Time to Start Over: The 28 — If Our Beliefs Weigh Us Down, How Can They Lift Us Up?

Thanks, @c_scriven.

I’ve often said that 1 Corinthians 13:9 is the least understood verse in Adventism. It seems you may agree.

Wonderfully, wonderfully stated.


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Eliminate teachings?
How then would we know if we had found Jesus?
Isiah 8:20 gives us a standard.
When the standard is compromised,
the doctrines are gone.
And Christ turns to another
who has discernment.

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In a pre-2000, three-part exchange with Desmond Ford on a wide range of topics, Adventist Today asked him the following question:

AToday: QUESTION #18 - Since Glacier View, the Church has attempted to promote its 27 fundamentals as a representation of Biblical truth and duty for the Advent community (see: www2.adventist.org/beliefs/). Today, I think it is fair to say that less than a majority of the Church’s membership would support all 27 of these supposed “fundamentals.”

However, it should also be noted that the Church officially recognizes that the “revision of these statements” may be in order when the “Church is led by the Holy Spirit to a fuller understanding of Bible truth.” In fact, “revisions” may be allowed if “better language” is employed “to express the teachings of God’s Holy Word.”

My question is this, what changes would you make to this list of “fundamentals” and why?

Here’s how Ford responded. (Again, this took place before the 2005 insertion of Fundamental Belief #11; the 28th.)

In Article 1 - The Holy Scriptures, I would insert the word “only” before the word infallible. The Bible is the only infallible guide for mortal man.

In Article 2 - The Trinity, I would echo what many orthodox theologians have said and put in the sentence: “As seen and known God is three; as seeing and knowing God is one; He is three persons in Himself, but one person to Himself.” Because SDAs have traditionally given Christ a sinful human nature that needs to be corrected in such a way that the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein. The article should say that Christ’s human nature, as well as His divine, was immaculate, holy, undefiled, separate from sinners. “In Him was no sin”, “He knew no sin.”

For Article 6 – Creation, it should be said that Genesis 1 is an inspired interpretation of the mystical work of creation set forth in anthropocentric terms. It is not intended as a scientific statement as the Bible is concerned with showing us how to go to heaven, not how the heavens go. The Genesis 1 statement is perfect for its purpose, but its purpose is not one purely designed only for post-Darwinian generations. It was inspired in such a way as to make sense for all generations most of whom could not even read and who learned chiefly by narrative forms. Had Genesis 1 been inspired in purely scientific terms, we would not yet understand it. It would probably be only an equation and useless for all practical purposes. The Bible does NOT teach that the world is only 6000 years old. That view is certainly wrong and does great harm to our young people who are pursuing a higher education.

Ellen White rightly said that the Bible was given for practical purposes and was not intended to satisfy all of human curiosity. The view expressed above in no wise robs the Sabbath of its place in the cosmos. Christ could take bread and use it as the symbol of His body. Similarly, He has taken the week and used it as a divine symbol of the divine creative work and its cessation and all this was done for our example.

Article 10 - The Experience of Salvation: Traditionally, Adventists have erroneously placed sanctification within the scope of the Pauline “righteousness by faith.” It is now time for a clear change to be made to correct that error. We should follow the decision made at Palmdale Conference, which I attended in the 1970s and which was written up in the Review as concluding that righteousness by faith meant justification only, though sanctification was always its fruit. This will safeguard the precious doctrine of Christian assurance.

Article 11 - The Church, we should follow the example of Ellen White who said clearly in Acts of the Apostles that from the beginning of time, all faithful souls have constituted the church. The distinction should be made as Questions on Doctrines made, between a movement and the church. All who know Christ as Saviour and Lord are members of His church, regardless of whether they be Catholic or Protestant, dispensationalist, or nondispensationalist, charismatic or noncharismatic.

Article 12 - The Remnant and Its Mission: This should follow Questions on Doctrines which rightly pointed out that the remnant is yet to be developed and will consist of all faithful Christians in the last days. I heard F.D. Nichol say at the Seminary (in the 1950s at Potomac University) that “it was a puzzle to him that SDAs recognize the woman at the beginning of Revelation 12 as the church invisible but by the 17th verse they had made her remnant very visible indeed!”

Article 13 - Unity in the Body of Christ: This definition should point out that unity is not uniformity and that true unity is only possible where Christ’s words about leadership are taken seriously: “he that would be first let him be servant of all.”

Article 17 - The Gift of Prophecy: This needs rewording. The gift of prophecy has always been in the church and was not reserved just for the remnant yet to be developed. If I remember rightly, our early pioneers, including the Whites, interpreted Revelation 19:10 more broadly than we have in recent decades. I think the word, “authoritative,” should be removed as it implies infallibility which Ellen White rejected.

For the 18th article, The Law of God, the second sentence should say: These commandments “as interpreted by Christ and his apostles” express God’s love, etc.

In Article 19, The Sabbath, it should be clearly said that whereas legalistic observance of the Sabbath is an abomination to God, those who know it as a parable of the gospel will find it a delight. They will observe it not as a fetish but according to the principles taught by Christ in his Sabbath healings. This article must stress that mere rest on its own is valueless. Unless the Sabbath observer has ceased to depend on his own works and is trusting fully in the completed work of Christ, his or her Sabbath-keeping is not acceptable to heaven.

Article 20 - Stewardship: The New Testament has no law about tithing. However, the Apostles clearly taught the principles of good stewardship. See 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 and my discussion in, “Right With God Right Now,” pp. 310-311. This article should state that the New Testament takes for granted that if Old Testament believers, with their limited privileges, could return one tenth of their increase, the New Testament saints should be giving much more as their privileges are greater. Again, legalistic observance should be warned against.

Article 21 - Christian Behavior: This should say that whereas since the cross, there is no recognition by heaven of ceremonial uncleanness and that therefore the Old Testament regulations regarding the mingling of different types of cloth, agricultural prohibitions regarding the yoking together of diverse animals, and the outlawing of certain foods are not to be enforced on the world wide church. Yet each set of laws has something to teach us still. Inasmuch as part of the reason concerning the prohibition of certain meats was for health reasons, Christians will freely follow the hint still, without enforcing it as law upon others. Similarly, where the environment permits, the nearer one gets to the diet of Eden, the more one can glorify God in health and service. The New Testament offers principles of behavior and we should not move beyond those principles in instructing others, except by way of pointing to ideals.

Article 22 - Marriage and the Family should say that though God hates divorce today as always, yet in some situations divorce may be the lesser of two evils. The overruling guide is always mercy and not sacrifice. Those who misuse this loving principle are known to the Searcher of hearts. SDAs have had church leaders with wives suffering from incurable insanity who have sacrificially chosen celibacy as a way of life for decades. In view of Paul’s words in l Corinthians 7, it should be recognized that there are some situations that break a marriage as surely as adultery. Christ merely pointed out what was the characteristic sin of His time without trying to cover all moral bases. The article should stress that the Sabbath and Marriage are the two great pillars of society and whatever strengthens them, blesses the world, and whatever weakens them, curses the world.

Article 23, Christ’s Ministry in the Heavenly Sanctuary was rejected decades ago by most Adventist scholars and should be rewarded in harmony with Hebrews 9:8,12,23,25; 10:19-20. The date 1844 should be omitted as quite unscriptural and yet a providential date in God’s timetable for raising up the Advent movement. It should be stated that the pre-advent judgment is the matter of a moment as Christ closes his priestly ministry (see Revelation 22:11,12). The judgment of Daniel 7 and Revelation 14:7 is judgment upon the wicked, not the saints. Compare Revelation 18:10, which uses the same words as the earlier verse, in one hour is thy (Babylon’s) judgment come.



I agree with you. I would love to see the Adventist church adopt a posture of humility and allow theology to be a living, ambulatory thing instead of a misnomered “present truth” that hasn’t been “present” in a hundred years. I think there is a contingent of people who may be willing to adopt that posture. However, I think I understand why that might be a hard sell.

Adventist beliefs developed through opposition. In order to establish identity and proselytize others to adopt that identity, Adventists have had to define themselves in terms of what they do not believe and who they are not, and the claim of having “truth” is so deeply woven into the fabric of Adventism that I wonder if Adventism would unravel without it. If any of those boundaries between the theologically pompous “we who have the truth” and “them who do not have the truth” are permeable or flexible, then is the Adventist “identity” threatened? Adventist have traditionally been sheep-stealers–we tend to poach new members from other churches rather than from the unchurched population. In order to do that, Adventists have had to convince people that Adventist beliefs are correct and their current church is wrong. That kind of “evangelism” requires a certain level of theological arrogance. Is the church’s raison d’etre threatened if the church admits that its understanding of truth is evolutionary and subject to change? Is it even possible to sell theological humility to a denomination whose history, identity, self-preservation, and future seems to depend on having the immutable and inerrant truth?

It seems like any step toward an actually present “present truth” will require a serious unraveling of our identity. And maybe that’s OK.

We could just keep, like, a remnant of it, or something.

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Thank you for this. Dr. Ford supplies thoughtful and balanced specifics here.

One slight correction: “rewarded” in Article 23 should be “reworded”–else this appears a strange way to handle rejection.

In comments so far, there is enough of affirmation and enough of critique to keep me thinking. Thanks so much.

Several of you agree that what’s “fundamental” can be expressed briefly. One of you (by my hasty count) invokes the phrase “way of life,” noting its deeper meaning than the secular idea of “lifestyle,” which some Adventists, unfortunately, appropriate to themselves.

I continue to think (along with Alden Thompson, who has written wonderfully on this same theme) that it’s the way of life we should be signing on to when we undergo baptism. It seems hard for Adventists to put that point front and center, just as it is hard for us embrace the passion for justice characteristic of the Hebrew prophets (including Jesus). Even the Adventist Reformer Desmond Ford seemed not to emphasize this, and his suggestions for revising the Fundamental Beliefs, listed above, make no mention of the theme. Again, obsession with doctrine puts us at risk of missing some, if not all, of the substance of faith.

Bruce Clements has accused me of “gaslighting,” which I take to be no compliment. The Internet will remind you that it involves narcissistic intellectual manipulation, and we should all, no doubt, wish to be rid of that. As for the service he offers here, it is exemplification of the widening “outright hostility”–my phrase from the beginning of the essay–to biblical religion, one of the factors that now undermines all self-satisfaction on the part of believers. But I am not sure self-satisfaction is admirable, either, in those who criticize religious faith.

One antidote to self-satisfaction is a wider reach in reading, in conversation partners. I would certainly wish that for Mr. Clements, as I do also for myself.

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Wow! What an array of comments. My solution is simple: EGW said near the end of her life “all truth finds meaning in light that streams from the Cross of Calvary, If Calvary does not throw light on it the sooner we discard it the better” (partial paraphrase). I began this 15 year process in 1965—When Jesus found me and I found Him-----it took me more than 15 years. In Him was Life and that Life was the LIGHTof men. Apostle John


While Chuck has no idea of my reading list, he again implies—as is gaslighting-types wont—that I have shortcomings of which he suffers, and for which deficiencies he recommends more reading for me, presumably books he’s read or has perhaps written.
For my part, I’m convinced that self-satisfaction is not a sin nor negative attribute—else how can any person properly esteem the self of his neighbor?—and that the incessant attempts by book-based religions to separate each and every supposedly wretched human from his allegedly debased “self” is a “cure” which might be the greatest crime of all.
In other words, just as the first step one must take in order to get out of a hole is to stop digging it may be that if one truly wants to know himself, he might best make a concerted effort to avoid words.

Let’s keep it simple. Edit the title to: Fundamental History.

And move forward.


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