Viewpoint: The Real Threat to Adventism is Biblical Literalism

5:45am. Half awake in an airport, I scanned the New York Times headlines (August 14) on my iPhone. The very first headline caught my eye: ISIS Enshrines a Theology of Rape. I woke up.

A 12-year-old girl describes how an Islamic State fighter would pray before and after raping her. “I kept telling him it hurts–please stop. He told me that according to Islam, he is allowed to rape an unbeliever. “He said that by raping me, he is drawing closer to God.”

The article tells how, before their assault on Mount Sinjar in northern Iraq, ISIS had done extensive advance planning to capture, transport, isolate, warehouse, advertise, display and sell Yazidi girls and women into slavery, sexual slavery, partly as strategy to attract new fighters to ISIS.

It’s chilling—the foundation for this “100 percent preplanned” and systematic atrocity is theological. ISIS commissioned sharia scholars to render an opinion that the Yazidi girls and women were enemy women and it is halal to rape them and use them as they please.

According to the Times, “In much the same way as specific Bible passages were used centuries later to support the slave trade in the United States, the Islamic State cites specific verses or stories in the Quran or else in the Sunna, the traditions based on the sayings and deeds of the Prophet Muhammad, to justifying human trafficking, experts say.

“Scholars of Islamic theology disagree, however, on the proper interpretation of these verses, and on the divisive question of whether Islam actually sanctions slavery…Many argue that slavery figures in the Islamic scripture in much the same way that it figures in the Bible–as a reflection of the period in antiquity in which the religion was born.

So obviously, Islamic scholars differ on how to interpret their scriptures: literally, without regard to context—like ISIS—or, taking cultural influences into account.

It didn’t take me long to start contemplating the current debate about hermeneutics within Adventism.

We have our devotees of a “plain reading,” a literalistic approach to scripture. From this perspective, cultural influences did not make it into the Bible; the Holy Spirit screened all those influences out before words got on clay tablet or parchment. In this view, the writers presumably had all cultural influences expunged from their minds; either that or the connection between brain and hand was lost while the Holy Spirit’s hand took over the pen. Precedent is prescriptive, in this view.

Then we have those who believe that the Bible, and events in the Bible, were sometimes culturally influenced and not necessarily applicable forever. In this camp, precedent is not prescriptive. It is descriptive.

As I read the Times article, I wondered whether the Bible has any parallels that would support the ISIS practice.

When you go out to war against your enemies, and the LORD your God gives them into your hand and you take them captive, and you see among the captives a beautiful woman, and you desire to take her to be your wife, and you bring her home to your house, she shall shave her head and pare her nails. And she shall take off the clothes in which she was captured and shall remain in your house and lament her father and her mother a full month. After that you may go in to her and be her husband, and she shall be your wife.” Deuteronomy 21:10-13.

Without splitting hairs concerning minor differences, these texts sound similar to the practices of ISIS described in the Times article.

In both the Deuteronomy verses and ISIS practice, enemy women were taken against their will and subjected to sexual relationships, sanctioned by their relevant deity. Let us not romanticize or sanitize the Deuteronomy text because it says, “she shall be your wife.” These were captive women, perhaps newly widowed or stolen young girls, spoils of war, taken by lusting men, unwilling participants in sex and servitude.

I am neither a biblical scholar nor an expert in hermeneutics. But it seems to me that a reading of the Bible sometimes reveals that culture is inextricably embedded within Scripture.

I venture that most of us view slavery, particularly sexual slavery, as unquestionably a moral evil. And yet, we find ancient Israel, the LORD’s chosen people, being given instructions on how to go about the sexual subjugation of captive women. So maybe sexual slavery is not actually a moral evil. After all, God does not change. “The grass withers, the flower fades, but the word of our God will stand forever” (Isaiah 40:8).

Maybe living in a secular culture that has rejected slavery as immoral and illegal has influenced our views. Maybe sexual slavery is still valid.

No. I don’t believe that.

But reading the Bible without taking into account historical context could lead to the conclusion that it is.

This article is not intended to be about slavery. That just happens to be the vehicle to illustrate for one neophyte the challenges that surround hermeneutics.

Edward Reifsnyder is a healthcare consultant, president of The Reifsnyder Group, and senior vice-president of FaithSearch Partners. He and his wife Janelle live in Fort Collins, Colorado, and have two daughters.

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This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at

Thanks for initiating an important conversation–for Adventism and beyond. Two points.

  1. It’s been observed often enough that historicism eats its own tail. So, to the argument presented here: unless one believes in some version of moral progress and believes that we can somehow discern that moral progress and our place in the history of this progress, the observation that “people believed such-and-such in the past, but we today know better” doesn’t really get us very far. In other words, there are standards by which we make such judgments. In a community that identifies the Bible as its norm for faith and practice, a challenge to the contents of that norm should be accompanied by an explanation of the norm used to make the judgment. The insistence that we take historical context into consideration when interpreting, not only the meaning of Scripture, but also its authority is an insistence that I agree with, but I want to know more about the author’s understanding of history’s place in interpretation. I hope it isn’t a belief in the moral progress of humanity.

  2. People all over the ideological map bemoan “literalism,” and I’ve probably done so myself. However, it occurs to me that there are a multiplicity of alternatives, and I rarely hear anyone identify which one is superior to the “literal” interpretations of the Bible (which, for the record, are rarely literal readings of the actual text). For example, in place of literal readings, ought people read the Bible… symbolically? Allegorically? Christologically? To the example of the Bible’s endorsement of sexual slavery: is this text not meant to be read literally and simply rejected? Surely it shouldn’t be read symbolically and affirmed, right? My point in saying this is that I think the term “literalism” is misleading, and is too vague for an effective critique. I generally agree with the direction of the critique, but the argument backfires without more precision.


I’m afraid your subtopic of God sanctioned rape overpowers your opinion piece on Biblical literalism. I don’t know what to respond to. One elicits visceral disgust; and the other bemusement at the parochialism of seemingly educated people. Your connection is, of course, valid; but I would guess in some corners of even literal Adventism, that disgust can be mitigated to some degree because it is, after all, in the Bible. Women’s ordination was, at its elemental core, dismissed because Eve was deceived first and therefore gets what she deserves - as though painful childbirth isn’t enough of a punishment.

Look, this is all about education. Only those who have left the farm and gone to see the world can properly do the necessary nuancing to accept the cultural influences in the Bible. But there is something surreal in a picture of a bunch of scholars, huddled in an ivory tower of academia deliberating whether the God of the Bible sanctions rape and sodomy.


Why is it that Bible literalists don’t take the commands of Jesus literally?


Since there are no avowed rapists or slaveholders tolerated within Adventism, does it stand to reason that there are no biblical literalists within Adventism?


Isaiah 1:18 Come now, and let us reason together, saith the LORD: though your sins be as scarlet, they shall be as white as snow; though they be red like crimson, they shall be as wool.

Biblical literalism – God likes white sins, not red ones.


Seventh-day Adventists have never claimed to possess a unique or special understanding of how to interpret the biblical text. Traditionally, Seventh-day Adventist methodology for interpreting the biblical text has consisted of nothing more than reading the words of the biblical text, preferably in the King James Version, coupled with a reading of Ellen White’s writings to discover what she declares the biblical text means. None of the early Seventh-day Adventists, including Ellen White, were hermeneutists. In her voluminous body of work, we find some chestnuts about how the biblical text should be interpreted but no comprehensive discourse about hermeneutics. The word–“hermeneutics”–which was a commonly-understood word in the 19th century, does not appear in any of her writings. Many of Ellen White’s non-SDA contemporaries wrote books about hermeneutics, but she largely avoided this area of study.

In the recent debate about women’s ordination, many arguments were expressed about the hermeneutical accuracy or inaccuracy of various interpretations of the biblical text. For the early Seventh-day Adventists, such arguments would have been unthinkable. For the early Seventh-day Adventists, the biblical text did not need to be interpreted; it only needed to be read. And if any question were to arise, they were not to look to sound methodology but to explanations offered in the writings of the modern day, divinely-inspired prophet, Ellen White. Accordingly, Seventh-day Adventists perceived their theology as more correct than the theology of their contemporaries not because of better methodology but because of unmatched studious reading of the biblical text and the unique resource of Ellen White. It is fair to say that Ted Wilson’s “plain-meaning” approach to the biblical text that represents in large part a rejection of the study of hermeneutics is consonant with the approach of the early Seventh-day Adventists.

The early Seventh-day Adventists utilized what we can call a Grammatical (plus Ellen White) hermeneutic. Eventually, Seventh-day Adventists attended colleges and universities and learned the ancient languages, geography,culture, and history of Bible times and soon began employing the Historical-Grammatical hermeneutic. But we should understand that the institutional purpose for learning the ancient languages, geography, culture, and history of Bible times was not to gain insight into the meaning of the biblical text but to buttress in an apologetic way articulated Seventh-day Adventist Church beliefs, beliefs formed by a non-contextual and simple reading of the biblical text. A tension naturally arose between the Grammatical (plus Ellen White) hermeneutic and the historical-grammatical hermeneutic in the Seventh-day Adventist Church. We saw this tension manifest itself in the recent debate regarding women’s ordination. I suggest that what Edward Reifsnyder identifies in his fine essay as a “literalistic approach to scripture” can be more precisely characterized as the Grammatical hermeneutic.

The problem in a nutshell with the Grammatical hermeneutic is that it divorces the biblical text from its historically-situated author (superintended by its historically-situated divine Author) and accords the biblical text semantic autonomy. A text that has semantic autonomy contradicts the notion that the text is the Word of God or the word of any particular author.


“Since there are no avowed rapists or slaveholders tolerated within Adventism, does it stand to reason that there are no biblical literalists within Adventism?”

I think it more likely evidence that we have a lot of people who are afraid to even acknowledge their own cognitive dissonance or alternatively create all sorts of illogical arguments around why, an otherwise non-Christian atrocity, was allowable because God said it was.


Everyone, it seems, explains away something in the Bible. Progressives are told they are explaining away because they use hermeneutics. Perhaps literalists explain away because they can’t tolerate dissonance in the Bible, attributing things to God without stopping to ask how the God of the NT could also be the God of much of the OT. If Jesus is the manifestation of the Father (if you know me you know the Father), can anyone really attribute the atrocities of the OT to Jesus and harmonize them with His teachings? But, then, when I’ve suggested that some of these things in the OT were perceptions of God’s will, “B” ahs told me that I’m just explaining away - that, as Paul said, all scripture is given for our inspiration.


Edward, your analysis and interpretation are right on!
Yes the Old Testament is rampant with abominations and atrocities, most of them clearly ordained and explicitly programmed and prescribed by God. If filmed, the sex and violence of the Old Testament would require an X and R rating.

I agree that ISIS has taken a leaf out of the Old Testament playbook. Their genocides parody those of the Israelites, who following Jehovah’s commands slaughtered their neighboring tribes while taking sex slaves of the virginal girls: Judges 21:10-24; Numbers 31:7-18; Deutoronomy 20: 10-14 and others.

The Israelites are required by Jehovah, to slaughter the men and boys, then examine the females to determine which “had slept with a man”. Imagine the indignity of being sexually examined, and then if you do not pass the virginity test, you are murdered, while your virginal daughters are distributed as sex slaves to the Israelite conquering army.
I submit that some of these "virgins " were no doubt under age by our modern standards. No young girl whose relatives had been murdered, would happily consent to sex with her family’s killers. So unquestionably they would be forcibly raped, with an onlooking God, condoning, yea prescribing, these heinous atrocities!

Donald Trump mystifies the media with his “political incorrectness” yet I submit the Bible’s political incorrectness “trumps” everything.
Paul, being the most politically incorrect of all, with his many statements condoning slavery, his misogynist messages denigrating and demeaning women, and his anti gay agenda. I submit that Paul has caused more misery on our planet than Hitler and Stalin combined. These despots only impacted their own generations.
Over two millennia, since the Pauline epistles, millions of slaves, countless abused women, and a multitude of mistreated gays , can rightfully attribute their misery to his inappropriate messages.
But our literalist brethren are seemingly unfazed, and continue to use these same obviously culturally based and therefore biased texts to promote a male hierarchy reminiscent of Ancient Rome. The same literalism results in a hateful rejection of our Advenitst gay and lesbian offspring. Much misery results.
The love of Christ is nowhere affirmed by these literalistic interpretations.


Literalism was never and is never going to be a threat to the Adventist church. The supposed threat of literalism is a straw man invented in order to allow various forms of scepticism into the church and to allow the Bible to be interpreted however one wants. It is a way of allowing long ages, evolution, acceptance of homosexuality and unmarried sexual relationships into the church for a start.

I was browsing Wikipedia recently and was reading the entry on Josiah. Here is what I read:

According to the Bible Hilkiah gave the scroll to his secretary Shaphan who took it to king Josiah. Historical-critical biblical scholarship generally accepts that this scroll — an early predecessor of the Torah — was written by the priests driven by ideological interest to centralize power under Josiah in the Temple in Jerusalem, and that the core narrative from Joshua to 2 Kings up to Josiah’s reign comprises a “Deuteronomistic History” (DtrH) written during Josiah’s reign.[16] On the other hand, recent European theologians posit that most of the Torah and Deuteronomistic History was composed and its form finalized during the Persian period, several centuries later.

This is historical criticism, not the much-feared higher criticism. In other words, historical-critical theologians do not take the Bible at face value but believe it to be a narrative or construction designed to give the Jews a national story and a culture. They also apparently buy into the documentary hypothesis (JEDP), for which there is no evidence, and which is simply a figment of one person’s imagination, added to significantly by other people’s imagination. But there are among Adventists theologians who would like historical criticism to be an accepted form of Bible exposition. This must not be allowed to be the case and the church is rightly talking about hermeneutics.

Take a look at the “handwriting of ordninances which were against us” controversy in Colossians 2. Quite often today we hear pastors telling us that “cheirographon” referred to a certificate of debt in the Roman world in Paul’s day. I would like that proven historically, as I am unprepared to take that on face value. However, using that method of interpretation we can look at the beasts in Daniel and Revelation and ask “What did the lion or bear mean to Daniel, or what did they mean in Nebuchadnezzar’s Babylon?” We could come up with all sorts of fantastic interpretations of prophecy and of the Bible in general following such a principle. No, we should rather follow the principle that the Bible is its own interpreter and that Bible passages are to be interpreted by comparing them to other passages.

Thus it becomes clear that the beasts of Daniel 7 are the same as the ones in Daniel 2. We can then also look at Colossians 2 and read “cheirographon” as simply “handwriting” - cheiro = hand and graphon = writing, ordinances as ordinances (ritualistic laws), and go back to Deuteronomy, and find the book of the law containing rituals and feasts, which Moses wrote in his own handwriting (as opposed to the 10 commandments on stone written by the finger of God), which was to be a witness against the Israelites. The Bible interprets itself.

Thus, the discussion on hermeneutics is simply seeking to close the door to certain suspect forms of Biblical interpretation which certain people are using to push certain questionable doctrines into the Adventist church. And the unjustifiable fear or literalism is being used in order to prop the door open to allow these questionable doctrines to continue to be pushed, and more importantly, taught in our colleges and universities.


If this was true then there would no need to have the Clear Word Bible (the original name it was published as) be at odds with the obvious reading of the original texts, and yet it does.

In the CWB, different words are used for what the Egyptian magicians do to their rods, or what happened during Saul’s visit to the Witch of Endor.

1 Sam 28:12 And when the woman saw Samuel, she cried with a loud voice: and the woman spake to Saul, saying, Why hast thou deceived me? for thou art Saul.

Note it is not the woman who says she saw Samuel. It is the author of the text, The woman says that she sees gods and she sees an old man. It is Saul who thinks it is Samuel. But it is not Saul who writes And when the woman saw Samuel

Ellen White directly contradicts this. She says that God would not allow Samuel to be disturbed. But the original text clearly literal says the woman saw Samuel

Similarly Exodus 7:11

10 So Moses and Aaron came to Pharaoh, and thus they did just as the LORD had commanded; and Aaron threw his staff down before Pharaoh and his servants, and it became a serpent. 11 Then Pharaoh also called for the wise men and the sorcerers, and they also, the magicians of Egypt, did the same with their secret arts. 12 For each one threw down his staff and they turned into serpents. But Aaron’s staff swallowed up their staffs

EGW writes (P&P 264)

The magicians did not really cause their rods to become serpents; but by magic, aided by the great deceiver, they were able to produce this appearance. It was beyond the power of Satan to change the rods to living serpents.

A literal interpretation of the original text clearly shows that EGW went out of her way to be wrong.

Of course a literal interpretation is the threat to SdA’ism. It clearly shows that the SoP writings contain blatant mistakes.


Biblical Literalism must be taken in context. One cannot in all honesty cut and paste. The classic teenager cute trick was to take " Judas went out and hung himself" “go thou and do likewise!”

To understand God’s dealing with Israel one must start with the destruction of Pharaoh’s army. Then one must read the promises of God to Israel on how He would open the land of Canaan for their use. It appears three times: Ex 23:28; De. 7:20, Jos 24:12 Ex. 23:27-28 NEV reads—“I will send my terror ahead of you and throw in throwr confusion every nation you encounter. I will make all your enemies turn their backs and run. I will send the hornet ahead of you to drive the Hivites Canaanites, and Hittites out of your way. But I will not drive them out in a single year, because the land would become desolate and wild animals too numerous for you. Little by little I will drive them out before you, until you have increased enough to take possession of the land,”

But no, the Children of Israel had the weapons of Pharaoh and had a lust to get even.
So the Lord gave instructions on how to treat captive women. Not to be slaves but to be wives.

The point is God meets us where we are and asks us to walk humbly with Him. The Christ Event is the model for the justified, To love mercy, to do justly, and to walk humbly with thy God.

Adventism has done much the same as Israel. Using Eisegesis rather than exegesis to validate their understanding of Dan 8:14; Rev. 14, even Num. 12:6 and Rev. 22: 9 to validate Ellen White. Then to distort Romans 5 to make Christ one such as we. Literalism yes in context----please. Tom Z.


So… We are presented with a photo of an ISIS thug and told that the real threat to Adventism is Biblical liberalism? What, are we supposed to imagine a bunch of traditional conservative Adventists pillaging cities, enslaving women, and beheading liberals? Nobody is happy with the GC outcomes. I mean, who literally believes in creation “nonsense” anymore? But that doesn’t mean you have to make a freaking caricature out of this concern and push the argument to the nth degree to make progressives look like paranoid preppers. Biblical liberalism is obviously stupid, but it is nothing like ISIS. Even conservatives who envision a time of trouble with Catholics chasing them through the woods know enough not to use that kind of imagery.

Get a grip on reality here. This was a serious piece but the picture makes it The Onion.


Anytime history and cultural norms of the time and societal mores are not taken into account the text is going to be misinterpreted. Since we all interpret through the lens of our day, the societal mores we are part of, the cultural norms that govern relationships, we will mess up the meaning of the text. The Deut. verse shared here to back up ISIS’s use of rape as a religious rite is problematic when we don’t consider the mores and norms of that time. The reality is God accommodated cultural norms and social mores more often than radically changing them. He worked through the standards of civilization of the time. If we don’t see this we will come away with wrong notions of what is being expressed.

God DIDN"T sanction rape in the Deut. text. That is our societal mores cultural norms bleeding through to color that text. Today we find it horrifying, but in the day it was the norm, not out of the ordinary. The point in the Deut. text is to take care of the captives as best as the society could offer then. Life was better than death, and the man’s marriage to the women was a means of supporting life for the woman in a time when women were bought and sold like cattle. It would be most interesting to see what, if there is anything existing, in other cultural laws of the time that this Deut. may or may not reflect. My guess is this law that Moses lays out is most likely more favorable to the women than the laws of other nations of the time. It’s just a guest, though. If anyone has any insight to this please share.

Many of the Mosaic laws did track closely with other laws of other nations and often they were tweaked to actually be an improvement over the other nations mores and views of justice.

None of this means that God’s ideal will was being expressed. God worked with what He had to work with and if it reflected even a modicum of His sense of justice, equity, etc. He would oblige. Remember, the hardness of men’s hearts. I imagine many of the laws were reflections of God working with that hardness, not just the law on the bill of divorce. But note the bill of divorce was one that actually protected the woman who had no rights, no property, no safety nets in that world. A man could get rid of her at a whim and without that bill of divorce the woman was left to the mercy of a very harsh world. It made her available to marry again, you might even say cancelled her “shame.” But the law goes on to say that if she was to be divorced again the first husband couldn’t take her back (protecting her worth and dignity). Women weren’t to be treated with contempt and then on a whim brought back. It was far, far from perfect, but given the conditions on the ground it was the best at that time, the best men with hard hearts could accept work with or understand.

Proper biblical interpretation HAS to take into account the situation on the ground at the time it was written and the more we can understand about the society the better equipped we will be in understanding and applying those preserved records. We mustn’t allow a simplistic reading to shape our understanding, nor can we dismiss those hard verses because they don’t square with our mores and norms today. We can’t be literalistic nor can we be dismissive. We need to be wise.


This situation is not new. Many have recognized the problem. But to change any of the beliefs and teaching that initiated this church to be a movement from its very beginning would be, for all purposes, to destroy it as a separate denomination.

If only the great gems of eternal principles such as the Golden Rule and the love for others as found in Christ’s teachings were the entire rule and source for Adventism there would be no need for hermeneutics. Those who cannot understand and adopt those principles have a very false idea of what religion should be. If it does not enhance one’s life and others, of what use to claim it as a unique denomination?


What Christian group ever points to Deuteronomy 21:10-13 as an excuse to take the women of conquered peoples as sexual slaves? Be they ever so literalistic and fundamentalist, no Christian group ever does that. Why? Because it is universally understood that it applied to a specific place and time, a time long before the Christian era. It is a non-issue, and a red herring to mention in the context of current doctrinal and hermeneutical disputes in the SDA Church.

By contrast, the rules of jihad warfare, which provide for female slaves as booty (see, e.g., Qu’ran 4:24; 23:5-6; 33:50; 70:22-30; Bukhari 3:432; 9:506), apply until there is no more need for jihad, that is, until the whole world is controlled by Muslims. Most of the world still isn’t Muslim, so the rules of jihad warfare still apply. ISIS is impeccably Islamic, as was pointed out in the Atlantic article by Graeme Wood that Loren Siebold referred to his recent piece. The West has forgotten what Islam really is, because for the past two centuries the Islamic world has been under the thumb of the West, which shot past them in all measures of civilizational achievement. But Western degeneracy and weakness–particularly the recent decision to throw the full force of our laws and culture behind eradicating gender roles, which is resulting in civilizational self-extermination through failure to reproduce–has changed all that, and we’re discovering again what Islam really is.

The extent to which there is a non-literal Islam tends to be greatly exaggerated by Western writers and intellectuals. If you are in a Muslim country and you say that the Qu’ran is not the exact words of God as recorded in heaven and delivered by Gibril to Muhammad in that cave near Mecca, you’ve signed your own death warrant. You’re a dead man walking. Accordingly, the Muslim world doesn’t really have religious liberals analogous to Christian theological liberals; Muslim “liberals” tend to be confined to Western universities.


Article intéressant.
Même si je lis des réponses à cet article qui contestent que le littéralisme biblique ait jamais été, ou ne soit actuellement un problème pour l’Eglise Adventiste, je confirme que c’est un vrai problème pour toute confession fondamentaliste, comme l’est l’Adventisme.
Depuis mon plus jeune âge, les règles soit-disant “rationnelles” d’interprétation de la Bible par les théologiens m’ont toujours dérangé. Car en fait elles sont le plus souvent philosophiquement orientées. En tant que membre de l’Eglise de 4ème génération, et en tant qu’ancien de ma communauté locale, j’ai pourtant pris énormément de distance avec notre herméneutique officielle, car elle est insoutenable sur bien des points. Je ne suis plus partisan d’une herméneutique du texte “tel que lu”. L’état des connaissances, toutes sciences confondues, notamment des vastes sciences humaines, nous interdit de prendre un texte comme il est, sans l’examiner avec beaucoup de recul et de sagesse, un regard aiguisé et une réelle curiosité, et enfin une grande, très grande ouverture d’esprit. C’est là que nos théologiens doivent avoir le courage d’élever le débat, et il appartient à mes collègues anciens et pasteurs d’amener le peuple plus haut et plus loin que des citations d’EGW sorties de leur contexte, plus haut et plus loin qu’une lecture simpliste et finalement confondante de la Bible. Que l’on me comprenne bien, je crois la Bible inspirée! Mais elle est loin d’être inerrante! L’Evangile se trouve dans la Bible, mais toute la Bible n’est pas parole d’Evangile. “Ce qui manque à mon peuple, c’est la connaissance”. En tous cas, merci à Spectrum d’exister et de nous donner de l’oxygène dans cette période d’obscurantisme officiel.
Mes amitiés fraternelles à toute la communauté

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Matt, I identified myself in the article as a neophyte in hermeneutics. A plain reading of that statement would be to accept it as literal truth. I am feeling my way through all this as it is an emerging issue. So bear with the neophyte. Eventually, the subject of hermeneutics has to become decipherable to non-philosophers and non-theologians.

For me, the major role of history in interpretation is to provide context. If accurate, history gives insights into what circumstances, issues, norms, and mores existed at the time, often without regard to spirituality or divine purpose. Having the context of history may give valid insights, but it may also just raise more questions.

For example, one respondent below said that the LORD was just working with what existed in terms of cultural norms of the day when he prescribed how to deal with captured women, that God’s prescription was more humane. For me, that just raises a question. If the LORD was going to go to the trouble of discussing the issue, why didn’t he say “kill them?” Hadn’t he previously given instructions to wipe out every man, woman, child and cow when they conquered the nations in front of them? Why is he making an exception for women thought to be beautiful and who were desired?

The problem that arises for me is when certain events in history are said to be led by the LORD. Then events can create, as others have noted, significant cognitive dissonance about our view of God. Then we tend to start - again as others have said - explaining things away. We come up with work arounds that become part of our lore and almost part of our theology, but which may indeed have no sound basis other than speculation and our desire to reduce the dissonance.

I also sometimes wonder if history reveals mankind’s evolving view of God.

I am very interested in learning how you understand history’s place in interpretation. I’ll bet the moderator will allow another post.


Maybe some are like me and cannot read Sommer’s post. Here is what Google Translate thinks it says:

Interesting article.
Although I read responses to this article disagree that the biblical literalism ever been, or currently is a problem for the Adventist Church, I confirm that it is a real problem for any fundamentalist religion, as is the Adventism.
From a young age, the rules supposedly “rational” interpretation of the Bible theologians have always bothered me. Because in fact they are often philosophically oriented. As a member of the fourth generation Church, and as a former of my local community, yet I took a lot away with our official hermeneutics because it is unsustainable on many points. I’m not a supporter of a hermeneutics of the text “as read”. The state of knowledge from all science, including extensive humanities, forbids us to take a text as it is, without examining with much hindsight and wisdom, a sharp eye and a real curiosity, and finally a large very open mind. This is where our theologians must have the courage to raise the debate, and it belongs to my former colleagues and pastors to bring the people above and beyond of EGW quotes out of context, above and beyond a simplistic and ultimately confusing reading the Bible. Let me be clear, I believe the inspired Bible! But it is far from inerrant! The gospel is in the Bible, but the Bible is not gospel truth. “What is missing in my people is knowledge.” In any case, thank you to Spectrum to exist and give us oxygen in this period of official obscurantism.
My fraternal greetings to the whole community