How the “Stingy Critics” Get It Wrong

Civil and illuminating discussion of an arresting and important article. I chair the board of AF, and am so far very pleased that discussions are no longer veering off into (often distracting) back-and-forthing among commenters. There’s lots more substance per comment than before. And Loren’s (helpful and…humble) responses are just was we had in mind for our authors.

The board is responsible for the (experimental) change Jared Wright has put in place. I keep watching to see how things are going. So far so good, or so I believe.

Thanks to all of you.



Yes, Charles, it is very nice to be able to read more closely focused comments without bogging down in the back and forth that we had before. Good work, Jared, and great article, Charles.


I am reminded by this discussion and description of Adventist fundamentalists of what Martin Marty once said about “fundamentalist thinking.” I paraphrase, but his point
was that these are they who harken back to a time and place that never existed.


This article leads me to think about something that I read, and that has resonated with me for quite a while. It stated that the Adventist church, and any Christian church, for that matter, that has the tendency to come down on the side of a fundamentalist interpretation and application of the biblical text, should spend lots of time in Romans 14:1-15:7. In this section, Paul identifies hot button issues that people seem to have been fighting over as the soul of their faith, and how they were to live that faith out. There seemed to be division, factions, judgement, and condemnation, over these issues. In order to steer the church away from this climate, Paul steered the entire controversy towards the category of “disputable matters,” and away from the category of theological absolutes.

Fundamentalism, by its very nature, tends towards an absolutist view of everything. There is no grey, only black and white. There becomes an inability to distinguish between majors and minors, and often a reversal of the two (see Jesus’ rebuke of the Pharisees in Mt. 23). There is no room for freedom and a diversity of views and practice, only uniformity. And, there is an ever increasing need to enforce that uniformity, by using the sacred text, and the creeds erected around it, as a bludgeon to quell any differences of thought, and branding those who hold them as heretics. In its most extreme form, it is spiritually bankrupt, showing no regard for the value and dignity of the other. The text, and ones view of how the text should be practiced, becomes more important than mercy and justice towards human beings, something that Jesus constantly argued against.

Paul, in this passage in Romans, also addressed this tendency, and held up faith, and the regard for the well being of one another as the highest values, beyond the imposition of our wills, or absolutist views of issues we may deem crucial, but that he deemed as disputable. He further called upon the strong in faith, those who are not bound up in an over-scrupulous and fear based belief system, to bear with the scruples of the weak…again, regard for the other as the highest value. His final call was to both sides, “Therefore, accept one another, as God in Christ has already accepted you.”

This seems to be a mindset so alien to Adventism at this stage of the game. SA, and the fallout, has borne witness to this. A church with 100,000 pages of extra biblical writing on every jot and tittle of life, and that has been used almost like a talmud, an entire book of 28 fundamental doctrines, that is the most detailed creed one can imagine, and an increasing predilection towards exercising topdown power through its organizational structure to ensure that creed, and even matters beyond it, are followed, already has a traditional culture in place that is quite resistant to the vision that Paul laid out in these chapters, of true Christian freedom, and community.

Revival and reformation? Begin looking here.




Loren, although not a believer or Adventist anymore, I am glad to see that there are people such as you trying to drag the church into the 21st century. It is the dream of many of us on the outside to one day sit down in a church and be inspired by what we hear. I am not asking Christians to abandon their faith and preach “from the newspaper”–as a friend of mine once put it, but to express their faith in a way that would bring credit to the idea of spirituality.

Many people think of themselves as unbelievers and atheists because they can’t bring themselves to believe that a being worthy of the name of God has no greater social skills and sensitivities than a Sennacherib or Nebuchadnezzar. One of the most fundamental questions we as humans face is the question of whether life has a spiritual dimension or not. It would be great if church were a place where you could explore that question without having to commit to the idea that God once sent two bears to shred and flay fifty children who had made fun of a prophet’s pate.

Christianity started out with a person who urged people to live lives worthy of their divine destiny, but ended up as a series of contested creeds that gradually assumed the nature of an incantation. What had been a way of life, became a concoction of “eye of newt and toe of frog, wool of bat and tongue of dog” and the result was predictably “double, double toil and trouble, fire burn and cauldron bubble” (Macbeth, Act IV).

When Adventism arose, creeds --orthodoxy in print --still tended to be viewed as sacraments. The idea was that while God’s grace was free and available to all sinners, it was dispensed through the creedal spigot. I grew up in a Lutheran Norway where everybody knew (although few appreciated) that God saved sinners, but, as I discovered when I became an Adventist at age 19, he only saved Lutheran sinners. At least, so my grandmother–the only church-goer in the family-- informed my hapless parents. And in my ten years in the SdA church, the same idea prevailed. Grace was hobbled by creeds. Many people would be lost, EGW once wrote, because they lived close enough to an SdA church to have had the opportunity to stop by and find out what the “truth” was. In other words, only orthodoxy guaranteed access to God.

I am sure there still are SdAs who believe that a Christian from another tradition will be lost if he or she fails to embrace the tenuous arguments marshaled by SdA evangelists in favor of a mandatory seventh-day Sabbath for Christians, but I am glad to see that many in the church are more interested in returning to the origin of it all and turn religion into a quest for a way of life and mode of thinking that would bring credit to the idea that there is a spiritual dimension to life.


Excellent! This piece made me feel like there is a hopeful, positive way forward where even we on the more progressive side of the Spectrum can have a rich, spiritual, Christian experience - possibly even in the Seventh-day Adventist church! :wink:


What a great article. I agree that rigid fundamentalist Adventists shouldn’t get a free pass any more than Islamic ones.

I had read and agreed with the Wood’s article. Whilst painting all Moslems with the same brush would be plainly wrong and counterproductive, it is also intellectually dishonest to downplay the religions part in the mindset of extremists and terrorists. Change must come from within but how can troubling aspects of Islam be addressed without acknowledging its influence.

Likewise, fundamentalist Adventism and it’s equally false assertions that there is only one “plain reading” interpretation of scripture and that such a hermeneutic can be applied, completely devoid of cultural and other influences, should also face the same scrutiny.


Its seems easy to pick and choose bible themes and passages to bolster your points but all of them fail as they are not complete in scope.
I would appreciate hearing you justify your premises using the example of the Israelites crossing the Jordan into the promised land.
The salient aspect being that they went across together or not at all. God didnt allow the “enlightened” few to cross over and the rest to catch up when they were “ready”.
Gods system, now and then was to stay together and move together, even when it was on issues God himself didnt necessarily agree with. Having a King over them for instance or wanting meat to eat in the desert. But he did give clear instructions on how to go about implementing even the things he wasn’t necessarily happy about.
Those are the immutable principals that matter and have bearing here.

Dear Editor and Board - I note with interest that our esteemed Loren Seibold has posted three times on this thread. Each post was of value. Hopefully this illustrates to you the ineffectiveness of trying to have a conversation where you can only speak one time. Sometimes I would like to add something after I read what others have said (in the style of a conversation), but I can’t. Or I start to write something, then realize I’ve already made my “one comment” and can’t say any more.

I’m an ardent supporter of Spectrum. And having known Chuck Scriven, Loren Seibold, Bryan Ness, Jared Wright, Bonnie Dwyer, etc. at different times and places throughout my work for the church, I want to say that I hold each of you in high respect and value you. Several of you have sat at our dinner table and we’ve had wonderful conversations. I just wish we could have better conversations here.

If you read the commenting policy, it states that commenters are asked to limit themselves to one comment per article, unless the author of the article (in this case Loren Seibold) engages a commenter in further conversation. The policy is still in a trial period, and feedback is being taken into account. Thanks for yours. -Moderator


I was not taught so rigidly as this, and I think EGW takes a more nuanced apporach. I, too, have learged to appreciate other relgioius traditions. However, this has not lessened my belief that we do possess a closer position to God’s ideal than others. If one does not believe this, why be an Adventist?

It would seem WO is such an issue, a cultural one, but many, I beleive you among them, would insist, without definate scirptural support that it is moral. How you would discover God’s will on such a matter for the church as a whole? Was a vote on the matter proper? Do we need a group of scholars (TOSC) to decide for us? Or do each of us go his own way?

Baby Smasihing etc. I checked the text you mentioned and others where baby smashing is mentionted. I did not find one where God said to do it. Ps 137:9 is a captive Isrealite’s blessing on those who do it to the Babyoninans, hardly a command of God to do so. However, he did command the Isrealites to wipe out the Amalikites etc. He did allow them to live for a while, as “thier cup of iniquity was not yet full”, so there were reaons behind his commands. The prophet Habakkuk took your position: “God, you are too righteous to use the Babyloinians agianst us, ones more righteous than they.” He questioned God’s justice. But God chose to use them anyway. Are we to question his ways becuae we don’t like what he does sometimes? Annanias and Saphiara were killed over a changing of thier minds about property, and a little lie, yet they died. Seems a large lash for a small sin, but God considered it proper. Are we wiser than he?

Re the “stingy Critics”, and wonderful liberal thinkers: You take too rosy a view of your side. It is guilty of the same indescretions as thise stingy ciritcs. WO is nowhere enjoined in scripture. Nor forbidden. So how can you not be laying a certain hermenutic over the text as well (by claiming it is a moral issue), as they do? Seems you are both doing the same thing. Both sides have a view that is more or less culturally moulded.

Disputable opinions: Just what are you speaking of here? WO is certainly disputed. Are you thinking about “recent earth”, homosecuality, something else? From my understanding of the GC session, these, except WO, are really not that disputed among us.


It is one thing to differentiate between the contenders of views on a column like this. It is another to consider the impact on regular members and young people in particular.

I was recently part of a review group asked to assess a problem in a particular Conference, (to be deliberately diffuse). This particular Conference has no large churches, but they are seriously divided on a range of issues. One simply has to enquire why a lack of generosity (stinginess) toward each other prevails.

It is no good having a world church, with significant investment in Churches, Adventist Youth, Schools, Hospitals, Media Centres and all the qualified personnel to go with them, each committed to excellence in their particular discipline, only to have a range of independent tithe diverting entities creating 1st and 2nd Class members, 1st and 2nd Class youth, 1st and 2nd Class congregations, denying the value of scholarship while offering unaccredited ‘sales pitch’ doctrinal training. Health entities exploiting suffering people with remedies of dubious merit. One could go on…

It is a little rich for people to be parroting unity, praying for harmony at the same time as promoting sectarianism. This is not about liberal or conservative (to quote your shibboleth), it is about Adventist Christians maturing as they grow, it is about anticipating Christs return soon, while having a faith sufficiently robust and inclusive to be sustained by our grand-children, who will have to reconcile questions we are yet to ask.

Frankly to have leaders who are public about ‘my way or the highway’, who celebrate people losing their faith as the detritus of ‘shaking’ and an affirmation of their short-term ism, is not just stingy, it’s disgusting.


Phil, your comments certainly resonate with the teachers and lovers of the humanities: psychology, sociology, history, and others; but especially classical literature of all ages. How can one understand good ethical guidelines without reading Aristotle, Plato, even the Greek tragedies for the human condition? Shakespeare is still the master of the human condition as depicted in so many of his plays that could illuminate the Bible which represents the time frame of the KJV translation. While the ancient Greek writers reflect the time of much of the OT. The similarities in beliefs are better realized in understanding the context of scripture when it was written.

But how many seminary students have had a good background in those subjects? The ability to read the Greek and Hebrew offer little to the average congregation but study in the humanities is far more practical and relevant.


Romans 12:1 (MSG)
“So here’s what I want you to do, God helping you: Take your everyday ordinary life-your sleeping, eating, going to work, and walking-around-life-and place it before God as an offering. Embracing what God does for you is the best thing you can do for Him. Don’t become so well-adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without even thinking. Instead, fix your attention on God. You’ll be changed from the inside out.”

After reading Brother Seibold’s thought provoking article I went to the Message (paraphrase) Bible’s rendition of Romans 12:1, where we are called to “Don’t become so well adjusted to your culture that you fit into it without thinking.” In “Historical Adventism”, I wonder how much thinking is going on? What would happen if we really “fixed our attention on God?”. Have some in our church become conditioned or as the verse puts it “…so well adjusted…?”

Brother Seibold’s statement that “I am suggesting that rather than the literal reading of Scripture being the way to find God’s will, we need to start owning some of these disputable opinions (for that is all they are) that make up our faith.” is most certainly true. As the end of the verse in Romans tells us we will then "be changed from the inside out.”


How do we know that the OT is a “true” picture of God’s relationship with “His special people”? We only have the Jewish writings to tell us that. How is that different from taking the word of the car salesman that “this is the best car on the market”? The Hebrew people used God’s name to justify their battles and their cultural lifestyle. Instead of saying “the devil made me do it”, they could say “God led us in into battle.”

The acid test for the literalist is that Jesus references the OT stories as he told His. His identity comes straight out of Isaiah, as do his references. The Bereans were lauded for their fastidious study of the Scriptures as they checked up on the new Christian message; and the only “proof” Jesus gave of his person came out of Johna’s experience. The entire book of Hebrews ties Jesus to the Hebrew Old Testament like none other. The question remains, however, were all these ties to the Hebrew OT there to legitimize the OT; or were they a frame of reference, familiar to the people Jesus initially talked to?

If continuity is important, then we have a problem. God’s dealings with mankind in the OT was not the same as His dealings through Christ. The literal interpretation demands that the OT be legitimized through the NT; so we go back and forth, looking for meaning of the OT by looking at the NT.

But, what if the NT is at the core of the message of the entire Bible; and the OT simply set up the Hebrew culture into which Jesus had to come. He had to come somewhere, but he couldn’t be accepted into the caste system of the Hindus very easily; nor the Greek family of gods. Although, and even so, Paul used their “nod” to the “unknown god” as a wedge for the Christian message. Could it be that the Hebrew “Law and the Prophets” were also used as such a wedge? That would not minimize the lessons from the OT; but would put them into proper perspective for the Christian gospel.

That concept would, of course, not go over well in the Adventist pulpit. Our entire Gospel scenario comes straight out of the OT, and is inexorably tied to it. This is also where the literalism of the Scriptures originates, even as the Jewish reading of the OT was never actually meant to be literal - yet, was meant to be true. That seems like an oxymoron; but it doesn’t have to be. The Western cultural understanding of ancient cultural literature is not terribly accurate. Many old world cultures have national epics which are never meant to be literally true; but do convey cultural truths, nevertheless.
Whether the OT can be taken in the same way is hard to say. I do think the national epics and the OT stories had a similar origin. The one remained a “story,” while the other worked itself into a religion.

G.K. Chesterton, in The Everlasting Man takes this thought further to suggest that many of the ancient myths were there to set up the Christian gospel. I do remember being upset when, in my youth, I found out that many of the OT stories including the flood - Moses floating on the river - the Ten Commandments - were all there culturally way before Moses “wrote” them down.

If all that is not to be taken literally, AS WE HAVE, have we missed the core message of Bible? What lies hidden in its cultural recesses which we dare not approach?


Well, here’s a fairly radioactive Scripture that you won’t often hear invoked in Adventism post-San Antonio…or ever…

For the word of God is quick, and powerful, and sharper than any twoedged sword, piercing even to the dividing asunder of soul and spirit, and of the joints and marrow, and is a discerner of the thoughts and intents of the heart.
–Hebrews 4:12

And speaking of the foreshadowing of our present beliefs in relation to the present ordination dilemma, I had the great privilege of sitting in Alden Thompson’s Sabbath School class at Walla Walla University last Sabbath.

Alden Thompson said (and I videoed him on my iPhone) that he felt that we should abandon ordination altogether because our present practice of it is Roman Catholic in origin, and is about male domination.

That puts everything in a different light, for sure!

I brought up Gerry Chudleigh’s book, and the fact that I had been in a dominionist church and his answer was that there is a creative tension between the sovereignty of God and the free will of man, and if we lean too much toward the sovereignty of God, there is no way to solve the Great Controversy dilemma, to which I said, “Amen!”

Free ebook: Gerry Chudleigh: A Short History of the Headship Doctrine in the Seventh-day Adventist Church

1 Like

Ordination itself - pouring oil on someone, praying over them, … - is clearly an OT practice.

The only-ordained-people-can-ordain-people concept is utter nonsense, and is one of the common religious command-and-control tactics, again going back to well before Christ.

The God-gave-me-authority-over-you is also an ancient standard politico-religious tactic.

The I-understand-this-book-and-you-don’t and God-spoke-to-me-not-you tactics similarly.

Ex-communication is one refinement of it.

The “no matter what we do with it, not sending us money is a sin” is the ultimate example of it.

It is obvious that all these tactics are keeping a lot of sheep in line to get fleeced in many denominations.


Why is it so important that ordination was an OT practice and should be a pattern for Christians today? There were numerous rules regarding all facets of life given to the Hebrews and the Holy Spirit instructed the apostles that the new Christians should not be burdened with what their forefathers could not bear.

Christianity turned away from Judaism and all its laws and rituals and was a simple message not just an addition to Judaism, although Adventists incorporated so many doctrines from the Hebrew Bible that conflict with the message to Christians found in the letters written especially to and for Gentile Christians.

By inculcating so much of the OT laws into Adventism which contradict and are impossible to harmonize with the New Covenant as explained throughout the NT, it has compromised the Gospel message and made it difficult to comprehend and explain to other Christians. When the Gospel was meant to be simple and easily understood, the SdA church has made their message with its many Fundamental Beliefs a travesty of the Christian message.