How Readest Thou?

How readest thou? This is a fundamental question in Christianity and revolves around whether or not you believe the Bible is an instruction manual, telling us how to conduct our lives in every detail. For example, some Christians believe that because Jacob had four wives, David had multiple wives, and Solomon had 300 wives, that the Bible is giving us instruction that polygamy is God’s ideal in marriage. Other examples of taking the Bible as a literal instruction manual are: snake handling, speaking in tongues, use of force, intermediation by priests, and burning or stoning dissenters.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

I’m waiting for the person who still uses a road map from some distant time in the past for their journey across country or around the world, to come forward and admit to such.


san antonio really was regrettable, from beginning to end…it now appears to occupy a pivotal point in our history, so that we say, almost without thinking, before san antonio, and after san antonio…in hindsight, it seems obvious that a politically generated delegate vote can never be used to settle an issue that lacks the kind of biblical direction that everyone can agree is clear…my feeling now is that the GC has sustained a blow to its authority that is permanent…i think the esteem many have felt for the GC presidency, itself, has also been weakened…


I just added this comment elsewhere on this forum but it seems equally appropriate here:

This morning it occurred to me that the bible and EGW are really just compilations of fortune cookies that can be cut up into little bite-sized verses, then bolted back together ala Dr. Frankenstien to create whatever monstrous image of our creator one prefers! :rofl:

Not naming names 'cause I think everyone does it.

For example, I’m convinced that Jesus, if he really was a real personage rather than the result of similar “cutting and pasting” by proto-christians based on early copies of the gospels, was undoubtedly a panthesist because he believed that rocks could sing and that asses could talk.

So I don’t see anyway to prevent this but I suspect that someone will pull out a memory verse which purportedly proves that I’m wrong about that! :rofl: :rofl: :rofl:

Just sayin’…


And what of the historical evidence (if not proof) that Jesus existed? Whether the gospels accurately quote him is a different question, I think.

No evidence of Jesus’ existence?!?!

To paraphrase John Calvin, we have enough fragments of Jesus’ cross to reconstruct a full-sized replica of Noah’s Ark!!!:rofl:

How can anyone argue that doesn’t prove the Bible is 100% accurate, historically?

As to being sure he was quoted correctly, we have no choice but to believe Jesus when he said, “I’m going to have each of my apostles have one of their followers write conflicting, second hand stories about what I did and said, then leave subsequent generations to sort it all out as best they can, en masse, and using that hearsay. This rather than sending the Holy Spirit to guide each of you through it, personally…”



These principles got lost? When were they given in the first place? Was Genesis 3 given as actual history or as a paradoxical story for baffled discussion? One wrong move on the part of the unfallen humans and billions of innocent humans were forced to cease being innocent and live painful, tragic, lives. (But not if we’re supposed to treat it like the state of the dead the rich man and Lazurus story and the spoof story in Isa 14.

Evidently, readers (hearers) are supposed to realize that if the unfortunate couple had been given the knowledge the other characters had about good and evil, they wouldn’t have done what it took to gain that knowledge, and they would be alive today? (“Look their knowledge of good and evil is just like ours. We have to terminate them.”-- Or something like that. Gen 3:22).

There’s something wrong here. I once heard a Jewish comic say, "Why are you Christians so interested in what you call the Old Testament? You got the better deal. (I think he may have been serious. The audience laughed but he didn’t.)

Maybe we should keep reminding ourselves that the Bible doesn’t say that God is its author. There’s the paradox again: If God isn’t the Bible’s author, it doesn’t have the authority to tell us that He is.

Thank God for the Holy Spirit.



It appears that from the very 
beginning of the Jewish nation 
the principles of love, mercy, and 
doing what is right got lost in the 
minds and practices of the   
Israelites. Because of the 
multitude of specific rules given, 
they thought that if God had not 
implicitly commanded them to 
avoid specific behaviors the 
behavior was allowed. On the 
other hand, since God had not 
defined “work” in the fourth 
commandment, they started to  
define what and how much of a 
given activity was allowed before 
being considered “work"

In this regard, I think of a salient verse from a paradoxical passage that has become very significant lately to me:

As Ezekiel rehearses in ch.20, from God’s point of view, the history of His gifts, His patience, and His frustration with the Israelites,

God remarks:

Text 2:

Ez. 20: 25 “I also gave them statutes that were not good, and ordinances by which they could not live;”

this, after saying earlier,

Text 1:

Ez. 20:13 “I gave them My statutes and informed them of My ordinances, which, if a person follows them, then he will live by them.”

This judgment seems deeply insightful in itself and germane to what you were pointing out above, Dennis. Why do the weightier matters of the law–justice, mercy, and faithfulness–get so easily overlooked by us humans?

In hindsight, it seems obvious that a politically generated delegate vote can never be used to settle an issue…

… feeling now is that the GC has sustained a blow to its authority that is permanent…i think the esteem many have felt for the GC presidency, itself, has also been weakened…

deplorably so, possibly as in the days of Eli the high priest and his sons, the ark of the covenant departed and was lost a while to the Israelites; and the priesthood of Eli’s line suffered eventual extinction.

Has the glory departed from the organization and leadership of the SDA tabernacle too? Will God abandon His Shiloh again?

i don’t think we’re at this point yet, not by a long shot…in eli’s case, his sons were doing horrible things openly in the church, without any attempt at restraint by eli…the situation was far gone…the entire priesthood, which was the leadership of israel then, had become an agency of satan that had no power to lead the people forward…

i had the privilege of meeting TW a few yrs ago, and basically spent the whole day with him and nancy (we were part of a larger group)…my feeling is that he wants to do the right thing…it is evident that he is faithful in his personal life, and that that faithfulness extends into the way he’s running the church…

what has happened with this situation with WO is a genuine misunderstanding…there is a way of reading paul that strongly suggests headship…sincere people can legitimately come to this view…but as i see it, where TW and others have erred is that they have not left the door fully open to other genuinely spiritual viewpoints…they have allowed their own biases to colour the biblical text to such an extent that they literally haven’t been able see beyond these biases…in addition, they have looked askance at WO advocates, taken note of their LGBT company, and have summarily said, no thx, without really looking at the issue itself…

at issue is “how readest thou”, as this article is so aptly titled…specifically, are we going to see in the bible only direct divine revelation, or are we going to see instances were inspired leaders were exercising personal judgement appropriate for their time and place…well, if we look at the nature of egw’s inspiration, and extrapolate backwards into the way paul would have been inspired, we can see that the inspiration in his letters reflects a combination of divine revelation and personal judgement, just like her inspiration in her writings does…there are plenty of indicators in 1 Corinthians 7, for example, that show that paul was exercising personal judgement in his counsel to the churches, eg:

“But I speak this by permission, and not of commandment”, v.6.

“But to the rest speak I, not the Lord”, v.12.

“Now concerning virgins I have no commandment of the Lord: yet I give my judgment, as one that hath obtained mercy of the Lord to be faithful”, v.25.

“I suppose therefore”, v.26.

“But she is happier if she so abide, after my judgment: and I think also that I have the Spirit of God”, v.40.

TW and others aren’t detecting this duality between revelation and personal judgement in the letters of paul…they are assuming that because the letters of paul are in the bible, they’re wholly a reflection of divine revelation…

but WO, by definition, is detecting that paul, and others, are products of their time and place, and that some of their counsels, even when these counsels are the products of divine revelation, are time and place specific, and that to follow this counsel from a principle standpoint now may in fact require an opposite application…

as a church, we have always followed this principle approach…for instance, in the case of the mosaic statutes, we don’t necessarily say that all of them were typical of the reality of christ…in some cases, they were obviously cultural adaptations to principles implied in the decalogue that no longer apply to us today…for us to make an equivalent cultural adaptation to those same decalogue principles requires a different application, simply because our culture is vastly different than ancient israel’s…

in general, i suspect that san antonio is really an example of growing pains in our church…africa and other parts of our church haven’t caught up to where we are in NAD, nor can they while their societies are where they are…so while the GC has sustained a blow, and the GC presidency has suffered a loss of esteem, these aren’t fatal…reasonable people who are interested in the welfare of the church will easily see these things for what they are, namely minor bumps along the road towards forward progress…

Although I mostly liked your comment, I would chance or maybe add to the last sentences. God may not have sat down and written the Bible himself as Mohammed purported did, nor send and angel to oversee the writing, He was the instigator and inspiration. He is behind the texts even those that seem to be just historical. Remember most reasonable people ( that number seems to be dropping now) believe that we should learn from history. A little idea that I believe God instigated.

I quite agree with your extended treatment related to inspiration and specifically to Paul. That is my understanding too, and I felt that Dennis Hollingstead made an enlightened contribution in his article. A nuanced reading and one based on Biblical principles makes much sense in interpretation.

As to Eli and his sons, unfortunately the principle that the attitude of leadership at the top filters down through an organization, in my view, holds true there. Eli ignored God’s counsel, did not reprimand nor correct his sons; whose vile behavior in turn brought dishonor upon the sanctuary service and disrepute upon the priesthood; a loss of credibility ensued; and as the people lost trust in these institutions their reverence for God and worship of Him suffered, with disastrous results for the nation.

There is not anything like the moral licentiousness of Eli’s sons going on in our church. And yet there has been a loss of trust among church members because of the undemocratic and untruthful conduct of affairs at San Antonio, and because of a willingness to compel behavior to “toe the line” by the compliance committees, since dropped.

I hope that the discontinuance of thiese punitive measures does indicate a change of heart, because these matters touch on fundamental principles cherished by our church and our republic–free will, freedom of worship, and liberty to serve God according to the dictates of one’s own conscience.

Traditional societies have their own values and ways of being that must be respected, but that should not be imposed upon cultures that are different from them. Why didn’t the idea of unity meaning not necessarily uniformity prevail? That would seem like a very commendable stance for governing the church.

Moreover in some places, as in Scandinavia, the illegality before the national law that unequal treatment in ordination of men and women ministers poses, has forced those in charge to bend over backwards to satisfy the demands of both church and state.

I am concerned about the long-term effects that employment of procedures that have been at least underhanded and at worst abusive may have on the church at the membership level. I hope that a spirit of antichristian ethics may never take hold in the SDA faith, for the experience of other communities is a demonstration of what can happen, as we know, when diabolical principles come to a full outworking.

I am glad if this does not prove to be the case.

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i quite agree with your misgivings over the way TW has worked through the GC to punish WO unions which had simply stood up for conscience, after having formed the very firewall of protection against GC excesses for which they’d been created with the endorsement of our prophet in the first place…there is also the reality that in subsequent AC meetings, TW deliberately put sister unions in a very difficult position by forcing them to choose to sanction WO unions, not so much for their position, but for the sake of the integrity of a GC vote, which was a particularly low blow…i do think history will view San Antonio and its aftermath as the nadir of TW’s presidency…he may have thought at the time that he was being called to exercise the decisiveness his father used in sacking ford, but hindsight has shown that this thought, if he entertained it, has been horribly misguided…

but i also think that the pandemic we seem to crawling out of has had the unintended consequence of giving everyone an opportunity to think long and hard about the details of the San Antonio saga, and how attempts to enforce uniformity have not only failed, but have essentially backfired…i will be very surprised, if and when we resume normalcy again, presumably at next year’s GC in St. Louis, that TW will feel empowered by africa to impose sanctions on PUC for its nomination of Sandra Roberts as its union executive secretary, let alone resume punishment for dissent from San Antonio…something tells me that africa may be feeling tired of being the bad guys…and now that SAD is on board with women elders, africa would likely be alone if it insisted on treating the vote at San Antonio as binding, in any case…in addition, the replacement of Ng and Prestol-Puesan in the GC executive may be giving TW cover for a completely new start, given that he wouldn’t now be bound to statements and evident intents known possibly only to Ng and Prestol-Puesan…

of course this is all speculation…by i don’t rule out the possibility that god intends to use the pandemic to correct his church in ways we don’t suspect…the reality is that St. Louis will certainly be a new start…no one in GC-ville is going to want shadows from San Antonio to suffocate what will no doubt be fresh intents on the part of all…presumably there will be an across the board thankfulness to be alive, healthy, and in a position to do what i don’t doubt all of them see as their very best to move our church forward…

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Thank you for your wise and knowledgeable response to my concerns. Yes, the pandemic has fostered much reflection as well as an openness to fresh approaches across many sectors. I hope with you that there will be new vision for the church going forward, with this providential restart, and that some of the recent gains made will be consolidated and more progress made. Thank you.

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we probably shouldn’t neglect to mention the possibility that TW may not continue on as GC president after St. Louis…i’m not aware that he’s made any statement of intent…but in this event, of course, we’d certainly have a fresh start for our church…

my own feeling is that TW should absolutely continue on as GC president…i don’t believe that an entire replacement of the GC Executive at once is in our interest…i also think that our recovery from San Antonio would be stronger if those who led us into it lead us out of it…

i see many qualities in TW that far outweigh the headship views he is said to harbour, not least of which is his evident, intentional faith and commitment that are an inspiration, and that i think we cannot have enough of at this time…i recall that David was a man after god’s own heart even though he was a hopeless polygamist - polygamy being headship on steroids…

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Well, most of us who communicate on this site want the Bible to be what we were taught it is. However, seeking truth requires looking for what we hope we won’t find and adjusting to it if we do. That doesn’t mean accepting as fact the cruelty the Bible attributes to God. E.g., “What! A man picked up some sticks on Sabbath. Take him out and bash his brains out. Anyone who doesn’t participate is to be given the same treatment.” None of us saw or heard God saying that.

I choose to believe another Member of the Godhead said the sabbath was made for people. (Not for all people, as it turns out, but Paul said observe it when we’re so inclined. I’m satisfied that the Third Member offers us the guidance we need for this because we’ll get it wrong if we don’t.


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