An Open Letter to Elder Ted Wilson on Fundamental Belief #6

(Spectrumbot) #1

Elder Ted Wilson, President General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists 12501 Old Columbia Pike Silver Spring, MD 20904

Dear Elder Wilson,

I am writing to thank you and fellow denominational leaders for preserving ambiguity in the proposed revision to Fundamental Belief #6 (FB6). As a Seventh-day Adventist scientist who rejects the fundamentalist view of a literal 6-day creation of our world and life upon it approximately 6000 years ago, followed by a world-wide flood that produced the geologic column and earth’s major geographical features as we find them today, I was initially concerned about the proposed revision (“clarification”) of FB6. However, having read what was voted at the recent Annual Council meeting, I am relieved that the church—while adding some unfortunate extra-biblical language with which I disagree—has at least retained ambiguity in one of the most critical areas, thereby supporting those Adventists who believe life has existed and developed on this planet for billions of years.

The adoption of the term “recent” instead of a more specific term such as “6000 years” provides important clarification indeed. First, by using such an indefinite time descriptor, the church has left room for those who believe the age of the universe is approximately 13.8 billion years, the earth 4.6 billion years old, and terrestrial life in its earliest forms approximately 3.6 billion years. Since we believe in an eternal God, we know that in His timescale, even 13.8 billion years is indeed “recent.” Thus, we can agree with the language of this proposed revision even if careless readers might think it teaches a short chronology.

Second, by avoiding the “6000 years” language that Ellen White used explicitly and repeatedly for the age of the earth, the church is tacitly admitting that it does not wish to be bound by White’s word on this matter. It appears that the church doesn’t agree with her writings about geology or is embarrassed by them and reluctant to subject itself to ridicule by upholding teachings that so clearly disagree with evidence from multiple scientific, historical and textual-critical sources.

This must have been a difficult concession for those who uphold a 6000 year chronology and believe Ellen White’s words to be directly inspired by God, but it is a breakthrough for reason. We can count far more tree rings on bristlecone pines and layers in ice core samples than 6000, and archaeological evidence points to civilizations older than 6000 years. Avoiding Ellen White’s clear teaching on this subject not only leaves room for those of us compelled by radiochemical and fossil evidence to accept a “billions of years” chronology for life on earth, but it also clearly demonstrates how the church intends her writings to be used. That is, Ellen White’s writings are not authoritative in a final sense, but must be understood in the context of her life and times, and must be tested against other authorities such as archaeology and science. Thus, we may attribute her “6000 years” to Ussher’s chronology written in the margin of her King James Bible, rather than direct, explicit revelation from God. Likewise, we may attribute her statements about coal-burning as the mechanism of volcanism—or the alleged discovery of human remains twice current size—to her dependence on human sources, rather than actual information communicated to her in vision. Otherwise, one might be led to question her entire body of work!

I understand that a majority of Seventh-day Adventists subscribes to a literal, six-day creation about 6000 years ago and to a universal flood, but most Adventists have been heavily indoctrinated towards this view and have limited exposure to alternative interpretations of the biblical and natural evidence. By avoiding—after years of careful study—the “6000 year” language of Ellen White, the church sends a message that there is room in its fellowship and institutions for pastors, teachers, theologians and scientists who, while deeply respectful of inspiration, allow natural and historical evidence to inform their interpretation of inspired writings.

Not all the new revisions are as positive as the adoption of “recent” over the specific “6000 years” language of Ellen White. “Historical”, for example, places God’s creative activity in the past, a view more in line with Deism and not in accord with biblical evidence. Revisions to some of the other fundamental beliefs are also surprisingly poorly worded. For example, “final” in FB1 rejects Ellen White or the work of the Holy Spirit. The term “bodily” in FB9 ignores Adventism’s traditional soul = body + spirit formulation. FB20 replaces “beneficent” but in doing so substitutes a word (“grace”) with a different meaning so that now God rested the seventh day to bestow unmerited favor on man. FB21 tries to use more inclusive language but in the process introduces referential confusion (a better phrasing might be, “Stewards rejoice in the blessings their faithfulness brings to others.”).

There are several other such issues, but I won’t belabor them here. The primary purpose in writing is simply to thank you for using the term “recent” instead of the “6000 years” language of Ellen White. It gives me hope to see the church take at least one step forward for every two steps it takes backwards.


Robert T. Johnston

Robert T. Johnston is a polymer chemist recently retired from The Dow Chemical Company, living in Lake Jackson, TX. He and his wife attend the Brazosport Seventh-day Adventist Church, where he has served as elder, treasurer, Sabbath School teacher, and other roles, as the small congregation has had need.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

(George Tichy) #2

Great letter.
The last paragraph reiterates what I have been saying for a long time, that Ted Wilson’s poor leadership skills are taking our church backwards in time since day one of his presidency.

(Robert Sonter) #3

Is this letter a cunning attempt to get Ted Wilson, by executive decision, to change the proposed wording to refer to 6,000 years?

If it has this effect, the proposed changes will almost certainly be voted down. Perhaps that’s the point… :smile:

(Pagophilus) #4

Jesus said in Matthew 24:37
"But as the days of Noah were, so shall also the coming of the Son of Man be."

Now tell me, was Noah a real person and did he live through the flood? Jesus says yes to both. Was Jesus mistaken or was He a liar?

Perhaps this is where the problem is? Why don’t the evolution/long age crowd just go on record and say Jesus was a liar?

(Marianne Faust) #5

false alternatives pago…


Presumably this is written tongue-in-cheek as the reporting on the Annual Council deliberations on FB6 made it clear they were referring to 6,000 years. I do think there is a significant segment of Adventism that does not subscribe to the 6,000 year theory and Ted Wilson has made it clear that this group are not Adventists in his eyes, and soon he hopes to make this the official position of the church. This purging and marginalization is reminiscent of Mao’s cultural revolution and if it goes ahead, will lead to the church being even more exclusive - how does that promote the spreading of the gospel? It seems that those who do not subscribe to a 6,00 year view have the following options:

  1. Keep our views quiet, or rationalize through semantics how we can justify ‘recent’ to mean millions of years
  2. Make our voices heard before GC session, make it clear we are numerous and that this is also our church and we will not be marginalized.

Surely there is room in this church for some diversity and freedom of thought? Or have members been indoctrinated through force-feeding of Sabbath school lessons for so long that we can no longer accept the possibility of different perspectives within our church? It is time for those who do not agree with the exclusivist agenda to take a stand and be heard!

(Dear new commenter: please change your user name to something else. There is a frequent commenter around here named “hopeful” and your postings will become confused with theirs. As this is just the beginning of your comments (if you decide to stay, that is), then changing will not be a problem. - webEd)

(Pablo) #7

I have some doubts about this ‘not so recent’ view over the beginning:

  • Does it consider God as the author of Earth, Live and Human being?
  • Does it consider that Live evolute all over millions of years from simple to complex forms as explained on Evolution Theory?


(Tongkam) #8

There’s no need for Mrs. White in order to support a 6,000 year timeframe from creation to present. That’s all in the Bible itself. Mrs. White did not need Bishop Ussher, for she had the Bible alone upon which to base her view, or, better yet, divine revelation. We have the advantage of both the Bible and Ellen White agreeing on this figure. None need misunderstand on this point.

(Marianne Faust) #9

Then you must have a different Bible Tongkam.

(Barrington Brennen) #11

I am one of them that still believe that creation of humans it still around 6000 years old. However, I do believe that “the earth” - matter, can be billions or even trillions of years old. The Bible did say “without form” Could someone till me in which ways scientists “prove” that humans existence is in the millions of years. What method? Is that method subjects or is the “scientific” method still subject to human reasoning? Help me someone body?

(Bille) #12

Pago, the problem is that you have not listened carefully enough to be aware of what is actually being said. The question is NOT “did Noah live through the flood?”, but rather, “what kind of flood did Noah live through?”

There is ample evidence of serious floods, that would have seemed to have “covered the whole world” to those living through them. The best resource for examining the evidence for those is the book by David Montgomery, The Rocks Don’t Lie.

(Bille) #13

Yes, the view that Adventist and other Conservative Christians are presently advocating, does indeed recognize… and celebrate… The God of scripture as Creator, Sustainer, and Redeemer of all.

Yes, it also recognizes the progression of life forms on the earth from simple to complex, and the interconnectedness of all life forms, as the evidence… from the fossil record, from continued speciation, and from dna sequencing as well as other evidences that can be naturally observed… indicates.

Along with this, however, it recognizes the Presence of God in EVERY “natural process”… that is, God working THROUGH natural processes, rather than the Deistic concept of a God who started things running and the went away to let them run by themselves.

If you have serious questions and want serious and detailed answers, the best place to find them is at the BioLogos website, where there are resources galore that will give you an excellent look at not only the broad principles under which we operate, but also a look at the varieties of beliefs at the “details” level that all fit under this same umbrella.

Don’t expect to agree with every detail here… but also, don’t allow what seems initially like a “show-stopper” statement to keep you from investigating fully.

(Bille) #14

Not only the “scientific method” depends on “human reasoning”, but also Biblical interpretation and application depends on the very same “human reasoning”. It is well to remember that there it is God Himself who gave us the reasoning ability that we call “human reasoning”. As for your questions about the scientific methods that are used… the Biologos site that I mentioned is the simplest place to find the answers to all of those… and likely to many that you haven’t enough information to have yet thought of.

(Good to see you here, Barrington… “help” is available. But no one can really give it to you… you’ll have to dig for it yourself. Enjoy the search! Bille)

(Thomas J Zwemer) #15

the primary issue is --Did God created man in His image after His likeness and did man reject that state expecting a higher. Only to fall from Grace? The when is immaterial. Was the Cross just a Jewish/Roman mistake? Finally how does theistic evolution differ from LGT? Tom Z

(George Tichy) #16

Very poor reasoning Leopold.

(Kim Green) #17

Tongham…I don’t really believe that marianne’s comment was about the “condition” of your particular bible :smile:

Perhaps this is the issue…that they DON’T necessarily agree, hence the article.


(Steve Mga) #18

If anyone wants a great read on the history of the persons who were interested in the history of the world beginning with Bishop Ussher and his 4004 b.c. dates up to the present time and including Seventh day Adventists and Price, this is a good book to read.
The History of the World by Martin Rudwick. Came out in 2014.

This IS NOT about Evolution. This is only about the search for the History of The World.
The book illustrates the FACT that the desire to know the History of the Earth began in Europe with Clergy who enjoyed science as a hobby. That is how Ussher and others attempted to come up with a chronology of bible dates. Ussher won with 4004, other had 3000s and in various editions of bibles dates were added for events in the margins. This got other Europeans interested in what they saw in the landscapes around them and as rock collectors searching for minerals. Finding rocks "out of place."
Alll this was taking place in Scholastic Europe. America at that time was rural, agricultural, and off the grid as far as keeping up with what was happening in Europe. So it was natural that the ONLY thing Americans knew about was Ussher’s 4004 b.c. as the margins of their Bibles said so.
Men of Science in Europe 1st began writing in Latin to each other. Later in French, some in English and German. Few Americans were into Latin and French during the 1700s, 1800s. Most of our Early SDAs were farmers, or business men. During that time in the US few went past 8th grade and few had any books in their home library. Maybe McGuffy’s Reader. So we have to be careful about where we place our early leaders in the 6000 year declaration of the age of the earth. It wasnt on their Radar Screen.

(Thomas J Zwemer) #19

The theme of Scripture is simple- IN the Beginning, God; In the history of man, God; in Eternity , God. The invitation is to join God in Eternity thought Christ our Lord. In the mean time there are certain circadian rhythms for healthily living. Tom Z

(Tongkam) #20

Wherein do you believe they disagree? I have carefully studied the matter, and I have not found any disagreement.

The Bible gives us plenty of times, prophecies, and ages upon which to base our understanding of this world’s chronology. Put together, the figure stands very near to 6,000 years from creation to present. Which is the figure that Ellen White gives.

(Tihomir Odorcic) #21

This is pure satire and sarcasm. Is it a Sevvy stuff?
It is like telling to a robber: "Thank you, Mr. Thief, for stealing from me only 95 € instead of 100 €. Oh you have been so very kind, you could have stolen all 100 €."
Please don’t tease Elder Wilson with such stuff. He will put 6000 years into FB6.