QOD conference bulletin three


(system) #1

By Richard Rice, reflecting on Thursday

If the organizers of the QOD Conference wanted a variety of viewpoints, they certainly got it today, with nine different presentations, two panel discussions, and second evening keynote address, this time from Herbert Douglass. \u003c/span\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv style\u003d\"margin-top:0px;margin-right:0px;margin-bottom:0px;margin-left:0px;min-height:14px\"\>\u003cbr\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv style\u003d\"margin-top:0px;margin-right:0px;margin-bottom:0px;margin-left:0px;min-height:14px\"\>\u003cbr\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv style\u003d\"margin-top:0px;margin-right:0px;margin-bottom:0px;margin-left:0px;min-height:14px\"\>\u003cbr\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv style\u003d\"margin-top:0px;margin-right:0px;margin-bottom:0px;margin-left:0px\"\>The afternoon session, “QOD and the Evangelicals,” presented contrasting views of the theological changes represented in QOD. Paul McGraw detailed the vigorous objections of many Evangelicals to the view of Martin and Barnhouse that SDAs, for all their distinctive beliefs, should be considered fellow Christians. For vocal critics like Louis Talbot, E B Jones, and Harold Lindsell, the distinctives of SDAm posed an insuperable obstacle to any such judgment. For all the supposed changes in other areas, these unique beliefs exclude them from the Evangelical fold.\u003cspan\> \u003c/span\>Larry Christoffel gave a straightforward affirmation of Evangelical Adventism, with its emphasis on the central themes of Reformation theology—the Trinity, the sinless nature of Christ, the complete substitutionary atonement of the cross, and justification by faith alone, to mention just a few. These common themes call for a closer alliance between Adventists and other members of the larger Evangelical community. Two of the non-SDA participants were notable for the differences in their views of the transition that QOD represents in SDA theology. Kenneth Samples, an Evangelical Calvinist who worked for a time with Walter Martin, welcomes the theological changes that QOD embodies, noting that EGW helped the Church toward full-fledged Trinitarianism and an orthodox understanding of the nature of Christ. While noting the differences between traditional, evangelical and liberal SDAs, Samples, indicated that Walter Martin regarded the revisionary perspective on SDAm that he encouraged as one of his most important accomplishments. If Samples sees the developments in QOD as a move in the right direction, Donald Dayton, a Wesleyan scholar, takes a different approach. He finds the familiar categories such as",1] );

//-->In the first session after the morning worship by Nik Satelmajer, Julius Nam neatly divided the various reactions to QOD into four groups—pro- and anti-Adventist Evangelicals, and pro- and anti-QOD Adventists. Among the nine observations he made following this division, was the unlikely fact that the first and fourth groups agreed that QOD represented a change in SDA theology, and the second and fourth agreed that it didn’t. Nam also noted the “tactics” of the QOD authors in excluding M L Andreasen from the preparation of the material and “finessing” the EGW material to support a position that significantly shifted the traditional view of Christ’s human nature. Describing himself as “a heart-broken member” of the SDA church, Russell Standish left no doubt about his views of QOD. It represented “compromise,” “alterations” in basic Adventist beliefs, “the destruction of this body of truth,” “this intrusion of rank apostasy,” “rank error,” as well as a misguided attempt to please “those who despised our faith” on the part of those who “suffered from a strange denominational inferiority complex.” Another Australian, Arthur Patrick took a strikingly different approach. As he sees it, the QOD controversy as it emerged in Australia reflected in part the disillusionment that followed the end of WW2, when people who thought the end of the world was upon them found out it wasn’t. In reaction, some saw in the QOD controversy a sign of prophesied apostasy. Others saw it as a call to reconsider unexamined certainties and rethink SDA identity. Patrick issued a thoughtful appeal to SDAs to open all the QOD material to thoughtful research. Ciro Sepulveda presented the interesting thesis that the QOD discussion reflected to a significant degree demographic and economic transitions. As church members become more sophisticated and affluent, they wanted a “more enlightened theology,” to match the growth of their educational institutions and their movement into respectable society. QOD provides yet another example of the way religious movements change from sect to denomination. Alberto Timm provided a detailed account of the QOD in Latin America, where a Portuguese translation is just about to appear. Various parts of the book were published in the form of articles. For the most part the continent was spared the controversy that engulfed the book elsewhere. The membership in Latin America is generally respectful of church leadership, and even those who opposed QOD had not even read it. He also noted, to the amusement of the audience, some critics of QOD presented their views to Brazilian SDAs in Spanish, not realizing that Portuguese was their national language.

The afternoon session, “QOD and the Evangelicals,” presented contrasting views of the theological changes represented in QOD. Paul McGraw detailed the vigorous objections of many Evangelicals to the view of Martin and Barnhouse that SDAs, for all their distinctive beliefs, should be considered fellow Christians. For vocal critics like Louis Talbot, E B Jones, and Harold Lindsell, the distinctives of SDAs posed an insuperable obstacle to any such judgment. For all the supposed changes in other areas, these unique beliefs exclude them from the Evangelical fold. Larry Christoffel gave a straightforward affirmation of Evangelical Adventism, with its emphasis on the central themes of Reformation theology—the Trinity, the sinless nature of Christ, the complete substitutionary atonement of the cross, and justification by faith alone, to mention just a few. These common themes call for a closer alliance between Adventists and other members of the larger Evangelical community. \u003c/span\>conservative, liberal, fundamentalism, and evangelicalism, unhelpful when one takes a close look at the origins and development of religious movements, including SDAm. For him the move away from our roots represents a loss of the distinctive insights that we have to offer the world, and the real driving force behind the SDA ethos (my expression) is eschatology. His paper concludes with this ominous caveat: “I fear that Adventism may sell its heritage for a mess of pottage.”\u003cspan\> \u003c/span\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv style\u003d\"margin-top:0px;margin-right:0px;margin-bottom:0px;margin-left:0px;min-height:14px\"\>\u003cbr\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv style\u003d\"margin-top:0px;margin-right:0px;margin-bottom:0px;margin-left:0px\"\>Herbert Douglass ended the day with a long paper based on the image of clashing tectonic plates, symbols of Calvinism and Arminianism. No summary will do justice to the care with which his presentation was constructed or convey the personal passion with which is was delivered. But he is clearly dismayed at the maneuverings of those who produced QOD in excluding Andreasen from the discussion and manipulating EGW quotations to support unprecedented doctrinal positions, a straightforward example of “fraud.” The greatest tragedy of the whole episode, his view seems to be, was the missed opportunity on the part of the Church to present to Barnhouse and Martin the great controversy perspective that is unique to SDAs and that affects the full range of SDA doctrines, particularly the view of Christ’s humanity and the importance of sanctification.\u003cspan\> \u003c/span\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv style\u003d\"margin-top:0px;margin-right:0px;margin-bottom:0px;margin-left:0px;min-height:14px\"\>\u003cbr\>\u003c/div\>\u003cdiv style\u003d\"margin-top:0px;margin-right:0px;margin-bottom:0px;margin-left:0px\"\>I’ll have to wrap this up, since I have an early presentation of my own tomorrow morning, but I would like to see more reflection on the nature of theological change at this conference. Religious movements always change over time in lots of ways, beliefs included. But what do these changes represent? Gains or losses? Growth or decay? Refinement or apostasy? When it comes to QOD, opinions obviously vary, widely. But addressing theological change in general might help us to understand just what has been going on for the past fifty years.",1] );

//-->Two of the non-SDA participants were notable for the differences in their views of the transition that QOD represents in SDA theology. Kenneth Samples, an Evangelical Calvinist who worked for a time with Walter Martin, welcomes the theological changes that QOD embodies, noting that EGW helped the Church toward full-fledged Trinitarianism and an orthodox understanding of the nature of Christ. While noting the differences between traditional, evangelical and liberal SDAs, Samples indicated that Walter Martin regarded the revisionary perspective on SDAm that he encouraged as one of his most important accomplishments. If Samples sees the developments in QOD as a move in the right direction, Donald Dayton, a Wesleyan scholar, takes a different approach. He finds the familiar categories such as conservative, liberal, fundamentalism, and evangelicalism, unhelpful when one takes a close look at the origins and development of religious movements, including SDAm. For him the move away from our roots represents a loss of the distinctive insights that we have to offer the world, and the real driving force behind the SDA ethos (my expression) is eschatology. His paper concludes with this ominous caveat: “I fear that Adventism may sell its heritage for a mess of pottage.”

Herbert Douglass ended the day with a long paper based on the image of clashing tectonic plates, symbols of Calvinism and Arminianism. No summary will do justice to the care with which his presentation was constructed or convey the personal passion with which is was delivered. But he is clearly dismayed at the maneuverings of those who produced QOD in excluding Andreasen from the discussion and manipulating EGW quotations to support unprecedented doctrinal positions, a straightforward example of “fraud.” The greatest tragedy of the whole episode, his view seems to be, was the missed opportunity on the part of the Church to present to Barnhouse and Martin the great controversy perspective that is unique to SDAs and that affects the full range of SDA doctrines, particularly the view of Christ’s humanity and the importance of sanctification.

I’ll have to wrap this up, since I have an early presentation of my own tomorrow morning, but I would like to see more reflection on the nature of theological change at this conference. Religious movements always change over time in lots of ways, beliefs included. But what do these changes represent? Gains or losses? Growth or decay? Refinement or apostasy? When it comes to QOD, opinions obviously vary, widely. But addressing theological change in general might help us to understand just what has been going on for the past fifty years.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/4069