Dr. Desmond Ford Passes to His Rest

(Spectrumbot) #1

We mourn the death of Dr. Desmond Ford who passed to his rest on March 11, 2019 at the age of 90.

In a public Facebook announcement on his profile page, Ford’s wife, Gillian, shared the following message:

My beloved Des died this morning at St Mary's Aged Care home shortly before 1:15 a.m. I was with him, and he died peacefully after a few very difficult months. The staff at the home all told me they had never met anyone so polite, so thankful, so courteous. He had great gifts and abilities but when they were stripped away, the purity and goodness of his soul shone out. He was a man always in a hurry, driven by a mission to serve God and proclaim Christ. He would urge you to take up the work he has laid down. As many of you know, he would say, Meet you here, there or in the air. He has gone ahead of us. And the world is a far colder place.1

Ford was born on February 2, 1929 in Queensland, Australia. A popular professor at Avondale College, Ford became a prominent figure in Seventh-day Adventism for his critique of the church’s teaching on the Investigative Judgment and subsequent dismissal from Adventist ministry in 1980. He then established Good News Unlimited, a non-denominational ministry, which has as its core mission “sharing the assurance of salvation to everyone.”2

In the 25th anniversary issue of the Spectrum journal (December 1994), editor Roy Branson called Ford one of the five most influential Adventists of the past 25 years and a “herald of gospel theology.” Below is an excerpt, and we invite you to read the full article in our archives:3

Over the past 25 years, Desmond Ford, more than any other one person, made Adventists care passionately about theology. Even before this period, Ford, following in the footsteps of his teacher, Edward Heppenstall, assured Adventists that their salvation was certain not because of their own works, but because of Christ's work on the cross. By the 1970s, Desmond Ford was also raising questions about the traditional Adventist understanding of Christ's activity in the heavenly sanctuary — investigating and judging the lives of humans.

Born in Australia and early in life a successful journalist, Desmond Ford became an Adventist minister and teacher, earning doctorates in speech from Michigan State University and in New Testament from Manchester University in the United Kingdom. For years he trained all the Adventist ministers in Australia and New Zealand. He also taught at Pacific Union College. Since Ford's 1981 disbarment from the Seventh-day Adventist ministry (he remains a member of the denomination), he has continued, through the Good News Unlimited ministry he established, to preach on radio and television, write books, and hold seminars for Adventists and evangelical Christians generally. Two of his better-known books are The Forgotten Day (1981), a defense and theological exploration of the seventh-day Sabbath, and Crisis, Vols. 1 and 2 (1982), on the book of Revelation.

Ford's views have spread throughout the Seventh-day Adventist Church. While his understanding of the sanctuary has not swept all before it, Ford's preaching of righteousness by faith — the good news he proclaimed to conscientious Adventists that they do not need to bear the enormous burden of earning their way to heaven by ever more minute observance of the law — has become a part of the warp and woof of Adventist preaching and teaching. Thousands of Adventist teachers and pastors, whether or not they express appreciation for Desmond Ford, follow his emphasis on the cross and righteousness by faith as central to Adventism.

Ford was a prolific author, penning around 30 books and numerous articles. He was a frequent contributor to both the Spectrum journal4 and our comments section, and we greatly appreciated his thoughtful and thought-provoking contributions over the years. We invite you to visit our journal archives and read more by and about Des Ford by clicking here.

Notes & References:

1. Desmond Ford Facebook Post, March 11, 2019

2. Desmond Ford, Wikipedia

3. Spectrum, Volume 24, Number 3 (December 1994)

4. “Desmond Ford,” Spectrum Archives

Alisa Williams is managing editor of SpectrumMagazine.org

Image courtesy of Good News Unlimited.

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/9469


I joined the SDA church after Glacier View and the decision about Desmond Ford and his views.
Sometime later, I came across a weekly radio broadcast of his under the Good News Unlimited banner. I became a regular listener because I was impressed by his Biblical knowledge and insight and his unwavering belief in righteousness by faith in Christ.

I attended several GNU meetings in a neighbouring city and on a couple of occasions he was present, gave a talk and answered some questions.

I always found him to be kind and gracious, a true Christian gentleman.



(G. D. Williams) #3

Based on his meticulous research, Professor Desmond Ford asked some very difficult questions of church leadership. Unfortunately, his difficult questions were not germane to the “mission” of the church.

However, many in the church, especially college students, found his questions to be of vital importance to the future of the Advent Movement. Many theology majors that I knew felt the church leadership was duplicitous in their treatment of this scholar who wanted to open the sealed window of dogma for a bit of new light to shine on subjects calcified by time and authoritarian tradition.

(George Tichy) #4

Certainly the most brilliant SDA Theologian ever. But the Church had to, of course, serve him the Glacier View Fiasco on a plate.
Those who knew him well, his writings/teachings and himself as a person, don’t have much to talk to those who didn’t.


Amazing but not surprising that Adventists “elsewhere” are questioning Des Ford’s salvation because he couldn’t find the biblical basis for one of their “pillar” doctrines.

(Patrick Travis) #6

Jesus spoke some very strong difficult words. " 34 “Do not think that I came to bring peace on the earth; I did not come to bring peace, but a sword. 35 For I came to set a man against his father, and a daughter against her mother, and a daughter-in-law against her mother-in-law; 36 and a man’s enemies will be the members of his household.
37 “He who loves father or mother more than Me is not worthy of Me; and he who loves son or daughter more than Me is not worthy of Me.38 And he who does not take his cross and follow after Me is not worthy of Me. 39 He who has found his life will lose it, and he who has lost his life for My sake will find it. Mt.10:34-39 NASB
Sound preaching often divides not out of a desire to do so but simply because it does.

I knew Des close to 40 yrs. He stayed at my home near Atlanta along with Smuts twice. Des was a kind gentleman in Spirit who had a heart for truth. Truth, as he understood it, drove him but not with the desire to be uncharitable to any. He was a good balanced OT/NT scholar.
Des also went out of his way to be an apologetic for EGW where humanly possible. However he never shrunk from saying where he felt she was wrong.
He was one of the very few notable pastor/teachers in SDA to stand for the true “classical Protestant” teaching of JBF “alone.” It brought hope to the heart of sinners…like me. LaRondelle and Heppenstall & Smuts were a few others.
God bless him and his family. He will be missed by many. There seemingly are none notable left in Adventism to fill the loss.
Pat Travis

(James J Londis) #7

Knowing his death was imminent does not lessen the sense of loss to those who admired him in so many ways. The events leading up to Glacier view were reasonably crafted, with study committees, Des’s enormous paper, and so on. At GV, things really began to spiral downwards when Des would not yield his concerns about the pre-advent judgment and other issues to quotes from Ellen White that seemed to challenge his perspective. What was incendiary to that open meeting would hardly light a match in many contemporary Adventist theological circles, knowing as they do that not even EGW herself wanted any quote from her to settle a difference of interpretation. Furthermore, we now have the benefit of astonishing biblical and theological work since her death, which means that no one who preceded it in time should either be embarrassed or vilified for an understanding that was inchoate at best. Glacier view did an injustice not only to Des Ford but to Ellen White herself.

(Andrew Skeggs) #8

One of the most influential and controversial Adventists of all time has gone to his rest. His ideas will continue to be debated, but his legacy of grace both in teaching and personal example will live on.

(Kim Green) #9

It was a privilege to be able to see this man during his prime at his tenure at PUC in the 70’s. He was a riveting speaker with an incredible mind. His passion for the spiritual world was palpable.

My condolences to his family and I look forward to seeing him in an Earth Made New. Until then…rest in peace.

(Sirje) #10

So very sorry to have lost the intellect and graciousness that was Des Ford. My husband and I are honoured to have spent time with him on several occasions, and are forever thankful we crossed paths.

(George Tichy) #11

What will be a surprise, to those Adventists you refer to, is that they are not actually part of the jury in the Heavens. They behave as if their verdict had any relevancy, when it actually has absolutely none.


No matter what his theological views, right or wrong,
Pastor / Doctor Desmond Ford did not deserve the shabby, shoddy, shameful humiliation of Glacier View.

The father of the current GC president presided over this travesty / burlesque / fiasco.

Apparently, the apple does not fall far from the tree.


Couldn’t agree more George. I have friends and relatives who were at PUC when he was there. Today some call him a rebel, others a hero. Salvation aside, I personally believe he tore part of the veil off but in propping up the rest of EGW there was some incongruent and incomplete work left but that can be derived from a source that was inherently contradictory.


One of the things I learned from Des Ford was that people and events in the Bible often represent concepts bigger than themselves. One day I was listening to a recording of his in which he was talking about the Exodus and he said that Moses represents the Law. He said the law is our guide to take us through the wilderness of life but cannot lead us into the Promised Land. For that we need Joshua (= Yeshua = Jesus).

In contemplating the life of Des Ford, I wonder if he represents the gospel. He understood that salvation is of the Lord and what He has done for us. It truly is ‘good news unlimited’. His commentary on the book of Romans called ‘Right With God Right Now’ explains that we are reckoned as right with God at conversion, not after an arduous struggle through lawkeeping.

He maintained the distinction between justification and sanctification, that our ability to keep the law is the result of salvation, not the cause.
He thus ran into conflict with church leadership about the IJ. Also, he opposed sinless perfectionism in this life (and thus the LGT doctrine which seems to be gaining support).

Des Ford was stripped of his ministerial and professorial credentials.
Paul says the cross ‘is the power of God’ (1Cor 1:18). It seems to me that the Adventist view of salvation strips the gospel of its power as well.

Even though Desmond Ford’s desire to preach the gospel meant the establishment of GNU, he remained on as a member of the Adventist church for 40 years. The Biblical number relating to trial, testing or probation is 40. The children of Israel spent 40 years in the wilderness. The Adventist church has had some 40 years to reconcile itself to the gospel as understood and put forward by Des Ford. I don’t believe it has done so. And now he has died.

(Joselito Coo) #15

Shortly after meeting and listening to Des Ford in Manila, mid 1983, I received in the mail his two-volume Crisis commentary on Revelation. Thank you, Dr Ford.


Which is what?

(Johnny Carson) #17

You mean after all these years of arguing adventism you don’t know?

(Harry Elliott) #18

Des chose to trust those men as a matter of principle, but I don’t think that he actually believed they were sincere.

He was a martyr for truth.


I don’t argue Adventism
I argue against anti-nomianism, Calvinism, monergism, shallow soteriology, fanaticism, neo-pagan Sadducees & Pharisees

(Johnny Carson) #20

Okay, after all these years of arguing “against anti-nomianism, Calvinism, monergism, shallow soteriology, fanaticism, neo-pagan Sadducees & Pharisees” you really don’t know?