Herald/Number_134.pdf

[87] Canale, Fernando. From Vision to System: Finishing the Task of Adventist Theology Part 1: Historical Review. Pg. 34. Excerpt on Historical Adventism: This sector continued the widespread practice of doing theology from the writings of Ellen White that began soon after her death early in the twentieth-century. Those familiar with Ellen White’s writings could easily detect the large shifts Evangelical and Cultural Adventists were introducing into the Adventist community. Adventists who believed in Mrs. White’s prophetic role saw these shifts not as mere theological nuances, but as departures from the truth entrusted to the saints. They understood that Ford’s proposal was a rejection of the Sanctuary doctrine and the hermeneutical role on which Adventism stands. They did their best to counter the “new theology” infiltrating Adventist thinking.

Though their writings undoubtedly helped many Adventists understand the issues and keep the original theological perspective alive, their efforts were limited in two ways. From the administrative perspective, their “independent minis- tries” strategy of organization placed them at odds with the very community they wanted to support. From the theological perspective, their arguing from Ellen White’s writings put them at odds with the sola Scriptura principle they defend. In so doing, they created a methodological disconnect between them- selves and the “new theology” against which they are reacting. To put it briefly, Historical and Evangelical Adventists speak two different languages. The former speak from Ellen White’s theology and the latter speak from Scripture. By proceeding in this way, Historical Adventists maximize their influence among believers familiar with Ellen White’s writings, but greatly diminish their persuasiveness with Evangelical and Cultural Adventists.

By closely following Ellen White’s writings, Historical Adventism reaffirms the traditional teachings of Adventism. On the positive side, this approach keeps alive the hermeneutical vision that originated Adventism. On the negative side, Historical Adventism interprets the Sanctuary doctrine from the ontological “vision” of Christ’s sinful human nature, Christ incarnated in sinful human flesh, sharing the same tendencies to sin we have. This implies that real Christians must achieve absolute perfect sinlessness before the second coming of Christ. Sinless perfection becomes the final and decisive chapter in the Great Controversy before the coming of Christ. According to Adventist historian George Knight, most Adventists held these views until the 1957 publication of Questions on Doctrines.

[88] Dr. Richard Davidson in an interview with me on the Soteriological Trends in the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

[89] See the “Broken Blueprint” by Vance Ferrell for a good representative of this thinking regarding the shifts in Adventist Education from its inception to a university-based accredited system.

[90] Some take a softer stance than Canale suggests here for example, see Dennis Priebe: http://www.dennispriebe.com/new/node/2 Priebe holds to the concept of overcoming and is in agreement with M.L. Andreasen’s LGT model for the end and thus holds that the LGT will overcome sin. However, he carefully distinguishes between “Absolute” perfection that “God alone has” and that perfection can be experienced by those under the complete control of the Holy Spirit i.e. experience sanctification. Also see Zurcher in his book Perfection.

[91] See Canale’s excerpt above.

[92] See M. L. Andreasen’s book “Sanctuary Service.”

[93] Canale, Fernando. From Vision to System: Finishing the Task of Adventist Theology Part 1: Historical Review. Pg. 35

[94] Weimar College Website. “Accreditation” http://weimar.edu/institutional-effectiveness/accreditation/

[95] Hartland Institute Letter to Donors. http://www.adventistonline.com/forum/topics/an-open-letter-to-our-tithe-donors-from-hartland-institute Sourced here.

[96] This section quoted from Graf’s dissertation pg. 187-190, and several lines from 190-224. He names HMS Richards in this list but it is not clear from his dissertation whether he means Sr. or Jr. I would dispute that assertion for Sr. and possibly for Jr as well. He also mentions Ed Heppenstall in this group. I agree, but Canale classes Heppenstall in the biblical Adventist Group. I think it is possible that he features in both factions or is on the ‘fence’ in the classical sense of the phrase. Other representative theologians in this faction for Graf, include Christofel, Roy Adams, Marvin Moore among others.

Note: Some in evangelical Adventism take this quote to mean that Mrs. White endorsed the Protestant Reformer’s Gospel and ‘rebranded’ as it were the Three Angel’s Messages around this concept. A careful analysis of this quote in the entire context of Mrs. White’s soteriology revales that this quote does not yield to that conclusion. Elsewhere in the endnotes of this article, is a dissertation that highlights the differences between Luther’s soteriology (justification by faith) and Mrs. White’s soteriology, White’s soteriology had both a temporal and an eschatological dimension. Luther’s soteriology was more limited. Some New Perspective theologians such as N.T. Wright and others disagree with the Protestant reformation’s interpretation of Paul’s writings and argue that Paul was making the narrow case that obedience was not a requirement for salvation where the covenant practices such as the feasts and circumcision was concerned. Obedience does play a role in the life of the believer after justification by faith.

[98] Graf Excerpt: Ford’s ontological and epistemological [underlying] presuppositions are not [purposely] explicit in his writings. Ford, however implicitly understands a Platonic two world system where God exists in timelessness and creation exists in time. This allows him to make an explicit separation between spiritual or theological knowledge and scientific or historical knowledge. God does not intend to communicate in Scripture real factual scientific or historical information but a ‘spiritual one.’ Consequently, there is no need to harmonize science with a literal reading of Scripture. The interpreter understands the unchangeable truth of the Scripture through faith, not through science, because the latter is related to a changeable world. This separation between spiritual-theological knowledge and scientific knowledge allows Ford to interpret biblical texts that contradict common scientific ideas in a non-literal way. Ford quotes Lawrence T. Geraty who qualifies the “universal” flood story as a superhistorical event rather than a historical one. Ford admits that the text clearly refers to a real universal flood but still he does not consider this story as literal but as parabolic. Something similar occurs with the six-day story of Creation that Ford interprets in a parabolic or metaphorical non-literal sense. This story is essentially language adapted to the first readers. Both stories refer to spiritual truth that transcends time and space. Finally, Graf notes that the tendency to see heavenly realities where God dwells in non-literal terms, in contrast with the pioneers’ perspective about them, is a common interpretation in Adventist evangelical theology.

From a systematic theological perspective, Ford also considers that all the divisions of theology, theology proper, Christology, pneumatology, anthropology, soteriology, ecclesiology, and eschatology “has to do with Christ and His Work.” [This is] in harmony with evangelical Adventist emphasis on the centrality of the Gospel. Christ and His soteriological plan – as Ford interprets them – are the core of Ford’s theology, providing articulation to his theological system. In Ford’s words, ‘justification is the Gospel’s “chief metaphor,” and the “heart of the gospel.” Justification is an instantaneous decision once and forever. It is a punctual fact. Consequently, there is no real judicial temporal process with heavenly registers of human actions. The Gospel, therefore, is essentially justification, and justification (and judgement) is performed in essence in Christ’s atonement on the cross. Ford see Christ’s sacrifice on the cross as the final atonement. “Any doctrine that contradicts the gospel [namely, justification by faith] has to be a false doctrine. We must either revise our understanding of that doctrine so that in comes into harmony with the gospel, or we must reject it as error.” It is this view that led Ford to come to the belief that the investigative judgment was false and to challenge the Church on the Sanctuary doctrine.

[99] Ford, Desmond. “Genesis Versus Darwinism: The Case, 102. See also Pgs 76, 110, 111, 148.

[100] Bebbington Quadrilateral. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/David_W_Bebbington#Bebbington_quadrilateral

[101] Harris, Bryan. “Beyond Bebbington: The Quest for Evangelical Identity in a Postmodern Era”. http://archive.churchsociety.org/churchman/documents/Cman_122_3_Harris.pdf

[102] Canale, Fernando. From Vision to System: Finishing the Task of Adventist Theology Part 1: Historical Review. Pg. 19

[103] Please See Campbell’s Dissertation conclusions excerpt above in the endnotes.

[104] Ibid. 20. For an introduction into the plurality of theological sources in Protestant theology, see for instance, Donald A. D. Thorsen, The Wesleyan Quadrilateral: Scripture, Tradition, Reason & Experience as a Model of Evangelical Theology.

[105] For another view on Prima Scriptura see Nicholas Miller’s series on Compass Magazine. https://thecompassmagazine.com/blog/scriptural-authority and https://thecompassmagazine.com/blog/scriptural-authority-solo-versus-sola-scriptura-part-2

[106] See Guy’s book Thinking Theologically for his “Tri-polar” thinking model. Guy, in my opinion places all sources of theology as equal and on the same plane as the Bible. For him, it is the collective community of believers that collectively decide what to believe and how best to articulate those beliefs in individual lives of each believer. While Wesley’s quadrilateral still have Scripture as the norming norm, it isn’t clear to me that Guy pursues that model of Prima Scriptura. For Guy’s views on a non-literal take on biblical language of the Sanctuary please see pages 135 onwards.

[107] The preceding paragraphs are selectively quoted sections from Graf’s analysis of the Modern Adventist view for a full exposition of the modern view from the ontological, epistemological and articulating principle, see pages 232-276 in his dissertation.

[108] Goodwin, George L. “The Openness of God: A Compromised Position?” Spectrum 12, no.1 (1981): 62-63. Sourced: Graf’s dissertation footnote 258, pg 249.

[109] Process Philosophy https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Process_philosophy#Whitehead.27s_Process_and_Reality

For more on why Process Theology is incompatible with Christianity please see: http://www.patheos.com/blogs/rogereolson/2013/12/why-i-am-not-a-process-theologian/

[110] Larson, David, L. On Openness of God. Spectrum Magazine 12, no 3 (1982) pg. 61

[111] Larson, David, L. “Panentheism is not a four letter Word!” http://spectrummagazine.org/article/column/2010/07/30/%E2%80%9Cpanentheism%E2%80%9D-not-four-letter-word

[112] Thompson, Alden. “Beyond Common Ground. Chapter 11: Liberals and Conservatives: Three Flavors.

[113] Hoehn, Jack. Review: Death before the Fall. http://atoday.org/review-death-before-the-fall-ronald-e-osborn/ Excerpt from the book cited in this review: Ron Osborn opens his heart for our church most deeply on page 115, where you can almost hear the tears in his voice as he writes, There comes a point at which the leaders of highly conservative faith communities must ask themselves how many more of their sons and daughters they are prepared to see walk out of the doors of their churches never to return again because these young people find no room for intellectual growth, intellectual honesty or openness to new ways of thinking within their community walls. In the meantime the elders continue to respond to all outside challenges with the tactic of circling the wagons and fixing their foundationalist bayonets (rusted with age, dull as butter knives from overuse.) Pg. 115

[114] Osborn, Ronald, E. “Selective Attention”. http://spectrummagazine.org/article/2017/01/06/selective-attention

“When we fail to read the Bible in a truly Christ-centered or Christological way, we invariably fail to discern the work of the Holy Spirit both in Scripture and in our lives.  Our interpretations become little more than brittle exercises in confirmation bias.  We confidently call our own readings “plain” and other people’s “subjective,” refusing to acknowledge that we too bring a host of cultural, psychological, and cognitive biases with us to the text.  We imagine that God is guiding us every step of the way.  In fact, we might be engaged in nothing more than a subtle—or not-so-subtle—game of power and control.”

 

See also his reply to reviewers here: http://spectrummagazine.org/article/grace-kao/2014/10/09/responding-theologically-animal-ferocity-and-suffering

 

[115] By calling this faction “Biblical” I am not trying to cast a value judgment on the other factions. I would rather use the term “Centrist” but that too has negative connotations for some. To stay consistent with Canale and Graff’s labels, I keep the term here. It could possibly be called ‘foundationalism Adventism’ but it would be too technical a term here, I guess. I’m sure some progressive Adventists may think the title “fundamentalist’ would work but I think it is hackneyed phrase. As are all the other labels. I actually spent several weeks trying to come up with a better term, but so far it has eluded me.

Biblical Adventists have a strong sense of the unity of the Truth in Scripture, utilize a sola-tota scriptura method, and support a centralized administration to organize the work on all its phases. It contrasts most sharply with Evangelical Adventism.

[116] Canale, Fernando. From Vision to System: Finishing the Task of Adventist Theology Part 1: Historical Review. Pg. 36

[117] Ibid.

[118] Ibid.

[119] Raymond F. Cottrell. https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Raymond_Cottrell

[120] Cottrell. Raymond F. “The Sanctuary Doctrine: Asset or Liability” http://www.rethinkingadventism.com/support-files/cottrell_1844.pdf

[121] Adventist Theological Society. http://www.atsjats.org/

[122] Davidson, Richard. “Interview”. Early into my research for the One Project last year, I was “fact-checking” Dr. Canale’s assertions and I reached out to both progressive theologians at La Sierra and Dr. Davidson at Andrews. Dr. Davidson is the Old Testament Chair at Andrews University Theological Seminary. I am reproducing our “off-the-cuff” email interview q/a here. [Unfortunately, No one from La Sierra responded to my requests for an interview, on the record]. My statements/questions are in bold. His answers follow in regular text.

  1. The pioneers started a system of biblical interpretation that was revolutionary but was left unfinished.

I agree.

  1. We need to develop a philosophical reasoning for how and why we approach Scripture the way we do and our failure to do so has led some scholars in our Church to use the Histo-Critical Method. This method has drawbacks as it relies on presuppositions that are Paganistic/Catholic in nature.

I agree on the need to develop a “philosophical reasoning” (macro-hermeneutical principles) but would add that these need to come from Scripture itself, and not from your own reasoning or from non-biblical philosophy.

  1. The inevitable result of the use of such methods has developed an alternative philosophy in our church regarding ecumenism, standards, worship/liturgy etc.

True.

  1. Until we resolve these issues philosophically, we will have this ‘tension’ between two sides, polarization and stagnation in method.

This will display itself in local church practices and evangelism, missiology etc.

True.

  1. In a phone conversation with me, he mentioned that the Seventh-day Adventist Church does not have an official policy on Soteriology. Is that true? What are the implications of the lack of unity on such an issue?

Unfortunately, this is true. I wish I could say that our church has taken an official stand on soteriology, as well as on related questions of the nature of sin and the nature of Christ. It makes a tremendous difference how you believe on these issues. The implications are huge!

  1. He also asserts in his articles that the pioneers used a “Sanctuary-based Hermeneutic” which has been replaced by a “gospel-based hermeneutic”. This change has resulted in a completely different take on soteriology and on biblical hermeneutics.

I know what Dr. Canale means here, and I agree with him, but I believe that this needs to be fleshed out more, because it could be taken as implying that the gospel is different than, or even contradictory to, the sanctuary, when I believe (and I think that Canale does also) that what is needed is a broadening of the understanding of the Gospel in light of the sanctuary. Salvation is not only the cross, but also what Christ is doing in the heavenly sanctuary. In fact, the cross (according to Heb. 13) is the antitype of the altar of sacrifice in the earthly sanctuary, and thus part of the sanctuary message.

  1. You wrote a paper on Biblical Centers where you mention at least 7 different centers in Gen. 1-3. Are these centers compatible with the Sanctuary-based Hermeneutic? How do your centers compare/contrast with his, when compared with the Great Controversy Theme that we have espoused as a Church?

I attach this paper, in case you have not seen it in its final published form. I have discussed this extensively with Dr. Canale, and we agree on this. I argue for a single center with seven facets, not seven separate centers. The sanctuary, as Dr. Canale rightly points out, is the doctrine which articulates (systematizes) all of the others. See my diagram on p. 28 of my article.

  1. If I remember right, you were at the GC’s ‘table’ for Dr. Ford’s trial as an expert for the Church? Could you elaborate on your role and your take of the trial? Many in our church feel that the Church was unfair towards Dr. Ford. What do you think about that charge? Did some of the Soteriological issues get resolved there? What are some of the outstanding issues that need to be resolved in that area?

I was just transitioning from being a student to being a Seminary professor at that time, and was on post-doctoral study leave in Israel during Dr. Ford’s trial. Hence, I cannot elaborate on my “take” on the trial. I only know what my colleague and friend William Shea told me, that he personally spent dozens, if not hundreds, of hours with Dr. Ford, after the Glacier View Conference, in which he shared the biblical basis for the sanctuary message, and repeatedly Dr. Ford would invoke the authority of the “reputable scholars” and not Scripture, saying, in effect, “All the best biblical scholars do not come to that conclusion, so it must not be right.” I’ll send you a chapter from my forthcoming textbook on the doctrine of the sanctuary, commissioned and now being edited by the BRI, which deals with the basic outstanding issues raised at Glacier View, as I see them. I believe that soteriological issues were not really resolved at Glacier View, but rather muddied more, because some of what Dr. Ford said on justification by faith was indeed biblical and much of Adventism did (and still does) not understand this doctrine of justification. But Ford had a narrow legalistic view of what Adventists taught about sanctuary that for him was iminicable to the Gospel. What is needed now (and what I try to do in my textbook) is to show that understood properly, the sanctuary message and the gospel of justification are in perfect harmony.

  1. Will theological harmony on a uniquely scripture-based philosophical approach bring unity when it comes to biblical hermeneutics?

I think you need to use different wording than “philosophical approach.” This does not give the correct interpretation to Canale’s sola Scriptura project. What he is calling for is a radical return to sola Scriptura in our basic hermeneutical presuppositions (which he calls macro-hermeneutical principles). I agree with him that if we return to this approach, we will be far on our way to unity. However, there is now just as much problem in our church from the radical right (ultra-conservatives) as we used to have from the liberal left (the historical critical method). The ultra-conservative movement is tied up with views of the nature of sin, Christ, and salvation that lead them to pay lip service to sola Scriptura but in my view they interpret Scripture through their perfectionistic lens that distorts everything they study. There must be a way of opening the eyes of these people to see that they are not truly following sola Scriptura but a distortion of Scripture.

  1. Is what Dr. Canale is saying possible? Make sense? Doesn’t make sense? Not needed? Not Possible?

What Dr. Canale is calling for is actually in process of being implemented. The General Conference has appointed a Sola Scriptura Study group, composed of members of BRI and Andrews University, and others especially interested in this hermeneutics project. They have been meeting for two years now, and are developing a long-range plan to implement this sola Scriptura project into every academic discipline of our schools of higher learning, and then out to every member of the church. Ed Zinke others at the GC Education Department are taking this “Biblical Foundations” project to every division, holding week long Conferences for college teachers. (I am a member of the Sola Scriptura Study Group, and have participated in several of these Division-wide Conferences.) I believe this attempt to make the Bible the foundation of all we do is exactly what we need to do, and if we don’t do it now, our church cannot long survive.

[123] Davidson, Richard, Back to the Beginning: Genesis 1-3 and The Theological Center of Scripture. http://www.academia.edu/19770147/Back_to_the_Beginning_Genesis_1-3_and_The_Theological_Center_of_Scripture

[124] One Project Website Basic Facts: FAQ’s. https://the1project.org/about/faq

[125] Classification of the One Project. I used the principle of articulation to classify the One Project. Below are a few informal observations.

 

Theological Influences

Much has been made about their connections to George Fox and then secondary and tertiary connections have been made to other theologies and ministries. I wanted to find out what influences their thinking.

 

Speaking to the allegations of their detractors, Pastor Sam Leonor affirmed that “their theology was formed before they went to George Fox” implying that whatever they believe and express was developed within the sum total experience prior to their education at the George Fox University.

 

My Take: The One Project Ministry is one of the best case-studies in Adventism for the dynamic forces that exist in the Church. Whatever they believe about the Church, Christ, and Scripture has been formed within the Seventh-day Adventist Church. To this extent, the real story is not about supposed infiltration of “outside” Theology into the Church but rather of its presence among theologians for the last five or more decades. These men have experienced Adventism or have come to view Adventism from the viewpoint of evangelicalism because of their teachers’  who imbibed protestant presuppositions about God, Scripture, and the Gospel long ago. Now they see their version of Adventism as ‘authentic’ Christianity not realizing the profound differences that are present between their version and that of biblical Adventism. Thus, without a trace of irony, they can list the only book the Desire of Ages as the book on Christ, ignoring the reality that Christ’s work for humanity precedes the time of His life on this earth (John 8) and extends beyond those 33 ½ years into heaven. When I asked the question about them favoring the “Desire of Ages” Jesus, Swenson tried to answer it from the point of view of those attacking their ministry, whereas Leonor was not sure how to answer. The ‘correct’ answer of course is in Scripture, Jesus discussed Himself in the context of Abraham, at the burning bush etc. and identified Himself as the Great I Am. So even if they were to feature Mrs. White’s books so that people would get to know Christ, the correct thing to do would be to feature all of them from the series. However, that would  also mean that they would need to feature the book the Great Controversy. This is the book that most Evangelical Adventists have trouble with because it seemingly, in their minds, creates a divide between them and the protestant Churches and especially the Luther’s “Gospel” they hold to be superior. By contrast, as shown in this article, several writers have shown how Mrs. White described Justification and Sanctification as the work of Christ on behalf of the believer and the continual aspect of that plan in the life of the believer.

 

Pastor Swenson’s acceptance, in his D. Min. dissertation, of Stanley Grenz’s contention that postmodernism requires a change in the proclamation of the Gospel is a classic case of Adventist ministers borrowing from evangelical contexts without a critical analysis of how and why those presuppositions came to be and how they may come into conflict with Adventist presuppositions. Stanley Grenz, in his book Beyond Foundationalism, is explicit about his views that the answer to postmodernism is to take a post-foundationalist view of Scripture. He may be reacting to the inerrant fundamentalists but his proposed approach to Scripture is anti-thetical to our beliefs. It’s not that Swenson believes in Grenz’s views, it’s that he accepts the point about post-modernism and proposes changes to evangelism approaches from that presupposition. Many Adventists borrow from Evangelicals and are not aware of the reasons why Evangelicals took those positions to begin with. Often times their presuppositions conflict with our theology and our methods.

Admittedly, this seems to be pre-One Project but Pastor Sam Leonor’s use of Lectio Divina at a youth event is problematic as it conflicts with advice from BRI theologian Kwabena Donkor, his paper, The Emerging Church and Adventist Ecclesiology who cautioned, ‘For this reason, it is not advisable for Adventists to try to appear to be ‘relevant’ by using emergent language and at the same time argue that those words mean something else when they, Adventists, use them. It is not helpful to discuss contemplative prayer practices of the emerging church outside the context of its philosophical and theological foundations.” Such use of these controversial methods is bound to raise concerns and it is advisable to do one’s best to avoid the appearance of evil or controversy.’

Emergent Church Connection

When asked to contrast the One Project with the Emergent Church, Pastor Leonor and Pastor Swenson both highlighted their theological issues with Emergent Church founder Brian McLaren and established their beliefs in contrast to him and the Emergent Church movement. Pastor Sam stated that Sabbath would be a “final test” and that Truth being relative was something that they felt was incompatible with Adventism.

 

My Take: I don’t find a strong or weak connection to the Emergent Church in the One Project.

Still, inter-denominational borrowing is evident among the One Project Founders. Some of the problematic areas are highlighted below.

Given my physical proximity to Gillespie’s Church, Crosswalk, I’ve listened to him preach week after week for close to six months to evaluate his foundational views on Scripture and in general and found his use of the text to be concrete and non-emergent. However, in a series on the EPIC hermeneutic, a Leonard Sweet [an Emergent Church Critic] innovation, in which, I found his interpretation of biblical parables to conflict with the actual biblical text. For example, some of his conclusions that he derived by using that method seemed to conflict the very words of Christ where He was explaining his parables.

A detailed comparison between the One Project and the Emergent Church leaders will be made in my emergent series on Intelligent Adventist but let me briefly say here that Rollins seems to ‘celebrate’ the doubt or ‘uncertainty’ that Jesus expressed in His last moments alive on the cross as the epitome of ‘faith’ and as an example for the Christian believer. He can most definitely be classed as ‘Post-Text’ or Post-Bible. McLaren’s views on Christ continue to evolve. Dr. Johan Markovic, during a discussion regarding my research, mentioned that McLaren no longer believes in the literal Second Coming of Christ. In contrast, at the Seattle Gathering Pastor Tim Gillespie spoke of his belief in a ‘literal second coming of Jesus,’ of Jesus not being a concept but a Person etc. In my sermon analysis of One Project founders both at the One Project and random selections of their sermons at other venues, I found their use of the Text to be in line with Adventist beliefs and practices. This direct contrast example, among many others I give in my other series, render attempts to link the One Project to the Emergent Church as factually/textually inadequate and showcase the difficulty of producing a credible classification of this ministry.

In my analysis, they refer to God, the Church, doctrines, the historical Jesus, and events in biblical history as being true and having occurred as mentioned in Scripture. To see the contrast of the well-documented selective use of Scripture by the Emergent Leaders, please see D.A Carson’s research on the Emergent Church. The One Project leaders are nowhere near McLaren and others in their use of Scripture.

Macro-Hermeneutic

My Take: Pastor Leonor denied a hermeneutic based on culture.

From their sermons at the Gatherings, it is clear that they use a ‘gospel-based macro-hermeneutic’ as opposed to a Sanctuary-based one. This is entirely ‘normal’ for Adventists who have been trained in Evangelical Adventism. These founders can tell the difference between biblical Adventism and evangelical Adventism or at least give answers that allow us to classify them as such, however in the future, and I would argue even now, younger Evangelical Adventists don’t know anything different. They grew up in this faction, and for them this is ‘authentic’ Christianity and authentic Adventism.

 

Adventist Uniqueness/3 Angel’s Messages

Here Pastor Leonor’s answer was, “I believe that Revelation 14 is less about calling other good Christians out of being Methodist, Baptist, Wesleyan, Presbyterian, etc. And it is more about calling people out of a world and systems that are increasingly anti-Gospel, anti-God and are drawing humanity away from salvation. I’m not saying Revelation 14 is not about calling people “out of Babylon,” I’m saying we need to think about who and what Babylon is. Again, I think it is less about my Methodist, Baptist, Wesleyan brothers and sisters, and more about other systems and powers that are drawing people away from God.”

 

In this answer, I find him viewing the Three Angels Messages as less about calling other good Christians in out of Protestant Churches and more about calling people away from other, anti-God, Anti-Gospel systems as something consistent with what an Evangelical Adventist would do. We as a Church have held that there are those whom God has called that are currently in other Churches but when the time is right, will heed the call and come out of them. We also believe that there are many in our Church who will one day unfortunately choose to leave it. The good news is that those coming in will outnumber those leaving. He also called for a reevaluation regarding our Church’s view on the identity of Babylon. I find this answer to be in line with Adventists who see more things in common with other Protestants and differing in a few beliefs as we noted above. His is the logical conclusion, something that started decades ago and is now bearing its full fruits.

 

In his answer regarding Pastor Alex Bryan’s views, he said, “… Alex wants a more winsome, beautiful expression of Adventism. And I think what he would say is that, we cannot call people to come out of Babylon if we have positioned ourselves to do battle with it. The time he spent out of [the] denomination pastoring, taught him that you cannot, until you’ve paid a relational rent with our brothers and sisters of other faiths, you will never have any… We just can’t bring up Revelation 14.

In this answer, on describing Bryan’s views, I take it mean that Revelation 14 is a non-starter when talking with other Christians especially if we haven’t developed some common ground with them before. I agree with sentiment. There is no need to take an adversarial approach to a sensitive issue. However, in his own talk on Revelation 14, Alex Bryan skipped over the Three Angel’s Messages and cast (presumably chaps. 12, 13, 14) as ‘self-justification’ with a lengthy anecdote of his experience on a plane. As I’ve noted in prior articles, others have noticed this lack emphasis in this area for the One Project ministry as a whole, and I concur with that finding.

I am is saying that this is their actual worldview, not just an emphasis on “Christ” thus inviting an overemphasis on the other side, as Marcos Torres put it.

When Doing Evangelism: Lead with the Gospel

Pastor Leonor: “Those are some logistics that are… I mean, we can discuss that ad nauseam. I see great examples everywhere happening right now, of models different than just, “Hey, let me prove to you why the world’s ending soon from, our sacred text, and why what you believe is wrong.” We’re way past that now, and I’m glad for that. And there’s great models everywhere, so it’s less about how, like the mechanics of how we do it, more about the posture with which we come to evangelism, which is, we’re in the world now in our culture now, that is not choosing between which kind of Christian I’m going be. I think our struggle now is going to be secular or faith? And that’s the wave that hit Europe and it’s starting here in the U.S. And as I look at both of these, the real question is, “Can you believe in Jesus?” And then we’ll get to the other…But our leading with our prophetic heritage really presupposes that the argument is whether your church has it right, or my church has it right. That’s the 19th century when everyone was basically Christian.”

“So you listened to my Chicago sermon, and I also did it in Sydney. My intention was not, I’ve heard lot of critique of that, not to say that… I wasn’t saying abandon our prophetic heritage at all. That is why I’m Adventist. What I was saying is, we have to lead with the gospel. That’s it. That was my intention and that’s what we’re proposing.”

My take here is that Leonor is uncomfortable with a prophecy-based approach to evangelism. Not that he denies our prophetic heritage, he just feels that leading with the Gospel will bring better results. I agree with him here but disagree with his assertion that bringing up prophecy means that ‘our church is better than the other person’s church.’ Prophecy’s role in Scripture is much larger than that, and I find his answer to be inadequate here. Of course, if I am talking to an atheist my approach will be different. But in this answer, I find a disconnect or the shift that I mentioned above. If we do evangelism right, prophecy can be shared in the context of the plan of salvation (the Sanctuary). I should add here that the Gospel according to Scripture is the Sanctuary in all its phases. Christ’s Life is one of those (albeit most highlighted, as it should be) phases. When asked directly, Evangelical Adventists will affirm every doctrine because they believe them intellectually (in their minds) but when it comes to their actions (their hearts) they embrace the evangelical gospel. It is that gospel that articulates for them their entire system of beliefs in contrast for biblical Adventists it is the Sanctuary Message which includes the gospel proper and the great controversy. To put it another way, the Adventist Gospel is in the Sanctuary with its solutions to problem of evil, sin, and a savior, and advocate in the judgment.

On Ellen White

Pastor Leonor’s Answer: Young adults don’t read her, period. Because there was a boomer generation that went through their problems with Ellen White in the ’70s, they ignored her so much so, that now we don’t have her present at all in any capacity. So, I’m interested in young adults finding her amazing and valuable, and her writings beautiful, as I have found them.

He is correct, here in asserting that post-QOD, a large segment of the Adventist Church turned away from Ellen White and her “red books” and continued to the shift towards the protestant Gospel. Here he and presumably the One Project is trying to correct this by reintroducing her to their audience which is a good thing. This to me is one of the positives of the One Project. I hope that they continue to share her books (all of them) and encourage Adventist to learn more about their history. They seem to be trying to do their best to present historical segments in their Gatherings for context and it is to be commended.

On Not Being “Liberal” (Adventist)

His Answer: “By the way, I am a conservative part of the church, so I reject that label as a way to place me on the continuum. And I’m not joking, I am. Listen, I know liberals, if we’re going to use these terms. And if they’re plotted on the same continuum, I am an Adventist who believes in God as Creator, virgin birth, resurrection, a literal second coming of Jesus.”

My take: This is not a liberal/Modern Adventist ministry. Please see the description for the faction: “Modern Adventism.”

 

My Overall Classification for the One Project Ministry: This is a ministry whose founders have grown up in and been educated in Evangelical Adventism. Their ministry bears the hallmarks of evangelical Adventism’s emphasis on a “Gospel-based” macro-Hermeneutic. As a result, they see many commonalities outside “tribal” Adventism with Protestantism and they share the Protestant “Lutheran” soteriology.

 

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Adrian Zahid is a senior partner at a management consulting firm in southern California. A recent survivor of advanced-stage cancer, he is trying to make the most of the second lease on life that God has given him. He is the cofounder of Intelligent Adventist and in his free time enjoys helping nonprofits be sustainable and the Seventh-day Adventist Church succeed in fulfilling the Great Commission.