Dr. Herold Weiss: "You Can Be a Christian Without Being a Fundamentalist."

As a student at Andrews University at the end of the 1970s, I heard the names Vick, Weiss, and Hilgert mentioned, almost in a whisper, but they had been so effectively airbrushed out of the institutional history that I never learned why they were no longer there. Then Spectrum went online with its blog, and there was Dr. Herold Weiss, first in Spanish, then in English. I began reading his essays and studies in 2008 out of curiosity, and I was immediately fascinated by his ability to drill down to the exegetical bedrock of the biblical texts so that they could speak freely, unconstrained by the fundamentalist mandate that they speak with one voice in support of creed and tradition.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at https://spectrummagazine.org/article/2017/01/02/dr-herold-weiss-you-can-be-christian-without-being-fundamentalist

Nice summary of a compelling personal journey. Pretty amazing, as an SDA, to be appointed as department chair of a Catholic institution within a single year.

There were some gems I really appreciated:

It is unreasonable to say that there is a language that is not culturally conditioned since language is nothing but a cultural tool…To absolutize one of these culturally conditioned understandings of creation, at the expense of all the others, is to do violence to the integrity of the biblical canon.

Christian faith is not faith in the Bible. It is faith in God’s action in the Risen Christ. As Rudolf Bultmann insisted, to make the Bible the stumbling block on which faith is tested is the rational, rather than the cultic, version of “salvation by works.”

My experience at Saint Mary’s College left no doubt that Catholics have very critical attitudes toward the Pope as well as toward the authority of the Congregation for the Preservation of the Faith.


that is why I so enjoy the Apostle John. he begins–“In the beginning God”. he concludes in Revelation in the End God. He makes the Son the center of his writings. Thus the Cross dominates our attention and Awe! Dr. Edward Heppenstall was the leading scholar of the Ford era. his two books, Our High Prisit and the Man Who is God are the essence of the Gospel. Yet the publishing houses don’t carry these books but feast on fundamentalism of the Herbie Douglass brand. TZ


Thanks to Aage for the interview with Dr. Weiss. This is worth reading again and again to remind us that Christianity has never been limited but is open to everyone. Why have Adventists chosen to make it so exclusive, while at the same time irrelevant for most?


As time goes by, I become more and more of a Hermit, though remaining SDA,quite content to(as P. G. Wodehouse humourously put it )live quietly, interacting actively mainly with two loyal watchdogs , two friends, and a wife. But having read the interview with Dr Weiss I would, were it possible, invite him to my home to have dinner, serving the best health preferences he could come up with, and exchange ideas with this well-informed, erudite,Adventist scholar. I would expect disagreements between us both on certain matters of considerable import, as I may see it, but the thing is I would not expect to be “run out of town” (The SDA CHURCH as it were) for such disagreements.


Scripture is historically conditioned. (I think this term is slightly more accurate than “culturally conditioned”). The standard retort offered by some Seventh-day Adventist theologians is that the claim that Scripture is historically conditioned minimizes God as a cause of Scripture. This retort is weak and unpersuasive, because everyone knows or should know that there can be and often is more than one proximate cause to an occurrence. Furthermore, to argue that historical context is not a cause of Scripture is to deny that the God we worship is a personal God who has inserted Himself into our time and space.

The repercussions to an understanding that Scripture is historically conditioned are profound and revolutionary for Seventh-day Adventists: Scripture can no longer be said to set forth truth that is universal, transcendent, or absolute, because Scripture is an alloy that consists of God’s parole and particular human beings’ sinful historical context. The historical context is not just attire that clothes divine revelation, as some Seventh-day Adventist theologians suggest. Instead, the historical context shapes and molds divine revelation, inasmuch as a question shapes and molds the answer. We can conclude that Scripture sets forth historically conditioned truth.

We should reject the notion, embraced by various skeptics, that Scripture because historically conditioned is a highly-flawed document that contains only little nuggets of universal, transcendent, and absolute truth. There are no such nuggets, of course, but Scripture in its entirety is truth, albeit historically conditioned truth. Historically conditioned truth is meaningful. What truth do you want to be told, some platonic truth that you are incapable of understanding or truth that has been specifically shaped and molded to meet your needs, given your historical context?

We are then left to wrestle with the difficulty that arises from our realization that our historical context is different from the historical context of the ancients. Their historically conditioned truth is not the same as our historically conditioned truth. This difficulty is not insurmountable and is quite elementary and easily manageable by making one’s way around the hermeneutical circle, and in so doing, spiraling to greater understanding. Historicism, as it were, need not be regarded as incompatible with Seventh-day Adventism.

Thank you both for this fascinating interview. I look forward to Aage’s next contribution.


Herold Weiss and Aage Rendalen are among the posters here whose comments I especially pay attention to with deep interest and respect. Their willingness to engage with their readers and respond to comments, in my mind, is a mark of their humility.


The major problem with fundamentalists, be they Baptists, Pentecostals, radical Islamists, or Adventists, is that fundamentalism and judgementalism seem to go hand in hand.

The exclusivity which many fundamentalists cover themselves with, like a cloak of self righteousness, seems to give them Carte Blanche to condemn all others who do not conform to their narrow ideology.

This regrettably, is why fundamentalists are generally unloving, and unpleasant, people.



Thanks much for the conversations you are reporting on. Very important stuff, and very bracing for thoughtful members eager to find fresh perspective for living the life of faith.


I was lucky enough to sit in class with you before you left Andrews. I am so grateful to you, still.

You call here for a vision of faith as life lived in the will of God. Thank-you. You call for “aggiornamento,” and it would be so refreshing if our leaders could at least tolerate such a project for the minority of members who need to distinguish their conviction from the straight-jacket of fundamentalism.

Again, thanks to both of you.



I have the feeling that some sort of tribal identity afflicts adventism and serves as a barrier against simply being Christians–or even better, having some sort of universal commitment to living life well, with due consideration for all. The dogmatic doctrinal features describe the tribal identity.


I like to follow Herold wherever he appears. He won’t remember me, but he and I were special friends back many years ago when he first arrived in the U.S. and was attending the Seminary when it was still in Takoma Park. He used to come to the apartment building where I lived (while attending grad school at U. of Maryland), and he was special friends with another of our residents, an “older” lady whose name I have now forgotten. We used to visit often in her apartment. Now it seems foolish to comment on her being “older,” since I’m now in my mid-80s myself.

I’ve followed Herold’s path from afar. Maybe we’ll meet again in heaven; I can hope. I’ve had two husbands in the meantime, divorced once and widowed once. But I know he’s still happily married so I won’t allow myself any fantasies there.

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Another fresh, thoughtful, gracious, intriguing interview. Thank you. This is why many of us return to read Spectrum.


An interesting read. I was happy to find that Dr. Weiss is not anti-Catholic and appreciates their intellectualism in Biblical scholarship. That is one thing I have deeply appreciated myself. Blessings.


This is not how EGW saw the sacrificial system. She saw it as foreshadowing the cross. Neither the pioneers such as S. N. Haskell or F. C. Gilbert in their books on the Sanctuary. Even our 1844 prophecy is sanctuary based. Blood atonement, a key sacrificial element, is a common theme in the NT, for “The blood of Jesus Christ cleansing us of all sin.”

How is it that we read the Bible and draw vastly different conclusions? Do we as humans have a difficulty understanding the mind of God? Does God have a tough time communicating with humanity?


Jeannie, Herold’s wife Aida died this last November. Let us uphold our good friend Herold in our prayers. Don

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For myself, your questions Frank are a big part of what led me past the liberal and nuanced Christianity that Weiss seems to embrace, and to atheism. Perhaps it is my fundamentalist roots that continue to trip me up, but once I began to see the Bible as what it is: a collection of historical narratives of man’s search for God, I could no longer see God’s hand in any of it. Instead the arc of the Bible seemed to me to be a one-sided conversation. If humanity, both now and historically as seen through the Bible, has always experienced God so diversely, with near-constant disagreement on every single theological issue, then there is a communication breakdown. In a relationship between an all-powerful deity and fallible humans, it seems like God, if he exists, must be capable of revealing his nature and will perfectly, yet it seems evidentially clear that he has not. Instead we have a world full of people searching for meaning, purpose, and an ideology greater than ourselves, and all coming to different conclusions. For me that led to the realization that, while I cannot rule out the existence of a deistic conception of the divine, I found it impossible to believe in a personal God who desired relationship with me. If God is out there, he is the cosmic champion of hide-and-seek.


Very interesting interview. Conversations like these are long overdue in many churches, and despite the negative issues having emerged from the present GC leaderships political maneouvering in the last years, this represents a voice of hope - from the ‘heretics’!

Some of us, theology students in the late 70’s/early 80’s, left the church in the political and thelogical upheavals surrounding Glacier View. I was one of them. But, adventism never left me. Growing up in adventism will forever be my primary point of view from where I try to find my meaning in life. It will always be at the core of who I became. Therefore, I greatly admire Dr. Weiss’ perspective on religion as primarily a lived, local, communal experience.

Thanks, Aage and Herold!


Matt wrote,

“For myself, your questions Frank are a big part of what led me past the liberal and nuanced Christianity that Weiss seems to embrace, and to atheism”

I understand doubt, and even believe that God, if truly active in our affairs, can forgive doubt. But if you continue to have questions about all these things, one important resource is Marilynne Robinson, both in her novels and in her astonishing essays. I’m just reading “Givenness” now and had loved “The Death of Adam” and “Absence of Mind.” She takes delight in being a “self-declared Calvinist from Northern Idaho”–not exactly ground zero for America’s intellectual elite–but she has also made Time’s list of the 100 most influential Americans. No slouch, for sure.

There’s lots wrong with fashionable atheism, although yours may certainly be of a deeper variety. But if these matters interest you, Robinson matters. So, I think, does David Bentley Hart.


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Oh no. I am shocked and saddened for my friend!! She was the sweetest.

the term fundamentalist is just a play on words is dr herold weiss a fundamentalist
in the end there will be 2 marks
mark of the beast and mark of god so technically both are fundamentalist in the end :slight_smile:
desire of ages EGW
chapters 6 - 7 - 8 - 9
jesus self taught and deeply studied old testament
and showed more knowledge than rabi’s

my point is
i studied architecture one can go study anything and we always reference history and foundations
we seen Jesus study himself and by age of twelve had a deep understanding of the systems
we flick off some very important factors with views like this
look at kids and people these days living in cities what concept do they have of nature and sacrificial system
do we go down the modern vegan ecumenical movement and go to fancy restaurants and scream at meat eaters and start whaling splashing blood in protest
there is a disconnect
and there is a distinct SDA light
i lived in the world and have grown up in the SDA church there was a period i was disconnected to church but always
had a connected
my experience with DES FORD was a elder of a local church selling these teachings
now i have seen this elder all over the place mentally i’m so lucky not to have read this,
living in the world seeing all the drug abuse, folks teachings is a mental stimulant and some of these books are dangerous
was its holy spirit saying NO DON’T ACCEPT IT
mental heroine
we are not talking about these issues
lets hope JESUITS poor in spirit come into our church and highlight these things

god bless

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