Des Ford Reflects on the Investigative Judgment, Ellen White, Church Controversy and Health

In August 1980, a special committee of 111 top Adventist administrators, theologians, scholars, editors and students — the Glacier View Sanctuary Review Committee — met to discuss Desmond Ford’s 991-page document called “Daniel 8:14, The Day of Atonement, and the Investigative Judgment.”

At the end of five days of discussion, and further correspondence between Ford and his boss, the president of the Australasian Division, K. S. Parmenter, Ford was compelled to turn in his ministerial credentials in the Adventist church.

The Glacier View conference has been a touchstone in Adventist politics and theology for the last 35 years.

Ford now lives back in his native Australia with his wife Gill, near the sea where he swims often. He has written numerous books on a variety of subjects and is a sought-after speaker.

Question: What do you see as the most important work you have accomplished in your life so far?

Answer: My emphasis on the New Testament gospel/justification by faith has been the most important thing in my life. Seventh-day Adventists have traditionally taught, for over one-and-a-half centuries, that righteousness by faith is justification plus sanctification. New Testament scholars know that to be wrong. Righteousness by faith in the New Testament always refers to justification only — though inevitably such results in a life of holiness (sanctification). When one understands this, there is immediate peace and assurance — the peace and assurance that brought the Protestant Reformation alive.

Ellen G. White was right when she said: “We need not remain a single moment longer unsaved” and that we can come to Christ just as we are, not attempting to make our peace with God but accepting Christ as our peace. (See Selected Messages Vol 1, 350-400)

At the Palmdale Conference [1976] — after much disputing — the above was recognized to be correct and, the report in the Review said so. But after Palmdale this glorious truth was hidden again and rarely heard now. Adventism can never do a great work for the world until it presents the New Testament gospel in its purity. Then the physical rest of the Sabbath will be recognized as the outward sign of the rest of heart and mind we have who believe in the finished work of Christ on the Cross.

How tragic that we have neglected that gospel presented by Luther, Wesley, Spurgeon and a hundred others who changed the world.

Question: You have written 25 books since Glacier View — four in the last year. Do you still feel you have a lot to say?

Answer: My writing is usually the result of an impulse that I believe comes from God. And probably He will condescend to guide me into more writing. My main themes have been the gospel of the New Testament, the Christian life of holiness, stewardship of health and means, the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation seen through a Christocentric prism. It is likely if God prolongs my days that I will write more on these themes.

Question: You have said that Genesis vs Darwinism is the most important of those books, and that every Adventist leader needs to read it. Why?

Answer: My recent book Genesis versus Darwinism is important because it is an attempt to warn the church that its present interpretations of Genesis (a world only 6,000 to 10,000 years old, the Flood as the source of the geologic column) cuts off the ears of intelligent people and makes their conversion to Adventism impossible. This book demonstrates the inspiration of Genesis and sets forth its permeation by the gospel throughout, but also gives the evidence against Darwinian views.

Question: How would you describe what happened at the 1980 Glacier View conference to a young person today? What are the most important things to understand about what happened there?

Answer: Glacier View will never be repeated. The church has learned some things since the 1980s. No longer do Seventh-day Adventists who read and study use Ellen G. White as an infallible Bible. That day is over. Rather we rejoice to use her as a pastor raised up of God to teach us how to be more like Jesus. She was neither a theologian nor a historian but the Spirit of God condescended to place valuable spiritual emphases in her mind and these remain of value to the church, provided we remember her words that “only God is infallible.”

I would tell young people that Glacier View was an attempt to support the traditional view of Ellen G. White as infallible in all her pronouncements including those on the investigative judgment. She claimed to have had 2,000 visions but never one on the investigative judgment. Her usual pronouncements on that topic were based on the very fallible writings of Uriah Smith and company. When she spoke against A. F. Ballenger it was possible that her son had kept from her Ballenger's letter on the sanctuary and given his mother his (Willie's) opinion. Willie regularly kept from his mother in her last years anything that would upset her.

Most of the Bible scholars at Glacier View accepted the essence of my views. Most of them refused to teach the investigative judgment. Andrews had not taught it for decades. Raymond Cottrell’s reports in Spectrum were very accurate. He told me it was obvious that most of the administrators present had not read my manuscript. Cottrell had given up the investigative judgment decades before and we had discussed it with complete agreement at the end of the 1950s.

The most important result of Glacier View was the evidence in the years that followed that our Bible scholars had not and do not believe in the investigative judgment. One Andrews professor said the teaching was like that about the man in the moon

Question: Do you regret anything that happened at the Glacier View conference?

Answer: My main regret about Glacier View is that I did not ask the assembled group (when I briefly had the floor) how many had read the manuscript I had written. There is overwhelming evidence that most had not read it. One prominent administrator said he did not need to read it because he knew it was wrong. Oh, that all of us were gifted with such infallibility! Gill and I enjoyed the courtesy of all present at that gathering. We felt we were with good friends.

Question: Has your understanding of the investigative judgement changed since 1980, or do you hold the same beliefs you set out in the 991-page paper you prepared before the conference?

Answer: My views on the investigative judgment remain the same and I rejoice that leading figures at Glacier View have not preached on the topic since 1980.

Question: You became an Adventist when you were 15. What drew you to accept the message of the Adventist church?

Answer: I was converted to Christ and the church by the Book The Great Controversy. Despite its errors in theology and history I regard it still as a spiritual classic. Ellen White’s pages on Luther and Wesley (though borrowed) are superb and I believe her last chapters contain valuable guidance for the world's last crisis.

Question: How do you feel your relationship with the Adventist church has evolved over the years? How would you define that relationship now?

Answer: I thank God for his providence in leading me to Adventism. I cherish the memory of hundreds of great Christians with whom I have fellowshipped in that communion. But for the the counsels of Ellen G. White’s on health I would have been dead years ago — as it is, my health for someone who is 86 is excellent.

I am very much an Adventist but not a traditional one. It is my strong belief that the leaders of the church have much to learn and much to unlearn.

Question: You have taught and mentored many students and ministers over the years, particularly in your time teaching theology at Avondale College and Pacific Union College. What do you feel is the main thing you taught those students?

Answer: I think most of my students will remember my emphasis on righteousness (justification) by faith and the many suggestions made regarding preserving their health.

Question: How would you like to be remembered?

Answer: As a ragamuffin from North Queensland whom the Lord taught the gospel and perhaps used to impart it.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6689
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Thank-you for this interview. I remember Dr. Ford during his time at PUC, he was a very bright and engaging speaker who appeared to love God and scripture.

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There is no doubt, whatsoever, that Des Ford had more influence on the church than anyone since its founders. He influenced thousands to reject the IJ as they had been taught and could see that righteousness by faith was the preeminent message of the New Testament.

What is sad, however, is that so many promising young ministers, and older ones as well, left the church after Glacier View. Some, because of the questioning attitude of church leaders, and others, especially in Australia, who were so disenchanted with the way the church mishandled the entire Glacier View event, and particularly Dr. Ford. To defrock someone of his caliber, one of the finest theologians both in and out of Adventism, will always be a blight on the church.

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great interview…it’s an interesting read…

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I’m continually amazed by the grace with which Des Ford treats the Adventist church and its leaders. He doesn’t just preach the gospel - he lives it as well.

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At 86 he remains a bright thinker, a profound theologian, and a true Christian.
Thanks for posting this interview. This was awesome!

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I am grateful to have been Dr Ford’s student, although I have not lived up to his accomplishments or example. His great contributions to Adventist spirituality include a conservative evangelical heart with an inquiring mind and Christ-ian conviction. As a student I was impressed not only to believe the Gospell but to be a good and useful person, to show compassion with those whom I disagree with, and never engage in ad hominem argumentation. His classes in rhetoric and homiletics shaped a whole generation of Australians who have rarely engaged in the kind of bitter and personal attacks that those who lacked his mentoring have, including some theological opponents. May we all live to 85+ and still be reading, researching and publishing our best work yet!

God bless you, Des!

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Begin rejecting inspiration and you end up exactly where Dr Ford is. He has written many books - who is reading them, apart from a group of core followers? And now he has rejected the short chronology? No more plain reading of the Bible. You can make the scripture to say anything you want in that case. Enough said…

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I thank God that I too was one of the last and the least students Des Ford taught at Avondale. He also was a peer of my oldest brother and taught four of my brothers and sisters. (Six of my siblings and I have graduated from Avondale College). About a month ago, one of Des’ former colleagues from the Avondale years reminded me of what happened in 2003 when I was the preacher in a country church near where Des & Gill reside. That Sabbath morning I was enjoying telling the children’s story. I was nearing the punch line of my story when in walked two spritely older couples - Des & Gill, plus Trevor Lloyd and his wife. My heart started racing for I recognized them immediately. I was thankful that I had chosen to preach a gospel meditation from the book of Hebrews that morning. And Des was so gracious in his greeting and thanks as they left. He inquired of my oldest brother. Surely, Des’ gospel emphasis and his healthy lifestyle promotion will be remembered with thanks.

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Sorry to disappoint you Pago, but Des Ford’s books are being well received at present. They are being translated into other languages. People are being baptised in sizeable numbers in places such as Ukraine and Kenya. A weekly television program is in India, and Good News Unlimited is broadcasting on radio in Eastern Africa. And there is some amazing talent coming through in the form of Eliezer Gonzalez - who use to be published until recently in the Review - and Philip Rodionoff.

On reflection, I am not sorry to disappoint you.

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I know very little about Dr. Ford, so I cannot speak about that. But this article (which I am thankful for) got me doing a little digging around. And I came across this little section in wikipeadia which made the claim that the SdA church has gone through phases regarding the IJ; it has not always been exactly the same. This is what they had to say:

The emphasis of this belief has evolved over time, but the basis is the same. The year 1844 is believed to be the time Christ commenced a new phase of ministry in the Most Holy Place of the heavenly sanctuary, symbolised by the Day of Atonement ceremony described in Leviticus 16.[4] In the years immediately after World War II, Adventism tended to view the judgment in stern tones and consequently many Adventists lacked salvation assurance. Since Glacier View (see section on Desmond Ford below), the teaching has increasingly been understood as God on the side of people.[5] Today the teaching is more grace-focused than in the 1960s and 1970s. “Judgment” is understood as being in favour of God’s people.

How has Wikipedia fared in its assessment of the evolution of the IJ in our church? Is our understanding now more grace focused than it had been in the past?

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It really depends on who you listen to. It is my observation that the church doesn’t speak with a unified voice, on this subject. As Des Ford claims, many pastors and scholars now simply refuse to talk about it at all…

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right or wrong, Dr Des Ford is a giant of integrity as well a scholar of international renown, who has been treated as heretic just short of the burning. the shame is on the church and shall remain. The Pall of Orthodoxy still hangs over the church. Why Jesus Waits is not for perfection but for repentance. I don’t see it happening in S.A. Tom Z

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Question: What do you see as the most important work you have accomplished in your life so far?

Answer: My emphasis on the New Testament gospel/justification by faith has been the most important thing in my life. Seventh-day Adventists have traditionally taught, for over one-and-a-half centuries, that righteousness by faith is justification plus sanctification. New Testament scholars know that to be wrong. Righteousness by faith in the New Testament always refers to justification only — though inevitably such results in a life of holiness (sanctification).

“How tragic that we have neglected that gospel presented by Luther, Wesley, Spurgeon and a hundred others who changed the world.”

"Question: How would you like to be remembered?

Answer: As a ragamuffin from North Queensland whom the Lord taught the gospel and perhaps used to impart it."

Anyone have or know where there is a citation from Ford as to what the gospel is according to Des Ford

AND/OR …what is his definition /concept of salvation?

Question: Do you regret anything that happened at the Glacier View conference?

Answer: My main regret about Glacier View is that I did not ask the assembled group (when I briefly had the floor) how many had read the manuscript I had written. There is overwhelming evidence that most had not read it. One prominent administrator said he did not need to read it because he knew it was wrong. Oh, that all of us were gifted with such infallibility! Gill and I enjoyed the courtesy of all present at that gathering. We felt we were with good friends.

I would have been interested to see if he would have asked how many have read the whole bible and see the results.

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Negative statements like this will certainly resonate with those who don’t know Des Ford and what he has done.
However, they will make absolutely no impact on those who know him, what he has done, and what he is doing,

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I think that our understanding of the Gospel has been gradually evolving and discovering “the truth about GRACE.” Yes, slowly Adventists are finally understanding what true grace is.
The comprehension of this theme can be significantly advanced/accelerated by reading a “denominational” book written by Stuart Tyner on grace. (Amazon.com)

I do not think that the advance in the comprehension of grace has anything to do with the 1844 story, the cornfield experience. I don’t know where the info on WP came from, but it is certainly inaccurate. The 1844 theory has imploded after Glacier View, except for those who accept the SOP as a source of doctrine above the Bible. Those who understand the clear teachings in the book of Hebrews will never fall for such a “creative talk.”

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The one person that I know personally that was one of the participants at GV never read the material - and voted against it!
I believe Ford knows what he is talking about. Though I am not sure he would have gotten an honest answer had he asked the question. Those people would need to be put under oath first, then maybe the reaction would have been more honest.

But yes, he missed a great opportunity to make many people to either admit to not reading it or to lie!.

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Yes, definitely! And the truth also is that there have always been more than one view of both the gospel AND the role of the “investigative judgement”.

The current emphasis in scholarly circles on the investigative judgement is on the assurance of salvation that it brings to us. The clearest exposition of this view is the paper written by the current Dean of the Seminary at Andrews University, Jiri Moskala, which can be read on-line at
http://www.atsjats.org/publication_file.php?pub_id=22&journal=1&type=pdf

The book by Roy Gane, Alter Call, which he uses in his Seminary classes on this topic, is also available for reading on-line at
http://www.sdanet.org/atissue/books/altar/index.htm

Richard Davidson also supports this “heavenly audit” view of the IJ… which is the view that I grew up with and until comparatively recently thought had always been the predominate view.

It is also the view which is book which expands on the 27 Fundamental Beliefs, which is also available for reading on-line at
http://www.sdanet.org/atissue/books/27/index.htm

I hope this material is helpful in finding answers to your question.

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the understanding of our church has ebbed and flowed on many things, including the investigative judgement…this is an important reason to study unfiltered inspiration on a continuing basis…

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