Adventist Postmodernism: Analyzing the Credibility of Fundamental Belief #6

If you think you have problems, look at it from the perspective of a scientist who actually has to teach this stuff at the college level. This “clarification” of FB 6 is extremely troubling. This statement from one of our GRI scientists is exactly the extent of what I can say to my students, although we do review some of the failed models and tally their pluses and minuses. And incidentally, the percentage of SDA scientists that will claim evidence for a short term chronology of 6,000 years is such a small percentage that I don’t even know one of them personally, unless you include Walter Veith (I don’t know him personally, but have seen what he presents), who claims to be a scientist, but when I have watched one of his presentations I was struck by the fact that he couldn’t even adequately explain the Modern Synthesis (or apparently be aware that such a things exists, as he was essentially channeling Darwin’s work directly). No modern biologist accepts Darwinism pure, it has been updated extensively from modern ecology, genetics, paleontology and developmental biology.

What this church decision essentially now forces me to do is to follow one of the following three approaches. Maybe someone here can counsel me on which approach is my best choice.

  1. Teach exactly what FB 6 says about creation (and the flood) drawing all evidence from the Bible, warping and over-emphasizing the importance of what science might remotely seem to support the church’s views and completely ignoring any contrary evidence from natural science. At that point, my biology class will have become a Biblical apologetics class, not a science class.

  2. Review the church’s position on creation and how it is supported Biblically. Then review the evidence from science, showing my students that at present that there is no credible model for a recent creation, but that our SDA scientists are working on the problem and will almost surely find a model soon.

  3. Review the church’s position on creation and how it is supported Biblically. Then review the evidence from science, showing my students that there is no credible model for a recent creation, forcing us to reassess the situation. Then reviewing some alternate models used by other churches, most notably the Catholic Church, which amazingly confronted this issue in the 1950s (kind of seems embarrassing to have the Catholic Church beat us in the area of “present truth”). Lastly, showing my students theologically sound ways that the Sabbath can still be amply supported without assuming either a short term creation or even a literal 6-day creation.

Oh, there is a fourth way. I could just scrap any pretense and teach evolution only, ignoring the Bible entirely (or maybe relegating it to a good book with nice moral sayings), since it is just a bunch of myths written by some non-scientific types many years ago. BTW, this is what, for some absurd reason, some of those who have criticized me think I do.

Incidentally, in case it is not apparent, the 3rd option is the one I actually have gone with, for years now, and is even the approach I use when I speak at churches. While using that approach I also strongly assure my students that they are completely free, and I will not think them unintelligent and stupid, if they choose to accept the church’s stated position, on faith (since a bit of evidence is lacking, as noted). In fact, I wish the GC had decided to go this route, because as it is now, some of us who are scientists and know the physical evidence would have to outright lie to support FB 6 from science, and as the author of one of the books I use in my “Issues on Origins” class says, “we cannot lie for Jesus.”


And this has been my constant refrain. My own mother accepts FB 6 at face value, as is, and she knows that I, as a scientist have lots of evidence that does not mesh with that belief. She does not let that bother her, and I don’t bother her with it. We can even have a civil conversation about the problem. If all of us in church could do that, what would be the problem. But no, we must all be in lock-step with FB 6 or face the outer darkness where there is gnashing of teeth. Okay, maybe I am being overly dramatic, but I know people who would like me fired because I even openly and honestly discuss this stuff, without urging my students to believe in a particular way about it.


I prefer Ambrose Bierce’s definition if Geology myself:

“GEOLOGY, n. The science of the earth’s crust --to which, doubtless, will be added that of its interior whenever a man shall come up garrulous out of a well. The geological formations of the globe already noted are catalogued thus: The Primary, or lower one, consists of rocks, bones or mired mules, gas-pipes, miners’ tools, antique statues minus the nose, Spanish doubloons and ancestors. The Secondary is largely made up of red worms and moles. The Tertiary comprises railway tracks, patent pavements, grass, snakes, mouldy boots, beer bottles, tomato cans, intoxicated citizens, garbage, anarchists, snap-dogs and fools.”



Yeah, I always think of postmodernism as lazy philosophy. Philosophers just got tired of defending their views, so they just said, heck with it, “I’m right, you’re right, we’re all right, so what.”


I know that you are not just a biologist and you are a student of religion and SDA beliefs. I know that you are interested in the spiritual lives of your students; but why is it the job of a science professor to teach student about supporting the Sabbath and salvation in light of the bible and science? Don’t professors of religion have the background to speak to students about the issue in a holistic way?


Well, not really. Given the complexities of modern evolutionary biology and geology they are just not up to the task. I also happen to be a wholistic (I like this misspelling of the word better :wink: ) thinker, and the tradition on our campus is to place the classes dealing specifically with origins in our department. In our honor’s program such courses are team taught, a theologian or humanities person being teamed with a scientist.

I also do have a somewhat unique background. I was a theology major in college, took Greek and exegesis, and have continued to be an avid Bible scholar. I even got a call to the ministry while doing my Ph.D. degree in Botany (molecular plant systematics). So, although not a thoroughly trained Biblical scholar, I have had some deeper training, and I do have a degree that emphasizes evolutionary biology.

Our religion department also is overloaded on classes anyway, so there are also some practical aspects to it. :wink:


What a marvelous idea!

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my understanding of the problem la sierra had, at least at one time, is that although creation was presented as a faith-based belief, evolution was presented as a fact…there wasn’t the sense that evolution is actually a particular interpretation of physical evidence that others have interpreted alternatively…

if i were a science teacher at one of our schools, and in the course of my class taught origins, i would of course start with the widely held faith-based belief of fiat creation…i would imagine i’d be required to do that…but i would stress that it is a faith-based belief based on the bible and egw, and nothing else…i wouldn’t try to compare it with or relate it to an evidence-based belief, at all (strictly speaking, our fb’s are beliefs…i’m not sure why some people see a need to get all worked up over the fact that fb#6 isn’t based on physical evidence)…

i would then go on to an examination of physical evidence, and start with the most widely held interpretation of that physical evidence, called evolution…i would also include alternative interpretations of that evidence, known as christian science…i would stress both the strengths and weaknesses of both interpretations…

i don’t think any reasonable person would object to this way of dealing with origins…


Birder have you personally consulted the physical data? Please share with us what single scientific topic you have studied for yourself: read articles, attended seminars or classes, etc so we can have an informed conversation regarding the data. If you did in fact find holes made by scientists in the data and their interpretation, then we have something to talk about. Maybe you can write and publish a note of correction,which would be appreciated by almost all scientists.

There is a difference between sharing the interpretation of evidence (ie. evolution) in the natural world, than teaching it as fact. I think all of our young people need a solid background in where, what and how evolution views are in regards to the evidence, and also show the differing interpretations (scientifically based) that are offered by Creationist interpretation of the same evidence. For example: in Yellowstone we have the famous hillside of apparently successive forests within some strata. Evolution interprets the evidence as hundreds of thousands of years of successive forests. But it is noted that all those petrified, broken trees have no complete root systems and one could deduce that some violent end came to those various forests, not a tranquil growth over growth over growth. Then ring testing was done on those petrified trees and through a series of deductions it is reasonably certain that all of those trees in different strata were all living at the same time when they died and were buried and then petrified. And peer reviews squabble over those competing views of what the “evidence on that hillside in Yellowstone” means.

So sharing the evidence and the interpretations is true teaching, fair teaching, honest teaching, but we can do that and still be able to believe in fiat creation and not cower for such.


I believe the use of 1T 131 was indeed unfortunate as it was wrongly interpreted outside of context. The entire piece has to do with the sorry spiritual state God’s professed people were in at that time. Not only did she say “I was shown” but also says many times “I saw.” The apparent vision she had was in regards to the low state of spirituality among God’s people and if indeed Jesus was to appear at that time the angel’s words would be fulfilled. It wasn’t a prediction as it was a description that left un-remedied and had Jesus returned at that time it would have been so.


That’s been done by many creationist scientists, and their conclusions are always discounted, explained away, or otherwise denigrated. Given the animosity toward creation here, I suspect that the opinions of laymen aren’t worth much in the minds of most Spectrumites. Every creationist source that I know of is relegated to the trash heap here at Spectrum. So I see no reason to bring up specific subjects. Others have tried to do so here, but their reasoning is always shot down by the majority.

You’re welcome to believe what you want, but nothing I’ve studied over the years has come close to convincing me that the evolutionary theory, whether theistic or atheistic, has any validity. I was a biology major, after all, and have spent probably hundreds of hours studying this issue, especially over the past 25 years or so.

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Did you ever consider that when a crisis arose in the church EGW had a vision where she was shown and came up with the solution? IOW, all questions and problems can be answered by a handy concordance of her writings; or a CD which has been available for many years to do quick searches; she’s the “go-to” prophet for all answers.

If there was a questionnaire given to all new converts for answers to the one most important doctrine or event, that caused them to become an Adventist, what would it be?

Mark it on your Calendar, Dr. Ness, this simple laymen agrees with you for a change. :smile:

I’m not a philosopher, but the idea put forth by some postmoderns (who maybe haven’t thought it through too carefully) that there is no absolute truth strikes me as rather comical; because by saying it they’ve falsified it. They’ve uttered what they consider to be an absolute truth, all the while claiming the impossibility of such a thing. A philosopher would have worded that better, but I think you get the drift.

I’m curious how the professional shrinks among us would categorize that phenomenon. They must run across it occasionally.

@GeorgeTichy @elmer_cupino

Jeremy, if similar wording and “context” had been used to support Male Headship or bashing Gays, I can assure you nobody would be engaged in the revisionism that you show here. The ONLY reason for the revisionism is that the rather clear statements of course turned out to be false. You might note that plenty of people in the SDA church back a few generations in fact held onto these very statements as a Great Hope that the end was near. Until everyone denoted had died off that is. Then it was Oops, we need to reinterpret.

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Bryan I don’t see much evidence that SDA Scientists are working on this problem. If you look at it should be quite apparent that they have effectively given up on doing any actual research or publication on the subject. Look at the dates on published papers and the dates on their “peer reviewed journal” and the content of the most recent one. Please also pay attention to the looooong gap from the last one. They do seem to go around giving pony shows, mostly in the 3rd world.

This is an often stated claim, but it is completely false. Nobody has provided an alternate interpretation. Plenty of people have provided handwaving of their liking. There should be no confusing the two.

This what the GRI employee who stated there are NO creationist models that explain the evidence was saying, and he was quite correct. People who claim creationists just interpret the data differently are flat out ignorant or lying, take your pick, because they don’t in fact provide an alternate interpretation that actually fits any data at all.


Thank you, Jan, for another excellent essay from your pen!

The problem with mythology and narrative insights in Scripture, from a fundamentalist standpoint, as I see it, is that these people can not live easily with these categories, because they are hung up on absolute epistemic categories that credit an imposing Sovereign (God) for everything that does not fit easily into the commonsense of human experience.

The word “tentative” is absent from their vocabulary, and they thereby end up denying both scientific knowledge, and the reality of common human experience.


The first 11 Chapters of Gensis can only be understood in pn the light of the New Testment. The critical issue is Who not when. The entry verses of the Gospel of John are definitive. Paul in Romans endorses those words. the Four Chspter of Revelation details one of the songs of Heaven. Christ Himself endorses Noah. If by a word Christ could raise Lazarus then Speaking the biosphere into being is not unthinkable. The recent when seems critical to the. sabbath.So, I stick with John, Paul, and Jesus. The word recent adds nothing to a God who is from everlasting to everlasting. Tom Z