The False Security of Certainty

“If you can’t support all our beliefs, why don’t you do the honorable thing and leave?” This sentiment, or some variation of it, is often made by some of our conservative church members when doctrinal disagreements occur. Besides being conversation stoppers, such statements do not model a welcoming church. If anything, they may mask the speaker’s apprehension about confronting uncomfortable topics, or betray an incoherent understanding of how our beliefs developed over time.

The founders refrained from making a list of fundamental beliefs precisely because they worried such a list would become creedal with time. Instead, they prized the idea of “present truth.” There is a certain tentativeness in this notion. It telegraphs a humble recognition that we can only see so far in our faith journey, with more road ahead for discovery. Ellen white captured this beautifully in her contention that “Truth is progressive,” by which she meant our insights into truth should grow with us. We should never settle. Consider an expansion of this same counsel in her post-1888 statement: “Much has been lost because our ministers and people have concluded that we have had all the truth essential for us as a people; but such a conclusion is erroneous and in harmony with the deceptions of Satan; for truth will be constantly unfolding." (Signs of the Times, May 26, 1890)

Asking fellow Adventists to leave the church because they don’t believe exactly the way others do assumes that there is a uniform template to understanding our doctrines. Even more confounding, such a declaration presupposes a static universe where ideas and experience are frozen. But observation teaches us that frozenness is incompatible with the human impulse to attain clarity. We often change our minds based on insights gained. Whereas it was reasonable in pre-antibiotics times to attribute the ravages of infectious diseases to divine retribution, it is inexcusable to continue to attribute such diseases to these same gods when we now know about infectious diseases and how to treat them. One indisputable trait of humans is that we learn and continually change as we apply that learning in tangible ways.

Religious groups are not bound together by their “bibles” but by the ideas contained in them. If a group has a sacred text, that text may tangentially, and often only temporarily, serve as a unifier. Even this conclusion is problematic because if a sacred text truly unified, there would be no reason for the existence of 34 thousand Christian denominations. There are so many because, contrary to what we often say, the Bible is not its own interpreter. If the Bible was self-interpreting, then all readers would have a uniform understanding of its message, which would invalidate the multiplicity of denominations.

When a group’s identity is based on ideas, at some point differences or divergent understanding of those ideas will emerge. In this sense Martin Luther’s theological conflict with the universal church of his day, which gave birth to Protestantism, was not only predictable but inevitable. Subsequent Christian groups that have splintered from a mother church have pointed to the Bible in legitimizing their split.

Let us be charitable and pretend that all schisms throughout Christen history happened because of genuine concerns that the parent churches did stray from a perceived right way. At bottom, schisms happen because times change our ideas and view of things. Inevitably then, all groups grounded in ideas will modify some aspects of long-held beliefs to accommodate new “truth”. Resisting new possibilities thus risks a group splintering or devolving into irrelevancy.

Adventism, like other religious organizations, is held together by a set of ideas – call them beliefs, policies or doctrines. Over the span of 170 years we have made many changes to our positions. Some have come through a slow, grinding, deliberative process, so that the decisive nature of the change is only appreciated in hindsight. Occasionally changes to our beliefs have been forced upon us. When that has happened, the implementation, as well as repercussions, have been quite sudden.

I will discuss two instances, one doctrinal and the other policy, where our church has made position changes that are the opposite of the former belief. No doubt there are many more that have taken place during our more than a century and a half of history. I highlight these two to show the tenuousness of ideas, and how today’s beliefs, for which some are eager to throttle a fellow Adventist, may not stand the test of time.

Currently, our church believes and teaches that Jesus is a self-existent God. The publication of Questions on Doctrine in 1957 by the Review and Herald was the culmination of a slow cautious dance between our church leaders and the mainstream Christian community as we sought to convince them that we were not a cult. It was in this book that we made the clearest and most sweeping statement about Jesus’ position in relation to the Trinity: “Christ is one with the Eternal Father – one nature, equal in power and authority, God in the highest sense, eternal and self-existent, with life original, unborrowed, underived; and that Christ existed for all eternity, distinct from, but united with the Father, possessing the same glory, and all divine attributes.” (p. 36).

This statement, powered by a thousand transcendent qualities, showcases Christ’s divinity. But this is not how we have always thought of Jesus. Our founding leaders were predominantly Arian, and believed that Christ, as the son of God, was “begotten” by God at some point and therefore was subordinate to the father. Such early Adventist stalwarts as James White and Joseph Bates were firmly anti-Trinitarian. In 1898 Ellen White published The Desire of Ages in which she stated of Jesus: “In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived,” (p. 530). This statement is often credited with beginning the decisive shift away from seeing Christ through Arian eyes to the lofty pedestal we now accord him. But, as late as the 1941 edition of Uriah Smith’s venerable book Daniel and Revelation, the opposite view is found: “The Son came into existence in a different manner, as he is called the only begotten of the father. It would seem wholly inappropriate to apply this expression to any being created in the ordinary sense of that term.” (p. 400). Finally, in the 1944 edition, this statement would be excised. So, within their lifetimes, our pioneers went from believing that Jesus was a created being subordinate to the father, to proclaiming him “eternal and self-existent.”

The second example I offer is on policy. Until 1982 it was the official church position to pay women less than men for the same work classification, based on the concept that men are, or should be, the heads of households. It is unclear when this policy first became operative, but our leaders, including then General Conference (GC) president Robert Pearson, and Neil Wilson, who succeeded him, felt strongly enough about this policy to defend it in court.

The case started in 1973 when 26-year-old Merikay Silver sued the Pacific Press Publishing Association over the church’s household compensation policy. It ended with the church being sued by, and in 1982 losing to, the Equal Employment Opportunities Commission in appeals court. In court the church argued on religious liberty grounds, asserting that Adventism was not subject to the Title VII provision of the 1964 Civil Rights Act. The essential argument was that the church pay structure fell outside governmental regulations precisely because of the US constitution’s church and state separation clause. The church further contended that all affiliated institutions are ministries, and disputes like Merikay’s suit should be considered a denominational “schism” and should be resolved as such – within in the church.

So the church lost and opted not to appeal to the Supreme Court. And, with this ruling, women church employees won the right to be paid the same as their male counterparts, for the same work. Thirty-five years after this milestone we have become accustomed to the idea that, when we work for the church, our pay should be determined by ability not gender. The fairness inherent in this position is now so entrenched that we might forget it was literally forced on us by the government.

It can be argued that, in these two examples, our current positions are improvements over earlier ones. But, even if not, the fact is that we changed, and this suggests precedent for revisiting and making future changes whenever warranted.

The point here is that we should honor a commitment to questioning; indeed we have a responsibility to do so. How else can we prove all things to hold on to what we believe? Certainty, the viewpoint that assumes there are no more legitimate questions about our beliefs, is an ignorant person’s refuge. And willful ignorance ultimately is the parent of fear. We should all have the humility to recognize, or at least consider, that some aspects of our beliefs might need modification or even elimination, as our history has amply demonstrated. And because this is our church, it is incumbent on all of us to work together to make what we stand for as fully and accurately Christian we can.

Matthew Quartey is a transplanted Ghanaian who now lives in and calls the Adventist ghetto of Berrien Springs, Michigan, home.

Previous Spectrum columns by Matthew Quartey can be found at:

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This is truly an outstanding article. Thank you, Matthew Quartey, for sharing your thoughts in such a lucid presentation.

As a biologist, I certainly appreciated the parallel in our understanding of infectious disease and antibiotics. I loved the quote you found from Ms. White, which ends in “truth will be constantly unfolding.” And your two examples of change, one in theology and the other (so shameful) in policy, should suffice to convince anyone that we should be humble in our condemnation of those whom we label as “rebels.”

Sadly, there are many who will take umbrage with this message. Dogmatism is gaining ground in this age of information surplus, wherein confirmation bias abounds and truth becomes, essentially, what we want it to be. If only we had more clear voices, like that of Quartey, among us.


Yes, outstanding. Let’s see if someone tries to refute what is said here. One of our big problems is that defenders of we-know-it-all Adventism often refuse to engage in real conversation. For the moment, they have enough power not to have to.

This says nothing admirable about our church’s intellectual integrity. But for many, unfortunately, integrity is an overrated value.

Still, your voice, Matthew, is encouraging. Thanks.



A great commentary, needed as never before.


The article is a good launching piece, yet with 2 examples hardly scratches the surface.


99% of Christianity=deceived
90% of Christian churchgoers have never read the whole bible, or probably even the new testament.

Most SDA don’t even know Christian basics: what the gospel is, what grace is , what salvation is or how one is saved.

( Do as survey at your local church and confirm)

They know about the 4th commandment and some different views on hell, state of the dead, and eschatology.

Like most Christian denominations, members just get used to hearing & parroting clichés, religious lingo and some bible verses that they have no clue as to the meaning.

Most teaching is so ambiguous, convoluted & superficial.

To those with any enthusiasm, Rom 10:2 describes the typical characteristic…“zeal not according to knowledge” (fanaticism)

Try in Sabbath school or after a sermon asking a teacher or pastor what a familiar verse means and stand by for superficial or corrupted explanations.

I am not referring to Adventist controversial hot potato issues. I am addressing the usual religious teachings heard every week.

Don’t agree? Then why are SDA audiences constantly labelled lukewarm , poor , blind , naked Laodiceans?

Are you a new SDA?

As far as I know, about every SDA pastor and SS teacher mention that the SDA church= Laodicea.

I remember even Mark Finley coming to the church I attend and spending the last 8 minutes of SS class time talking about how the church is Laodicea. It was part of that week’s SS lesson.

To any reader…A Christian on Paltalk told me to read a book…“The Subtle Power of Spiritual Abuse.” . It is in paperback and not a very thick book.
It covers the verbal abuse & inept approaches of pastors and covers MATT 23 in detail.

Clue: What do the gospels spend more time recording Jesus’ word & actions on…
Jesus against Pilate, Romans, and Caesar or the Jewish clergy?

Why do 99% of Christians worship on Sunday instead of Sabbath?

False security is very evident in the denomination and is caused by the weekly bad mouthing/berating of teaching. …SDA = Laodicea, all our righteousness is as filthy rags, we are no better than anyone else, false concepts of gospel & salvation and then on the flip side is the fantasy forensic fiction about we can have assurance of salvation because of some theological assent to some bible verse truth totally taken out of context (1 JN 5:13)


Labeled by whom? That might go a long way toward answering your “why” question.[quote=“gideonjrn, post:5, topic:15046”]
Are you a new SDA?

As far as I know, about every SDA pastor and SS teacher mention that the SDA church= Laodicea.

No, I am a lifelong SDA. And I have rarely, if ever, heard a pastor or Sabbath school teacher make such a statement, at least not about the SDA church specifically. But I haven’t experienced Mark Finley attending my church to tell us we are Laodicea, so that may be a partial explanation.

Such as accusing the congregation of being in a condition to be spit out of Christ’s mouth? Or is such “verbal abuse” acceptable only when used to support “truth”? I usually do not allow myself to be baited by this kind of argumentation, but the irony is palpable.




Just now I have encounter with three women who - except craddle - went through the whole SDA program here. And they speak about loosing their confidence and security when - by age and professional life / earning a livelihood / having their own family- fell out of the “we know it all - and better !”

No, I do not know Gods final balance of my life, but because of historical - political situations and our social economy I never learned such an attitude : Being secludet as a child ( - I could have said something detrimentos for the whole family of anti .- NAZIS and having four or five SDA as “forced laborers” in our house) then all the schools- never in school on Sabbath and continuously questioning what was taught there and necessarily having to defend my principles from first grade to the “Spondeo” at our local university is clearly far away from Higher Adventist Education. But those having gone the same way, my companions, - - -still are in the SDA Church, partly have saved local churches from being wrecked up , stillare in positions of high responsibility… And we still meet and talk about - - and discuss - - and give us mutual support in this or that personal conflict - in the spirit of the Bible we all have learned to cherish…

See, I had witnessed my father, him working hard, him fighting for the forced laborers mentioned above, have heard his daily devotionals and his many sermons - since many of the minsters were somwhere in Russioa - him looking through numerous Bible translations in mnany long nights for finding the version he could responsibly display from the pulpit - - and how he brought his believings and convictions into business life - -always with an uncertainity behind : Am I right,on the right way ?


Some might assert that the increasingly literal dogmatism infecting the body of Christ is merely a repudiation of post-modernity. I suggest that this drifting proclivity towards the “letter of the law” wall is perhaps actually the same mendacious foe for which He reserved his most scathing rebukes.
The spirit of writ bends inexorably towards grace, although the arc seems too far long-and these two-“works” and “grace” are in mortal combat. Admission of wrong permits grace-if you believe that infinitely illimitable grace is sufficient, but if you harbor niggling mite of fear that grace is insufficient, then it seems ever so logical to 1) deny being wrong and 2) add even teeniest bit of own “righteousness” to the equation.

Can the One who knows how to ask questions when your soul is demanded of you discern the overarching guile of “constant work (especially ON SABBATH!) to allay doubt” vs the bedrock paratitheimi of “resting” in grace in total trust?

Whose hand do I trust, my own (or “my leaders”)?
Note whose hands the most perfect man trusted, even on crux of forsaken Roman tree of death.


In a similar vein, “it is inexcusable to continue to attribute” mandates and prohibitions to the same gods when we now know about the origin of neuroses, mental development and growth and the underlying forces that influence our character formation as much as we “know about infectious diseases and how to treat them.”

Good article! Thanks.


This is not the same as: “Nothing is true; everything is possible!”:heart_eyes:

If “what we believe” were only a matter of opinion… there’s no good reason we should hold on to them. Right?

“But examine everything carefully; hold fast to that which is good.” 1 Thess 5:21.

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Actually, this says nothing admirable about our church’s spiritual integrity. Let’s not hide behind our own brains here. Such thinking is for the weak taking comfort from Babylon that salvation can be confirmed by mere human determination, not that you suffer such, Chuck. It is our spiritual integrity that defines our patience as saints, after all. Let’s speak to each of the Three Angels of Revelation 14 and the whole of 1 Corinthians, especially chapter 13.

We get to draw circles that encompass bluster rather than distinguishing ourselves from those continuing to shout to us to come plod with them under a hail of brimstone rather than dooming ourselves, in their judgement, by embracing the saints of patience. And let’s not leave those gasping after being waylaid along life’s spiritual road to Jericho. We are by all divine accounts one with everyone we meet.

Matthew Quartey comes up short here, if at all, not in documenting our history of anti-creedal Present Truth, but perhaps by failing to testify to God’s presence in the unstoppable progressiveness we are created to experience, as was and remains Ellen White’s most divine and most elemental proclamation on behalf of the people of Seventh-day Adventism.

Or so … for now … it seems.


Matthew Quartey, another masterful statement written beautifully in a language which maybe is not your mother tongue ?

You state:
Adventism, like other religions, is held together by a set of ideas.

My comment:
Our doctrines, “sets of ideas”, are regrettably a patchwork of “proof texts” cobbled together from diverse ancient manuscripts, most written centuries apart.

As I wrote on another Spectrum post, the scriptural basis for the TRINITY doctrine is so opaque,obtuse, and contradictory, the Andrews Seminary has been forced to explain it with SIXTEEN documentaries, most of which are unintelligible to those only holding a high school diploma.

No wonder there are a plethora of opinions.

No wonder umpteen diverse denominations, are all claiming to be the sole purveyors of “truth”,

And surely Adventism’s Investigative Judgememt doctrine, (supported by no other group on the planet) , is based on a tenuous tangle of textual support.

It would appear, that if some of these doctrines, ——the Trinitiy, the IJ and many others, ——were so vitally important to “truth”,
that God would have stated them in simple forthright prose, unequivocally, transparently, clearly and not requiring an arduous “treasure hunt “ through reams of jargon filled ancient texts.

The older I get, the more I realize, that much of Scriture is “gobbledygook “
difficult to,decipher, without a Doctorate of Divinity Diploma.


It’s not surprising that if you consider the Bible to be “a patchwork of “proof texts” cobbled together from diverse ancient manuscripts, most written centuries apart.” “Gobbledygook” that much of our doctrines would be tenuous at best. I couldn’t disagree more… I see it in quite the opposite light and I don’t have a doctorate… I find our doctrines easy to find in a Bible that I consider to be preserved by God.


And, Ellen White and James White left the door open to change. Holding some things tentatively and subject to change shouldn’t be so bewildering to those familiar with their writings.

Giving up cherished views.

“We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn. God and heaven alone are infallible. Those who think that they will never have to give up a cherished view, never have to change an opinion, will be disappointed. As long as we hold to our own ideas and opinions with determined persistency, we cannot have the unity for which Christ prayed.” RH, July 26, 1892

“There is no excuse for anyone taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed, and that all our expositions of Scripture are without an error. The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people, is not proof that our ideas are infallible. Age will not make error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair. No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation.”
Counsels to writers and editors Pg. 35

“Every Christian is therefore duty bound to take the Bible as a perfect rule of faith and duty. He should pray fervently to be aided by the Holy Spirit in searching the Scriptures for the whole truth and for his whole duty. He is not at liberty to turn from them and learn his duty from and of the gifts*. We say, the very moment he does, he places the gifts in a wrong place, and takes an extremely dangerous position.”

James White, Review & Herald, October 3, 1854.

That includes EGW’s writing. The Bible is always superior.

Quench not the Spirit, despise not prophesyings, prove all things, and hold fast that which is good. 1Thes. 5:19-21


For Adventism, the basic problem is that Jesus is largely considered to be an example, rather than our saviour. It’s reasoned that if God sent Jesus as the “perfect” man, then he must be copied (what would Jesus do) in everything life throws at us. This, of course, gets mixed up with “whatsoever you ask in my name…” which makes Jesus a “genie” - just quote the Bible and all will be good. This makes the very words in the Bible sacrosanct, to the point that only the version that produced our beliefs is to be trusted; and verbal inspiration becomes the basis of our beliefs - despite the denials. Once verbal inspiration is establish, at least in practice, truth gets cemented.

In the meantime, God as CREATOR is minimized; and the idea that we, as created beings, can never fully comprehend God, is ignored. God will always be a mystery to us. Jesus came, to turn his people away from dogmatic - superficial certitude - to embrace God as a loving FATHER, instead of an exacting tyrant.

It’s much easier to follow a recipe for salvation, than to engage life with your heart, and “do unto others as you would others do to you” - loving your neighbour with the same interest and dedication as we seem to love ourselves.


Informative and helpful discussion. I am reading two books on a similar subject: “Benefit of the Doubt, Breaking the Idol of Certainty” by Gregory Boyd. and “The Dusty Ones - Why Wandering Deepens Your Faith” by A. J. Swoboda. In childhood I would ask my mom, why do we do this or that, why do we believe this or that? Answer: I don’t know, we just do. A couple of years ago I was told: don’t bring that subject up, it causes doubt. Ah well…certainty about having “The Truth” (putting everyone else in christendom in error) has not been a helpful principle for me, anyway.


I really like the spirit of this article, and in that same spirit I would like to point out a weakness in the assumptions made in the following quoted statements:

Just because a ‘denomination’ claims to be ‘Christian’ does not necessarily mean that they are.

Christ promised to send the Holy Spirit to the first group of ‘Christians’ as a ‘comforter’ to replace His own physical human form. Unless there are more than 3 in the ‘God Family’, that same ‘Holy Spirit’ which first ‘rained’ on ‘Christians’ at Pentecost, has also inspired the writers of the Bible which ‘Christians’ claim to listen to. Coincidental with the arrival of the Holy Spirit at Pentecost, the individuals of the first group of Christians had put away all differences among themselves to the point that they felt as if they ‘owned’ nothing, exclusively. They were ready and willing in their spirits to be truly unified in ‘the Spirit’. Then, the Spirit moved them to preach with very clear Biblical understanding, such as that demonstrated in Deacon Stephen’s amazingly accurate and moving sermon . . . even as he was about to face flying stones !

Today, 2,000 years later, unless the Holy Spirit has died, the source of ‘In-Spiration’ for Stephen and the Bible is still alive and ready to interpret the Bible, but are all ‘34 thousand’ denominations of Christians willing to listen to any but their ‘own’ interpretation ? . . . or does their ‘own’ individual and denominational pride blind and deafen and confuse them ? What mere book needs to ‘interpret’ itself, if the author is still alive and eager to answer questions from anyone who will listen for as long as it takes them to understand?

The fault among ‘34 thousand’ denominations of ‘Christians’ is not, then, with the ‘Book’, or the ‘Book’s’ Author, but in the widespread willingness to ‘own’ a convenient version of ‘truth’ that best suits one’s ‘own’ immediate desires, while maintaining a believable appearance that ‘God is on our own side.’, ‘God is our own guard dog.’ . . . And, the trouble with ‘own’ and ‘sides’ is that they are always attached to ‘war’, and not to any form of ‘unity’ that the true, unified God Family can truly bless and protect with the presence of the Holy, Healing, Salving . . . Spirit. Christianity is confused, not Christ, not the ‘Word of God’.

As for SDA ‘Christians’ we have too often taken denominational pride in ‘owning’ God, ‘owning’ the ‘Spirit of the Prophets’, when in fact we have ‘stoned’ Them. That same ‘SOP’ warned the SDA GC leaders in the 1888-era that they were treating and rejecting Jesus and the ‘Latter Rain’ of the Holy Spirit’s most up-to-date, most ‘present’, interpretation of the Bible just as the ‘Godless and unbelieving Jews’ – the leaders who had Him crucified, NOT those Jews-in-the-pews who accepted Him and enjoyed the ‘Early Rain’ ‘blossoming’ of increased biblical understanding regarding the Messiah – had treated Them.

So, even Ellen and SDAs in the pews were more than willing to listen, and to move on, unitedly, in the increasing ‘light’ of Biblical truth becoming available where the Holy Spirit was then leading hearts and minds. But, we SDAs – swayed to and fro by conflicting ‘pulpits’ within our own denomination since that time – cannot BOTH ‘own’ God’s truth AND ‘stone’ it, to suit our own undecided selves. In our ‘double-mindedness’ as a ‘Christian denomination’ since 1888, especially, we have left the Holy Spirit standing ahead in the correct path of understanding, waiting to lead us onward, and the whole Creation suffers due to our ‘own’ confusion and indecision, NOT due to God’s lack of repeatedly trying to ‘rain’ such ‘light’ on Christians, again.

Or, would Deacon Stephen lie, as he was about to die ?:

“. . .You stiff-necked and uncircumcised in heart and ears!
You always resist the Holy Spirit;
as your fathers did, so do you. . . .” Acts 7:51 NKJV

We SDAs in the pews need to adopt the faith of our faithful SDA ‘fathers’,
not of those unfaithful ones who began the habit of ‘always’ resisting the Holy Spirit 130 years ago.


In the late 1970s the Adventist Church faced a couple of crises.

In his article, Matthew stated one - the Merikay Silver case. The church was forced by law to treat a woman equally to a man wrt equal pay for equivalent work.
The second crisis was the situation with Desmond Ford. His research led him to question some pillars of church doctrine such as the meaning of the gospel (i. e., justification by faith, which called into question the Investigative Judgment of believers based on their works) and the interpretation of Daniel 8:14 (which cast doubt on the spiritual significance of 1844).

As Matthew mentioned, the Silver case was legally resolved in 1982. The church unsuccessfully argued that a woman need not be equally paid (that she could never be defined as the main family breadwinner).
Glacier View, the hearing which rejected Ford’s views and led to his leaving the church, occurred in 1980.

We are approaching the 40th anniversary of each. If you are familiar with gematria, the study of Biblical numbers, you know that 40 is the number associated with trial, testing or probation (e.g., Moses on the mountain, Christ in the wilderness, Nineveh in the book of Jonah, the children of Israel in the desert). Also, in the Bible forty years is associated with the length of a generation.

Neal Wilson, the father of current GC president Ted Wilson, was GC president then. The Bible says that the sins of the father can be visited upon the sons to the third or fourth generation. The attitudes of a father can have great influence on his offspring. If the father has not resolved an issue in the way approved by God during his time of testing, perhaps God brings the same issue back around to the son (though maybe in a different guise and hopefully with greater light) and the son will be given his opportunity. Perhaps each time the stakes are higher.
If so, is not women’s ordination really about the same issue as the Silver case - the equality of women and men? This time the issue may split the church.
And, is the window of time given to the Adventist church to contemplate Glacier View, come to understand, appreciate and then preach the gospel, the new creation life we have in Christ, also coming to a close?

Sirje, you write that the essential point is that Jesus is our saviour and it is a mistake to think of Him primarily as our example. In a video I watched recently, Dr. Ford said the same thing. He also stated that false religion majors in law and minors in love and it mistakenly stresses what God requires of us rather than what Christ has done for us. He also said that most people in the church have the wrong religion because most people in the church don’t know the gospel.
He mentioned this short poem which I thought worth repeating:
“To run and work the law commands,
But gives me neither feet nor hands,
Better news the gospel brings,
It bids me fly and gives me wings.”



You have again done us all a great service with a well argued and concise essay on the fallacy of thinking yourself better than you are. Something which is the first thing that Paul counsels against at the beginning of his recommendations for appropriate Christian behavior, as the SS lesson for this past Sabbath taught us. It is always instructive and fulfilling to read your columns. Keep at it. We need you.
Your essay this time points out the fallacy of the official declaration of the Adventist Church that the Bible “transcends time and culture.” Nothing is more forcefully disallowed by the Bible itself.


I am going to echo the words of ProfessorKent Jeffrey Kent. “This is truly an outstanding article. Thank you, Matthew Quartey, for sharing your thoughts in such a lucid presentation.”

It is an outstanding article and I am grateful for such thinkers in our midst. It was in Academy physics class my senior year I learned an essential idea about knowledge. I had just created an equation that predicted the behavior of non-elastic interactions of bodies. The teacher was an inspiring teacher and I have always valued what he taught. But the words of that day have stayed with me for over 50 years.

Roger, in the pursuit of knowledge, the answers will change constantly. However, if you hold on to your questions, you will always find the knowledge you need for that day. Thus when people say “We have the truth.” Or the 27 fundamental beliefs are truth, I have a more than a few questions for those people.

The best understanding I have of this comes from a study of the way the human mind works. We are able to think only in models. That is all. Our words, our measurements of physical reality, the equations we develop and every understanding of God is only a model or group of models. Because this is a fundamental limitation in our ability to think, the words of Isa. 55 have found a home in my heart. “My thoughts are not your thoughts.” This and several other texts lead me to conclude, mankind was created without the capacity to know truth as God does.

You find this concept echoed in the first lie told Adam and Eve. “You will be as Gods, knowing (truth) …” If those words are a lie, then another brick is laid with certainty in the wall, we only think in models. We were created so we CANNOT know truth as God does.

If you combine this piece of meta-knowledge with this fundamental finding in science you are well on your way to finding the answers you need for today’s questions. ALL MODELS ARE WRONG. NO EXCEPTIONS. However, some models are useful.

Thus in my mind I gave up truth and pursued what is useful. This was a marked change for me and I suspect that it is an essential pivot point for all good thinkers who consider the foundations laid in meta-knowledge. It is well known to researchers of the mind, that your ability to conceive of better models and better solutions is primarily limited by the ideas you hold to be sacred in your mind. Thus it is, giving up what you hold to be useful today in the hope of finding even more useful ideas becomes the genesis point for breakthrough thinking about problems.

But if you cannot give up the concept that “you have the truth” there is no hope of learning better ideas and models. This is the foundation stone that has limited Adventism from the beginning. The search for truth was a strong drive among the founders of Adventism. If we had instead searched for what is useful, knowing that what was useful before, would not be good enough to solve the problems we face today, Adventism would not be in the many conflicts we have today. We should have searched for questions instead of so called truth.

Even our perceptions of what the conflicts are must change. A primary example is the women’s ordination issue. I have long held this to be a red herring. It is not real at all. What is real is the disrespect shown not only women but many others is the core problem. I have concluded from my research that the concept of granting the gift of respect is foundational to the law of God in all expressions. I wrote the article that establishes beyond reasonable doubt that even the Decalogue contains this foundation idea in all useful relationships.

Has this concept be embraced in Adventism? No. And frankly, I am not in the least surprised. After all, we have the truth. The idea that the fundamentals of all human relationships is the genesis point for all the expressions of God’s law is more than a bit counter intuitive. Respect is only the first one of the four. All four are essential. But if the first step of respect is missing, how can the others even be conceived? These four fundamentals found in the primitive brain of virtually all normal humans is not well accepted in Adventism. It is the way the Creator made us, but few are able to embrace “what is.”

In closing I want to repeat again my gratitude to Matthew Quartey for this article. It is an essential step forward.