Delimitation of Academic Freedom at Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary

this exemplifies what the GC as a parent is trying to do with it’s siblings (academies etc.): steering with resources (money) to have the kids comply to the mold i want them to fit in. this is a far cry from adventist ecucation, by the way. though i wish my kids will have adventist teachers like i had, i will respect their choices and rather pray. you only get “my” money if you do what i want is certainly not the cutting edge of education, but rather a pseudo-sanctified version of spiritual coercion, if you ask me.


“This almost neurotic fear that we must let as little of the human element as possible into our understanding of how the Bible developed and was canonized is driving us into untruth and irrelevance.”

So true! It’s a denial of the human condition: that human beings are created and situated in time and space, what God called ‘very good’ in Genesis. And it leads to a theology detached from ordinary human experience. It’s a denial of God as an incarnated God and religious truth as basically incarnational truth. The human condition is not something sinfull we need redemption from, because it is at the core of the creation-story, before man’s disobedience.


I feel bad for the professors who, having little option but to sign this document, must now decide how to parse it. How does it work in practice, for example, to “discuss or mention” macroevolutionary theories without “employing” them? And what counts as a macroevolutionary theory anyway? Any implicit endorsement of deep time? What about astronomy? Etc. They will be tempted to err on the side of caution and fear.

If the ultimate goal is to safeguard students’ faith, it seems to me that this sort of heavy-handed intervention is likely to have the opposite effect. Challenging members and potential converts to search out the truth for themselves (versus believing what others say) is a big part of our DNA, liberal and conservative alike. Students are likely to interpret this statement as a list of subjects they mustn’t study too closely. How do we expect them to respond?

Genuine faith can only be built in an academic setting when professors and students have the security to explore their fields without being afraid of what they might find. For students there is a natural and essential process of critically examining their parents’ faith and reformulating their own. Faith is strengthened by the example of professors who are well aware of the challenges facing SDA beliefs, yet remain loyal to their church, even if they are not 100% orthodox. What is poisonous to faith development, is any sense that the church is attempting to “tilt the scales” by hiding information, or the message that faith is a black/white, take-it-or-leave-it proposition. This was my college experience, and my limited research on young-adult faith development supports this view.

The underlying issue is a breakdown of trust between academics and church leadership, and any solution is going to have to contribute to re-establishing that trust. Imagine telling your spouse “I love and value you, so just to make sure we’re safe, here is a list of N things you must comply with, or I’ll file for divorce. Don’t worry, I’m sure you’re loyal so you don’t have anything to worry about.” How do you suppose that will go over?

Note that my critique applies equally well whether you agree with the doctrinal formulations underlying this statement, or not.


Having previously expressed myself here regarding the pernicious defects of the IBMTE “statements” I cannot resist making a few additional observations. The “Delimitation of Academic Freedom for the Faculty and Staff of the Seventh-day Adventist Theological Seminary at Andrews University” suffers from all of those defects by its incorporation into itself of the IBMTE Manual “statements.” Since the “process” of IBMTE endorsement has never been of particular import, the Seminary’s invention of an alternative process does nothing to reverse the fundamental betrayal of Adventism embodied in the IBMTE statements.

Of the many reasons for sorrow relative to the Seminary and IBMTE statements, one of the most significant is that the apparent alternatives for belief expressed are so simplistic and crude. Guessing, as one must, at what the “historical critical method” might mean to the framers of these statements, I would say that no philosophically sophisticated exegete today could employ such a “method.” N.T. Wright, Richard Bauckham, James Dunn and Craig Keener to name but four prolific and influential contemporary exegetes certainly could not be meaningfully categorized as “higher critics.” Craig Keener has produced a two volume, 1172 page work titled Miracles in which he demonstrates that Troeltsch’s priniciple of analogy does not preclude granting historical status to the accounts of miracle in the New Testament. Surely it can’t be news to Berrien Springs that Bultmann is passe. Is it too much to ask that scholars prepare statements that evidence some basic awareness of the state of informed opinion in biblical exegesis?

And to indulge myself on one final point, it would be nice if people preparing statements for scholars of religion to sign could discover that there are those of us out here who consider theological liberalism to be just as surely a “wasting disease” of Christian faith as is the Adventist hierarchical fundamentalism on display in the IBMTE and Seminary statements.


I find myself unable to give serious detailed comments to the document produced by the Seminary faculty. I like to think that there are employees who need supervision and there are professionals employed on the basis of their competence and character. I would think that Seminary professors belong to the second group. What amazes me is that this document is an insult to the character of professionals.
Still, I will indulge and bring out an anecdote from the time when Robert Pearson was insisting that Richard Hammill conduct a purge of the Seminary faculty. If Hammill would not do it, Pearson threatened to come and do it himself. So Hammill called all the faculty to a meeting. All gave their allegiance to the church and to the school in strong declarations of loyalty. At the time, of course, there were no 28 dogmas to support. When a discussion of the time of creation came about Siegfried Horn said with much feeling that if he was being asked to support that creation took place 6000 years ago, he would offer his resignation on the spot. As a historian of ancient civilizations Horn knew that archaeological evidence of human early culture dated much earlier than that, to 30,000 B.C. Hammill, who also had a PhD in OT from the University of Chicago, immediately allowed that the 6,000 figure was not set in stone.
I can only guess what these two good scholars and faithful Adventists would do facing the threats coming from TW these days.


I feel that the church is shooting themselves in the foot here. What TW and his ilk do not understand is that young people are not the same as they were in ‘their day’. For a start there is so much information available on the Internet that young people are not ignorant about evolutionary theories, historical context etc. like they used to be. The church can’t shape the narrative the way they used to. Views alternative to ours need to be faced head on, not suppressed. Because secondly - young people are not educated with rote learning of facts any more. Curriculum has changed, pedagogy has changed. Education is now about teaching young people to think critically, not to blindly accept what a perceived authority tells them. That ship has sailed… and this attempt to rein in academic freedom and drag young people back to the 1960s is doomed to fail.


This to me reflects just one more example of our GC president’s (TW’s) wish to control the thinking and actions of all members. Who would have the audacity to impugn the motives of our sincere, erudite, intelligent and dedicated faculty at the Adventist Theological Seminary! It’s an insult, to be sure.
Nobody ever said all members of an organization are required to think alike! Where does TW come off by trying to whip everybody into shape – in his own image?! The mark of a truly educated person is the ability to THINK FOR ONE’S SELF. Whether or not his thoughts line up with anybody else’s.
The next General Conference Session can’t come soon enough. We need to hold an election. Now.

(BTW, TW’s wife’s family are dear friends of mine. Oh how sad.)


I’m sorry for our academics and pastors. They are put between a rock and a hard place. The hard place being a GC that insists on uniformity. The rock is in the event that some of those professors, based upon their study have come to different conclusions than GC leadership. Those in this thread say that these teachers should leave, that they belong in a secular school. How easy to quickly judge someone without knowing their heart or their faith.

I attended PUC in the mid-80’s. I left after 2 years because I felt that if a certain area of school life was treated as “unquestionable” (SDA belief’s), that this bled into all levels of academic life and everything was considered “unquestionable”. Lest you think that makes me an apostate, my family and I have been practicing Adventists for all of our lives and serve in various positions at our local church and have for decades.

How like the old Catholic Church we have become! We forget that our denomination comes out of Martin Luther’s being willing to ask questions of the religious authority of the day. The GC should remember that Luther’s aim was not to break up the Catholic Church or to separate from it, but to have the church be willing to respond to his questions (and those of Wycliffe, Hus, etc.). The church in the 15th century decided to crush those who thought differently and the result is that they left the church, some of whom ended up in America.

I believe that the GC honestly believes that they are fighting for the soul and salvation of the denomination. But when you force people as to what their values are, then you have already lost the battle. And, I’ll add that when Paul was Saul, he too was earnestly convicted that his mission was to purify the Jewish faith from the Christian taint. The end result of this heavy-handed strategy may very well be the same as what happened 5 centuries ago, one SDA church that is rigidly focused on 28 fundamental belief’s a stratified code that insists that women know their place and accepts no study that challenges what has already been set in stone and another that studies, investigates and learns all the more what the scriptures mean.

Those who do not learn from history are destined to repeat it.


Fundamental Belief # 6. Creation:
“God has revealed in Scripture the authentic and historical account of His creative activity. He created the universe, and in a recent six-day creation the Lord made “the heavens and the earth, the sea, and all that is in them” and rested on the seventh day.”

What is the Biblical basis for the preamble to FB #6, in particular, that Creation was a “recent” six-day creation? Such a justification does not appear anywhere in Genesis or Scripture, as its only source is in the writings of EGW. Do not the rest of this FB suggest that the entire universe was also created in “recent” times? Is it not true that if a teacher of religion in an Adventist tertiary institution does not subscribe to a young earth creation there is a basis for that teacher to be rejected to teach? Is it not also true that any teacher of religion who advocates for an old universe and an Earth that is accepted by nearly the whole of the science community of 4.6 billion years old is not qualified to teach young minds but must conform to a YEC model exclusively?


Sadly, yes this appears to be true :confused: