Nobody’s Free until Everybody’s Free

One of the lessons I take my first year seminary students through are the ten most often used theological terms they are likely to encounter in their studies: Christology, Soteriology, Ecclesiology, theological anthropology, grace, etc. I introduce them to the classical definitions, but then I have them explore the interconnectedness of these aspects of the Christian faith. For instance, what happens to a Christology if one’s soteriology is Pelagian or even semi-Pelagian? What, then, does that say about one’s understanding of grace? Or the sacraments? Or ecclesiology? Or the atonement?

The essence of our humanity has a great deal to say about soteriology, sin, repentance, and forgiveness, just for starters. When we pray for forgiveness for our sins are we repenting of the things we do or the thing we are? Or both?

I begin with these questions to demonstrate that theology is messy, it is malleable, it is liquid, because like many of the social sciences, it is our presuppositions and hermeneutic that guides us to our conclusions.

Christians, including Adventists, have wrestled with these for generations. Unfortunately we have expended most of our energy on who is right (and more importantly who is wrong) rather than on what the implications are of what this belief means. And this brings me to the matter that has occupied many of the estimated 20,000,000 Adventists around the globe for the past few years.

I am concerned that any official Adventist voice in matters of liberation for those who have either physically, or professionally, or spiritually labored under a dominant entity; that voice will at best be muted. How can we support economic, educational, and civic reforms for African Americans when we do not officially support full recognition of women to the gospel ministry?

How can we be taken seriously when we speak out against brutality against innocents—children, women, people of color, when called women are refused access to pulpits and positions of leadership to exercise that call? Either we believe in social justice for everyone or we don’t. Jesus Christ did not pick and choose who were to be the recipients of His grace, and neither can we. Either His sacrifice was fully efficacious for all or for none.

Addressing these issues and more, individually, is not the whole answer, but it is a start. And thank God there are people who have stood up to be counted and to engage in ministries that they see as just and merciful and right. But what is needed more is an entire reorientation of our understanding of who God is and what He requires from His followers.

So, instead of having to spend countless dollars and time on questions of correctness and church policy legality of female ordination to the Gospel ministry, it seems the questions could be something like, “Praise the good Lord you, sister, have heard and accepted His call. We rejoice with you, and ask how can we be of assistance as you serve the Lord.”

I realize changing an entire religious culture that has slowly turned to what we have today is a task too large for us. But it has to be done. I do not want to sound like an alarmist, but if we refuse to reorient ourselves I am unsure where we will be as a church 10-20 years from now.

“Nobody’s free until everybody’s free.” —Fannie Lou Hamer

Roger S. Evans, PhD, is Professor of Historical Theology and Chair of the Department of History at Payne Theological Seminary.

Image Credit: Photo by Mohamed Nohassi on Unsplash

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Uh huh …and this week’s lesson on Romans deals with justification.

So how can a preacher/teacher teach/explain terms like justification, sanctification, reconciliation, incarnation, propitiation, dispensation, transubstantiation, meditation, tribulation, denomination, abomination, ordination, convocation, moderation, adoration, annihilation, inspiration, revelation, condemnation, dedication so that church attendees improve their relational & people skills without suffering frustration?

This is how ridiculous this has become! EVERYTHING depends on whether one agrees with WO or not. If one is opposed to WO, well, they cannot possibly understand any other of the Christian doctrines! Their thinking is defective at so basic a level that it warps every other principle or thought. How can we trust them?

So, as long as you agree with WO you are worthy of a hearing. Any other stance immediately makes you suspect of deep personal or theological error, and you. well, are probably wedded with the Devil himself.

I have read several really insightful books by Sunday keepers, Calvinists and Catholics, and have gained from their viewponit! I guess I am just too broadminded! I better narrow my focus. You just can’t know when someone did not favor WO.


The absence of empathy is the root of evil. There is no such thing as selective empathy. Either one has empathy or not. Issues such as WO and Headship Theory currently embroiling our church is evidence of how well we have developed empathy.


It is apparent that the only way they can legitimize their argument is, not to appeal to logic or Scripture, but by creating false analogies, and making false comparisons. This is groupthink.

It’s sort of like saying that because a particular dictator is tyrannical, his views on natural history, diet, or economics are automatically erroneous.

It depends, of course, on how one defines “free.” With apologies to Bill Clinton. :slight_smile:

But Allen made some good points. Things have degenerated to the point that if one is opposed to WO, they are no longer credible on any subject–at least in the minds of some who are the most vocal proponents of WO. Just because I disagree with the proponents of WO, doesn’t mean I think they are unreliable on every other issue. That attitude is somewhat similar to that of John Kerry, when he made the idiotic statement that George W. Bush was wrong on every issue (during the 2004 campaign). That’s crazy talk.


That’s great, Allen! Keep reading…:relaxed:


Best advice I ever got from a teacher in response to my complaint about “never having heard that before”, was to “keep listening”. We really need to keep reading and continue to listen. In a conversation with a non-SDA scholar who was commenting on how much good she had learned from listening and studying with Adventists she said “I wish you could all listen more to each other, particularly even with those you disagree with.”
She was right!


What is mind boggling, baffling and befuddling, is that the opponents of women’s ordination prolifically promote a female power player, our church prophet, while curbing the aspirations and abilities of all other Adventist women.
Go figure!

Also the treatment of our gay/ lesbian offspring has has been shabby, shameful, scummy and sleazy

Derogatory, demeaning, disparaging, demonizing discrimination has been the modus operandi of families, academies, colleges and congregations.

Shunning and shaming replace love and acceptance of those who had ZERO input nor choice in their sexual orientation.

Treating people with dignity, compassion, respect and yes, love and acceptance is so frequently missing in Adventism. And we call ourselves “ Christian “ ??


It is commendable that you are reading widely. We all need to be open to wisdom and grace wherever we may find it. But your simplistic take on the essay by reducing it to a demand for agreement with WO is precisely what you accuse the author of, and then you compound the error by exaggerating his position (“probably wedded with the Devil himself”). As I read the author, he is arguing for consistency between theory and practice. And he is saying that we spend too much time arguing the finer points of theology when we should at the very least be practicing the liberation in Christ that we preach about. We are all in this together.


“It’s sort of like saying that because a particular dictator is tyrannical, his views on natural history, diet, or economics are automatically erroneous.”

Interesting analogy. Should any of us be more likely to believe any point of view coming from a “dictator” or would you be more likely to become skeptical? No, it does not automatically negate all of their POVs but why risk it?? Common sense.

Interesting that you reframe: "I realize changing an entire religious culture that has slowly turned to what we have today is a task too large for us. But it has to be done. I do not want to sound like an alarmist, but if we refuse to reorient ourselves I am unsure where we will be as a church 10-20 years from now." into “the only way they can legitimize their argument is, not to appeal to logic or Scripture, but by creating false analogies, and making false comparisons. This is groupthink.”

Perhaps it would be good to revisit the quote: “Nobody’s free until everybody’s free”…but then again, there are many who don’t practice or believe this. As Elmer @elmer_cupino mentioned, it really is all about spiritual enlightenment and learning about empathy for others. Not everyone values this or sees it.


So if I were a student of the author, I would be led to question theology as gray and changing because the study of theology is guided by the same presuppositions as that of the social sciences. I pray not… and that it is the Holy Spirit that guides us to our conclusions (and into all Truth John 16:13).

WWJCS (Buy a vowel ? Sure: “What Would John Carson Say?”) :wink:[quote=“JohnCarson, post:13, topic:14666”]
If I’m not willing to question my most closely held beliefs then my beliefs have become an idol and all idols are doomed to destruction.

God said:
“And the LORD God commanded the man, saying,
‘Of every tree of the garden you may freely eat;
but of the tree of the knowledge of good and evil you shall not eat,
for in the day that you eat of it you shall surely die.’”
Genesis 2:16,17 NKJV

The ‘serpent’, God’s Adversary and Slanderer, said:
“. . . Ye shall not surely die:
For God doth know that in the day ye eat thereof,
then your eyes shall be opened, and ye shall be as gods,
knowing good and evil.’”
Genesis 3:4,5 NKJV

Moses said:
“. . . She also gave to her husband with her, and he ate.
Then the eyes of both of them were opened,
and they knew that they were naked; . . . .”
Genesis 3:6,7 NKJV

The writer of the ‘belief’ chapter of Hebrews (11) started their list with Abel,
not with Abel’s parents.

Abel’s parents questioned their most closely held belief in God’s Word, and at the cross
their old ‘Idol’ was destroyed, in the person of His ‘Son’ . . . .

So, yes, what John Carson says is correct.

Happy Sabbath

If I’m not willing to question my most closely held beliefs then my beliefs have become an idol and all idols are doomed to destruction.


this is the drawback common in all of science, not just the social sciences, which is probably why skepticism and conspiracy theories are such a fad…in some of the sciences, for instance the medical sciences, presuppositions and articulated methods have definitely brought us demonstrable and measurable results, for instance pharmaceuticals and surgery…in other sciences, like evolutionary science, we have no real imperative to believe anything we read…no-one can demonstrate that complex, orderly life sprang from random non-life…no-one can demonstrate that deep time produced transpeciation and other phenomena that cannot be demonstrated today…we can’t even prove that various rates - radiometric, tectonic, mutation - that are crucial to so many conclusions, have always been constant…

the science of theology is probably hopelessly afflicted with unprovables…first of all, divinity is so silent, invisible and undetectable that very many intelligent people feel completely comfortable believing there is no god…even if they believe they believe in a god, it isn’t hard to lapse into a mindset that ignores that belief completely…second of all, the total documented record of divine action on earth, some of which is literally incredible, was completed thousands of yrs ago, and in cultures so far removed, they are replete with numerous unknowns and unknowables…even something as basic as linguistic translation can only be an approximation…and third of all, the main examples of applied theology in the world have all resorted to war, murder and state sponsored persecution…there really are very few compelling reasons, outside of personal experience - which cannot be proven - for anyone to take theological science seriously…

this may not be such an apt analogy…supporting economic, educational and civic reforms for african americans is the law…a church belief that violates this law would likely not survive a legal challenge under any circumstances…women in the gospel ministry, on the other hand, isn’t the law of the land…a church belief that denies women access to the gospel ministry appears to be protected by the 1st and 14th amendments…

in 10-20 yrs from now, most of male headship’s strongest proponents will be dead and buried, or at a point where they’ve withdrawn from any serious discussion of controversial issues for health reasons…i see no cause for alarm…the thing about WO is that it’s right on so many levels…something that’s right is going to eventually prevail…it’s only a matter of time…

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This article is indeed troubling in many respects. The first two paragraphs are a prime example of issues, pseudo issues, and not-even-issues introduced as a means to blind the reader’s mind to the issues intended for agitation. Unless the author is acquainted with some “out there” individuals pushing Pelagian beliefs, why raise this issue in relation to WO? The same could be said for several other inclusions in these two paragraphs.

The professor then gives us a truism in the third paragraph in that “theology” as generally practiced these days in “malleable” and “liquid.” And if we are honest, we must admit, so dangerously like the social sciences of the day. It is enlightening to reveal the mind-set of the author as what actually “guides us to our conclusions.”

In Australia we had the same problem in 1976 when Dr Ford was called upon to reveal what he was actually teaching that disturbed so many church folk. When he was finished with his position statement to the leaders and the concerned church members, a number of “thought” leaders at that time said he had amply supported his position by the use of “current theological understanding” of the subjects. When it was pointed out them that The Bible supported by the SOP is to be our standard, the record was quickly amended to delete their first definition of truth, and claim that the Dr was able to support his theology by the Bible. And so we now have malleable theology, social hermeneutics that so few today bat an eyelid at.

In the same sentence in this article we see a clever trick which suggests a link in kind between “brutality against innocents—children, women, people of color” and “called” women the ability to exercise their perceived call. The first statements regarding real and glaring brutality, are like chalk and cheese compared with the last perceived “brutality.” There are so many positions “called” women can and do fill in the service of God in the church. Yet this is not enough it seems. They want something outside of what God has set - therein lies your clue as to what is wrong with their goals perhaps - if you can see it? And they will not be happy until they get it; God notwithstanding.

No-one will argue that church policy is not the way to sort out the inordinate desires of some in the church - unless it is a leader who holds church policy in precedence to Bible truth. But despite fluid theology and so called social gender equality, God should set the standard, not us. Otherwise we will be adrift in a sea of LGBTIQ, euthanasia, eugenics, polyamory, beastiality, all different kinds of marriage outside the Bible definition, etc., the list seems endless which can all be justified in the minds of millions, with one theology or another.

If the author really wants to promote freedom, then the only real way to do that is through biblical principles. Fluid theology that is messy and malleable will only confuse the minds of young minds who are at the feet of such teachers. The issue has not been agitated for the last two years as the writer says, but for more than 22 years, especially since 1995 GC.

Let us not wish for us - the church to be still here in the next 10-20 years, but home with our Lord. Unlike the author, I am sure of what will happen in the remaining short period if we are either faithful to God or not. Why? Because the Bible and SOP tell me what will happen. I do not need some fluid soteriology to define my beliefs otherwise. I pray this is your standard by God’s grace also.


20 weeks