Disappointed in Numbers, Taylor, Fall AT
18 December 2018 |
To the Editor:
I write to express concern that arises as I read and re-read the fall issue of Adventist Today. I must question your purpose in publishing the article about John Fetzer and the “book review” by Ervin Taylor, without the caveat “the following does not necessarily express opinions of the editors.” If ever that was needed, this was the time!
Adventists of a certain age are aware of Ronald Numbers’ general disdain for the doctrines of the church, and particularly for the prophetic ministry of Ellen White. His article certainly bears witness to that attitude. Why is there no footnote for the statement on p. 12: “In one of her first visions, God explained to Ellen that salvation could be granted only to those who observed the Sabbath of the seventh day of the week, as instructed by the Ten Commandments.” Really? If ever White wrote that constricted, distorted version of salvation and Sabbath, where is recognition of a mature understanding of the gifts of the Sabbath and salvation, itself? It’s difficult to choose the best of her rhapsodies on those who “are ignorant of the written law of God” but hear His voice through nature, and “are recognized as” His children (The Desire of Ages, p 638). There are many, but Numbers disdains to notice them.
The Fetzer article, narrating a search for truth that would end in utter confusion, is sprinkled with mocking asides about White’s naïveté and her ministry. If Ellen White was either naïve, mentally defective or an imposter, we should know it. However, substantial evidence to the contrary is generally accepted by our members. Ellen “insisted” that the Fox sisters were involved with evil angels, “even though they confessed to fraud.” The Seventh-day Adventists’ “distinctive cosmology” involved supernatural beings, inhabitants of other worlds as well as hosts of good and evil angels, were engaged in what Ellen White ‘liked’ to call ‘the great controversy.” She liked to call it that? Numbers dismisses a foundational doctrine without the dignity of capital letters!
The history of the “first official Seventh-day Adventist radio broadcasting station” could have been handled easily in a small portion of a short article. Why 10 pages devoted to a spiritual tragedy that seems to serve as a vehicle for characterizing the teachings and development of Seventh-day Adventism as trivial at best, dangerously misguided, at worst? Why?
And the book review. Was it a review of a book which Dr. Taylor dislikes, or just denigration of Clifford Goldstein, the “good friend” with whom Taylor disagrees “on almost every point of Adventist theology, as well as a number of general points of Christian theology.” The conclusion that a “friend’s” world view belongs either in “Europe during the 11th century CE, or… Palestine of the 11th century BCE” is condescending at best, insulting at worst.
Does disagreement with the materialistic explanation for beginnings automatically imply incomprehension? Or is there a difference between an approach influenced by Goldstein’s religious beliefs and a lack of understanding of “the nature of modern science”? Is the distaste for a system of thought that, (while effective in the study of observable phenomena, disdains any sort of “revelation” concerning origins), is really an indication of a “distaste for the major intellectual and cultural components of our modern world”? A cure for polio, men walking on the moon, and a plethora of archeological discoveries that support biblical history. Are those not also intellectual and cultural achievements? Where is proof that Goldstein misunderstands or rejects their reality?
As support for the “current understandings of the chronology of Earth history,” Dr. Taylor cites the mixed blessings of the Age of Enlightenment. Along with the development of modern scientific methods, that Age saw an erosion of belief in God as Creator and the birth of the new religion, Humanism. Goldstein can’t ignore the broad influences of that time.
Dr. Taylor criticizes Goldstein for presenting “binary total absolute Truths”; no surprise from a scholar whose attempts to blend his certainty about the biological changes of the “human animal over millions and billions of years” with a nod toward the competing doctrine of man’s creation “in the image of God.” Taylor states that his focus is geological time, but his true conclusions are betrayed by this phrase: “established conclusions about the origins of life, the universe, and everything else in it.” Again, why no disclaimers? Why give space to such a collection of half-truths?
This is Adventist Today, “a non-profit organization dedicated to fostering open dialogue in the Adventist community and beyond.” One assumes your aim is to enlighten us about the deeper truths of our history and doctrine, while keeping us wary about those who use our structure for self-aggrandizement. I don’t believe your purpose is to undermine our ability to determine the difference between truth and error.
Adventists are creationists. So is the Bible.
Sincerely, an avid reader,
Sharan Bennett, J.D., M.A.