Saying NO to God — Adventist Voices

Yale Divinity student, Matthew Korpman, discusses growing up idolizing Adventist evangelists, how La Sierra University challenged him, and the controversial argument in his new book: Saying No to God: A Radical Approach to Reading the Bible Faithfully.

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Alexander Carpenter is a board member of Adventist Forum, the organization that publishes Spectrum.

Book cover image courtesy of Quoir.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Liked the description Moses [human] counseling God into doing the better
At my Friday night Jewish church several months ago the Rabbi had a
discussion comparing Noah with Abraham.
Abraham pled for Sodom with God. Down to a low number.
It was compared to Noah who said, OK, God. Anything you say!
The question the Rabbi asked, If Noah had bartered with God like
Abraham did, would we have had the Flood?


Very good podcast. I want to read the book. He has a good perspective. I agree completely that we should oppose all representations of God that are incongruous with true Christology. Our goal should always be to see the better way. We have been given minds to reason with not just to learn some rote theology.


I’m not so sure that Abraham was “bartering” with God over the fate of Sodom, so much as God was allowing Abraham to realize how merciful God was, and how utterly wicked Sodom was. After Abraham stopped pleading for Sodom when his asking to save it for 10 righteous, I believe that Abraham finally understood the futility of going any lower. There weren’t even 5. Even Lot lingered and the angels had to drag him, his wife and two daughters out of the city before God rained fire and brimstone on it. It’s questionable that even they were worthy of saving. Lot’s wife disobeyed and looked back, and his two daughters got Lot drunk and engaged in incest with him. Their offspring were the Moabites and Ammonites, terrible enemies of Israel.

I don’t think the situation in Noah’s time was much different. Only 8 went into the ark.


This has been the best 48 minutes and 26 seconds I’ve spent in a long time. (on Spectrum).
Thank you.


So, I have some questions for Matt, but I guess I should read the book first.

In case he’s reading these comments, I would ask: 1- Where do we get our granite strong perception of “who God is”, in the first place - the one Moses hung on to in order to say “no”; and Jacob, in order for him to fight all night?

The second is more of a comment with a question mark - Are we permitted to acknowledge that these “tests” God throws at us, actually come from our own doubts about God; and the battle ultimately is within ourselves? In other words, must we “imagine” the actual God-Person on top of the mountain arguing with Moses; or can we go a step further, and ascribe God’s voice to the knowledge we carry about God. If that is the case, the answers we get may not match our neighbour’s,


Why only eight? Because God told Noah to provide for only eight. What we learn about God by studying the New Testament is Jesus, who sees the lowly sparrow fall.

The characterization of God in the OT are something else: a Deity that turns a woman into a pillar of salt because she grieves for the home she’s forced to leave, who indicates that He didn’t know in advance that the humans He designed would turn out the way they did, and then solves the problem with a mass execution, (more than one, in fact).

Maybe God wants us to say no to the Old Testament’s depiction of Him.


Harry, gods with aspects of both good and evil are not foreign to ancient cultures.


Actually the Israelite God was quite weird compared to the other
gods in the neighborhood.
He was “quite nice” as compared to the others.


“quite nice” This could lead to a discussion about the ambiguity expressed in the use of the word “quite” as a modifier in the English language. I could take your intention in using “quite” with “nice” as meaning “acceptable but not with a ringing endorsement” or I could take it as being used to express a touch of irony. In tone it reminded me of how the Beatle’s used the word “pretty” in one of their lyrics: “Her majesty’s a pretty nice girl, but she doesn’t have a lot to say/ Her majesty’s a pretty nice girl but she changes from day to day./I want to tell her I love her a lot, but…”

I don’t think I have told you this, Steve, but I appreciate the glimpses you give in your posts of non-Adventist Christian and modern Jewish church culture.


Then there’s the quiet, nice.
The perfect attributes of a pretty girl!

There are at least two times in life when we must say “No” to God. The first time is when we join a “corporate church” where the need to belong requires that we accept the characteristics of the corporate God and discard the God formed during our childhood years. The second time is when we reach maturity and full autonomy where we begin to adhere to a set of values, acquired through life experience, that supersedes the values of our corporate God and discard our corporate God. I am not surprised that Matthew K. finds himself saying “No” to God, knowing full well the characteristics of his god came from the Mt Rushmore of SDA preachers.


Inability to say “no” to a human parent is a telling characteristic of an unhealthy relationship.
Can that be suggestive that likewise, a God who desires a healthy relationship, also permits his “children” to say no?

What if Jesus could have -and had-said NO!! ?
Dare we so believe-that God freely, without coercion, guilt, force, enticement of any form, permits “NO”?

To say “No” to parents is a developmental milestone everyone must master, bar none. It normally happens during late childhood. Jesus passed his test with flying colors when he told his parents in Luke 2:49 “Why did you seek Me? Did you not know that I must be about My Father’s business?”

The failure of Adam & Eve to say no has brought devastating results.


Many cultures have their celebrations of this-ie, bat mitzvah.
What if Jesus was cognizant of the pattern set by Abraham?

“According to some, the first documented Bar Mitzvah celebration is referred to in the Torah: “And the child [Isaac] grew and was weaned, and Abraham made a great feast on the day that Isaac was weaned” (Genesis 21:8). According to one opinion expressed in the Midrash, this was the day that Isaac turned thirteen; the day when he was “weaned” from his childish nature, and assumed the responsibilities of a Jewish adult. In Jewish literature, this verse is often used as a source for the celebration made in honor of a boy’s acceptance of the mitzvot at age thirteen.”

Now I’ll ask the grotesque question-what happens when (a)parent/s, for child-rearing expediency, uses a misinterpreted “religious teaching” of a vengeful God to make sure their child never says no to them-and by extension, God?

My seat of the pants sense (yes, there, where board meetings were too frequently and angrily held) suggests that this painful and tragic propensity may explain the great exodus of children from even “the fastest growing” Western denomination church?

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Part of the process of psychologically separating from parents is the ability to say no to their parents. Some parents see this as a threat and double down, thus forcing their children to rebel and compromising the parent-child relationship. The same can be said with boarding students and their surrogate parents.


My point is that some children are so damaged (even in absence of cluster B npd/bpd personality pathologies, which can be frighteningly enmeshing) that they are unable to leave-hence, likely themselves can never cleave-either to a spouse, or to their own child. Children (the “orphans”) of these sorts of origins-especially if their generational progenitors maladaptive presentations are severe, and scripture seems to reference this, vis a vis “sins of the father” cascading down through the generations.
Yeah, i think that religion attracts/compounds/causes many of these problems-
but writ suggests a cure. Let your yea be yea, and your nay…likewise

I like this statement very much, because it’s so true.


For some reason when I read your post Romney’s name popped up in my mind. Maybe because of his courage to say no to the Rep Senators’ god? :thinking:


Great questions! Thank you so much for taking the time to listen and consider the topic. I would say that your first question is something that the Bible itself doesn’t seem to answer fully, or at least explicitly. It affirms that it comes from God, but it doesn’t explain how God gets it to us. Abraham fights God without God seemingly ever teaching him certain concepts beforehand, which suggests that there must be a level of morality that God instructs about himself without direct revelation (in the minds of the biblical writers). I suspect some things can be understood simply as the result of the rule of logical implication. If God is love, he can’t also be hate, and as such, one can begin to travel the right direction and avoid the wrong one if the correct first premise can be determined. I will try and consider this question in my second upcoming book.

As for your second question, I believe that the principle works regardless of whether or not the stories actually happen historically (which allows for each reader to come to their own conclusion on that topic, while retaining the principle either way). And yes, I agree that the answer may not exactly match our neighbor, but it should generally match if both are operating from certain logical trajectories. Two chapters in the book try to deal with some of these issues.

I hope you’ll check the book out and see what your thoughts are!