Dr. Larry Geraty's Partially-aborted Remarks on Fundamental Belief 6

Dr. Larry Geraty is President Emeritus of La Sierra University in Southern California and served as a delegate at the General Conference Session when the Adventist Statement of Fundamental Beliefs were adopted in 1980. He is currently serving as a delegate at this General Conference Session.

The following is a draft of Geraty’s partially-aborted speech on the Alamodome floor during the discussion regarding revisions of Fundamental Beliefs at the 60th GC Session on Monday, July 6, 2015. His remarks fell victim to a 2-minute time limit implemented during the morning session. Being delayed by a delegation to the La Sierra University exhibit, Geraty was a few minutes late to the morning business session and missed the fact that the limit had been adopted. His prepared remarks follow. -Ed.

I applaud the work of the editors who have worked hard to revise and improve this statement of Fundamental Beliefs. Having been a delegate at the Dallas GC Session in 1980 when they were adopted, I would say the process we are engaged in now, when it comes to changes, is what was intended back then.

The editors have followed a deliberate and careful process, and have been especially successful at employing gender neutral language so all Adventist believers feel included. I’m sure I speak for all delegates when I say we are grateful for that.

A few changes, however, appear to be designed to exclude. Some of these are found in number 6, on Creation, at the bottom of page 54. Certainly all the delegates hold the Bible to be our authority. In fact the very first line of our Fundamental Beliefs on page 53, line 12, expresses it well when it says the Bible is our only creed.

So the problem I wish to address is the proposed wording in the Creation statement that is non-biblical. There are interpretations that have been inserted—interpretations that are possible and may even be right because they come from the writing of Ellen White, but not the Bible. Thus they open us to the charge by critics that we base our beliefs on Ellen White and not the Bible. We say we are committed to Sola Scriptura but in these proposed changes we suggest otherwise. Are we Protestants or aren’t we? Do we again want to open ourselves to the charge of being a cult and basing our beliefs on Ellen White rather than the Bible?

In the spirit of the editorial comment across from page 54, line 29, which says “our creation statement should reflect this biblical information without developing it,” I refer back to the committee the following:

1. Why do we need to insert on line 35 the word “recent”? Nowhere in the Bible is the date of creation mentioned. To get an answer to that we need to go to the book of nature, the second divinely-bequeathed book of revelation. Ellen White herself tells us that our interpretations need to come from the correct understanding of both God’s Word in scripture, and God’s Work in the natural world. And we’re still working on that. So why pre-empt that process for our members?

2. And again, why insert the word “literal” in line 39? I personally happen to believe Moses had nothing else in mind other than literal, 24-hour days, but those words are not biblical. That was not a biblical concern so why should we make it a test of fellowship for our scientists and historians? It is not a matter of salvation.

3. Again, line 35 inserts the word “historical.” If anything should be inserted there it should be “theological.” Genesis 1 teaches us about God. There were many other similar creation accounts in the ancient world that preceded Moses; they claimed Egyptian and Mesopotamian gods were responsible for creation. So Moses in Genesis 1 is a polemic against those other gods. He doesn’t even mention the words “sun” and “moon” because those were names of pagan deities in his contemporary world, so he calls them the greater light and lesser light. Every single sentence in Genesis 1 has as its subject God, not creation.

4. In belief number 8, the Great Controversy, on page 55, lines 28 and 29, “the worldwide flood, as presented in the historical account of Genesis 1-11” should be left out for two reasons: this insertion is the only one that puts the textual reference in the body of the paragraph; in all others the references come at the end. Furthermore the account is not really historical as we usually define history. It is really theology, though it is also pre-history.

Aren’t we here today as part of an international, global family? A family has members with many different views and levels of understanding and interpretation based on age, training, experience, and opportunity. Do we want to exclude any of them from the family because they may differ on a matter that is not crucial for salvation? Shouldn’t each member be given the opportunity to study for oneself such matters?

That is the issue before us today.

So I have four amendments to propose in statement six and eight that will allow Scripture to speak for itself:

1. I move to exclude on line 35 the word “recent” that has been inserted because it is not biblical.

2. I move to leave out lines 39 and 40 that have been inserted. They are rhetorically redundant except for the world “literal.”

3. I move to substitute in line 35 the word “theological” for the inserted word “historical.”

4. And in statement 8, I move to leave out lines 28 and 29 for both rhetorical and scholarly accurate reasons.

Should there be time, I have a more extensive rationale for each edit or change I’ve proposed—with the overall goal of making beliefs six and eight biblically sound.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/6936
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At what point were these words cut short? Was Geraty able to begin the formal motion?

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Garety represents most thinking, rationale members in the developed world. He is right to point out that this is theology and ultimately commentary so it should not factor into any marginalization of those same thinking, rationale members in good standing. We can count any number of ways the GC is voting members out during this disaster of a session, but this one is certainly not worth losing one member over. I know the literalists vehemently disagree, but they have to know that good, authentic christians do differ on these points.

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I am thankful for Dr. Geraty’s presence at the GC.

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Thanks for letting us see this. It’s a shame he didn’t know about the 2-min. time limit. I think he is making a wise proposal, but I’m also sure that the majority of delegates would never accept this, sad to say.

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A cogent and concise case. Thanks for letting us see the whole thing here. If a General Conference Session was the kind of place where delegates came to listen to and weigh reasoned arguments and make a careful judgement, the motions contained here would have had a good chance of being carried. But no, so, no.

This also serves to illustrate one of the more frustrating of the various parliamentary and administrative shenanigans going on in San Antonio - the Two Minute rule itself. They might as well just come out and say: “Since nobody really cares about what the reasons for your motion are, we are not going to give you enough time to explain them”. Everything is being translated into Spanish, so speakers who attempt to speed up to get their content squeezed into the short slot inevitably make things impossible for the translators, and those who actually might want to understand what is being said. There always is a problem with speakers attempting to filibuster, or succumbing to anxiety attacks and rambling on. Dealing with such things is the job of a skilled and experienced chair. Arbitrary and unrealistically short time limits are just another way to undermine the substantive role of the representatives at the meeting. I know the actual work of these meetings is done in smokeless rooms and corridors perfumed with the smell of textured vegetable protein, but it would be nice to have at least the appearance of actual reasoned discussion on an occasional motion.

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Comforting to know that there are people who think like Dr Geraty. It is so common sense what he said. But as the saying goes;" Common sense is like a deodorant- those who need it most don’t use it."…Oh, how I wish I was wrong about this one.

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I’ll second efcee’s query: at what point were Garety’s words cut short? Can someone please answer.

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Was the changes to FB creation voted yet? I thought this was going to happen on Monday. I guess it will go through but it will be disappointing if my church further allinate us scientists.

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Larry Geraty is an example of the people who were once respected and listened to by the highest echelons of church leadership. But he and the community of believers he represents have been systematically marginalized due to the pernicious influence of very conservative scholars and leaders who gained control of the Seminary and the General Conference. Their legacy has helped create the divide in our thinking and the mistrust in our politics in the current General Conference session. Larry, a delegate to the 1980 GC session and appointed by Neal Wilson to the Fundamental Beliefs Committee, has his microphone cut off at two minutes? Did no one care about how and why belief #6 was initially framed back then? Does the current president understand he is neutralizing the wisdom in #6 that his father approved?

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In my recollection it was around point two. It will come out in the minutes.

In fairness to the Chairman and Delegation - they did vote a 2 minute rule.
Dr Geraty used/wasted a significant amount of time with ‘sweet talk’.
The whole matter is referred, and he can / could submit his paper.
The essence of subsequent points were made by others.
There was no way that Lowell Cooper was going to show favouritism for selected speakers.

I too, have much respect for such scholars, and I wanted to hear him out.
I’m afraid that the regressive’s are hunting like a pack, and the progressives are not.
Maybe in the grand scheme, the sweeter spirit will triumph eventually.

For me, one of the best appeals was made by a lady who basically said the we need to allow for different understandings for mind sets, ranging from the simple 2 year old to the complex Professor.

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Thank you James Londis for your excellent summary of what many people feel is happening to our church. When such brilliant and highly esteemed scholars as Dr Geraty are marginalised and their opinions virtually ignored at this GC session, we must seriously question the pernicious influence of our neo-conservative church administrators and their appointed literalist / fundamentalist church scholars. Sadly, it seems inevitable that progressive Seventh-day Adventists will continue to exit the church.

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A cleverly worded speech. If they accepted his criticisms and recommendations, it would open the door for a belief in evolution. That’s a dead-end street, and the church must resist all efforts to water down the creation doctrine, no matter how many scientists believe otherwise.

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But what if our current understanding is not entirely correct? Meaning what if God, in his infinite wisdom created the universe in a slightly different manner or time frame than many current believe (in 6 24 hour periods, approximately 6,000 years ago)? Would we as a denomination then say that anyone who is willing to entertain that we may not have full knowledge of those events should also then not be a part of the body that is Seventh-day Adventists?

Matt: 23:13 “Woe to you, teachers of the law and Pharisees, you hypocrites! You shut the door of the kingdom of heaven in people’s faces. You yourselves do not enter, nor will you let those enter who are trying to.” NIV

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That’s really a stretch. That’s why we were given the SOP, so we wouldn’t go off on these unbiblical tangents like so many other churches have.

I read one tweet that said the vote was about 90% in favor of adopting the new language. I wonder if there will be a renewed emphasis on targeting university science departments.

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FB6 has been voted in as worded in this pic.

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How unfortunate to see.

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We all knew this was an inevitability.

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You can rest assured, Beth, that we will indeed see renewed attacks on the Church’s scientists AND its theologians. That was, after all, the full intent of the change in FB #6.

With the growing number of communication venues, our Church members are increasingly pigeonholing themselves into narrow mindsets. They pay attention to only what they wish to learn and succomb to confirmation bias. They are also able to hone their opinions and coordinate their actions more effectively. Conflict and organized witch hunts will only increase. Unity of mission and tolerance of differing viewpoints will wane.

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