A Curious Conference
by McLarty, John
by John McLarty, August 18, 2014
Friday, August 15, 2014, was opening day for the “International Conference on the Bible and Science: Affirming Creation.” The following description is posted on its web site:
The biblical creation is central to the message of salvation found in the Bible and the beliefs of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. The purpose of the International Conference on the Bible and Science: Affirming Creation is to bring together Adventist educators to explore the creation through both Bible study and study of the creation itself. Ultimately, it is hoped that participants will leave better equipped and inspired to teach about the creation in an informed, responsible and faith-affirming way. Held primarily in St. George, Utah, this conference features Christian speakers and invitees from the global community of faith in the Creator God as revealed in the Bible.
In his opening address, Elder Ted Wilson, president of the General Conference, called on the 350 participants “to be champions of creation based on the Biblical account and reinforced so explicitly by the Spirit of Prophecy.”
This introduces one of several curiosities of this conference. Elder Wilson is quite adamant about the need for Adventist educators to adhere to and wholeheartedly advocate the Biblical account of creation. However, the details of the Adventist interpretation of Genesis 1-9 are in flux.
First curiosity: Based on the presenters at this faith and science conference, Adventists no longer believe God created the heavens and the earth 6000 years ago. Richard Davidson and Randy Younker (and by implication Elder Wilson) believe God created the heavens 14.5 billion years ago. They believe God created the material of earth 4.5 billion years ago. They disagree with science only in their dating of the phanerozoic rocks. (To be more precise, in papers presented at earlier faith and science conferences, Davidson and Younker argued that Genesis One gives us no information about the date of the creation of extra-terrestrial or pre-biological material, which leaves the conventional dates unchallenged.)
Adventists no longer believe the Flood created all the fossils. Current orthodoxy is that the Flood created only the Paleozoic and Mesozoic fossils.
Second curiosity: Elder Wilson famously urged Adventists to refrain from reading non-Adventist authors in areas that touch on theology and spiritual life. This conference features presentations by non-Adventists, including John Baumgartner, Kurt Wise, Marcus Ross, and John Whitmore. Except for these non-Adventists, all the other presenters are the old stalwarts of Adventist creationism. The only new voices are these non-Adventists.
Third curiosity: Ed Zinke, one of the organizers of the conference, scheduled himself to speak seven of the nine days of the conference. His prominence in the conference program is problematic because he has not held a pastoral, faculty or elected position in the church in years. I have to wonder how the conference participants who are actually involved in the life of the church will respond to being instructed by someone who lives and thinks completely outside the accountability structures of the church. Especially in light of Elder Wilson's strident advocacy of accountability.
Fourth curiosity: Secrecy. This from the conference web site:
Resources provided for invitees to the International Conference on the Bible and Science: Affirming Creation (ICBS) are solely for the use of those who received invitations to attend this conference from the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists and actually do attend the conference. By accessing these resources you are stating that you are an invitee to the ICBS with permission to access and use them.
All resources linked to from [sic] the “ICBS – Materials for Invitees” (https://fscsda.org/icbs/icbs-program/) website remain the property of the conference presenter who provided them. They are made available solely for the private use of invited attendees of the Faith and Science Council sponsored “International Conference on the Bible and Science: Affirming Creation” held in Las Vegas, Nevada, and St. George, Utah, August 14-25, 2014. Those who are not invited attendees may not access these materials and may not be provided with either links to these materials or the passwords necessary to access them. These materials may not be redistributed in any form or via any media without the express written permission of the person who provided them to the conference organizers. By clicking on any of the links in the “ICBS – Materials for Invitees” (https://fscsda.org/icbs/icbs-program/) website, you are acknowledging reading and agreeing to these terms.
This secrecy was apparent even before the conference began. There was no general announcement that the church was going to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars to gather educators for this conference. In May I was in the field with an Adventist geologist and met a couple of the organizers at an outcrop in southern Utah. We spent a couple of hours together. They carefully avoided the slightest mention that they were in the area scouting sites for the Faith and Science Conference.
I will refrain from speculating about the reasons for the secrecy, but it is an “in your face” feature of the conference.
A final non-curiosity: If you wish to know the content of the presentations at the conference, all you have to do is Google the presenters. They are well-known and their views are readily available.