George Knight’s Reformation Tract

A Review of George R. Knight’s book Adventist Authority Wars, Ordination, and the Roman Catholic Temptation (Westlake Village, CA: Oak and Acorn Publishing, 2017).

October 2017, the month that will bring the 500th anniversary of Martin Luther’s 95 Theses and the launch of the Protestant Reformation, will also bring the Adventist movement to a critical juncture in a struggle over its Protestant character. That’s how George Knight sees it, anyway. In the run-up to the Annual Council of the General Conference October 5-11, in an atmosphere rife with anticipation over the next phase of Adventism’s protracted crisis over ecclesiastical authority, Knight, with an eye toward Luther and the Reformation 500th, has published this collection of essays centering on his 9.5 theses to keep Adventism Protestant.

There’s more: Knight’s protest against the misconstrual and misuse of General Conference authority comes at a time when he is the author of the official companion book to the current Sabbath School lesson guides published by the General Conference for weekly study by the church worldwide. The topic for the fourth quarter lessons is the epistle to the Romans, the primary text for Luther’s Reformation breakthrough to grasping that the righteousness of God is a free gift, not an impossible demand, received through faith alone.

Knight, seeming to write faster than some of us can read, has, over the past thirty years, established singular preeminence as a historian of Adventism. Never narrowly confined to the role of academic historian, he has also published numerous works of biblical exposition, and analyses of contemporary issues in Adventism. Adventist Authority Wars (AAW) combines history and homily in a bold diagnosis of Adventism’s present crisis that includes a prophetic call to stand for a better future. It is a “tract for the times,” similar in function to the weighty tracts in which the sixteenth-century Reformers marshaled scholarship in defense of their cause.

The book brings together three historically-based essays on church governance and three essays of biblical commentary on the intersection of ordination and gender — the flashpoint for the broader and deeper conflict over authority. The heart of the book, containing its main polemical thrust is Chapter 3, “Catholic or Adventist: The Ongoing Struggle Over Authority + 9.5 Theses.” In this chapter, presented at the Unity 2017 Conference convened by ten union conferences in London last July, Knight draws on the history of Adventist struggles over biblical and ecclesiastical authority to challenge positions taken in the document titled “A Study of Church Governance and Unity” (SCGU) issued by the General Conference Secretariat in September 2016.

Since some of the essays conveniently assembled in this volume have previously been available separately and have been the focus of intense interest and discussion over the past several months, it does not seem useful to summarize them here. In fact, though I will briefly touch on matters of biblical interpretation, especially toward the end, this review will not at all do justice to Knight’s biblical essays. Instead, I will focus on selected aspects of his use of history to inform his polemic with SCGU revolving around two central issues — the nature of General Conference authority; and, more briefly, its use.

The Nature of General Conference Authority

It is the directional flow of authority that is at stake in the current “war,” Knight tells us. He aligns with what he sees as “the traditional Adventist position,” which grounds authority in the membership or constituents as a whole, from whence it flows upward. The SCGU, on the other hand, he observes, sets forth the position that authority flows down from the General Conference “to the constituent administrative entities of the denomination” (AAW 4).

The upward vs. downward flow is a useful metaphor or sound bite for introducing the conflict. On closer look, though, the matter is more complex than a simple up or down alternative. The SCGU in fact agrees that “authority derives from the lowest level of structure (the local church) and flows upward through constituency-based units to the highest level, the General Conference” (SCGU 15). And, conversely, it would seem consistent with Knight’s position to say that the authority delegated upward to the General Conference can rightfully flow back down in ways that call for recognition from the entire world church.

But what is the nature of that authority? Is the General Conference invested with plenary authority, including authority to define and, if necessary, to override that of every other governance structure within the world church? Or, is its authority more specifically demarcated to meet pragmatic needs — mission-driven, contingent and limited?

In Knight’s telling of the story, the force that was powerful enough to cause an “anti-organizational people” to “organize in spite of themselves” (Chapter 1, amplified in Chapter 3) came from “the pragmatic necessities of mission.” As seemingly innumerable varieties of post-Millerite Adventism competed for souls in the early 1850s, the need to identify authentic representatives of the Third Angel’s message led to the issuance of certification cards to preachers. The need to place church property on proper legal footing led to selection of an official name and the incorporation of a rapidly growing publishing ministry. The need to coordinate the work of ministers led to organization of state conferences.

The call for representatives of the state conferences to meet in order to form a General Conference was likewise prompted by a specific and rather basic missional need, set forth by J.H. Waggoner in 1862: coordination of the evangelistic labors of evangelists who traveled from state to state. So, when James White, in previewing the 1863 conference, urged that it would only be worth adding the new General Conference if it could function as “the great regulator,” it was with reference to meeting the specific need “of securing unity and efficiency in labor, and promoting the general interests of the cause of present truth” (Review and Herald, April 28, 1863). One other major role for the General Conference was identified at the organizational gathering: to “take the special supervision of all missionary labor” (Review and Herald, May 26, 1863).

These functions were indeed broad and made the General Conference, as James White had hoped, “higher in authority than State Conferences.” But they were also limited to that which the state conferences and local congregations by definition could not do. The General Conference was not created to manage, direct, or control the operation of the conferences and churches.

Here, as in his previous work, Knight places great stress on two hermeneutical moves by James White that were essential in enabling the “anti-organization people” overcome their aversion to formalizing instruments of authority. First, White broke free of the Restorationist insistence upon explicit New Testament precedent or authorization for anything instituted in the church. Second, he drew attention to the fact that the meaning of “Babylon” was not limited to the early Adventists primary association of the term with the oppressive and persecuting ecclesiastical “established churches” that had harassed, expelled, and ostracized them during the 1843-1844 phase of the Millerite movement. That experience makes understandable their deep-seated resistance to any move in the direction of formal organization as the first step down the slippery slope to “Babylon.” But James pointed out that Babylon also stood for disorder and confusion, and that it was from this aspect that the disorganized early 1850s Adventists most needed to “come out.”

Nonetheless, the first meaning of “Babylon” was not dropped as obsolete. As Knight puts it, each organizational step was taken with “a cautious eye on higher ecclesiastical authorities removing their freedom in Christ” (AAW 42). We also learn from Knight’s narrative that both James and Ellen White were among those vigilant against church organization reverting to the oppression characteristic of Babylon.

It did not take long for the concept of the General Conference as “highest authority” in crucial but delimited functions to morph into more sweeping conceptions of plenary authority, most notably those of George I. Butler, who served as General Conference president for several terms, off and on, during the 1870s and 1880s. Knight brings out striking passages from “the originator of Adventist church structure,” James White, that pushed back against Butler’s position that loyalty to a single, great Leader was needed for the Adventist movement to thrive.

In 1874, White wrote that “organization was designed to secure unity of action, and as a protection from imposture. It was never intended as a scourge to compel obedience, but, rather, for the protection of the people of God.” In 1880, after re-publishing the same statement, he added: “those who drew the plan of our church, Conferences, and General Conference organizations, labored to guard the precious flock of God against the influence of those who might, in a greater or less degree, assume the leadership. They were not ignorant of the evils and abuses which had existed in many of the churches of the past, where men had assumed the position which belongs to Jesus Christ, or had accepted it at the hands of their short sighted brethren” (AAW 106).

Butler does not seem to have altered his views in any fundamental way, however. A few years later, feeling threatened by the dangerous “new theology” of E.J. Waggoner and A.T. Jones, Butler detailed the reach of General Conference authority extending to supervision of every institution, periodical, Conference, society, and mission field throughout the entire church (AAW 43).

Knight adduces many of Ellen White’s repeated rebukes of “kingly power” by one man or a small group of men who exerted domineering influence from Battle Creek over all aspects of the church’s mission that by then was far-flung over distant continents. “Gospel order” was the great need of the 1850s but by the 1880s order had turned into an authoritarianism directed against gospel renewal. Ellen White’s advocacy for the former had never meant capitulation to the latter. Alertness was necessary against the possibility that the ecclesiastical repression characteristic of Babylon that she herself had experienced during the early Second Advent movement could resurface in Adventism’s own governance structures.

In 1889, Ellen White reflected on the fact that Adventists had been “reformers” when “they had come out of the denominational churches” in the 1840s. However, in resisting the “reformation” call stemming from Minneapolis in 1888, denominational leaders “now act a part similar to that which the churches acted.” She had “hoped that there would not be the necessity for another coming out.” She indeed wanted everything possible be done to maintain unity “in the bonds of peace,” but she also pledged that “we will not with pen or voice cease to protest against bigotry” (Manuscript 30, June 21, 1889).

In his second chapter, Knight highlights Ellen White’s prophetic advocacy for major organizational changes that General Conference leadership opposed prior to the breakthrough in 1901. Clearly, she did not regard the divine approval of the church organization formed in the 1860s as conferring sacred immutability on how its particular components were configured to best accomplish the unchanging goals of mission and unity in the original circumstances. Regarding the significance of union conferences and the departmental system for the various lines of church endeavor established in 1901-1903, Knight’s gift for clarifying synthesis is in top form:

Let it be remembered that both of the major innovations were developed in response to regional mission needs and both were developed in opposition to General Conference pronouncements and procedures.But they worked. The major lesson is that without the freedom to experiment Adventism would not have its present system of organization (AAW 47-48).

Drawing on the work of Barry Oliver and the late Gary Chudleigh, Knight drives home the radical shift of authority from the General Conference to the new union conferences envisioned and initiated in 1901. In the words of Arthur G. Daniells, elected to lead the denomination through the re-organization, the unions were invested with “full authority and power to deal with all matters within their boundaries” (AAW 49).

But what should we make of the fact that the book under review as well as Chudleigh’s Who Runs the Church (2013) were published under the auspices of the Pacific Union Conference? Is all this “revisionist history” with evidence cherry-picked and twisted out of context to justify the Columbia and Pacific Unions in defying General Conference authority by enacting gender equality in the ordination of women?

It’s a fair question, notwithstanding the fact that Oliver’s comprehensive study SDA Organizational Structure: Past, Present, and Future (Andrews University Press) has been in print since 1989. All historical writing is generated by some present interest or motivation. That factor must be taken into account but such recognition neither substitutes for nor lessens the necessity of weighing evidence.

Why does the newly prominent evidence concerning the 1901 outlook on the role of union conferences seem to clash so sharply with widespread assumptions about the central and pervasive authority of the General Conference a century later? Here Knight, drawing especially on Oliver, shows that the ideals of 1901 quickly became modified in the heat of the conflict with John Harvey Kellogg that escalated head-on confrontation the very next year. For A.G. Daniells, heightened General Conference authority became the unifying force needed to counteract the centrifugal influence of Kellogg in alliance with A.T. Jones. “That dynamic impelled Daniells to emphasize unity as he moved toward a more authoritative stance,” says Knight. In the century and more that followed, recognition of the General Conference as “God’s highest authority” has been emphasized as the bulwark of unity (AAW 52-53).

What, then, would warrant uplifting short-lived changes in 1901, quickly if not entirely rolled back, as inspiration for the present? Does not the SCGU’s explanation concerning the “plenary authority” of the General Conference over the world church have a more convincing basis in a continuity that has been sustained for more than a century?

Everyone acknowledges and celebrates that some of the changes of 1901 have stuck. The SCGU grants that union conferences (and local churches and conferences) do have “their own constitution and constituency” and thus “decision-making authority in defined areas.” However, the SCGU, quoting the General Conference Working Policy, explains that the status of unions “is not self-generated, automatic, or perpetual” but instead comes by way of conferral from the General Conference. Whatever decision-making authority it has may thus also “be reviewed, revised, amended, or withdrawn by the level of organization that granted it” (B 05, 3). So the bottom line is that the unions, and conference, missions, and local churches as well, have a responsibility “to comply with world Church ‘practices and policies’” that “supersedes all other considerations” (SCGU 15-16).

Along with decades of historical precedent, the SCGU’s logic is clear and grounding and the GC Working Policy solid. On the other hand, Knight brings much to our attention that prompts questions. I find it difficult to reconcile the SCGU/GC Working Policy doctrine of General Conference plenary authority with Ellen White’s observation, in a testimony to church leaders in April 1903, that it had been “a necessity to organize Union conferences, that the General Conference shall not exercise dictation over all the separate Conferences.” It seems her comment is part of a lament that the reforms of 1901 were not being sustained, for she also refers to “kingly authority” once again being manifested (AAW 52-53; 87).

The plenary authority doctrine also seems incongruent with the resolution passed by the 1877 General Conference, with the support of Ellen and James White, as a corrective to G.I. Butler’s misguided theory of leadership authority. It affirmed that “the highest authority under God among Seventh-day Adventists is found in the will of the body of that people, as expressed in the decisions of the General Conference when acting within its proper jurisdiction; and that such decisions should be submitted to by all without exception, unless they can be shown to conflict with the word of God and the rights of individual conscience” (quoted in AAW 55).

According to this resolution, actions duly taken by a General Conference in its capacity as “highest authority under God” are limited to a realm of “proper jurisdiction.” It appears that “highest” may not mean “absolute” or “all-encompassing.” At any rate, the 1877 resolution seems to check the exercise of even the “highest authority” in a way that is incommensurate with the doctrine of plenary authority.

In sum, we might suggest that Knight’s account reveals two governance orientations, both deeply embedded in Adventist history. The centralizing orientation, accompanied by an emphasis on the General Conference imbued with divine authority as the supreme bulwark of church unity, was given voice early on by George I. Butler. I have to wonder, though, if it is entirely fair to Butler that the high profile resulting from his effectiveness as forceful leader has made him the historical whipping boy for excesses in this direction. He must have been drawing on wider currents in the church and was perhaps not entirely without basis for thinking that his approach was in line with that of James and Ellen White.

The decentralizing orientation (for lack of a better term), accompanied by an emphasis on flexibility and openness to innovation in the interests of mission, finds resonance in the distrust of formal authority characteristic of the “anti-organizational people” who launched the Adventist movement. It accepts the consensus about gospel order that resulted in denominational organization but seeks the essential minimum when it comes to centralized power and the maximum possible scope of freedom for those “on the ground” to respond to the leading of the Holy Spirit, and is more reliant on that informal influence as the source of unity than on policy enforcement.

The 1901 reorganization was a breakthrough for the decentralizing orientation and, though scaled back, instituted lasting change. The centralizing orientation toward uplifting the General Conference as the apex of unifying authority prevailed as a mentality throughout the twentieth century. However, Knight, in an illuminating synthesis of recent history, traces a new thrust of the centralizing orientation begun in the 1980s to formalize and extend the scope of General Conference authority.

The Commission on World Church Organization, established in 1991, for example, sought to undermine the plenary authority of local churches over whom to include or exclude from membership. Though that particular push in the centralizing direction did not prevail, the Commission did, in 1995, succeed in codifying in the GC Working Policy, initiatives that began in the 1980s to bring union and conference governance into greater conformity. The changes included “further tightening of control measures embedded in model constitutions” and, portentously, a new section (B 95) with a title that needs little elaboration: “Discontinuation of Conferences, Missions, Unions, and Unions of Churches by Dissolution and/or Expulsion.”

Though these initiatives engendered considerable debate and concern, the long-prevailing influence of the centralizing orientation may have limited the spread of alarm. Also, a more vivid controversy overshadowed these critically important but abstract matters of organizational policy at the 1990 and 1995 General Conferences. It appears that the pervasive centralizing mentality made it seem natural to ask the General Conference for permission to do something that, as Gary Patterson has persuasively argued, was not formally prohibited and for which no special GC permission was needed in the first place — namely, to ordain female pastors.

Knight brings another critical feature associated with the centralizing orientation under scrutiny in responding to the use of Matthew 18:18 in the September 2016 documents issued by the General Conference Secretariat. In this passage, Jesus instructs his disciples about a correspondence between their decisions about “binding” (restricting) and “loosing” (permitting) and that which is done in heaven.

The Summary of the Study of Church Governance and Unity declares: “Seventh-day Adventists believe the authority granted to the Church by Jesus enables Church leaders to make decisions that bind all members. Further, we collectively subordinate ourselves to decisions taken at GC Sessions and Annual Councils” (SCGU Summary, 6).

This use of Matthew 18 invests the functioning of a particular, fallible configuration of ecclesiastical governance with divine authority and by unavoidable implication castigates dissenters as rebels against Jesus (in other words, on the side of Satan, not to put too fine a point on it).

Ellen White also cited the passage on several occasions to admonish individuals to accept the counsel and authority of the church as God’s appointed agency. Regarding such passages as placing divine favor on one side of a disagreement between conscientious church leaders over where to draw the boundaries of authority between denominational entities seems a shaky proposition.

Knight, with the backing of the New American Standard Bible and The Seventh-day Adventist Bible Commentary, prefers to highlight Ellen White’s explanation that the passage does not provide blanket divine confirmation for church decisions. Instead, “whatever the church does that is in accordance with the directions given in God’s word will be ratified in heaven” (Testimonies for the Church 7:263; AAW 75).

This illustrates a contrasting pattern in the decentralizing orientation’s use of inspired texts. It tends to scrutinize the present practices and policies of the church in the light of Scripture, and to uplift the abundance of striking examples in which Ellen White did the same.

The Use of General Conference Authority

Perhaps the most provocative section of Knight’s book, though, is not about the scope and character of church authority, but rather openness and integrity in its use. The defeat of divisional choice in women’s ordination at the San Antonio General Conference in 2015, its failure to reverse the behavior of the “noncompliant” unions, and the specter of punitive action raised in the Fall of 2016 have taken center stage in Adventism’s decades-long struggle over gender equality in ministry. This is understandable, but it seems to me that in the process attention has been unduly diverted from the story of the Theology of Ordination Study Committee (TOSC), one that is most crucial within the overall drama.

Regular readers of the Spectrum website will surely have some awareness of TOSC, and I may be overstating its relative neglect. But if the issues surrounding its role are less sharp and vivid in your mind than those specific to the San Antonio vote, I urge you to make a point of reading Knight’s treatment of it (AAW 96-101) and view the presentation on this topic by Drs. Kendra Haloviak Valentine and Gilbert Valentine.

In the briefest terms possible, this massively-funded project was, at its launch in 2011, touted as the process that would, through a scrupulously thorough, open, and fair process lead to a final resolution of the question of women’s ordination by 2015. The work of study commissions in each division of the world church was followed by an overall, worldwide TOSC to produce the final report.

Knight quotes, with full agreement, the SCGU’s description of the work of TOSC: “Voices from around the world and from all sides were heard; the arguments and supporting documents of all perspectives were made freely available online to church members for their own study and prayerful consideration. The process was unmatched in both breadth and depth” (AAW 97; SCGU 41).

But then, to Knight’s astonishment and mine, the SCGU moves immediately to this conclusion: “When, after such a process, a GC Session takes a decision, one obviously intended to apply to the world (since variation of practice was part of the motion put to the Session), it cannot be disregarded.” But this conclusion apparently does not apply to the nearly two-thirds majority vote (62-32) of the world TOSC to allow divisions the option of ordaining on a gender neutral basis. So it turns out that the SCGU has extolled the virtues of the TOSC process to buttress the legitimacy of a 2015 GC vote that, in denying divisions choice, went precisely opposite to the TOSC recommendations.

Little was said about the TOSC recommendations preparatory to the vote in San Antonio either. Knight concludes: “As impossible as it seems after having spent so much money and time on the project, the results of TOSC were never clearly presented to the General Conference session at the time of the vote. And for good reason. Apparently, TOSC’s consensus did not support the desired conclusions of certain individuals at the top of the denominational power structure” (AAW 97).

It is difficult to conceive how such a procedure would credit any organization, much less one that claims to be God’s “highest authority.” Unfortunately, it is not an isolated case. Knight details a pattern of what he calls “manipulation of data” associated with efforts to defend or heighten General Conference authority in the 1880s and then beginning again in the 1980s.

One more issue involving the use of authority needs mentioning due to its current relevance. The aforementioned addition of section B 95 to the GC Working Policy in 1995, itself arguably an overreach in centralizing authority, set forth procedures for disciplining, and if necessary, dissolving administrative units such as conferences, missions, and union conferences that persist in noncompliance with world church policy. However, this apparently sweeping policy had one shortcoming as the basis for action against the allegedly noncompliant unions in 2016: it specifies that such action be initiated by the division.

Since the North American Division, it seems, could not be counted on to take the desired action, the currently pending process adopted at the 2016 Annual Council for dealing with noncompliant unions had to be initiated by the General Conference administration rather than by follow the policy outlined in B 95. Based on the analysis of attorney and retired Associate General Counsel of the GC, Mitchell Tyner, Knight concludes that “the General Conference presidential office had to step outside of policy to make its case for punishing those it deemed to be outside of policy” (AAW 105).

A Place to Stand

Both Knight’s contention that authority, not female ordination, is the core issue, and my own inclinations have led me to concentrate my commentary there, to the neglect of his chapters on biblical interpretation. But the authority relation of the unions and General Conference is not finally the central issue either. That debate is of vital importance, for if the charge of noncompliance against the female-ordaining unions cannot be sustained, then the impasse is dissolved and the denomination’s existential crisis goes away.

Yet Knight, in the stirring conclusion of his 9.5 Theses, does not appeal for a stand with Luther and the Confessing Church on the true interpretation of GC Working Policy B 05. Conversely, if 2015 vote had been more like 80-20 in the negative, or if there had not been a favorable TOSC supermajority, it seems unlikely that the Columbia and Pacific Unions would have reversed course on equality. Nor would they likely do so if the 2020 General Conference entirely eliminates any basis for ambiguity by passing an explicit prohibition against ordaining women.

On the other hand, if the unions were to win the debate over whether there is no gender limitation in their authority to approve recommendations for ordination, it is not a foregone conclusion that all would always include women. Would not unions still be in a position to use their authority to exclude women whose names are sent for approval from a conference?

The core issue does finally lead us back to the Protestant Reformation and the question which holds priority: ecclesiastical authority or biblical authority? Knight’s most telling argument in this regard is that Adventist ecclesiastical authority has created an extra-biblical category called ordination, reserved to males only, and insisted on conformity based on bare assertion of General Conference authority — itself defended with Scripture passages but devoid of any clear, substantive basis in Scripture on the disputed issue itself.

So, is Adventism really on the road to Rome if it fails to heed George Knight’s 9.5 theses? A case for an over-sensationalized title and framing of the issue might be made, but he is serious about getting our attention. And might it be the case that wise, confident leadership would feel no need to overreact, give some scope for the element of rhetorical and marketing strategy, and discern the love at the heart of the message?

I have gone on way too long, but it’s my turn at the microphone. So before giving it up, I want to suggest the following to anyone who may still be listening: If the Adventist movement is to be instrumental in bringing the reformation of the church begun five hundred years ago to its culmination, it makes sense that we should neither be bound by the limitations of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation, nor lose the bearings of its definitive insights, such as: 1) salvation by grace through faith alone; 2) the supreme authority of Scripture; and 3) priesthood of all believers (and the only New Testament “royal priesthood” I know about has no gender exclusions).

Along with Knight’s 9.5 Theses, I think 1877 General Conference resolution cited above could be useful toward that twin goal. The resolution both affirms an appropriate scope for the General Conference as the “highest authority” of a united world movement and honors the Protestant principle of individual conscience guided by the supreme authority of scripture. It does not provide a formula for easy resolution of tension and conflict over how these sources of authority interact “on the ground.” It does, I would hope, continue to provide a viable touchstone for unity.

Douglas Morgan, Ph.D., is professor of history at Washington Adventist University.

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Thanks Doug for bringing some academic scrutiny to Knight’s thesis! This is an outstanding contribution to the discussion at the present time! Your nuanced differences with Knight serve only to enhance his major points while at the same time making them more believable.

Adventists need to dispense with a hierarchical model of ecclesial authority. I much prefer to think of our family of organisational entities and institutions as wheels within wheels, each wheel having a specific function and authorisation for the smooth operation of the whole.

Adventists may with merit dispense with talk of higher organisations and defer to language such as “broader sphere of influence and responsibility.”

This modelling of church structure may be understood as a lateral model of church structure rather than a hierarchical one.

You final point about the 1877 statement on church authority is a valuable one. The final check and balance on churchly authority certainly is the Word of God and the individual conscience ruled by that Word.

~ “If the Adventist movement is to be instrumental in bringing the reformation of the church begun five hundred years ago to its culmination, it makes sense that we should neither be bound by the limitations of the sixteenth-century Protestant Reformation, nor lose the bearings of its definitive insights, such as: 1) salvation by grace through faith alone; 2) the supreme authority of Scripture; and 3) priesthood of all believers (and the only New Testament “royal priesthood” I know about has no gender exclusions).” ~

What has ‘Scripture alone’ ever created, or ‘authored’ . . . except arguments ?

There was no day made by God for remembering “Scripture” alone, but even Scripture acknowledges that God ‘rested’ from Creating on the 7th day. And Ellen wrote:

“God would draw minds from the conviction of logic to a conviction deeper, higher, purer, and more glorious. Often human logic has nearly quenched the light that God would have shine forth in clear rays to convince men that the Lord of nature is worthy of all praise and glory, because He is the Creator of all things.” {GW 157.4}

Let’s hope that the Advent Movement succeeds where the Protestant reformation has failed for hundreds of years. God’s ‘authority’ resides in Their ‘creativity’. They ‘authored’ all. God’s people have failed to ‘see the Author, for the words’, before :

“You search the Scriptures, for in them you think you have eternal life; and these are they which testify of Me. “But you are not willing to come to Me that you may have life. John 5:39-40 NKJV

Following are excerpts from Rome’s Challenge, pages 14-16 (containing reprints from the Catholic Mirror published over a century ago. You may find the pdf @ :

“[From the Catholic Mirror of Sept. 23, 1893.]

“Their pretense for leaving the bosom if the Catholic Church was for apostasy from the truth as taught in the written word. They adopted the written word as their sole teacher, which they had no sooner done than they abandoned it promptly, as these articles have abundantly proved; . . . .

[Editor’s note–It was upon this very point that the Reformation was condemned by the Council of Trent. The Reformers had constantly charged, as here stated that the Catholic Church had apostatized from the truth as contained in the written word. “The written word,” “The Bible and the Bible only,” “Thus saith the Lord,” these were their constant watchwords; and “The Scripture as in the written word the sole standard of appeal.” This was the proclaimed platform of the Reformation and of Protestantism. “The Scripture and tradition.” “The bible as interpreted by the Church and according to the unanimous consent of the fathers.” This was the position and claim of the Catholic Church. This was the main issue in the Council of Trent, which was called especially to consider the questions that had been raised and forced upon the attention of Europe by the Reformers. The very first question concerning faith that was considered by the council was the question involved in this issue. There was a strong party even of the Catholics within the council who were in favor of abandoning tradition and adopting the Scriptures only, as the standard of authority. This view was so decidedly held in the debates in the council that the pope’s legates actually wrote to him that there was “as strong tendency to set aside tradition altogether and to make Scripture the sole standard of appeal.” But to do this would manifestly be to go a long way toward justifying the claim of the Protestants. By this crisis there was developed upon the ultra-Catholic portion of the council the task of convincing the others that “Scripture and tradition” were the only sure ground to stand upon. If this could be done, the council could be carried to issue a decree condemning the Reformation, otherwise not. The question was debated day after day, until the council was fairly brought to a standstill. Finally, after a long and intensive mental strain, the Archbishop of Reggio came into the council with substantially the following argument to the party who held for scripture alone:

"The Protestants claim to stand upon the written word only. They profess to hold the Scripture alone as the standard of faith. They justify their revolt by the plea that the Church has apostatized from the written word and follows tradition. Now the Protestant’s claim, that they stand upon the written word only is not true. Their profession of holding the Scripture alone as the standard of faith, is false.
PROOF: The written word explicitly enjoins the observance of the seventh day as the Sabbath. They do not observe the seventh day, but reject it. If they do truly hold the Scripture alone as their standard, they would be observing the seventh day as is enjoined in the scripture throughout. Yet they not only reject the observance of the Sabbath enjoined in the written word, but they have adopted and do practice the observance of Sunday, for which they have only the tradition of the Church. Consequently the claim of “Scripture alone as the standard.’ fails; and the doctrine of “Scripture and tradition” as essential, is fully established, the Protestants themselves being judges.”

There was no getting around this, for the Protestants own statement of faith–the Augsburg Confession 1530–had clearly admitted that “the observation of the Lord’s day” had been appointed by “the Church” only.

The argument was hailed in the council as of Inspiration only; the party for “Scripture alone,” surrendered; and the council at once unanimously condemned Protestantism and the whole Reformation as only an unwarranted revolt from the communion and authority of the Catholic Church; and proceeded, April 8, 1546 "to the promulgation of two decrees, the first of which enacts, under anathema, that Scripture and tradition are to be received and venerated equally, and that the deutero-canonical {the apocryphal} books are part of the cannon of Scripture. The second decree declares the Vulgate to be the sole authentic and standard Latin version, and gives it such authority as to supersede the original tests; forbids the interpretation of Scripture contrary to the sense received by the Church, “or even contrary to the unanimous consent of the Fathers,” etc.

Thus it was the inconsistency of the Protestant practice with the Protestant profession that gave to the Catholic Church her long-sought and anxiously desired ground upon which to condemn Protestantism and the whole Reformation movement as only a selfishly ambitious rebellion against church authority. And in this vital controversy the key, the chiefest and culminative expression, of the Protestant inconsistency was in the rejection of the Sabbath of the Lord, the seventh day, enjoined in the Scriptures and the adoption and observance of the Sunday as enjoined by the Catholic Church.

And this is today the position of the respective parties to this controversy. Today, as this document shows, this is the vital issue upon which the Catholic Church arraigns Protestantism, and upon which she condemns the course of popular Protestantism as being “indefensible, self-contradictory, and suicidal,” What will these Protestants, what will this Protestantism, do?]”
~ ~ ~ * * * ~ ~ ~
As it was 5 centuries ago, still it is, today . The key to truly reforming the GC of SDAs, then, also resides in the recognition of the ‘Word’ of Creation – memorialized by the true Sabbaths – as the Source of any scriptural ‘authority’ which created mankind may claim.

For instance, it is impossible to argue for ‘women’s ordination’ as equal to men’s, without acknowledging the Creative Authority of that Divine ‘Word of God’ whose image women were intended to reflect (Genesis1:26-28) . . . or, must women become ‘fathers’, also,
to please the GC ?

If all of the voting delegates at the 2015 GC had been equally conscientious students of, even, elementary science as they were of SDA religion – just as the SDA ‘God’ is the ‘Author’ of both – what would Spectrum be finding to publish upon in the SDA church, today ?

Acclaim, admiration, and applause to SPECTRUM and its SPLENDID editor and staff, for publishing these informative, astute and provocative articles, in such a timely and appropriate fashion before the Autumn Council.

We can only hope that the target audience is intuitively reading these dispatches and obtaining some enlightenment before the momentous decisions that await the church body!


The problem with the mantra of Sola Scriptura is that claiming biblical authority for any one affirmation can be countered with a contradicting claim which also has biblical support. The same, of course is true of the writings of Ellen White, even if for different reasons. Ecclesiastical authority must admit that it derives from the will of the ones who submit to it. This demands that transparent democracy be at work, and such is, obviously, not presently working in this church.


What amazes me is how EGW has ceased to be a unifying influence in the church. All sides use her writings as authority. It reminds me of Lutherans and Calvinists inability of reaching a sense of community, toleration and deep care for each others theological convictions. This resulted in, along their mutual hatred of the RC church, The 30 Years War. This impoverished sections of Europe and swept away a couple hundred thousand people from enjoying the shared pleasures of life.

For what? Doctrine. Nothing ever really changes. Does it?

Too bad Jesus failed to give us a nice list of approved doctrines. Instead he left stores that illustrated ethical behavior. Alas, we humans want not ethics–but DOCTRINE.


He should also have left us a list of future translations of the Bible that would be “approved” and reliable. It would have saved us lots of time spent in the talks with @GregCox. Though apparently @elmer_cupino is experiencing some spiritual growth as he engages in the dialogue. :upside_down_face:


Christ came according to the Law and Prophets - that’s a Bible 101 softball lob. Sorry you’ll miss it. As for the translations, George, make light of it all you want, that’s your funeral. I tried to dialogue with you but you already have your mind made up apparently. Is that what licensed Psychologists are doing these days?

All I saw was bald assertions without corroborating evidence, Greg.

Where I come from, that’s not called dialogue.

Did I miss something?

Wait. What? Funeral?

You are now issuing vague threats for not not believing your bald assertions?

Earlier, you said: “Are you not aware of the translational difference? I would be more then glad to lay out, side by side, some of the key texts to PROVE the difference.”


My mind is still “open” pending those biblical texts you promised me that would solidify Male Headship in the Bible without mental acrobats, contortions and gymnastics.

Still waiting…


Cassie, you are stepping into a dialogue without fully reading it. What I was writing to George was that the translations are very plainly different; the LXX form the MSS and the Received from the Modern. It’s imperative that these be understood in order to understand Ford’s stance. George did not understand this, or did not want to. Either way, you can’t teach those unwilling to learn.

Earlier, you said:

“Are you not aware of the translational difference? I would be more then glad to lay out, side by side, some of the key texts to PROVE the difference.”

What did I miss? Maybe others missed that part too. Could you repeat, or link to where you laid out texts side by side and PROVED the difference, instead of making dark references to funerals?

Maybe you already did that. I thought I read everything, but maybe I didn’t. If that is the case, I will properly apologize.



it’s no problem - i was getting frustrated with George, I was genuinely trying to explain the differences but he was apparently not interested in the gravity and severity of using false translations - in fact he made light of this issue. I will lay it out here for you to compare:

Here is the MSS (which is what EGW used as well as all of protestant Christendom until the 20th century:

"And he shall make an atonement for the HOLY PLACE, because of the uncleanness of the children of Israel, and because of their transgressions in all their sins: and so shall he do for the tabernacle of the congregation, that remaineth among them in the midst of their uncleanness.
17 And there shall be no man in the tabernacle of the congregation when he goeth in to make an atonement in the HOLY PLACE, until he come out, and have made an atonement for himself, and for his household, and for all the congregation of Israel.

Now here is a modern translation using the LXX which has been proven fraudulent:

"In this way he will make atonement for the MOST HOLY PLACE because of the uncleanness and rebellion of the Israelites, whatever their sins have been. He is to do the same for the tent of meeting, which is among them in the midst of their uncleanness. 17 No one is to be in the tent of meeting from the time Aaron goes in to make atonement in the MOST HOLY PLACE until he comes out, having made atonement for himself, his household and the whole community of Israel.

The LXX does NOT follow the Yom Kippur pattern at all, it changes it drastically as there is a specific order from whence the High Priest entered Holy, and Most Holy as you can see with the side-by-side comparo.

Are you understanding this part so far? I’d be glad to deep-dive if you need more details.

There are three reasons why we won’t be in touch:

  1. Baloney. You didn’t try to dialogue with anybody. It is more than obvious that you are here to teach everyone your views, and those who “dare” not to agree then have to be scorched and even scared (“that’s your funeral”).

  2. Mocking Clinical Psychologists tells a lot not only about what one knows about them, but about character as well. How can you approach a stranger with such a low tone?

  3. I really do not have much time to invest in relating to people who are spiritually arrogant. Spiritual arrogance is not part of a clean religious life; it’s rather a detour into the path that leads to cultism. I am out of these things.

Enjoy the Sabbath Greg.


Get on the famous couch brother… It may take a while… :wink:


thank you George, I will have a blessed Sabbath. If you do however become open minded, then yes, we can chat. Take care.

Cass, you are more than welcome aboard. Actually, you can replace me in this “so called” dialogue. The proof that it is NOT actually intended to be a dialogue, is right here; notice the word “teach.” Exactly what I said a few time before.



You know me, I just barge in like a bull in a china shop, which isn’t exactly dialogue either. :roll_eyes:


You don’t miss a single opportunity to offend people you never met, uh?
Who are you to judge people’s “open mindness?”

Never mind. Better if you don’t even reply… but you can have the LAST WORD if you want, if it will make you feel a better Christian.


First you have to provide evidence for this bald assertion, on which you are basing your argument:

You can’t make a cogent argument if you assume your premises.

I do apologize, though, for missing that part of your discussion, and for barging in.