How Healthy is Adventist Hermeneutics? The Hypertrophy of the Interpreting Church (Part 5)

We have been considering the importance and centrality of the “Hermeneutic Circle” in our reading of the Bible in order to really understand the nature and reach of biblical interpretation. Every reading of the Bible is legitimate and brings some blessing, but not every reading represents the Bible fully. We can’t be satisfied with a proximate, minimal, and even less with an ideological and biased biblical reading. It’s helpful and healthy to remember that anyone can easily be biblically biased. We should continually learn to be aware and admit that we all – particularly those who highly cherish the Bible – will inevitably have some biased biblical readings. And we will struggle to correct them because, on that imperfect basis, God has nevertheless blessed us. Even more difficult will be to admit that we’ll likely never be able to completely discard some important biases. It is possible to read the bible with coherence and conviction while avoiding the disturbing but healing power of an interpreting wisdom. In so doing we then maintain and perpetuate our biases. Coherence and conviction without wisdom, whose main characteristic is precisely the search for interpretation, easily become destructive “virtues”.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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A learned critique of Adventism and the leadership doesn’t know how hard they have been hit. “Our way or the highway just doesn’t cut it anymore.,


A hard-hitting article that may touch some raw nerves! All our comments
on this website also come under its scrutiny.
Hans G’s thinking reinforces the need for the Church’s need (institutionally
and individually) for humility.
Additionally, we may not be able to escape the conclusion
that “each hermeneutic is a child of its own time”.
Thank you Hans Gutierrez.


How can this possibly be true? The devils believe and tremble. Is that legitimate?

This does seem a list of liberal agenda items. Is it just liberal folk that have real insight into “Biblical Bias”. And is it just a coincidence that all the problems are real on the conservative side??

Seems both liberal and conservative readers could fall into this trap, and have.

Right. We too often do that, and really need to be more liberal in our outlook, thus avoid submission, mechanics and lack of imagination. Of course if you are going to follow western cultural norms (see list above), you need to fall in line with them, and become submission, mechanistic, and unimaginative toward them.

The Sadducees, the liberals of Jesus’ day, were just as blind if not more so to the Christ as the conservative Pharisees. Liberalism will not prevent you from being lost. May even help.

The problem here is the author’s view of the church. Those that do not favor WO, etc. may not be imperial, hierarchic and non-dialogical. Just disagree with the more liberal wing. Being liberal does not make you necessarily righteous, nor your positions more righteous.

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Trying to ignore the labels, even the simple ones of “liberal and conservative,” what all this seems to boil down to is that the SDA church is worshipping the SDA church. To join the Adventist church, we [ledge allegiance to the Adventist church. This upholds its history as the primary “truth”. The prominent criticism of the Ford hermeneutic was that it modified, at best; and obliterated, at its worst, uniqueness of the Adventist “truth” which sits on pillars of Adventist making. The Sabbath School study of the Bible is simply a reminder of Adventist history.

If a poor “sinner” should wander into an Adventist service, he will find out that he has to wash up and straighten out before he comes back. The “gospel” he hears is a litany of life changes that grant him a seat among the remnant. Along with that, he must get a yellow marker so as to be able to skip the irrelevant texts hiding among the pillars.


First thing we need to do is scrap “liberal” and “conservative” on our foreheads. What if we just refer to people instead of kicking them into a cage someone labeled, based on a handful of people that sounded the same on a given topic. Each label comes with a whole list of other adjectives that automatically get added to the general category of “liberal” or “conservative”. Those labels end conversations; but more than that, they stop us LISTENEING and THINKING.


This is just as stereotypical was my comments about the liberal wing of the church, and its list of required beliefs. You must be against:

And if not, you are a bigot misogynist etc. Those who do not go along are called these sweet names, and you are right, it ends conversation and thinking. “Liberal, Conservative” are mild by comparatively.

I was perhaps amiss to categorize this gentleman. But the article seemed one sided to me.

The above quote seems to summarize Gutierrez’s series in which he has called on strategies from his medical identity and biblical scholar identity to create a health assessment of the Adventist church ethos now, as we debate hermeneutics. He has offered a brilliantly refreshing recap of the issues of text and reader, claiming that transformation occurs in the tension-filled space between text and reader. With regards to the textual pole of hermeneutics, he suggests one attend to discerning fact, principle, and paradox. Following the hermeneutics of Jesus, Gutierrez suggests that the concept of paradox is most important. Who can read the gospels without noting that paradox was the key way to learning and transformation?

With regards to the reader pole of the heuristic endeavor, he describes the issue as being more intuitive, I think. Readers exist in particular cultures. People experience reality in a variety of ways. He says the Adventist church assumes a standardized reader and is afraid of a “real” reader. If true, this is a serious indictment. Gutierrez’ description of the danger of biblical ecclesiocentrism could be a prophetic warning. Social psychology states that people who defend a holy cause are willing to act in violent ways because their cause is “pure,” or, one might say, “biblical.” Using the metaphor of hypertrophy to describe the phenomenon of a church drunk with “Ecclesiological Bible-based Positivism” leads one to imagine the possibility of a powerful, but dysfunctional, group willing to act dysfunctionally (in a dystopic or violent fashion?) to preserve their described truth.

A last medical comparison comes when he describes the Church as having creating an identity that makes it a natural extension of the Bible, and thus, as having immunized itself from common sense considerations.

Thank you Dr. Hanz Gutierrez for this hermeneutical health assessment.


Carmen –
The Bible wasn’t meant for “individual, isolated” reading and study.
It was meant for oral community listening.
Then OPEN to “free thought” discussion in community regarding what
was heard.
It is only in unrestrained discussion that the various LAYERS of Biblical
thought and meaning can be explored. Discussion of this type helps to
remove just one view, my view, my narrow view, from the “automatic
reading” of familiar and not so familiar words on the page that it is so
easy for me to retain in “isolated” study.
“Lecture” style of Bible “study” is helpful sometimes, but IT TOO can
create a narrowness of thinking when seeing words on a page.


Not at all. It’s “canonical”. The remnant are those who dress right, worship right, eat right. The baptismal tank does not admit jewelry wearing, coffee/tea drinking non-comformists.

Aren’t they all… Anyone with an opinion, can be considered “one sided”.


Hence the Mishnah and the Midrash!


I agree. I think Gutierrez sees the reader as one pole of Bible study. Then, within the concept of reader there will be an individual, and group, and cultural context. When the Bible was written, the community learned by listening to an oral rendition of the text. Naturally, when literacy became widespread and when we had a printing press, then the option of an individual study became a possibility. That is to say, it is one way to experience biblical truth but not necessarily the only way or the optimal way.


I wish. :smile:

(…ineteen, twenty.)

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Sounds like, back to the Cult days. Maybe an update to Hoekema’s Four Major Cults is forthcoming?


The only valid label is the label we give ourselves. I may call myself “liberal” but others may see me as “conservative”. We don’t act and think because of how others label us but because of how we label ourselves.

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That really is the heart of our problem. The evil way Des Ford was treated–even after his death–was a demonstration of this.

In one of his countless articles, Ted Wilson wrote that by accepting baptism into the SDA Church, we made a committment to be forever loyal to every SDA teaching or leave. (No we didn’t!)

EGW wrote that not all of our expositions of scripture are correct. Maybe that’s why the leaders sent her to Australia.


C’mon Allen, wrong is wrong. how about a real apology, instead of posturing, ducking?
And has it never ocurred to you that it (article) seems one sided, but despite your many contrary attestations, you ARE one sided?

I’m so glad for your posterity sake that none of your parishioners are as deplorable as, say, Spectrumites, although said fact might be further evidence of onesidedness.

I’d suggest that the article strummed your least favorite nerve…thou doth protest too much methinks, perhaps because this mindset might be representative of the problem this article adresses.


Ive sometimes wondered why God did not see fit to give literature to man originally, if is so important today? And further, why he did not by his own hand write incontrovertible Truth on stone tablest then? Would surely save many of us deficient/bias seeking/ and ADD/HD readers.

Perhaps Truth was intended to be carried orally, within all comprising community (and not just chained to sanctioned altars, err, pulpits)



I made a small move to amend what seems a small oversight but I get a stern rebuke, “It is not enough Allen”.

Folk that do not confirm to the “liberal” view of matters here are castigated as misogynists, bigots, homophobes, toxic, blind and as one post on another thread said,

Yes! Or put more colloquially, those backwards misogynistic power grabbing men who don’t want to share with inferior females, who cannot see beyond their noses, thrust into the air in arrogance."

And this happens routinely here. In fact it is almost the standard practice.

When you and the other more righteous ones will rebuke such name calling and ad hominem-ing in a similar fashion, I will gladly do the required mea culpa. But until then, I’ll just posture and duck.

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In less advanced cultures Story Telling is Literature. The voice, facial
expressions, movement of the hands and body – all of these contribute
to understanding the story. And allow for discussion of the story
once it is presented. All done in community.
Then there are Story Teller students learning and memorizing the
words – word for word – so sometime they can pass along the
stories – word for word.
Just reading loses much of the power of actual Story Telling.

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