Des Ford: The Perils of Being Right

(Patrick Travis) #64

Peter, please summarize your thoughts in a few succinct sentences…SO?


For me Des Ford was just plain intellectually honest. That’s where it starts. Intellectually honest about the lack of finding a biblical basis for things held as “pillars” within a belief system. Shouldn’t that be the template for all church doctrinal “pillars” especially with those injected post canonical? But then you have to have integrity with the guts to back it up. Or is it the other way around? I didn’t agree with other issues he continued to support but that is besides the point. The man was a pillar for the gospel the Adventist church refused to see because the veil of the denomination was blinding. So much respect is due and appreciate those here giving such. Yet blindness continues within the little flock…

(Patrick Travis) #66

Carmen & @frank_merendino,
I would like to presume on your grace and enter this discussion.

Don’t know this is the proper strand for your discussion but feel I share insights also on this subject. For 450 Yrs. Protestant Theology saw JBF “alone” referring to “forensic justification” and recently new kids on the block (N.T Wright claim new insights/perspectives on Paul. There is NO Greek lexicon that describes dikiosune/righteous/righteousness as “entering covenant faithfullness.” This is an individual extrapolation not an exegetical discovery. “Born again” individuals JBF do enter into a covenant relationship with Christ and other believers. However the means of that entry is JBF of the individual believer that we have peace. Rom.5:1

The Gospel of Grace is mentioned in Isa.52:7-
How lovely on the mountains
Are the feet of him who brings good news,
Who announces peace
And brings good news of happiness,
Who announces salvation,
And says to Zion, “Your God reigns!”
8 Listen! Your watchmen lift up their voices,
They shout joyfully together;
For they will see with their own eyes
When the Lord restores Zion.
9 Break forth, shout joyfully together,
You waste places of Jerusalem;
For the Lord has comforted His people,
He has redeemed Jerusalem.
10 The Lord has bared His holy arm
In the sight of all the nations,

That all the ends of the earth may see
The salvation of our God. Isa.52:7-10. NASB

Our God who Reigns isn’t merely reacting He causes His promises to come about! It indeed is His faithfulness to covenant that brings Christ to the Cross to save His people from their sins…by whose stripes we are healed. But, as Jn. 3:16 says the condition of the gift is that “whosoever believes shall not perish.”
As to Christ’s faithfulness or the believers faith in Christ who was faithful to die for us in fulfillment of covenant promises.:
τὴν πίστιν Ἰησοῦ in Rev. 14:12 is objective genitive. Subjective genitive would read, πίστις Χριστοῦ, thus, “the faith of Jesus” meaning Christ as the author of this faith. Rev. 14:12 introduces two objective genitive clauses: “τὰς ἐντολὰς τοῦ θεοῦ” and “τὴν πίστιν Ἰησοῦ” from the verb present participle active nominative plural “τηροῦντες “. The sentence is dealing with obedience and faith in practice (active). The accusatives “the commandments” and “the faith” are the direct objects receiving attention of what the saints are doing and not what God or Jesus are doing. Alternatively, the verse could be read as “those who are living by the commandments of God and by their objective confidence (faith) in Jesus”. This makes sense when we connect Rev. 14:12 to 14:1-4.
It is our faith in what Christ “has done for us” that gives us confidence though the empowering Spirit to persevere…tho unworthy within ourselves. For, we are reckoned righteous.

Hope this helps.


(George Tichy) #67

That’s what where it started for me, right after Glacier View. I started comparing his intellectual honesty with the intellectual dishonesty of the Church about the issues in question. The rest was history! I looked back and saw how the Church had hidden information from its members - and I was shocked!!!

Thanks to Des I got access to a lot of info, and that made a gigantic difference in my approach to religion, and to how I would relate to my Church afterwards.

And here we are…

(Gillian Ford) #68

Peter, Des isn’t an evolutionist, theistic or otherwise. He wrote a book against Darwinian evolution. He does believe that the earth is old. But the issues are not simply evolution against creationism. To say Des was lauded at every turn completely misses the fact of the hostile attacks on him over most of those years at Avondale. Look, I run Des’s facebook. Some really excellent people don’t agree that Des had a big head. Moreover, I lived with him for 48 years. He was not supremely confident of his own opinion. I have seen him change often but he needed EVIDENCE.

(Ray Smith) #69

My history with Des goes way back even before we met in 1949 when he graduated from Avondale and shortly after spent time in our home when I was a kid and he was a budding evangelist. Young as I was he made a lasting impact on my life, even if it wasn’t till the 70s and 80s that his understanding of the gospel of God’s grace started to get through the fog of legalism.

A lot happened between 1980 and when we attended most of Des’s meetings at Peachester after he and Gillian had retired from the USA. Peachester, on Ellenne’s mango farm, as we called it was a breath of spiritual fresh air each Sabbath. We would attend church in the morning and on the way home from the afternoon Peachester meetings we regularly remarked how wonderful it was to be spiritually fed and so blessed by such a simple, clear life-changing gospel message.

In all those years I can honestly say that never once did I hear Des criticize the “brethren” or speak ill of the church, regardless of all the injustices that had happened. He was always kind and loving in his response no matter what.

Des was a man who knew what he believed and stood for the right though the heavens fell. I love him for that but more for the rich understanding of Jesus Christ and His saving grace that he shared with us on every occasion.

Gillian, we love you for standing firm with Des as his fellow warrior. God richly bless and comfort you and your family at this time.

Ray Smith

(Patrick Travis) #70

Amen, I last saw Des at Loma Linda I believe 2008 speech. Hadn’t been there since 5th grade grammar school. Gave Him a new book
" The Glory of the Atonement " by Frank James & Chuck Hill, IVP.
As ever Des uplifted Christ. That was his mission.

(Peter Marks) #71

Thank Gill! I’m sorry to mischaracterize Des. Please forgive me. I shall correct this mistaken characterization. I am certainly aware of the attacks made against Des’ theology over the years. Many of these assults were made by my father from my family home. Most all of these attacks were against his theology and scholarly conclusions and not against him as a gracious Christian.

My observation is that the adulation accorded Des’s theology would turn anyone’s head, unless the individual were a perfect man. The fault very much lies with those who regarded him as a preacher scholar celebrity.

(Harry Allen) #72

Thanks, @c_scriven.

You said, to @gford1:

In response:

Please: What are they?


@Angus @milton007

(Harry Allen) #73

A few thoughts, about Elder Johnsson’s pensive elegy:

• He says, of the desired reconciliation between Ford and the SDA church:

I wish he would elaborate on this. What, exactly, happened? What does this mean?

• Was Des “an Australian tragedy”? The critique being made, here, of Australia—“Australian culture lacks niceties, nuances, subtleties. Theology and politics reduce issues to distinctions of black and white”—might better apply to those who censured Ford at Glacier View.

• Was Desmond Ford “an Adventist tragedy”? If Galileo was a Roman Catholic tragedy, then, yes.

• Margit Heppenstall’s quote sounds like the joke that @gford1 and others have made of it. Des would have never seriously said, "I am always right in matters of theology!”

Because of this, the subsequent paragraph, while true of Adventism—“Always right — it’s a peculiarly Adventist thing. We think that if we can only dot all the theological “i’s” and cross all the “t’s,” we have it made, in this life and the next”—was certainly not true of Des.

• Indeed, the best and truest words in Eld. Johnsson’s essay are near the end, with their allusion to 1 Corinthians 13:9; SDA’s least understood Bible verse (and chapter):

“When will we Adventists ever learn? Ever learn that theology, important as it indeed is, cannot be allowed to become the be all and end all of our Christianity? Ever learn that at best we know in part and understand in part?”

Des certainly knew this. He uplifted the glory of Christ and His perfect resurrection. When he spoke of the church, it was without ill of any kind.

Meanwhile, as the first Sabbath without him in nearly a century approaches, Adventist Review, which Johnsson once edited, has yet to acknowledge the great man’s demise. Indeed, @CliffordGoldstein’s latest essay—with its dismissal of Antiochus Epiphanes—reads as a perverse form of timeliness; apparently all that the church can currently muster.


(David R Larson) #74

The title of William Johnsson’s Vanderbilt University PhD dissertation is “Defilement and Purgation in the Book of Hebrews” and the whole of it is on the Internet. I recommend it because it relates the academic discipline of the phenomenoology of religion to this Biblical text. Enjoy!

(Steve Mga) #75

Frank –
I would suggest the “reader” compare Romans with Galatians. And notice
HOW MUCH Paul’s main concerns are in both.
In both it is being a Christian according to RULES that frightens Paul. And
using RULES to decide on our relationship with God and in the fellowship
with Christ.
He wants the members to quit comparing themselves to each other in RULES.
He wants them to participate with God and Christ in a RELATIONSHIP based
on Love - love for God, Christ, and love for humans.
In Galatians 5 [and in Romans] Paul discusses IMMATURE behaviors [the
works of the Flesh] and compares them with MATURE behaviors [the Fruits
of the Spirit].
In Paul’s other letters he also discusses Immature Behaviors -vs- Mature
Behaviors. Mature Behaviors are all based on Relationship which has its foundation
in “LOVE”.
As he says, RULES of works by the Jews did NOT bring them “faith” in God’s power
in their lives. that is why cutting of the body was meaningless. And would be
meaningless for the Gentiles.

PS-- This was also the concern of Jesus. This is why He said, “The Temple HAD to go!”

(Caddy) #76

Yes, Carol, Paul was writing and speaking to the early churches that gathered and lived in communal residences; home churches. They were a people that laid down their individual lives and took up living for each others needs in these communities as they used their various skills to do so. They were codependant in living for each other apart from a covetous world; “In the world, but not of the world”. It would be foolish today in our individual lifestyles to say “If you don’t work, you don’t eat”, but it was most appropriate for the early church communities. They dwelt together and the Holt Spirit dwelt with them; the body. That’s why Peter could say to Ananias and Sapphira “Why have you sinned against the Holy Spirit?” and not why have you lied to us about he money you vowed to give? I have met a group and visited for many weeks amongst their various communities that seek to imitate this early church life. One profound thing that I took note of was no racism. They lived in total support of each other for their sustenance, not in competition as he world does.

(Frankmer7) #77

I agree that a rule based religion versus one governed by the Spirit and principle of love is a contrast between maturity vs. immaturity, Steve. Paul uses the metaphor of the child custodian in Galatians 3 to show that life under the law was like that of a minor with no rights, being kept in line and disciplined until the full rights and maturity of adulthood, which he likens to the coming of the Messiah and his Spirit. Now that this has happened, there is no need to go back and live under the governance of the custodian. It makes no sense. That is what a retreat to life under the Law through circumcision would have been, trying to put new wine into old wineskins. In its own way I feel that this is what Adventism imposes upon people through its cherry picked points of Law as necessary for belonging to and life as the people of God.

With that said, I think that this was a sub argument to Paul’s big concern about the equal belonging to the community of Gentiles. This is why Paul kept saying all over the place in Romans and Galatians, there is no difference, God is the same God of both Jews and Gentiles, of the circumcised and the uncircumcised, etc. Paul wasn’t simply targeting a rule based approach to God as the problem. He was crying out that the gospel of Christ tears down an exclusive approach to God. One that gave Israel favored nation status because of their possession of and observance of the Torah. This is why he would say that the truth that there was “…Neither Jew nor Greek, slave nor free, no male or female, but all are one in Christ Jesus,” was actually a central issue to his gospel, and a central outgrowth of justification by faith, not a peripheral issue of church unity.

We have read justification and the gospel in totally individual terms, targeting rules and moral behavior as a false way to God. While this is there in Paul, I think we have missed the main issues of exclusivity vs. inclusivity, and the emphasis on unity and equality before God amongst believers, regardless of these other issues, and in opposition to exclusivist claims. Where does Adventism fall in this picture?



(Gillian Ford) #78

Peter, Des wasn’t allowed to preach in Adventist churches except with rare exceptions which were often stopped. So, any adulation he may have received stopped abruptly even before Glacier View. I think the reason people love Des is that they loved the Jesus he presented to them. He set them free. He wasn’t doing any of it for himself. If he were he certainly shot himself in the foot, because his reputation and career took a puncture that has lasted forty years.

(Gillian Ford) #79

When Des went to the USA in 1977 to teach at PUC, he was promised he could go on the BRI (Biblical Research Committee) to discuss the matters that ultimately were shelved at Glacier View. There was only one meeting of this committee, and Des came home and said Bill had presented on Hebrews. But, he said, Bill had missed out all the difficult texts. Des was amazed at this. The committee never met again. Nevertheless, I witnessed with immense pain how Bill separated himself from Des at Glacier View and focused on his so-called bad behaviour—his lack of humiliation and his determination to be right—I saw it as a betrayal, and Bill and one other person remain in my mind as the key offenders in doing this. Because they both believed essentially what Des did, but you’d never know. And so, this piece of Bill’s reveals nothing new because it reflects what he believed then and still does. Don’t worry about me. This is old pain that I have dealt with, but up with which I will no longer put. At a later time Bill in the Review coined the term FDR (the initials of President Roosevelt). Ford, Davenport and Rea. Here he linked Des with Davenport, a crook, and Rea, who wrote his material in a prejudicial way which I personally disliked. I thought it a low blow to include Des here, but admit it had a nice ring.

I have to say to you that Des didn’t see what I saw, or if he did, he never said so. He idealised Bill, and never criticised him. He loved him as a brother. And I do believe that Bill is a wonderful man. But like Hammill, the Vice President of GC who supervised the pre-Glacier meetings, he was a company man. Hammill had his regrets about Glacier View and wrote his reflections after he retired. Hammill said in his writings, ‘in those days I was a company man.’

I would say to what Herold Weiss, who earlier stated that Des should not have spoken against the Investigative Judgment—Why, oh, why not? How long will the denomination retain this anti-gospel doctrine that has God perusing records where every sin is recorded. People have suffered psychologically from believing in it. It has no redeeming features. It undermines what Romans 4 calls the free gift of righteousness, which the right wing never mentions. That’s the reason Des ‘attacked’ it in the first place. How longer is this subject going to be put under the rug? Bill certainly does not believe in it. He told our daughter so.

(Gillian Ford) #80

I should add, Bill is outspoken against the company on women’s ordination and loves the gospel. I am only speaking in the area covered at Glacier View.

(Patrick Travis) #81

Gil, I have gotten the impression that some of the “more liberal theological voices” didnt really go to bat for Des either. It always seemed to me there were a lot of self interest at play among different theological groups.
I know Cottrell later from a different persuasion convincingly spoke against the churches view of 8:14.
I commend you for venting! Just this article shows how quick some were to get to the mike to cast false inuendos against Des. While at the same time telling us of their noble cause! Really!

(Gillian Ford) #82

Not venting, Patrick. I am responding to what Bill and others have said here. If he hadn’t put it out there, I would not have said anything. This is not an exercise in emotionalism. I write it very matter of factly. I don’t think that in my histories of Glacier View I’ve mentioned Bill. But he has great influence, and his article has a few barbs in it that are not from my viewpoint correct, and I believe I have the right to reply. Des can’t, he’s dead. Look, Des differed from traditional Adventism. It was his battle, and he did not expect others to join his side. He honoured peoples’ right to exercise their own belief. And people see the same things differently. Des had absolutely no animosity against the church or the people who dealt with him—except those who committed pure evil. We left Adventism when we came back to Australia in 2000/2001. I go to church when I can, and I love the people. But as I sit in classes, I find I don’t think like the others much of the time. They are children of the Sabbath School pamphlets that are strictly controlled from above by people who think nothing of altering the ideas of the writers. And all in order to harness the flock back to the traditions, some of which have been proven wrong repeatedly. So my opinion is that of an outsider. But Des and I, in the biblical sense, consider/considered ourselves Adventists, and we’ve had a ministry from the borders of the church. Des retained his respect for Ellen White. She made Des what he was, and she loved Christ like he did. He had an immense knowledge of her writings, which few others had. He saw the big picture of what Adventism could be.

(Patrick Travis) #83

Gil, my meaning of venting is not emotional but merely expressing yourself which is greatly deserved and appreciated by me and some others. Too often when we don’t speak foolishness has a field day.