In the Mirror

Whether it is true or not I am unsure, but it certainly feels like our denomination has passed some point of no return in the last couple of weeks. To be fair, there are those raising the worst possible slippery slope outcomes while others deem those statements to be fear-mongering blown out of proportion. Both of those perspectives can be valid at the beginning of a new reality. Despite its truth, it isn’t comforting to say that only time will tell how (or whether) the advent of compliance committees will actually bring the stated goal of unity, or whether it will create more of the very problems the General Conference says they are seeking to solve. On a macro level I find what we have seen these past few weeks to be oddly fascinating. Questions of theology, doctrine, identity and community have been wrapped in unity’s clothing as the church decided to address an issue of belief and structure, not by clarifying the belief or the structure, but by establishing a system to root out offenders of the undefined.[1] Also there is some truth to the notion that the political support against women’s ordination comes largely from the global South of the church as opposed to the West, as much as that general observation lacks some necessary nuance. I find this particularly interesting as well because if that general statement is true, then collectively Adventists in America and Europe have only one place to look for the cause of their current predicament – the mirror.[2]

I realize that I am being a little unfair at the outset in speaking about the Western Adventist Church as a collective. I am fairly sure that the actual people in the West who support women’s ordination would hold that position no matter the era. But I also think it is useful to step back from the present moment to consider the matter of unintended consequences and the idea that sometimes a present generation will have to pay for the mistakes of their ancestors. Adventism is a uniquely American religion. It is the byproduct of the American phenomenon now known as the Second Great Awakening in the 19th Century. All of its doctrines and beliefs, including the belief that women are inferior to men when it comes to pastoral ministry, were born in the West. The preceding history was recounted in order to illuminate what I find to be an obvious point – the global South of this church did not decide unencumbered to be against women’s ordination. They learned it by watching us. This church started in the West and then the message was transported to other continents, nations, and peoples.[3] And while it certainly can be argued that beliefs about the inferiority of women existed in the global South long before Adventism, we were the ones who laid the power of an omniscient, omnipotent, and forever unchanging God construct over the top of those (possibly) already held beliefs.[4] Some of us, having realized our error on the issue of women’s ordination, now find ourselves stymied by those we evangelized, who are only holding onto a truth they learned from us. Far be it from us to be overly critical of those who are against women’s ordination who are only doing what we said they should do – hold on to their sincerely held beliefs though the heavens fall.

Those of us (including myself) who support women’s ordination have been critical of the General Conference, of President Wilson, of process manipulation, of the outcome, of obfuscation of the issues. Much of that criticism has been justified. But it seems possible that we are guilty of obfuscation as well. Maybe the important issue is not only the treatment of women in our church who feel called to ministry (as important as that issue is). Maybe we also need to reconsider the God that we show others, ensuring that the picture we present is one that can change as we see it more clearly.

[1] To be more clear – The church, in my estimation has not addressed the problem (except in one area, which would be origins), but decided instead to reach for the amorphous and malleable issue of unity. The church could’ve easily engendered real debate and a pointed vote about the issue of the ordination of women (or making a change in where the authority to ordain rests), or the place of LGBT members within the Adventist community. For reasons I would not even begin to speculate about, the leadership decided it would be better (easier?) to frame the issue around questions of church unity as opposed to actually discussing the specific matters at hand.

[2] While the idea that I am about to express is one that I have held for many years, I believe it is prudent at this juncture for me to publicly acknowledge Pastor Corey Johnson for reminding me of this idea’s macro level implications.

[3] Although some would make an argument about the colonial concerns that justifiably come along with that missionary fervor, I can certainly understand the zeal that would motivate the early Adventist church to share this message with the world.

[4] Once again credit where credit is due. I want to thank the students in my Introduction to Christian Ethics class for raising this point as I workshopped ideas for this post, in a lecture on gender and sexism.

Jason Hines is a former attorney with a doctorate in Religion, Politics, and Society from the J.M. Dawson Institute of Church-State Studies at Baylor University. He is also an assistant professor at Adventist University of Health Sciences. He blogs about religious liberty and other issues at

Previous Spectrum columns by Jason Hines can be found at:

Image Credit:

We invite you to join our community through conversation by commenting below. We ask that you engage in courteous and respectful discourse. You can view our full commenting policy by clicking here.

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

To the on-going search for Present Truth and improving our understanding of Bible truth we must always be willing to face issues.


If I understand your thesis, You are saying in effect that Adventism arose out of a cultic mentality in Portland, Maine—and that Ted Wilson is determined to take the church back to its origins. I think there is some substance to that argument, but I was raised in the community of Old EMC. The retired head of the department of religion was our closest neighbor. he had been a member of the 1919 Bible Conference. I was baptized by Elder Burrman and taught English by his wife. In each case the Bible not Ellen White was the source of their instruction and life.I attended Junior Camp under Dr Heppenstall. So Glacier View and its fall out was my exit. I was raised with the idea that a woman was as capable as a man given equal education and commitment. But I have a burning question, why insist that Adventism is the only platform for Spreading the Good News?


I fully agree with you, David.
The challenge comes when you realize you are bound by more than Scripture. The Worldwide Church of God decided to do away with the non-biblical doctrines. It cost them dearly, but it was worth it (

It would take a miracle for the SDA church to admit that present truth means that doctrinal errors rooted in the writings of EGW have to be discarded. I believe that this has to be realized and admitted on a personal level as we cannot wait for a denomination to move in this direction.


What good news do they spread?

Sunday law?
Death decree?
Time of trouble?
Mark of the Beast?
All our righteousness= filthy rags?
You can’t completely stop sinning?
Crucify self?
Take up cross daily?
SDA members = lukewarm Laodiceans?

Yes that was my question.

1 Like

Let’s not forget:

You have to keep the Sabbath
Food laws
Lifestyle “dos” and “don’ts”
The IJ
The Spirit of Prophecy/EGW
Us vs Them (most especially other Christians)


The double (triple, quadruple…) down has been going on for so long, I don’t know what it would take for a corporate admission. I can’t see it happening though. There is so much money involved, and I think that will always be the motivating factor in decisions made. Sad, but true.

This has happened for lots of people. Some studied their way out of the SDA church and moved on to other Christian fellowships, some have stayed and are trying to change from within.


In sum, to understand the historical errors of Adventism is to also understand that the current crisis was inevitable. A fundamentally flawed foundation is rarely, if ever, able to support the weightiness of reform so many would have the church attempt. This begs the question: demolish and rebuild, or merely alter the facade? What would Luther do?


Yep…“stuff” has a way of bubbling up to the surface.

So true. Some things may not be fixable.

What a mess! I’m not sure what altering the facade would mean. Just making very minor adjustments to look like it is fixed? Doesn’t seem like a long term answer. Demolish and rebuild…seems pretty overwhelming, even if it’s possible.

Well, he exposed the powers that be.

1 Like

It might be interesting to recall the observation of Voltaire—“The Man Who says to me, believe as I do or God will damn you, will presently say believe as I do or I will assassinate you.”Of course Ted can’t do that but he s determined to destroy one’s career if outnof one to his criteria.


I have never understood the meaning of “present truth”. It sounds like truth (understood to be belief about God and His dealings with us) changes in some meaningful way.

The principles that govern the Kingdom of God never change; while the application of those principles in our lives do, and are dependant on time and place. The term, “present truth”, however, implies that our truth, in the here and now, is basically different from the “truth” that other Christians have lived by. I have a feeling that this term was motivated by an attempt to hold past Christian beliefs, while disavowing them at the same time - i.e.: Protestant beliefs in Luther’s day morphing into the unique beliefs of Adventism. This is how Adventism was packaged as a “movement”, not a denomination. The “movement” concept shortly came to a screeching halt; and now has gone into reverse.

Perhaps the safest way to deal with this is to find the principles that govern the beliefs, and leave the application of those principles up to the individual. Each of us is unique, and God does not relate to us as part of a group. We respond to the Spirit’s leading individually, based on our uniqueness. Church denominations try to lump us all together, as if we becomes clones within our Christian identity.

1 Like

10/26/18 - #6

Present Truth is Present Reality.

Reality is not static, and is not a concept.

By doing away with Adventist eschatology, we do away with teleology—and any meaning to the Harvest Jesus spoke of, other than an arbitrary one.

To the extent that Adventist eschatology is true, it is universal and ontological.

And the sum of our individual experiences with God accrue collectively, with a hockey stick curve at the end, e.g.:

Compare to Knowledge Doubling Curve:

Be there, or be square. :slight_smile:

Just my take…

10/26/18 - #7

Also consider the obverse: The Seneca Cliff:

“It would be some consolation for the feebleness of our selves and our works if all things should perish as slowly as they come into being; but as it is, increases are of sluggish growth, but the way to ruin is rapid.”
—Lucius AnneausSeneca, Letters to Lucilius, n. 91

Ellen White:. Great changes are soon to take place in our world, and the final movements will be rapid ones.

—Testimonies for the Church 9:11

All that said, the present truth of Ellen’s day has been left in the dust long ago. Even Newton’s discovery that the apple revealed, was replaced by Einstein, in some respect, but Newton’s observations still tell the truth on some level. I’m thinking, while it’s great to have all this knowledge, the basic core of all this knowledge never changes. We are never going to have the entire picture no matter how long this gets to go on.

What I would suggest is that we deal with the principles and leave the details to grow with the individual. The basic belief that never changes, theologically speaking, is that God created the universe - period. Our understanding and/or belief about how or when can change, based on our increasing knowledge, but that doesn’t change the basic fact of creation. We don’t need to argue about how many actual days it took, or what processes were involved.

The truth is, we can’t handle all this truth. The created being can’t ever become equal to the creator just by definition. Of course the big fear now is that maybe it can, and then some, when it comes to artificial intelligence - Pandora’s box.

1 Like

God’s truth (our understanding of Him) that He reveals to us, as individuals, is different and comes in different quantities at different rates. I say different because the truth He reveals to me may be different to what He reveals to you. That said there is so much of it that everybody can get a full measure and still be no commonality.

The plan of salvation is one part of God’s truth that we all need, therefore He reveals it to everyone, thogh not in the same manner or at the same time or to the same depth. Some only need a simple understanding before they accept, others require masses of “evidence” before they are convinced.

All of the truth revealved to us is cummulative. The truth God has revealed to me adds to the truth He has revealed to you. Everytime we discuss God, we add to each others understanding. This process will not exhaust the truth of God.

God, in His vastness, will not be fully understood by humans. Not this side of the second coming, and not on the other. He provides us that which we need to be saved, no more, no less.

1 Like

That can be said for scientific paradigms; but in this case (SDA eschatology) it has always implied more. Reality is always contingent on who is describing it - vantage point. We can never know enough to know the whole picture. When the fledgling movement in the 1800s said that, they meant their reality supplants the previous, and takes in the entire picture - the ultimate “truth”. That is not in print, but the belief is there, nevertheless. It also implies there is no use looking for more, either in the past or present. This is why there is a sort of ban on non-SDA literature or any other input. In essence - “We’ve got this!”

1 Like

10/27/18 - #5

That is precisely the problem, I think, Sirje. That is why I said:

Reality is what ontologically is at any given moment.

Jesus is Reality. How can it be otherwise?

That is what we must relate to.

We have two choices:

  1. Fall on that Rock and be broken.
  2. Be crushed to powder by that Rock.
Jesus saith unto them, Did ye never read in the scriptures, The stone which the builders rejected, the same is become the head of the corner: this is the Lord's doing, and it is marvellous in our eyes?

Therefore say I unto you, The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.

And whosoever shall fall on this stone shall be broken: but on whomsoever it shall fall, it will grind him to powder.

And when the chief priests and Pharisees had heard his parables, they perceived that he spake of them.

But when they sought to lay hands on him, they feared the multitude, because they took him for a prophet.

Very true.

But if we have the mind of Christ, we will know what we need to know, when we need to know it, provided we have taken that step to fall on the Rock of the Reality of Christ and be broken.

If not:

The kingdom of God shall be taken from you, and given to a nation bringing forth the fruits thereof.
1 Like

A pure gold statement. Thank you.

1 Like

10/27/18 - #7

That is why I’ve been calling systems of thought idols, Red.

2 Corinthians 10:3-5 New King James Version (NKJV)

For though we walk in the flesh, we do not war according to the flesh.

For the weapons of our warfare are not carnal but mighty in God for pulling down strongholds, casting down arguments and every high thing that exalts itself against the knowledge of God, bringing every thought into captivity to the obedience of Christ…

1 Like