Why I Resist a Single Adventist Hermeneutic

Biblical interpretation has caused many schisms in Christian history. Increasingly, due to hermeneutics, Adventism faces its own growing divide. The Biblical Research Institute’s recent publication of Biblical Hermeneutics: An Adventist Approach argues that differences are emerging due to an incorrect usage of the historical-grammatical method. But this reveals a misunderstanding of the fundamental problem facing Adventist interpretation.[i] It does not take into consideration the very likely possibility that the method itself may be the cause or whether a correct Adventist presuppositional framework is even possible.


This is a companion discussion topic for the original entry at http://spectrummagazine.org/node/11512

I address all this here https://bit.ly/solascripturamanifesto

It would be helpful to me to start at the beginning with a basic definition of what is/are hermeneutics, for a non professional in this area. I really would like to start to understand this topic, because it seems to be very important. Thanks.

I do not see the problem here. WO was discussed (one might say ad nauseam) by all sides. Then a vote was taken. Our hermeneutic would have allowed for either side to win the vote. There were different ways to interpret the scripture, and different emphases on each way, but the church included both. WO supporters were not removed from office or membership because they voted yes. They continue to adhere to there beliefs etc., without consequence.

But to suggest a new hermeneutic because you lost the vote? Isn’t that going a bit far? Does everything have to hinge on your thinking?

Why was the vote lost?

  1. The church is more full of third world believers who have a traditional culture.
  2. The third world was tired of first world dominance
  3. Paulson stood up and insulted his African brethren. He chided them for their view, thus loosing that block of votes. Silly.

Perhaps Wilson’s support would have allowed for a positive vote on it, but he was president because of who he is, more in touch with the third world.

But to suggest that we must change our hermeneutic because WO was defeated is ridiculous. You are making that issue the grounds, or at least your thinking behind it the gourds for all other issues. That is going too far.

And this thinking shows itself in liberals’ refusal to accept that vote. Many liberal churches have ordained women, and the Pacific Union has voted a woman president against policy, sort of thumbing its nose at the church. Who do you think you are? And you presume to suggest a change in hermeneutic after such action? Your hermeneutic is: “We will do what we think regardless of our brethren and any vote of the church as a whole.”

What kind of a hermeneutic is that?

I think it is irresponsible to think that a worldwide church with such a divergent cultural take on many subjects, regardless of what our precious church leadership says is our hermeneutics, is a bridge too far for me.

Take WO, the vast majority of Adventists live in third world countries, many of which still practice such things as genital mutilation. Women are considered, at best, second hand citizens in their society. To expect the majority to come up with a proper biblical interpretation of this issue is ridiculous, and much like the male centered society in which the biblical authors, themselves lived, then adds to this, the thousands of contradictions in scripture itself, and you get lost in the weeds. I know there are many who would say there are no contradictions. You are so wrong. Most are inconsiquential, but there are hundreds if not thousands of literally, black vs white contradictions.

God gave us an example of His character in his Son. The best yardstick in which to look at hermeneutics is to simply protract what would be a reasonable expectation from Jesus on any subject. Since the Pharisees were well versed in scripture but completely missed the presence of the Messiah right in front of them, perhaps, just trying to understand scripture without accounting for the author’s bias and context is a futile effort. The Pharisees missed what was right under their noses, what makes us think we can do better?

Regardless, I am always going to attempt come down on the side that is most humane, caring, considerate, and loving. I think that is What Jesus Would Do. So much more Christ like than all the finger pointing and judgmental behavior I see in our church today.

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So what is “home base” of the Adventist Hermeneutic? - 1888 or the cornfield? The church, as such, was based on a series mistakes, one of which we still celebrate yearly. If that series were played out today our reaction would be much different, the reason being, education. Most churches are based on tradition, without question. SDA hermeneutic has its own special traditions. So what are we willing to re-examine?

The specific squabbles within the church, dealing with peripheral issues about dress, music, diet - seem to be able to be modified, but not without some injuries along the way. WO is interesting. Women have a long history, both social and biblical, of being marginalized. As education advanced in the West, women struggled and won some social battles; but less so in the churches, still. The current excuse to keep putting WO on the back burner because some of the world cultures still marginalize women, is nonsense. Some of the same cultures would still have ancestor worship, and various forms of magic, etc. As Christianity moved across those cultures, these were dealt with. WO should not be a problem within the Christian community - unless it has other factors that keep men from dealing with it.

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Can we solve the issue of WO by creating a better hermeneutics that is fully aware of personal biases and cultural backgrounds? No, we can’t. The problem is the bible itself, which offers contradictory views on the role of women. It is simply impossible to find a theological position on WO that is perfectly biblical in the sense that all scripture is consistent with this position. Sola scriptura has its limits here, but it seems that adventist theologicans are not willing to acknowledge that.

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This may help:

I’ll ask why should we even consider looking to the bible to decide what what the role of women should be in our church - in our cultures and societies.

At the very best, all the bible can tell us is what each author or editor of the bible thought the role of women should be in his society. Mind you, not even what it actually was.

Many of the bible’s authors, but obviously not all, wrote that there is only one god, or only one god for the Hebrews. But did the Hebrews believe that? It seems not. We know this because almost every time an ancient Hebrew town is excavated, we find many little pagan idols. The most common being fertility goddesses.

Similarly, texts that are interpreted as describing the subjugation of women’s roles in the early church, may have been a fantasy of the authors. Or, they may have a different intended meaning than we realize, reading a translation 2000 years later from a completely different cultural vantage point.

Take, for example, the following passage from Paul. Besides appearing rather misogynistic, in many ways it makes no sense to me. Presumably it would have made sense to his intended audience.

Does this apply to us today? Did Paul intend his very specific ideas about hair to apply to all Christians for all time? Comments added in [brackets]:


I praise you for remembering me in everything and for holding to the traditions just as I passed them on to you. But I want you to realize that the head of every man is Christ, and the head of the wife is her husband [and if she has no husband?], and the head of Christ is God. [I thought Christ was God, an equal part of the Trinity. But then Paul was not a Trinitarian and did not believe Jesus was God. But let’s ignore that.] Every man who prays or prophesies with his head covered dishonors his head [What? Why? And how? Why are we supposed avoid dishonoring our heads - whatever that means?]. But every woman who prays or prophesies with her head uncovered dishonors her head [Why?]—it is the same as having her head shaved. [Why is that an issue? Lots of devout Christian women shave their heads.] For if a woman does not cover her head, she might as well have her hair cut off; but if it is a disgrace for a woman to have her hair cut off or her head shaved, then she should cover her head. [This is a circular argument. It appears to say, female hair is so important you should not cut it off, for it is a woman’s cover (see below) and still it should be covered because if you don’t cover it you might as well cut it off. So, it’s important to cover the cover, because cutting it off is bad… What?]

Every man who prays or prophesies with long hair dishonors his head, since he is the image and glory of God [Paul seems to have misread Genesis where all humankind is in the image of God: “Then God said, “Let us make humankind in our image, in our likeness, and let them rule over the fish in the sea and the birds in the sky, over the livestock and all the wild animals, and over all the creatures that move along the ground.” So God created humankind in his own image, in the image of God he created them; male and female he created them. (both in God’s own image.)” -Genesis 1]; but a wife is the glory of a husband. For man did not come from woman, but woman from man; neither was man created on account of the woman, but woman on account of the man. It is for this reason that a woman ought to have authority over her own head, on account of the angels. [Wait, what? How did angels get into this discussion?] Nevertheless, in the Lord woman is not independent of man, nor is man independent of woman. For as woman came from man, so also man is born of woman. But everything comes from God.

Judge for yourselves: [OK, I will!] Is it proper for a woman to pray to God with her head uncovered? [Yes, it seems fine. Happens all the time] Does not the very nature of things teach you that if a man has long hair, it is a disgrace to him, but that if a woman has long hair, it is her glory? [No, it doesn’t.] For long hair is given to her as a covering. [Then why does she need to cover the covering?] If anyone wants to be contentious about this, we have no other practice—nor do the churches of God. [Well, maybe not then and there, but in fact we now do have many other practices, all over the world.] - 1 Corinthians 11.

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Ya, know, whenever I think of the third world, the first thing that just pops, ah, literally explodes into my mind is genital mutilation. Yep. I mean, like isn’t it happening on every street corner? All those backward people that have not had white liberal enlightenment…? Talk about the white mans burden! (No stereotyping here!)

Do I just detect a smidge of condescension here? Or maybe two smidgens…?

Rush two judgment, condescension, and western arrogance are really necessary to bring humane, caring considerate and loving help to those third world people. Actually, they should not be allowed to hold church office, really. That would solve soooo many problems.

Sure we can. It only requires that we make the issue a cultural one instead of a moral one. If it is cultural, then it can be practiced where it is felt to be right, and then not in the other places.

But that requires understanding by the west and the third world. So far, not going so well. Scolding our third world brethren leads to resistance (Paulson tried it). Appealing might help.

But we may have reached an empass.

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The white man has a burden?

Adventists are at an impasse?

You think Sisyphus had it bad?

What about the Christian’s outsized dilemma of taking his contradictory “good news”-which no two Christians can agree on or fully comprehend-to entire continents full of pagans, animists and heathens where those glad tidings are typically twisted up into something virtually unrecognizable to the missionaries who brought it, if, in fact those messengers aren’t killed in the process of trying to “save the godless” from their deplorable situations and selves?

If nothing else, @ajshep, I’m impressed with the vastness of your talent for understatement! :rofl:

And BTW, while FGM may not be ubiquitous throughout the “Dark Continent” there are tribes where this ritual is performed on as many as 95% of prepubescent little girls.

And ok.

Maybe this isn’t done out on the street corners. But perhaps that’s for for the simple reason that those tribes don’t actually have what we white men would call “streets”?

But then again, perhaps the reason you don’t find the practice horrific and doesn’t “jump right out at you”, if and when you think of Africa, has everything to do with the fact that our culture has little or no problem with inflicting similar rituals on unsuspecting neonatal little boys or because we call this sacrament an “procedure” and do the deed in secluded, sanitary hospital settings which have asphalt boulevards leading right up to their automated front doors…:yawning_face::yawning_face::yawning_face:

Oh Contraire. What is nonsense is to think that people’s cultural and traditional thinking doesn’t enter into how they voted at the GC and Ted is counting on that. We are being led by the fact that the majority of the denomination comes from the 3rd wordl PERIOD. In my view, this is an absolute.

That was what it was before the last GC. Then Ted ginned up the constituents, the ones who hold women in a subservient position, and was able to shut down WO. Just give me one good reason why he simply couldn’t have left things the way they were? But you can’t, because there is no good response to that. And even you acknowledged that.

You can paint it any way you want…the reality still comes out that the SDA church is heavily weighted down with very degressive thinking from cultures which still live in a horse and buggy world.

Be that as it may, that is unacceptable. Wilson’s playing politics; and that, too, is unacceptable.

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There is loss of meaning when certain passages are translated from Greek to English, this might ealsily lead to mistranslation and false teaching.

For example, in the phrase “the husband is the head of the wife”. Two greek words can be translated to the English word head, “Arche” (ruler, magistrate, boss etc) and “Kephale” (the first soldier into battle). Paul used kephale in the phrase "the husband is head of the wife. Paul never meant that the husband is the boss/ruler of the wife.

Meaning can also be lost through not taking into consideration the cultural context of each passage.

Check “What Paul Really Said About Women” by John T. Bristow

Jesus and his 12 disciples were fed and supported by 3 women Chuza, Susanna and Mary Magdalene. (Luke 8:2-3). It’s unfortunate that without any explicit verse, many christians know Mary Magdalene as the prostitute who followed Jesus, (a lie/erroneous interpretation taught and spread by later christians).

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Although I am not completely clear on the thrust of your post, the church is quite divided, I trust God to give to each the message he or she needs. My duty is to present the truth as lived in my life, and to attest to it with my words.

Not only that, it is not ubiquitous throughout the whole third world, but mainly in Islamic sub-Saharan Africa, and Indonesia. The attributing of this as an example of the third world is not just, fair or true. Each culture has its own problems, and our is not excluded. We have exported lust to the world.

Did you gain no insight from my sarcasm?? Can you not see that your attitude will not help here? Why would anyone listen to one who looks down his nose at them?

I noted above why I felt the vote was lost.

And as far as that vote goes, the WO advocates wanted it. I remember the discussions here before that GC. But Paulson insulted the third world with his speech, and Wilson, did not “gin up” anything, only saying that they all knew his position. He acted presidential, Paulson as a scold.

Hermeneutics is not the problem. It is the difference between cultures. WO is a cultural issue. And since it is not a moral one, the Westen churches should allow the third world to have its way here. And FGM has nothing to do with it.

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A “church” run by political maneuvering is not a church; but just another layer of power struggle. How long does one put up with it - and why?

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Yes, taught even by church leaders - who knew better - as part of an effort to minimize the memory of women’s significant contribution both to Jesus’ ministry and the founding and support of the early church.

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Let me offer two different reasonings for the diversity of Christianity and, in particular, the diversity of the Adventist church:

Reasoning A)
We disagree because we
- are using different hermeneutics,
- have different presuppositions,
- are culturally biased.

Reasoning B)
The bible itself is diverse, offering a wide spectrum of worldviews that are only partially consistent. The diversity of Christianity/Adventism simply reflects the diversity of scripture.

Jon-Philippe and most adventist scholars seem to focus solely an A). But can A) really explain all of the observed diversity?

I am convinced that B) is at least as crucial as A). We definitely need to work on our hermeneutics in order to solve the issues from A), but hermeneutics cannot overcome the differences caused by B). So, I support Jon-Philippe’s plead for appreciating diversity in Adventism, although I do that for different reasons.

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Sometimes I wonder if the fundamentalists see things more clearly than more progressive branches of Christianity.

I agree with Donkor. It may be impossible for us to identify all our biases and presuppositions when it comes to a text, but we should at least try. But this leads us to an odd place when it comes to the Bible. Christians presuppose that the Bible is the inspired word of God. If this presupposition is really and truly dropped, then I think people usually begin to see the Bible as a very human work. At least this is what happened to me. I thought if my beliefs about the Bible were really true then they would be able to survive examination from a more objective and historical viewpoint. For me at least, they couldn’t.

Perhaps, deep down, fundamentalists realize this threat–and act accordingly.

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