The Adventist Podcast: Aubyn Fulton

Welcome to Spectrum’s weekly Adventist Podcast.

This edition features a chat with Dr. Aubyn Fulton, professor of psychology at Pacific Union College. He discusses academic freedom, why he invited an atheist to his class, and why so many faculty are leaving PUC’s Psychology and Social Work department.

Here are a few helpful summaries of what’s going on regarding academic freedom between some faculty and the current president of Pacific Union College:

Pacific Union College Psychology Professor Greg Schneider Resigns as Department ChairFree PUC News: What Is Happening?

This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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Dr. Fulton hit the nail on the head: “Whether we’re comfortable with it or not, I think we have to accept [that] college students are not children; they’re young adults, and we don’t take them by the hand and lead them back to the truth. We have to model for them how mature, responsible, committed Christians confront a variety of challenges and ideas and work their way back to their core values, whatever those might be. . . . The form of the question that I often get over the years is, ‘Why are you exposing students to diverse ideas? I’m not paying all this money to send my student to an Adventist school so they can hear the same stuff they would get at a secular school!’ And my response typically is, ‘What you’re spending all that money on, in sending them to an Adventist school, is not to limit the ideas that they’re exposed to, but it’s to make sure that when your child is exposed to those ideas, it’s in the context of a hundred different models of Adventist faculty, who each have struggled through those ideas for themselves and found a way to reconcile them, in their own way.’ Our goal is not to reproduce students who mimic exactly what we do but to inspire confidence in their ability to integrate Adventist faith with high quality learning in their own way.”


Fear [regarding students] on the part of Administration, the Board, fearful parents.
NO FEAR [regarding students] on the part of the Teaching Staff. They see this age group as being bright, intelligent, going to go through multiple processes over their life time of questioning. So allow questions, and assist with learning HOW to go through questioning processes.

EDIT–But in the end FEAR wins out – Admin, Board, Parents. And the Student LOSES.

EDIT–This is a class room with a small number of students [as compared to the student body]. Class room, not a Sabbath School class, Church Pulpit, Chapel period.


podcast should now invite Dr. knight to an on line interview. It would seem that the president has acted unilaterally in a number of situations. the invitation of Ryan was a I gotcha scheme. President Ted Wilson has created a chilling effect on all Adventist institutions. Only Ryan Bell is the winner in this scenario. TZ


After listening carefully to Dr. Fulton’s remarks, when can we expect to hear Dr. Knight’s explanation of her actions and the future of the psychology department?

For those students hoping to major in psychology, why should they apply to PUC??


Knight has successfully driven more people to Bell’s viewpoint without the experience of a psychologist to question him openly. Knight, the Internet has infiltrated the dorm room – you cannot isolate, shelter, nor prevent college-educated young adults from learning about the world that the Tree of Knowledge of Good & Evil has brought us into.

The Jews teach their students to constantly question and not just accept. I dare say their culture is stronger and more innovative than ours. If we could only include the fall-out rate of those who USED to be Adventist (but left for feeling shamed for thinking for themselves) we’d have an upwards spike in our innovation rate.

Are we choosing to graduate sheeple – who one day in mid-life discover what they really are? Or, independent thinkers – whose values become fortified within the safety of Adventist environs which promote inclusion?


Thanks for listening and for your feedback.

For those wanting to hear from Heather Knight, here’s video.

Also, here’s a response to that via the students at #freepuc.


Thoughtful, balanced, and well-written response from a student…I only wish I could say the same about the college. This situation has really become a lose/lose propostion that hopefully PUC doesn’t replicate in the future.

“Teachers who hold views in conflict with the published ‘Fundamental Beliefs’ will not present their ideas to students or in public forum…” Dr. Knight

Sounds like the medieval church has come to roost in Adventistism.

In 1559 Pope Paul III published the Index of Forbidden Books as censorship to prevent members from being espoused to unorthodox writings. Next followed the Inquisition that tried teachers accused of heretical ideas as worthy of death.

Any private or classroom discussion that might undermine EGW, the Sabbath, the literal Second Coming or the authority of the church and its clergy—is heretical. According to the leadership of PUC all teachers must walk the party line as truth. I wonder if the young reformer Martin Luther would come to PUC to teach, would college administration protect him from church leaders that would destroy him?


After listening to Dr. Fulton’s interview podcast and watching the video on Dr. Knight’s town hall meeting, my impression is that this Issue has nothing to do with academic freedom or as a matter of fact,“holding hands” to usher students back, but everything to do with clear and convincing evidence of how a lack of interpersonal relationship could do in destroying academic freedom or losing students’ confidence.


I only wish the PUC board would sometimes, especially in this instance when someone’s lifework is involved, act fairly and justly in favor of faculty vs administration. Sadly, there’s no separation of powers in the Adventist system of governance so that a fair hearing of grievances is impossible.


From the link:

“What these two passages of the Faculty Handbook demonstrate is the need for careful discussions about views that conflict with Adventism. Teaching something as truth is a critical concern in the handbook’s statements on academic freedom. Open discussions in the pursuit of truth does not, however, seem to be outlawed.”


Somehow in Adventism we act and speak as if exposure to outside influences is a terror. We state that the influences of the world will make us lose our faith. I’ve said many times that if that happens when our faith wasn’t worth having in the first place.

We also seem to think that teaching each subject using “state of the art” information, unmodified by church beliefs, is suggesting that students will believe that information in some sort of religious way, conflicting with the teachings of the church. This is reflected above, even by students, with the use of the word “truth”. Truth is rather a hot button word within the church, but truth when applied to religion is a different sort of thing than when applied to history or accounting (and each of those examples is different as well.)

For example, should we teach the state of the art, the truth, for Economics? Econ within a democracy? Or should we teach what the bible says about finances instead? After all, our society is consumed with the accumulation of material things, which is not according to the biblical model. Will teaching students how our money system works lead them down a wrong path?

Similarly, when teaching natural history, does teaching the science of evolution straight up, “This is what the science says”, somehow impinge on the student’s faith in God, in Jesus (if a Christian)?

I don’t see how. But if it does, if knowledge when treated properly and in perspective changes a person’s viewpoint then so be it. That is what education is for. Sometimes that may include an expanded or refined belief in God. An example of that is astronomy. The relatively new knowledge we have about the universe, that it is 14B years old, that it contains billions of galaxies each with billions of stars and even more planets, that is is ~90% dark matter, and so on has changed and expanded my view of what the Creator has done. My understanding can never be the same as before, and will never be the same as the authors of the books of the bible, as they had a very different idea of the breadth of creation.

Teaching a subject, straight up and unabashed, is not the same as attempting to coerce or bend belief, or faith, in a higher power. This is true with all subjects, such as accounting, psychology, natural history, astronomy or cosmology.


Yeah, any comment that is not supporting Fulton has vanished.

Spectrum has every right to do that if they don’t agree with the ideology of the comment.

And, apparently, universities can do that with professors whose ideology run contrary as well.

You are right. Universities have the right to hire for mission, fire for mission, and even enroll students according to their mission. This right has not only been affirmed by the AAUP, but has been upheld by the Supreme Court in a number of cases, including Sweezy vs. New Hampshire, Keyishian vs. Board of Regents of UNY, and also the Foundation for Individual Rights in Education. From Sweezy: “It is the business of a university to provide that atmosphere which is most conducive to speculation, experiment and creation. It is an atmosphere in which there prevail the four essential freedoms of a university: to determine for itself on academic grounds who may teach, what may be taught, how it shall be taught, and who may be admitted to study.” Any questions?


Interesting podcast, thanks for posting it. Cheers, Tim

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A colleague at an SDA college emailed me the following statement:

“At the Aubyn Fulton podcast posted on Spectrum I saw an interesting comment critical of Aubyn Fulton that subsequently disappeared, and I see that somebody recently lamented how all comments critical of Aubyn Fulton have disappeared. How ironic that Spectrum is defending academic freedom while at the same time it is purging all comments that are critical of a renegade professor. As far as I’m concerned Spectrum has lost its credibility.”

I totally concur. My own comment about Dr. Fulton at another story about him was purged with no explanation. I see no difference now between Spectrum and EducateTruth: both represent blatantly biased efforts to portray individual academics and administrators in a negative light. I think I’m finished with Spectrum. I’m going to email this message to both Jared and Bonnie to register my disaffection with the hypocrisy that has become Spectrum.


actually, i think what’s really going on is that comments that show disrespect, or that reference comments that show disrespect, are being purged…this is the explicit commenting policy of spectrum, although it isn’t spelled out in connection with this podcast…i don’t think it’s a question of supporting or not supporting aubyn fulton…perhaps we need to consider more carefully how to be critical without being disrespectful…for instance, even the adjective, “renegade”, could be considered disrespectful…


Spectrum has a clear commenting policy that moderators enforce. The comments that were deleted violated Spectrum’s commenting policy. Those complaining that their comments have been removed are invited to refamiliarize themselves with the commenting guidelines, which state that only one comment per commenter will be allowed and that comments that do not demonstrate respect for people and ideas will be removed.

Moderators removed comments that maligned Heather Knight, and removed comments that maligned Aubyn Fulton.

Though we regret that some took offense that their comments were removed, we make no apologies for upholding our commenting guidelines. That is why they are in place.