Navigating Theological Change

Organizations, founded and based on shared values, will form an identity and subculture. If the importance of the values is weak, perhaps like various fraternal organizations, then commitment may be fluid and marginally important to a member. But for many religious organizations, such as Seventh-day Adventism (SDA), the values and identity can be substantial. This is, in part, because religions seek to understand what God is like and wants from mankind. It centrally affects our ethics and provides hope beyond death. It doesn’t get more important than this. A religious organization’s beliefs tend to be formally codified into doctrine, but there are other important aspects to a subculture that, while perhaps not written down, are still understood to be somewhat normative.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11341
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Very clear, well contextualized and assertive. Practically the opposite of what is observed in the clergy and most of the church members.

Surrendering “private judgments” to the GC—whose officials are elected by private judgement—is essentially a private judgment.

This sort of irrational double speak is enough to convince an objective person that EGW, rather than being a spiritual powerhouse, was an intellect midget on par with her level of formal education, and to whom reasonable persons need lend no credence. Instead, only credulous sycophants were and are impressed with her claim to having a direct magical connection to the infinite, allowing her well-targeted “gift” to be used by power hungry men—starting with her husband and continuing to this day in the form of the GC and her “estate”—to consolidate their grip on people, power and privilege.

This succession of the greedy, for over a century, has abused the authority she supposedly bestowed on them with precisely the vigor and purported piety as has the papacy, which she and they so thoroughly demonized.

It’s my understanding that the early SAD-ists were very reluctant to start a new “Christian” denomination, as they believed that organized religion was the Babylon they had been called to “come out of”. How ironic, then, that EGW’s “babbling-ons” have gone on to form the basis of yet another celebrity-based cult, particularly when she is quoted as having said that she was not a prophet.:rofl:

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“…low risk…”, so how many more decades of low risk wondering in the desert?

Before we can even consider the question of theological change, we must ensure that (a) our positions whether in relation to doctrine, theology or in practice are biblically sound . This is to me of more importance than mere theological change. I am not sure that Seventh Day Adventism encourages this kind of research or promotes a culture where there is serious investigation into our established practices, doctrine or theology. Rather I see it as quite the opposite. The author of the article rightly speaks of the fate of many who based on principle and conscience have openly spoken out against erroneous positions within our denomination with varying personal circumstances resulting from such actions.
Most notably among them was the late Dr Desmond Forde and Dr Walter Rea. In mire recent times Dr Steve Daily comes to mind.
In order for us to deal honestly with concepts such as theological change, we must first have a desire for theological honesty, theological accuracy and a desire to abandon any incorrect position which may be so tightly embraced within our church, in spite of the fact that it may be erroneous. Error does not become truth even if it is embraced by an organization which self identifies as the remnant etc. Error remains error because truth exposes it. Can we in the SDA church honestly say that we have embraced truth, promote an open and honest spirit of investigation? Or is it that we punish dissenters in subtle and sometimes not so subtle ways, seek to ignorer, nullify their arguments with personal attacks against them and what they stand for. I can list here several individuals here who have suffered and continue to suffer tremendously because they evaluated certain position held conservatively within our church, showed that they were incorrect and had the courage to do so. The result is that they were ostracized.
This is why it is and will always be important for individuals to seek God’s leading first, then carefully evaluate what they are researching, studying ., by examining its context, the purpose of the material, doctrine/practice/position , how was it to be understood, to whom did it apply etc. If we are honest in seeking truth, with God’s help we will find it. However, if we are merely seeking to justify our shared or established positions for reasons other than maintaining truth, we will surely fail. We cannot honour God by cherishing error , we honour God by maintaining the truth.
Jesus Himself declares; I am the way, the truth, and the life. To find truth we look to Jesus who is the Source of truth.

Thanks.

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It is like when you lose your house keys. You stop looking when you find them. The SDA Church thinks it has found the keys to the kingdom, so they have stopped looking, and ensures those who want to keep looking are censured. Looking, re-examining the theology of the church shouldn’t be censured, it should be praised. If the theology stands up, great. If it doesn’t, it should be changed, like society has on so many issues as they have been proven incorrect. We have done this in matters of “life & death”. Why is the church so unwilling to do so in matters of “eternal life & death”? The failure to do so is intellectual dishonesty.

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Following the nautical theme of the article, SAD-ism, as with most, if not all organized religions, believes there’s no more wind to be had and has dropped it sails!

Religion isn’t about honesty, it’s about magically providing absolute answers to questions which can’t be expressed in words.

Once one starts to understand the constantly changing and ineffable nature of Nature, one sees the futility of language and all book-based dogmas, for whom change is as anathema as throwing away the outdated book(s) in which they’ve placed all their faith. :sleeping:

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Your analogy is intriguing but your application of it is incorrect. The only "Christian church I know that preaches that is the RCC. The “Church” is made up of millions of people, all different and subjective. On this point, you claim to be the only objective person.

This statement is very black and white and it completely falls on the same pit you are throwing the church in. Re-examining our own potentially erroneous interpretations should not be an automatic praised event, but rather we should be open to careful reading of the biblical text under the guidance of the Holy Spirit, less you easily fall pray to carefully crafted agendas.

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How about the carefully crafted agenda of maintaining the status quo and simply plugging ears to, and threatening or even destroying anyone who has challenged it? How about closing eyes and minds to mountains of evidence, be it theological, historic, or scientific, because they threaten Adventist orthodoxy?

Frank

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Andrew, I believe that truth is progressive and no human institution has a monopoly on truth only the Bible can claim that. But I have to say your position here is bias at best, as it assumes these two individuals were correct in their dissenting theology, and not fair, in that you directly imply that the SDAC did not act fairly with them or sincerely in potentially adjusting doctrine to accept new truth. In the case of Desmond Ford, he was given ample time and space to prepare a thesis on his position, and provided with lengthy and fair exegetical analysis that proved his position point-by-point to be hermeneutically flawed. I personally read the Andrews University theology department’s rebuttal. Fords’ Apotelesmatic Principle (although this was not mentioned in this document) is essentially pagan Greek philosophy – Can we find the Holy Spirit in this type of material to guide us into all truth? I would be very curious to know and understand your position here.
I am not familiar with the case of Walter Rea, but knowing that he preached against observation of the Sabbath day as holy and binding, the Seventh Day Adventist Church would essentially have to cease to exist to accommodate him; would this even make sense?

Ironically, it is precisely those who support Ford (as you seem to) the ones who would negate the progressive light that came into the world through the biblical teaching of the Three Angel’s Message and the Investigative Judgement. The SDA church is the only Christian body who has accepted it.

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Perhaps the Seventh–day Adventist problem isn’t theologically or doctrinally based at all. What can I specifically do as a Seventh–day Adventist? It seems as though, belonging to Adventism has become the problem, and that problem, perhaps is political.

It should be our uniqueness, whilst at the same time, assimilating and including subculture that sets us apart.

The article and some comments can make one feel that if a person is a Seventh–day Adventist he cannot really live his life to the full.

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Jennifer, great point, I am glad you mentioned this. I was just chatting with someone on a different topic here at Spectrum and she mentioned that so many of us bring their bias and baggage into Bible reading wanting to (and I will add “expecting to”) change the Bible to make it “socially relevant to the issues of the day” If the SDA church doesn’t jibe with what they interpret to be “new truths” then it becomes arcane, hypocritical and worse. We already made that mistake in the 1950s with the publication “Questions on Doctrine” as a result of evangelical pressure, we didn’t want to be called a cult and certainly did not want to be different.

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The notion that the Bible has a monopoly on truth is myopic to the point of laughability.

This concept is so essentially misanthropic and nonsensical as to be (almost) beneath discussion given that it shows an utter disdain for all of the “true” things humans have learned, in absolutely every conceivable discipline, over the past 2,000 years.

(I say “almost” because I get a kick out of refuting such lunacy.)

Good luck with trying to get a job, start your car or post a comment on the inter-webs relying only on the truths one finds in holy scripture!:rofl::rofl::rofl:

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The SDA church is the only body that teaches this is proof of nothing. The three angels message is read from an historicist perspective which is totally rejected outside of Adventism. The 2300 days is connected with it and was arrived at with confirmation bias, Miller couldn’t have been wrong about the dating.

The fact is, biblical scholarship outside of the denomination reads it far differently, and their reading exposes the exegetical holes of the Millerite/Adventist reading of Daniel 8. Revelation 14, and reading Sunday laws into that, can only come from the early Adventist lens, and the pen of EGW…not from a contextual reading of Revelation.

I’m under no illusion that you won’t reject this totally. But, to claim that only Adventism has the “present truth” on these passages as opposed to everyone else may really be a reach. How do you know that the denomination isn’t the “Desmond Ford” of the wider landscape of biblical interpretation? Iow, no one else goes with this view for good reason, just as you’re saying why Ford’s views were rejected. It’s because it’s judged as a misreading of biblical apocalyptic in general and of the specific passages in question…not because of their rejection of “new light.”

Frank

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I would say that the problem is that SDAism limits inclusion and creates division over what the NT, specifically the apostle Paul, calls ancillary or disputable matters. They are holy time observances and food laws for starters.

That also creates a sub culture that is insular. One can live a full life within it. But, an insider/outsider mentality is created over issues that are not central to Christian identity and belonging.

That’s a problem.

Frank

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Your statement is quite curious, you ill speak of the concept of Bible being the source of objective truth as being beneath discussion and “misanthropic”. Speaking of which, you write on this forum as if you had a monopoly on logic (been noticing that for quite some time now). You tell everyone how wrong and illogical their views are until someone really questions your statements to the point where you are left without an answer and then you turn around and disclaim anything you said as irrelevant or as if had been a joke all along - this is ultimate cynicism and it is useless to engage anyone with such attitude in a serious conversation.

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If beliefs cannot stand up to thorough scrutiny by “outsiders”, are they in fact correct? What hope do you have of convincing others of their validity if they are not able to withstand testing?

Perhaps “praised” is too strong a word but there should be an openness to study and testing of the SDA beliefs, something that is currently lacking.

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Robert,
Why do you say that? or what measure of “objectivity” do you use to test that? The beliefs of SDA people are just an extension of what every Reformer taught and what millions of people literally gave their life for in medieval times, you may be using a very modern or recent perspective less than 100 years old, the Bible has withstood the test of its enemies for thousandths of years.
I believe there is an openness of which you speak in the SDA universities and the central organs of theology.

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Frank,

I know we have discussed some of these issues before and I reply to you in the hope that this time around you will actually be able to reply to or address specific points in our conversation rather than throw a smoke screen around everything with blanket statements as you have in the past.

I am a little unclear about this statement you made, please be more specific:

The SDA church is the only body that teaches this is proof of nothing. The three angels message is read from an historicist perspective which is totally rejected outside of Adventism.

Are you saying that the fact that the SDA church is the only one that teaches the biblical Three Angel’s Message and the Investigative Judgement (IJ) doctrines means nothing because:

  • Theses facts are not true
  • This “new revelation or light” is irrelevant to humans (this topic is the very subject of this article’s discussion)
  • The SDA theology on Revelation’s 3AM and IJ is incorrect because it is interpreted using the Historicist method of prophetic interpretation.

“ The 2300 days is connected with it and was arrived at with confirmation bias, Miller couldn’t have been wrong about the dating .”

You are throwing a lot of things into one pile here, I am not going to get into the 2300-day prophecy as we have discussed it before and it is not the topic of discussion of this article – but please explain what you mean about Revelation 14, the 3AM subject:

“ The fact is, biblical scholarship outside of the denomination reads it far differently ”.

  • How is the 3AM connected to 2300-day prophecy? Or perhaps how should it be connected according to you or non-SDA biblical scholarship?
  • How is the IJ doctrine connected to 2300-day prophecy?

Because the SDAC uses the Historicist method of prophetic interpretation, which it is 100% biblical based on “Bible verses only” and proven through the test of thousandths of years of biblical exegesis. In spite of your statement “ historicist perspective which is totally rejected outside of Adventism” the Historicist method was the method used by all Reformers to read Daniel and Revelation and more importantly was accepted from before the time of Jesus by Jewish sages.

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Curious indeed in that you’ve engaged despite the alleged futility!!!:rofl::rofl::rofl: