The “Uplifting Jesus” Statement: A Theological Perspective

Like the guy in the TV commercial, I know a thing or two because I’ve seen a thing or two. Beginning with the controversy over the views of Robert Brinsmead in ancient times (anyone remember him?), I’ve had a front row seat on all the theological developments of the Adventist church during the past 50 years. Against this background I offer my assessment of the recently released document.

First, the statement isn’t what it purports to be. It isn’t about uplifting Jesus: it scarcely mentions Jesus and is silent concerning His life and teachings.

What is it really about? Apparently an attack on The One Project, the only ministry it specifically mentions.

What disturbs me most is what the statement says and does not say about Jesus and the Christian life: “What does it mean to accept Jesus Christ? When we say we accept Christ is this a mystical Christ of experience only or, does it mean an acceptance of the doctrinal truths He taught, or, both? Does such a ministry or initiative uphold the substitutionary atonement of Jesus?”

This statement, which is placed first on the list of seven points that define a genuine ministry, lacks clarity. How is it using “mystical”—pejoratively or positively? Then the statement goes on to seemingly equate accepting Jesus with believing teachings about Him. I protest! This is a perversion of the New Testament. At its essence our faith is not a what but whom. Theology is important, but Jesus, and only Jesus, saves us.

I am perplexed as to how this loose, confusing paragraph found its way into a release from church headquarters. Someone was asleep at the switch. Leaders should withdraw it immediately.

The remaining six points all focus on doctrine. I have no quarrel with them per se, but with the purpose to which they are being put. The Church in general session voted 28 Fundamental Beliefs; do we now have a de facto list of 35? Did someone pull a fast one on us? I would like some answers.

What an opportunity is lost in this document claiming to uplift Jesus! Why doesn’t it invite the reader to what lies at the heart of the Scriptures—a personal, living, growing relationship with Jesus as our Savior, Lord, Best Friend? To know Him is life eternal, here and now; to be, like Paul, crucified with Him; to know the ineffable joy and peace of His abiding presence—this is why Christianity lives on and will never die.

Another missing element in the statement troubles me greatly. The statement is all doctrine, doctrine, doctrine. Doctrine is important, but living is more important. Jesus calls His followers to lives of probity, to unswerving integrity, to social justice. You wouldn’t know that from this statement. Presumably you can be a racist or a spouse-beater, just be sure to have all the doctrines straight.

Recent reports in the secular press cause me consternation. My church is making news again—but for corruption in high places. This is at least the third embarrassing matter in the past few years. The corruption involves church leaders in three large divisions of the world church. All these leaders occupied major posts; one was a division president. And General Conference leaders seemingly were slow to take action when allegations surfaced.

Am I the only Adventist who wonders what is going on? Is there moral rot in our church that reaches to the highest level? Over my many years I have observed the diligence and concern afforded theological matters. Sadly, I have not observed the same level of concern in ethical situations. Too many Adventists, focused on correct doctrine, exhibit blind spots in elemental ethics.

Now, a word about The One Project. I spoke five times at meetings, worked side-by-side with the leaders, noted the nature of their lives, observed their theology. I also saw how The One Project brought men and women to a closer walk with the Lord, how it changed lives, how it led former members to reconnect with the Seventh-day Adventist Church.

Of this I am convinced: The One Project was a gift from God. It was an answer to many prayers for revival. I praise God for The One Project.

The response of Church leaders baffles me. This was something to be supported, not attacked. Why—someone please explain to me—why, oh why would leaders seek to shut down a ministry that led people to Jesus? And why would other leaders who knew better choose political expediency and remain silent?

I have asked and asked what was wrong with The One Project. No one can give me a solid answer. The leaders of The One Project were subjected to character assassination—for what purpose? On the other hand, I could, if I chose, point out deviant theology in some other ministries—Robert Brinsmead is still with us! So I ask again: How come leaders singled out The One Project, whose “offence” was simply making Jesus All?

As a king once famously sang, “It’s a puzzlement.”

William G. Johnsson is the retired Editor of Adventist Reviewand Adventist Worldmagazines, and the author of numerous books including the recently published Where Are We Headed? Adventism after San Antonio.

Photo by Ben White on Unsplash

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at
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Thank you Bill. This original document raises more questions than it answers - and not about its intended target, but about its authors and process.


Neither I nor my friend Bill Johnsson qualify as “ancient,” I hope, but I too remember Robert Brinsmead’s theology and the disruption it brought to the Seventh-day Adventist Church, in all its successive phases. Speaking as one who has been active in the church’s theological controversies since his academy days, I too—like Bill—have a long memory.

What is perhaps most significant about Brinsmead at this point in time, unless I’ve missed something, is that his lengthy odyssey of disputes with Adventism has now led him into agnosticism. Ellen White’s statement in Testimonies, vol. 5, p. 672 about the “downward march to perdition” commencing with a loss of faith in her prophetic gift has seen a fascinating fulfillment in Brinsmead’s spiritual saga.

What I find so strange about this reply to the GC statement, especially as it comes from a veteran New Testament scholar, is its vigorous protest against identifying “accepting Jesus with believing teachings about Him.” The author goes on to insist that “theology is important, but Jesus, and only Jesus, saves us.”

But here is the problem. How can we talk about Jesus saving us without defining what that means? Why do we need to be saved in the first place? What does it mean for Jesus to save us?

The answers to all these questions involve doctrine. Which is why it is utterly impossible to talk about being saved by Jesus without addressing and clarifying a host of doctrinal issues.

To insinuate that the GC statement adds to the 28 Fundamental Beliefs makes little sense, as the statement simply endeavors to ask whether those under scrutiny adhere to the 28 Fundamental Beliefs. Some might argue that certain aspects of the GC statement (e.g. the reference to historicist prophetic interpretation) are not fully spelled out in the 28 Fundamentals. But one should bear in mind that the Seventh-day Adventist Church Manual, whose language is endorsed by the General Conference in session, is clear that the first criterion for church discipline is “denial of faith in the fundamentals of the gospel and in the fundamental beliefs of the Church or teaching doctrines contrary to the same” (Church Manual, 2015 edition, p. 62).

Anyone who denies the significance of 1844 as taught by classic Adventism must do so by denying the principles of historicist prophetic interpretation. It all goes together.

I passionately share the author’s commitment to moral integrity, social and otherwise. It is for this reason that I so strongly support what has come to be known as Last Generation Theology, which articulates the Biblical imperative of perfectly reflecting through heaven’s power the loving character of our blessed Lord here on this earth, this side of heaven. Too many in the church’s so-called “progressive” camp seem not to understand that once a gospel theology is accepted that declares a measure of sin inevitable for the duration of our earthly sojourn, the moral witness of the church—be it personal or social—is invariably compromised.

For this and other reasons, I cannot understand how the author of this reply to the GC statement can again protest the aforesaid statement’s emphasis on doctrine, while lamenting the statement’s alleged lack of focus on moral probity and social justice. Without the Biblical message—doctrinal, to be sure—which clarifies Christian duty to ourselves and to others, social justice and similar causes will only animate the church’s zeal so long as they remain culturally and experientially convenient. The sad tale of modern American history as to the morphing of the “Now” generation of the 1960s into the “Me” generation of the 1970s, bears tragic witness as to the helplessness of human beings against cultural trends in the absence of supernatural power and an objective standard of truth.

What is wrong with the One Project? I believe the reaction against the GC statement, as well as the thoughts shared in this very reply, give the church all the answers it needs. Any attempt to elevate Jesus over and above doctrinal and moral integrity as defined by the written counsel of God, is a recipe for spiritual chaos. The failure of One Project leaders even to affirm their support for the 28 Fundamental Beliefs, in particular those beliefs addressed in the GC statement, is as telling as any explanation could possibly be.

I appreciate and salute the gracious tone of this reply. But it does little or nothing to counter the deep concern of our leaders and so many others which prompted the recent statement relative to the One Project and similar groups, who quite obviously seek to make an unscriptural and even illogical distinction between Jesus and the Biblical truths which alone explain the significance of His mission to humanity.


How odd that a document entitled “Uplifting Jesus” puts so much effort into denigrating a series of events designed specifically and exclusively to uplift Jesus.

As to process, do we have any evidence or corroboration that the officers to whom this statement is attributed actually met together and discussed and edited this document? Or was it drafted by one or two and then distributed to the others for affirmation?


“Any attempt to elevate Jesus over and above doctrinal and moral integrity as defined by the written counsel of God, is a recipe for spiritual chaos.”

Doctrine and “morality” over and above Jesus? Kevin, “there is ONLY ONE name under heaven by which we must be saved!” Jesus! This makes me think of the ways in which the ideas of men corrupted the teachings of Jesus.

Remember the old hymn - “Christ, ONLY Christ for body, SOUL, and spirit - Christ, only Christ, here and eternally”! (SDA Hymnal #570)? I cannot harmonize your statement with these words.


Peter, just as I said in the above post, nothing that makes Jesus meaningful to us so far as salvation and our witness for Him is concerned, makes any sense without articulating a host of doctrinal issues.

Remember, it was Jesus Himself who declared that man shall live “by every word that proceedeth out of the mouth of God” (Matt. 4:4). He declared that “not every one that saith unto Me, Lord, Lord, shall enter into the kingdom of heaven, but he that doeth the will of My Father, which is in heaven” (Matt. 7:21). He said to His followers in another setting, “If ye continue in My word, then are ye My disciples indeed” (John 8:31).

When we speak of salvation through Jesus alone, we are talking doctrine. Because, as I asked earlier, we have to ask why we need to be saved in the first place, and what in fact it means for Jesus to save us. All of that takes doctrine. And that’s why we have the Bible.


You raise some pertinent issues Bill.
From an objective point of view, the GC document, “An Invitation to uplift Jesus …” is a form of communication. As such, It can neatly be represented by a well known and accepted transmission framework:
a. WHO communicates? (the sender; their bona fides, credibility, status, power, authority …)
b. WHAT? (the essence of the communication, message …)
c. to WHOM? (the receiver of the communication and their relationship to the sender …)
d. WHY? (the purpose of the communication - information, clarification, questions …)
e. HOW? (the tone or ‘undercurrents’ of the communication - affirming, sanctioning, querying …)
f. WHERE? (the physical determinants/environment - San Antonio, Washington DC, TED …)
g. WHEN? ( the location in time - e.g. during rapid change in values, policies, finances …)
h. HOW WELL? (the effectiveness of the communication)
Ambiguity, lack of clarity or a serious ‘deficiency’ in any one or more of these eight areas may lead to misunderstanding/s, disagreement/s, conflict, or a complete fiasco.
Take your pick which one applies in this case (An Invitation …").

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Kevin, are you trying to tell us that our knowledge of doctrinal and moral integrity is to be elevated above Jesus or at least equal to Him? How can this possibly be? These are not mutually exclusive issues but each must be put in its divinely decreed place. Jesus is sovereign

The author and substance of all doctrinal and moral integrity is Jesus. He is the Truth. He is also the Way and the Life.

Doctrine and moral integrity only have meaning because Jesus is the Truth, because He is God and Saviour. Without Jesus there is no Christian doctrine. Without Jesus there is no moral integrity.

We are not against doctrine but we are for Jesus. He took the role of a servant but through the cross and the grave He is now elevated to the highest position of glory and honour and praise that is possible in God’s infinite heart of love and in His Universe.

Jesus is our all and in all. We glory in His amazing grace, We rest in His love for us, We live because He died and rose again.

And yes, He patiently teaches us about Himself and how to live through Him. It is Jesus, the Truth, who sets us free.


Kevin - for the thief on the cross, what came first - Jesus, or doctrine?

A fella has an accident, and is grievously wounded. The rescue helicopter turns up, complete with pilot, paramedics, and equipment.

Does this poor fella quiz his rescuers as to whether they have the right qualifications, or whether they should have deployed an ambulance, or whether they have a clean criminal record, or whether they are the correct gender. This fella has only one plea - HELP ME!

And that is just what happens when a sinner comes to the Saviour. HELP ME.

Now to take the poor fella’s plight further. After recovering, he may well do some research on many aspects of his rescue. Would a more powerful motor have made the trip better. Would shades protect his eyes from the glare of the paramedics whites. What fuel powered his flight, and where it is sourced from. And the church does something similar. It works through doctrinal issues and hopes that it has its understanding correct. It filters this through the organisation so that members gain a better knowledge. But the doctrine is not the source of the salvation. Jesus is.

The poor fella just loved that moment when the rescue team arrives. And that person who lays everything down at the feet of Jesus will never forget that moment. When the mind is opened, and the eyes light up, and they grasp the salvation offered to them, that is a magic moment.

Funny - I’ve never seen that occur to anyone in a doctrinal class.

I expect however, that a man convinced against his will is of the same opinion still. But, while there is life, there is still hope. I hope that you can experience and share the loveliness of Jesus over the strictures and brutality of imperfect doctrine.


if it is the case that the GC sought to shut down TOP, and was the proximate or even distal cause of its ending, this would be major news…my understanding is that leaders of TOP needed a break…they were more than satisfied with the results they had achieved, but had decided to pull the plug voluntarily…

i would be interested in more detail on this point, especially if bill is implying that as an insider, he is privy to information that none of the rest of us are…

because the issues of harmony with and endorsement from the church, in the case of independent ministries, are the clear point of the document in question, it’s title of “An Invitation to Uplift Jesus: A Statement from the General Conference Executive Leadership and Division Presidents”, could have perhaps been more effective as “Criteria for Uplifting Jesus in Harmony with Seventh-day Adventism: A Statement from the General Conference Executive Leadership and Division Presidents”…such a title would have obviated any and all potential for misunderstanding…

of course, if the GC intended to infer that correct doctrine is prerequisite to identifying and uplifting the jesus of the bible, as the document specifically explains, the title chosen makes an effective statement…in addition, the second part of the title, which specifies who is extending the invitation to uplift jesus, is in itself a strong indication that any and all efforts to uplift jesus is not necessarily on the menu…that is, there is the definite implication that what qualifies as an effective acceptance of this particular invitation, from the GC’s viewpoint, is about to be spelled out…

but this minor matter aside, i don’t see that the document’s focus on doctrine is in any way misplaced…given that it purports to offer guidelines that church members can use to determine whether an independent ministry can be supported as a GC-endorsed adventist ministry, as opposed to a catholic, anglican, methodist, muslim, hindu, buddhist, ecumenical, or even secular one, i think the GC would have been derelict to omit any reference to our distinctive doctrines…after-all, an effective guideline for determining harmony with our particular denomination cannot logically focus on something that many other denominations and religions have in common…of necessity it must focus on what characterizes us, and no-one else…

this appears to be a freudian slip driven by at least partial paranoia…the document also specifically mentions Adventist-laymen’s Services and Industries…

perhaps leaders “singled out” TOP because TOP was what they were receiving queries about…i don’t think the document necessarily evinces any malevolent intention on the part the GC…my guess is that the uproar TOP has caused among the vast majority of conservatives in our church, who tend to pay the majority of the tithe income of the church, has had an impact…perhaps Global Resource Collective can learn from its TOP predecessor what not to do to rile up conservatives in our church, assuming it wants a harmonious, stress-free experience with all sectors of our church…

This strange concept will always be found among the LGTarians. For them, when Christ said on the Cross, “It’s finished,” it does not really mean “completely” finished. They want to take some credit for the “perfection” that they decide to acquire right here right now.

The only problem with their heretic teaching is that they could never introduce us one single perfect person as product of their theology/preaching.

So, I am not surprised with Kevin’s statement that you quoted. Have to be careful with those teachings, because they have many fallacies imbued in them.


Politics, corruption, human pride, lust for control - and they don’t even realize it. The reality is that we do not resemble the Church handed down by the apostles in the book of Acts - and seemingly the church leaders are completely ok with that. GC Leadership is playing into the patriarchal top down leadership strategies that the majority of the world outside of North America embraces. This gives them their seat of power. But understand this Ted Wilson, I will never bow to you. You are not my leader even though I am a Seventh-day Adventist. Jesus always and only. There is a spot next to the pharasees who murdered the Messiah for leaders who fall into line with Ted and his team of bullies.


Why does the GC suddenly feel compelled to issue “statements”, gushing out like a diarrhea of papal decrees ?

With each successive diatribe they manage to “put their foot in it “ .


A month or so ago, Des and I had a visit from a religion professor at Queensland Presbyterian College (not sure if the name of the school is correct). He had been a barrister working for the State and had a conversion experience from the writings of Robert Brinsmead in Verdict Publications. Because of this he went to Westminster Theological Seminary in Philadelphia and onto Yale where he did a PhD in ancient biblical languages. And has taught ever since. A very brilliant man, a committed Christian, he spoke of the influence of Bob on the Reformed Movement back then and still. So people here may not remember Robert Brinsmead, but some do. Yes, Bob changed his mission, very sad. But I think it’s a mistake to discount Bob’s impact on the Christian world by saying “anyone remember him?” Immediately diminishing him. A bit like linking Desmond Ford, Donald Davenport, and Walter Rea and calling them FDR. Easy to make such statements, they slip off the tongue but they HURT people Bill. I don’t forget.


The reason that Jesus cannot be divorced from doctrine or teaching is quite simple:

Sin has separated us from God. Thus God has chosen to reveal Himself to us primarily through His Word. Jesus is not physically present with us here on this earth; He is in heaven. You cannot sit next to Him and talk to Him. You talk to Him in prayer and He reveals Himself to you primarily through His Word. Thus any experience anyone has with “Jesus” must be tested according to the Word to see if the experience is truly one with Jesus or with another “Jesus” (or someone else altogether).

Hence the necessity to focus on doctrine and teaching. Many in the One Project have spoken of Jesus, yet have criticised some of the doctrines of the church which are completely Biblical ie grounded in the Word, which is Christ revealed to us. You cannot have it both ways. If your Jesus is simply loving, accepting and compassionate, but does not retain other, perhaps less comforting characteristics found in scripture, such as a righteous judge. calling to repentance etc, then the Jesus is one purely of your own invention and you are worshipping another God and another Jesus. You may not know it or think it but that is the nature of deception - you don’t know you’re deceived until you are undeceived.


Ray, what I’m saying is that Jesus is the embodiment of the doctrinal and moral integrity taught in Scripture, as these are a mirror of His character. Without that standard, Jesus has no meaning, as His mission to save sinners means nothing without an objective standard of right and wrong which He came to model in His earthly life, and to give His own life as a means of offering pardon and power for the restoration of that standard in penitent human lives.

Doctrine and Jesus, properly understood, are one and the same thing. It’s like Ellen White says:

“All truth is to be received as the life of Jesus. Truth cleanses us from all impurity, and prepares the soul for Christ’s presence” (OHC 208).

“The whole Bible is a manifestation of Christ” (DA 390).

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The thief on the cross understood he was a sinner in the light of God’s law, which is why he said to his companion, “We receive the due reward of our deeds, but this Man hath done nothing amiss” (Luke 23:41).

This was a profound doctrinal statement on the thief’s part, as he recognized the penalty the law required and the innocence of Jesus. His request to be remembered when Jesus’ kingdom was established demonstrated similar knowledge.

As I said in my original post, Jesus has no meaning without doctrine. To speak, as this essay does, of being saved by Jesus alone, means nothing unless we know why we need to be saved in the first place, what in fact it means to be saved, and what we are being saved from.

All these involve doctrine. Which is why to speak of Jesus being superior to doctrine is to stray beyond both Scripture and simple logic.



It is not just this statement alone

It is many abstract, ambiguous, obscure statements, religious lingo & cliches parroted about by SDA members. This issue is somewhat a contemporary experience addressed by Paul in the beginning of 1 Cor 14–speaking in unknown tongues. Ezra dealt with it in NEH 8:8:

They read from the Book of the Law of God, making it CLEAR and giving the meaning so that the people UNDERSTOOD what was being read

The SDA denomination is increasingly becoming a confused, fanatic cult. Much of it is due to INEPT teaching/education approaches.

Most teachers FAIL in using the inductive method of teaching because the center point…observe, (INTERPRET/ANALYZE), apply …is dealt with in a shallow and or superficial manner.

So many churchgoers even outside of SDA denomination have their superstitious clichés and partial hymn /song verses as their doctrine/theology.

They don’t understand what the gospel, grace & salvation really mean.

Here is a competent teaching flow: Points to analyze—Condemnation, Criticize, CONTENT, Confusion, CLARIFY, Conviction, Conquer.

The 2 main points are content & clarify. Lack of content leads to deception or fanaticism. Unbalanced content leads to paranoia. Warped/corrupted content leads to confusion. Clarification leads to application. “Teaching is for comprehension. Prayer is for the power of application”

If I was General conference president, I would put all of the ministerial secretaries on probation , starting with Jerry Page, and tell them it is time to stop PLAYING CHURCH.

A large handicap is that churchgoers don’t know what the will of God is.

"He who wills to do His will, will know the doctrine. JN 7:17

Ted Wilson is nothing but the President of the General Conference.
He is not the President of the Adventist Church (we the members), as he said some time ago. When I saw him changing his title unofficially, I wondered if he was trying to usurp some extra power … :upside_down_face:


Gill, one thing I keep repeating:
Most of Des’ detractors that I have seen throughout the years never read a single book (or article) written by Des, never listened to a single sermon he preached, never met him once. Most of their information is hearsay, and they immediately are miraculously “transformed” in experts on Ford…
Now, this is a phenomenal metamorphosis… :wink: