A Betrayal of Adventism

In the following, Charles Scriven and Daryll Ward reflect on a General-Conference-sponsored initiative to radically restrict freedom of conversation among Adventist teachers of religion. They offer these reflections out of a desire to speak the truth in reliance on Jesus’ promise that the truth liberates us from sin. Scriven has taught theology and served as an Adventist college president. Ward is currently professor of religion at Kettering College in Ohio.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/article/2017/08/28/betrayal-adventism
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Is anyone surprised, shocked, or shaken because a way of “endorsing” teachers employed by the church is being suggested? In the name of efficiency and accountability we may be on the verge of adopting a very unwise precedent and policy. Will the next step be endorsement of pastors, evangelists, etc.? It is all about fear of losing control.


Terrific dialogue, here. Both authors seem to assume that the inconsistency between the statements “no creed but the Bible” and “you must sign off on all these extra-Biblical theological statements” should be resolved in favor of the first statement. In other words, we ought to just say “no creed but the Bible” and leave it at that. But what if even that statement is self-contradictory? After all, the Bible itself never says “sola scriptura.” That reformation slogan is itself a product of tradition. “No creed but the Bible” is similarly an extra-Biblical tradition (note how Scriven appeals to Adventist tradition in order to establish this statement). Moreover, all Adventist theology is laced with tradition, and it always will be. Our Adventist studies programs in our universities are all predicated on the notion that Adventist tradition has some kind of authoritative significance (why else do we argue so much about the meaning of 1888?) Which makes me wonder, should we just bite the bullet and admit that some kind of authoritative tradition is absolutely unavoidable? If we did so, maybe we could get on with the business of subverting our traditions from within, submitting them to process of perpetual reformation. Wouldn’t that be the most Protestant thing to do? (Catholic theologians are doing it too, btw.)


Fairly recently I read from an evangelical non-denom mega church preacher’s online sermon where he met with several prominent scholars in a hotel room discussing what the gospel was and where they could not come to an agreement on what it was…

Ask around in your circles and see if there is any agreement on what the gospel is.

The past SS lesson had a section on contextualizing the gospel, which was relevant as far as outreach education/training.
I spoke with a long time SS teacher and elder and he basically said…it doesn’t matter because he assumed no one in his class had experienced any success with the gospel. That they needed that experience first before they could really share.

I would be curious to see the take on what Charles and/or Daryll’s definition of the gospel is.

I visited another non SDA bible church yesterday and his topic was the great commission from MATT 28 and in that 30 minutes never presented what the gospel was.

This happens often in SDA churches. The pastor or whoever says to share Jesus/3 angel’s messages and yet never gives details/specifics.
And yet people are supposed to be motivated to return tithe???

Get real leaders!


Glad to see that you responded.
Now , my thinking is that you and others who are stuck in the Adventist box, go outside of it and learn how to relate to the street people, un-churched, oners, millennials and those ADD people addicted to texting and social media that have guilt and are depraved and see that our loving creator God is willing to forgive & fix them so they can have hope for something after death.


"No Creed but the Bible"
If I recall well, I seems that James White [husband of Ellen, the prophet, who seemed to agree with him on this one] said, Seventh day Adventists have no CREED. But did have a few beliefs that were GENERALLY accepted by the believers. James [apparently Ellen agreed with him] said SDAs would NOT have a creed – not even the Nicene Creed of the Methodists.

How we believe and discuss each verse, each chapter, each book of the 66 depends on HOW we view its inspiration. Do we believe in inerrant inspiration? Believe that was is stated, except for what is in Quotation Marks, is the impressions that the contributers gave are their own thoughts based on the times they lived. Do we believe that some of the Original contributions might have been reviewed and rewritten several hundred years after the Original by a group of Editors? Does THIS affect Inerrant Inspiration?

We do know that different persons who READ and think about the same verses sometimes see different messages in them.
Is it ALRIGHT then for the various statements are OK to be stated in church, in educational classroom settings.
What about looking at Revelation as looking at the Beasts [what we say are kingdoms or religious organizations in history] as Empire behavior by ruling powers, either Secular or Religious. That the messages to the 7 churches is related to how they are relating to their acceptance or rejection of Empire behavior and living – whether Secular or Religious.
So WHAT IF “Coming Out” of a Beast is really more of a Mental Attitude, a Living God’s Kingdom instead of Empire Kingdom behavior.
This would change somewhat our teachings on the Beasts and Rev 14.
It is SCARY to be a Professor of Religion, a Professor of World History and Be REQUIRED to have EVERYTHING done or said in a classroom be critiqued by an “INSPECTOR” who has No Training in those areas. And Censor the Professor’s teaching to another Group.



Both splendid and alarming, Chuck and Daryl,

I made a wrong headed choice, many years ago, to send my four children, not to Pacific Union College, but to non Adventist schools.

PUC was small and nurturing, with a splendid faculty and also located in one of the loveliest nooks in North America – but I chose wrong.

I subsequently have advised the children and grandchildren of my peers to go to PUC – and they have later thanked me for it!

( Yes, I have daughters with IVY league degrees —Yale and Columbia – and a son-in -law with Yale and Stanford degrees, but none are Adventists. )

Would I give that same advice to go to PUC, today, to children/ grandchildren of my peers??

Probably not!

In researching college rankings last year, because my grandson was entering college, I discovered a dismaying/disconcerting fact:

Three of our NAD colleges/universities were ranked in the TOP FIFTY of the four thousand colleges in USA — not for ACADEMIC EXCELLENCE, but for those colleges graduating students with the most STUDENT DEBT,

Now it appears from your forthright article that our Adventist college professors will be MUZZLED in the classroom, gagged/stifled/fettered in their free exchange of ideas with their professional peers.


Any self respecting professor who signs such a statement, forfeits the respect of his/ her students and should resign!

So prospective students at our Adventist schools would be well advised to enroll in the nearest, cheapest local public institution, with in-state-tuition, so as not to be saddled with crippling student debt.

And where their teachers/advisors will not be constantly looking over their shoulders in fear of losing employment through some ill advised remark!


To me, the underlying problem is that despite of statements to the contrary Adventism is not Biblical. It does take a lot of courage to admit this. Claiming to have no creed but the Bible sounds great until one studies the doctrines, particularly those setting Adventism apart from orthodox Christianity. It seems to me that the claim of having no creed but the Bible shows either ignorance of the Bible or disingenuity.
Is it not patently evident that Adventism has added different ideas and foci that are foreign to the bigger picture as presented in the Bible?


When you don’t have confidence in the basic veracity of your message, which your teachers would naturally agree to teach, the only option the church has is to force compliance. In other words, if you want to use your degree from that Adventist university where you majored in religion, you had better sign compliance to the program set out by the church. This happens when there is no longer trust that the basis for the teachings of the church will hold up for Adventist teachers. It’s a last ditch effort to preserve the teachings which may not make sense to everyone any more - even to SDA taught teachers. They are forcing their teachers, who can’t teach out of commitment - teach for the income.


This is a reminder of the fact that the firmer the present GC leadership enforces theological uniformity, the weaker the basis for their political biblicism is (eloquently pointed out by Scriven/Ward). It is also a testimony to a second fact, that intense fundamentalistic movements can only retain their fervour by actively denying ambiguity.


Why not just public admit that you don’t believe in a six day creation, worldwide flood, investigative judgment, that you believe that the books of Moses were written post exile and that much of Israel’s history is fantasy?

Then go and say it squarely like that at a GC session and see how many Adventists will support your desire to teach that to students at Adventist institutions.

Please, just admit that you yourselves are not Adventist, and then leave the Adventist schools to Adventist teachers
You can go and teach this stuff at secular or otherwise non-Adventist institutions. Please acknowledge that Adventists don’t want this stuff and you have no business imposing it on them just because you consider yourselves great educators up to date with the latest scholarship.

Yes, it’s the latest 2nd rate anti-Bible scholarship for which much of the evidence is contrived. The Bible is authentic and there is excellent evidence to support it, but the world out there doesn’t want a God to answer to so they clutch any straws which will help them build straw men and edifices built on shifting sand in order to give them comfort in their chosen way. We need teachers who are prepared to stick their neck out and promote real Bible scholarship, not push tired old, discredited ideas such as that Genesis teaches that the firmament is a dome in the sky, an idea simply designed in order to discredit Genesis in order to then push long age, big bang, and evolutionary ideas onto the church. This is not scholarship, brothers and sisters. This is a war, and the best name one can give this battle is the Great Controversy. If you can’t engage in first rate scholarship defending the authenticity and truth of the Bible, leave it to those who can and who will do so. Of course, such first rate Bible scholarship cannot be published in the prestigious journals of unbelievers. They wouldn’t acknowledge Godeven if He appeared to them in person, much like the leaders in the time of Christ. So if you’re after acceptance by infidels, the Adventist church is not the place for you.

In short - leave the Adventists alone. They’re onto a good thing. If you don’t believe it, fine, there are plenty of others you can join and collaborate with, but leave Adventism to the believers.

Ahh, I can imagine the fox telling the chickens that the can’t define him out of the henhouse.


I believe that a major point made in the interview is that Adventist tradition holds that we can not define one another out of the church.

Actually, this is the very definition of scholarship.

So who then is qualified to identify “first-rate scholarship”? Not, apparently from your passage, scholars themselves. To what “prestigious journals of unbelievers” do you refer? Usually editorial boards are not specifically made up of people who oppose a position or disbelieve a particular belief. [quote=“pagophilus, post:11, topic:14150”]
In short - leave the Adventists alone.
At the risk of seeming blunt, we will if you will.




In my experience, each religion department and college/seminary administration (in a way) constructed its own IBMTE for its hires and for its “fires.” The only thing needed was a catalytic event, either overarching (Des Ford crisis) or local. While i was at the Seminary in 1962, rumors abounded identifying which professors were “dangerous” and which were not. Not many years after I left, there was a “cleansing” well-reported in a Spectrum article by Herold Weiss. Southern Adventist University, Walla Walla College and other religion departments eventually followed suit.

In many cases, the Union president board chairs who were closest to the college theological community did not see them dangerous but inquiring and faithful to the spirit of Adventism. In other cases, curiosity and questioning were seen as unfaithful. Virtually any historian whose research unearthed heretofore unknown facts about Ellen White’s dependence on outside sources for some of her counsel on healthful living, or her reliance on other historians for the events of the Reformation, ended up finding other ways to survive than in our teaching institutions.

What is now proposed creates a code that will be applied primarily by those furthest from the people, their students, and their institutions. It is as if the Attorney General of the United States was now deciding which local accused should be prosecuted and which should not. It’s arbitrary, punitive, unchristian and, as this article clearly demonstrates, completely out of harmony with Adventism’s core.

This church has struggled with a number of delicate theological issues in its past, long before the creation issue became so controversial, though the earliest Geoscience Tours clearly troubled the denominational leaders who participated in them. F. D. Nichol told one of his SDA Bible Commentary assistant editors that he did not “want to be around when the challenges of Daniel 7-9 erupted” in the church (and he wasn’t).

We need something, yes. We don’t need this and it will, in my opinion, irreparably damage the theological and spiritual energy of this church.


Despite its appearance on this blog back in 2015 I reproduce here what I learned from my cherished Adventist community of faith beginning at my parents knees regarding the Gospel. (Please note the all important present tense of the verb in the first sentence.)

There is a man named Jesus who loved and loves everyone perfectly. He was born in Bethlehem. You can go there. His birth was the second time he brought light into a world full of darkness. The first time he simply said, “let there be light.” Darkness is so dark that his second gift of light resulted in the slaughter of Bethlehem’s other babies. It is so dark that this man who loved and loves everyone perfectly was tortured to death by people who knew him. The perfection of his love expressed itself in his plea to his father to forgive them because they didn’t know what they were doing. You see, they had not heard. They wanted to be done with him. But his love was not done with them and having submitted to the full fury of their antipathy to love, he annulled their lust for his death and rose from the dead. He is alive.
His first friends were a pitiful lot, who, to a man, but not the women, abandoned him in the darkness. And when the women discovered that he is alive, that the darkness had not overcome his light, his friends came out of the shadows and rejoiced in the light. From then on, filled with his living light they bore witness to his victory. Their witness provoked a futile repetition of murderous attempts by darkness to be done with light, to be done with Jesus. Having suffered with him, every witness to the light will also one day, upon the return of Jesus to this, his birthplace, leave death permanently behind to live eternally in the fullness of his light.
The people who tortured and killed Jesus were the theologians of his day, called scribes at the time. I am chagrined to recognize myself in them. The beauty of his light exposes my own inexplicable appetite to be left alone, for self- mastery, for self-satisfaction, for dominance, for darkness. My very joy in his triumph over suffering and death can be exploited by the lust for darkness that insists that it is I and not he who is the creator and redeemer of my world. So it is true of me as well that grace has taught my heart to fear. And yet even my fear reveals the beauty of his light because it lives only out of awareness of the availability of infinite glory, glory that can, even if only for “three days” be dumped into the grave.
But he is not in the grave. Death is not the truth. Life is not a charade of denial best endured in a state of intoxication with the currently relevant or the metaphysically indifferent. Life is a wedding feast. The bridegroom is on his way.

(This is the best and sweetest thing I have ever heard. )

Anyone tempted to make assertions about what I believe would do well to start with this statement of what I believe.


I’m reminded of White’s pointed counsel: “Instructors in our schools should never be bound about by being told that they are to teach only what has been taught hitherto. Away with these restrictions.” [1888 Materials, p.133]


Daryll, You have written a beautiful summation of the Christian faith.

As a footnote, when I last hired on at Andrews University (in 1998) the declaration of faith I was asked to sign ran something like this: “I will support all the Biblical doctrines of the Seventh-day Adventist church”. I thought a while before signing it, but I did sign it, because it did not oblige me to support any “unbiblical” doctrines, whatever those might be. Don


Thank you, Chuck and Daryll. This is the type of conversation, redolent with nuances and intriguing contradictions, full of the joy of honest and intelligent inquiry, that makes me proud to be an Adventist.

This is also the type of conversation that would be rendered DOA in Adventist schools through the proposed creedal statement. Of course, we have always known about this effect, this unconscionable and conscientious murder.

From the Spectrum post entitled “Diversity University,” written during San Antonio back in 2015: "Truth is progressive and multifaceted—as wonderful as a squirming newborn, as bright as a welder’s arc, as calm as an alpine lake, as wild as Einstein’s hair.

“Will we learn the lessons of this university? Before the bean counters take over? Before the truth squads bearing creedal checklists descend? Before the Rules and Regulations Regiment pick up rifles full of tofu bullets? We’d better check ourselves before we wreck ourselves.”


Unless I am full of tofu, the words from 2015 are your words, Chris, and they are both eloquent and biting. When you chime in, spirits soar. Thanks.

On the road to Damascus, Jesus told Paul what the Gospel is…“to open their eyes so they may turn from darkness to light and from the power of Satan to God. Then they will be given forgiveness for their sins and be given a place among God’s people, who are set apart by faith in me.” Acts 28:18 (NLT).


I think this is a direct development of EGW’s claim that the GC, when gathered together, is the voice of God. So when God speaks through the GC we have only to accept it as the truth.

After the next GC session younger new leaders will be elected–all this could change overnight.

Yes, we ought reject creedal statements, yet, look at history.
We were, as a church, accused of not being “christian” due to our lack of creed.

What did we do? Within a hundred years of organizing not only did we adopt a creed-like statement in the fifties, we redefined “creed”. A creed is an “unchanging synopsis of faith”, yet we reserved the right to add, change, and adapt said “creed”. We renamed our “creed” “foundational beliefs”-how can we possibly go back and change them if they are truly foundational? A couple of layers of intellectual dishonesty right there.

And what will we change in the future in order to drum out the non-compliants, the “rebels”, the conscientious objecter? Is any of us safe with a flexible “creed”? Will we now commence with posthumous excommunications, prescient prophylactic dis-invitations, and their opposite and idolatrous kissin’ cousins, canonization and veneration of our “chosen”?

Acceding to authority in matters of conscience is abrogation of conscience and moral lassitude of the most grave order, exceeded solely by a usurped authority exercising itself thus…