Adventist Denomination to Restudy Principles of Bible Interpretation
From ANN, July 15, 2015: Top denominational leaders have agreed to work with the Biblical Research Institute (BRI) on a study that is intended to inform the Adventist denomination about the principles of Bible interpretation. The announcement came in response to a question asked by a delegate to the recent General Conference (GC) in San Antonio, Texas.
Pastor Myron Iseminger, GC undersecretary, made the announcement on Friday, July 10, the last day of business meetings at the GC Session. He also stated that the BRI “is already studying the issue and has plans to publish their findings” in an updated edition of a book on the subject. It has published at least two books on the topic, including Understanding Scripture: An Adventist Approach, edited by Dr. George W. Reid, who was BRI director at the time, and Interpreting Scripture: Bible Questions and Answers, edited by Dr. Gerhard Pfandl, a current staff scholar.
Both sides in the discussion on women’s ordination had claimed that the Bible supported their position, and the majority of the denomination’s Bible scholars have stated that there is no decisive Bible teaching on the subject. On July 9, a delegate urged the denomination’s leaders to restudy its hermeneutics in light of the divisive vote on women’s ordination on July 8 so as to avoid similar conflicts of opinion regarding some verses from the Bible in the future. The delegates then voted to make the request official.
Hermeneutics, or the study of the principles and methods of Bible interpretation, strives to provide an underlying framework that may be applied across any and every analysis of particular verses of Scriptures. Even though Adventist scholars have often weighed in on the topic in the past, the delegate who raised the issue thought that a renewed stance was needed after the women’s ordination vote.
It is unclear what practical effects the study might have on future decisions or how it may relate to Ellen G. White statements that even though “the great truths of the Word of God are so clearly stated that none need make a mistake in understanding them” (Manuscript Releases, Volume 15, page 150), “we cannot … take a position that the unity of the church consists in viewing every text of Scripture in the very same shade of light” (Ibid. page 149).
A source has pointed out to Adventist Today that in the preface to the 1911 edition of The Great Controversy, White describes an approach to interpreting the Bible that is contrary to the fundamentalist position taken by many of the Adventists who opposed the ordination of women pastors. White was one of the cofounders of the Adventist movement who was credentialed as an ordained minister most of her life.