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  1. Ella M
    03 October 2011 @ 5:17 am

        I am quite in agreement with what Cliff states about the subjectivity of fallen human beings–all of them.  I really don't see that he has made any exception for himself (did I miss something??)  And I don't see any admitting of the writer's own "falleness" or subjectivity.  So it is sort of Irv's word against his.  What he seems to be saying is that he has chosen faith.  He hasn't claimed any "special revelation." 
        I would suggest that if one wants to discuss "special revelation," certainly atheistic science claims to have its own "special revelation" far and above what they think any believer has.  To use the writer's own words it "allows them to by-pass the limitations of the rest of us."  May I suggest Irv go back to school at some seminary and and get a Th.D. to help him understand and perhaps be more sympathetic to the other side and enjoy a larger view of contemporary Adventist teaching.  I would suggest Andrews Univeristy.  But he may want to be more ecumenical and chose Liberty College instead.  I also understand that Amazing Facts offers some sort of degree or certificate as well. 

    • Ervin Taylor
      03 October 2011 @ 3:09 pm

      I didn't realize that Ella M. had such an excellent sense of humor.  What an interesting experience that would be: first Andrews, then Liberty College, and then Amazing Facts.  Down, down, the rabbit hole.

  2. Kevin Seidel
    03 October 2011 @ 8:05 am
    The problem of perception goes even deeper than Cliff realized.  I'm interested in what living by faith means, especially when the perception flaws are in the mind.  Wouldn't that affect our understanding of faith?  How do we deal with a flawed faith?

  3. Joe Erwin
    03 October 2011 @ 2:28 pm

    I must confess that "fallen" humans, and the concept of "sin" no longer make any sense to me. My wife says I am an atheist, but I am not so sure. I certainly am not an "evangelical" atheist, in the sense that I feel called to convert all the people of the earth to my view. I just don't find myself able to honestly believe that God is as described by most believers. Of course, some people do harmful and inconsiderate things to others. They shouldn't. Treating others as you wish to be treated, in fact, giving all animate and inanimate beings due consideration seems to me to be an adequate ethic. I cannot belive that I entered my time on earth as a guilty party headed for eternal damnation and fiery hell and reliant on a confession of faith in something pretty incredible to avoid enternal torment and reap the joys of paradise. All I can advise is that people who are able to believe in something like the SDA message just believe it and celebrate the joy of faith and what they regard as salvation. Science as a method of gaining knowledge and understanding can be applied by anyone to any problem. But things that are "spiritual" or in some other imaginary non-physical dimension cannot really be addressed by anything other than suspending one's rationality. So, just do that, if that is what works for you. But if you commit to science as a method, you have to recognize that observations, and measurements, and research designs are often flawed in some sense. Only with much research and many repetitions do general principles survive. Interpretations based on physical realities (fossils, morphology, genomic sequences, etc .) must change in the light of other evidence. Evidence builds. Approximations of truth emerge. Understanding is refined. It seems to me that attempts to live up to some etherial spiritual standard just leaves one frustrated and confused. I can sort of understand how someone might thrive on the joys of faith without over thinking it, while living in an objective physical world.

    • Ella M
      07 October 2011 @ 5:06 am

         What you describe is a distorted picture of Christianity, yet it is one that most secular nonChristians hold (and some Christians).  Actually I have yet to meet anyone who was not self-centered to some degree, and that basically is what "fallen" means.  It is a state of being that makes us unsuitable for life in a new earth.  Yet through Christ all (not just those who have heard about Him), have access to salvation through the Spirit.  Only if they reject that Spirit of love will they be blotted out.  For the saved it is "pleasures forevermore."  Of course, you know that Adventists do not believe in eternal torment.
         I am glad that you choose to not usually demean the beliefs of others.  For me, I would have to "suspend my rationality" to believe that my computer evolved or created itself and much more human life.
         If one is not confused at some time in life, they aren't living.

  4. Seminary Student
    03 October 2011 @ 3:12 pm

    That would be good , Ervin  amazing facts   four month training costs $4,200 , they teach you on how to give bible studies and they have a class called " ask the Pastor " where students ask questions to Pastor Doug .Here at Andrews is a little bit more expensive and I don't think you would like the cold weather . If you have a good GPA  you would only need to pay about 60k . 

    • William Noel
      04 October 2011 @ 10:25 pm

      Seminary Student,

      Why would anyone want to go to one of those schools when they can get all the training (and power!) they need from the Holy Spirit? 

      I want to suggest that you read the book "Unchristian."  It's a real eye-opener about how the cultures of North America relate to Christians.  One of the big lessons is that traditional evangelistic outreaches drive more people away from the church than they attract.  So we need to use other methods to win souls.  When I asked God that question and to show me the ministry He wanted me to have, the answer He gave me was a surprise.  I lead a team at my church that does home repairs and other things for people.  That ministry is bringing people into the church without preaching or giving a Bible study.  That ministry with others has our church growing faster than all other churches in the conference except Spanish-speaking churches. 

      I'm going to make you a prediction: when you seek the Holy Spirit and accept the ministry He gives you, there's a greater than 90% chance that ministry will have nothing to do with preaching, teaching, giving Bible studies or any other traditional outreach method. 

  5. Elaine Nelson
    03 October 2011 @ 4:21 pm

    Those graduates of Amazing Facts are like the old army's "90-day Wonders" one wonders how they got such quick promotions!

    Having Doug answer all the questions would surely avoid the influence of several teachers and guarantee duplicates of Doug.  At only $1,000 a month, it's still not cheap, but then what should one expect–unless such graduates become their next pastor.  Pity the congregation that is much better educated than such a pastor.

    Joe, your suggestion of the world's best ethical standard–"Do unto others–" has never yet been improved upon.  No matter one's religious belief, this can be applied to any and all situations.  Of course, it has not, and there's the problem.  It is much older than the Bible and is found in more than a dozen cultures throughout the world, testifying to its longevity as the most practical of all rules for living.

  6. William Noel
    03 October 2011 @ 4:46 pm


    I like your suggested alternate title for the Sabbath School quarterly. 

  7. Ron Corson
    03 October 2011 @ 5:48 pm

    To quote Cliff: “As fallen humans seeking to understand reality, we have three strikes against us getting it right: 1) the limits that our minds place on how the world appears to us, 2) the subjectivity of how we interpret what does appear, and 3) the tiny slice of reality ever within our view”

    I have always thought that those three things are the greatest reason to accept the idea of universal salvation. Interesting to see them coming from Cliff!

  8. Elaine Nelson
    03 October 2011 @ 7:02 pm

    Bingo!  If we accepted those premises, it ultimately leads to universal salvation.  Is there another possible conclusion?

  9. Seminary Student
    04 October 2011 @ 1:49 pm

     I found one more school for our friend ,Ervin . It is  Hartland College the president is  Colin Standish . Pastor Doug in amazing facts  has a class called " ask the pastor " and  Colin Standish at  harland has a class called " ask sister white " . They  even have " buggy rides "  It is  a 19th century village not Amish community , it is Adventist . 

  10. Ervin Taylor
    04 October 2011 @ 3:35 pm

    Colin Standish has a class called "Ask Sister White."  You must be joking.  I didn't think conservatives had a sense of humor.  But I am wrong.

    • Ella M
      07 October 2011 @ 5:08 am

          Maybe it is through a seance!

  11. Doctorf
    07 October 2011 @ 11:35 pm

    When people like Cliff talk about "fallen" people I ask fallen from what? Some perfect state? Please provide me with one bit of evidence that life including people were in some "perfect state." The concept of sin to me is a feeble theological attempt to describe why humans who can act with such grace, compassion and love can also act horribly. The interjection of this mysterious "sin" factor hardly explains the dichotomy in human behavior.

  12. Seminary Student
    08 October 2011 @ 12:02 am

    Doctorf , so you don't believe in what people say " the devil made me do it " ?  Interesting comments  . What would be your explantation for human behavior then ? Do think that human beings are perfect ? do you see humanity reaching to a higher esphere I guess you disagree with what we believe about    wickedness is increasing . Do you consider yourself a Seventh day Adventist  Christian ?  according to the bible and to experience  there is something really bad in our world and that is sin . Today , as I was walking  I saw a man who could barely walk , he had some big tumors in his legs . I felt so bad seeing that person suffering , I told my wife , we live in  a world of sin . You can not look around you and say that eveything is normal . 

    • Elaine Nelson
      08 October 2011 @ 12:28 am

      Seminary Student,

      What would people do without the devil to blame for everything that is unpleasant?  Do you believe that every action of humans is either caused by God or the Devil?  That's an interesting categorization to be able to simply divide everything in two classes.

      When you eat your breakfast, did the Devil or God make you do it?  When you study, who is behind it?  Driving your car; talking with a friend; scanning the internet; watching the news?  Can each of these be put as either the action caused by God or the Devil?  If rain falls on the raisin farmer and destroys his grapes; but it falls on the orange grove which is beneficial to their growth, who is behind that event?  Very simplistic ideas.

    • Doctorf
      08 October 2011 @ 9:13 pm

      Seminary Student,

      Good questions. 

      I think some neurological explanations for human behavior are adequate and are being illuminated via neuroscience. Schizophrenia can be explained in part by protein mutations in the post synaptic density of glutamate neurons same with autism. With regards to very evil behaviors I suspect they are genetic as I do not think people necessarily choose to be evil. For example Aspergers syndrome where a person may be an intellectual genius but have no "social intelligence."

      Getting more evil? No, it has always been around but we have much more effective 24 hr/7 ways of communicating poor human behavior. Thus, I suspect the the number of bad deeds remains as a constant % of the human population.

      When you say "everything is not normal" what is your reference comparison? If its the garden of eden perspective that is hard to digest as that story to me is a myth.

      When you saw a man walking with tumors, I would remind you we are living longer and healthier than any time in our past due to advancements in medical, nutritional and exercise sciences.

  13. John Mark
    08 October 2011 @ 12:11 am

    Conservative Christians certainly do not claim to be un-fallen, we claim to be fallen humans who have encountered God's grace. Also those of us from an Arminian perspective would not claim that this is a special gift unavailable to the rest. The Holy Spirit is working throughout the entire world desiring to lead all to truth. God is not willing that any should perish. You may disagree with this perspective of God and truth, but it is disingenuous of you to claim that we deny our human fall, or that we view others as also being unable to encounter the same grace we have. You know full well that Goldstein does not hold to either of those positions. It should be possible to argue with Goldstein's theology without mischaracterizing it.

  14. Seminary Student
    08 October 2011 @ 4:10 am

    Elaine , I was kind of joking with the idea of " the devil made do it " many of us like to blame someone for the bad choices we often make . We all have " freewill " and according to what we put in our brains is how we make those decisions . But my main issue is looking around us , we can see children dying of cancer , etc . The bible says that death is the result of sin , that God does not  enjoy seeing us suffer , that he suffers with us . But the hope that as a Christian I have is that death will be destroy and Paradise will be restaured . That is biblical , and I have chosen to live by those principles . 

  15. Ervin Taylor
    08 October 2011 @ 4:32 am

    To John Mark: You address a serious point.  I'd like to respond to his statement but I'm not sure I understand it  I can't locate where I said anything about Cliff not accepting "our huiman fall, or that we view others as also being unable to encounter the same grace we have."  Would John Mark please rephrase his concern so I can respond..  

    To SS: You say that "The bible says that death is the result of sin."  Being a Seminary Student I trust you know that it is Paul who said that.  Might I ask you "What kind of death" is Paul talking about?  Being a Seminary Student, surely you have the correct answer to that question.

    • John Mark
      08 October 2011 @ 3:17 pm

      Ervin Taylor, perhaps I misunderstand this statement:
      "I assume the reason for this is that unlike other ‘fallen humans,’ they (the ‘nonfallen humans’ or ‘exempted fallen humans’?) have acquired some special source of over-information and over-understanding not available to the rest of us ordinary fallen humans, which exempts them from the consequences of being fallen"

      In the parenthesis you offhandedly suggest that "they" (who I assumed to be Goldstein and his ilk) view themselves as "nonfallen humans." Next, you portray them as believing in a truth source "not available to the rest." You know full well that no Conservative Christian views himself as a "nonfallen human."  I think you should also know that from Goldstein's perspective the "over-information" and "over-understanding," (IOW special revelation given to us by grace) is certainly "available to the rest of us ordinary fallen humans." To put it another way: no conservative Christian views themselves "unfallen humans" and only Calvinists view themselves as having something unavailable to the rest.

      • Ervin Taylor
        09 October 2011 @ 2:14 am

        Thank you for the clarification.  You are quite correct that one would think that non-Calvinists would not view themselves as having some special source of truth.  My comment indeed suggested that, in my view, my good friend Cliff and others who share his views behave as if they have some special source of truth direct from God, i.e., they think that their interpretations of Biblical texts provides “special revelation” to them which is superior to that of some other human understanding of that text.  Now that is not surprising—we all have a tendency to think that our interpretation of some passage of the Bible is the correct one.  However, the rational ones among us know that humans are very error prone and have a difficult time getting anything right about the kinds of topics usually subsumed under what we call “religion.”  In my view, my good friend Cliff says that he is very limited in his understanding and then proceeds to give a lie to his own statement by saying that he has a source of “special revelation” by which he gets around that problem.  Might I ask John Mark where my interpretation of this line of argument has gone wrong?  (May I make sure that it is clear that I am not questioning Cliff or anyone else’s sincerity or intelligence, just their world view.)

        • John Mark
          15 October 2011 @ 1:53 am

          You are right that Goldstein and other conservative Christians believe in a connection to Divine truth that is superior to human understanding. Your only mistake was in claiming that we view this connection as something "not available to the rest." You are also correct that we believe there is a right way to interpret Scripture and a wrong way to interpret it. While, we would not claim that there will be complete agreement between those who interpret the Bible correctly we would argue that it will show beliefs to be false and others to be true. You seem to hold the modern view that any theological claim to be right and others wrong is hubris. 
               On a different but related note, I wonder if you have ever read, "The Cognitive Principle of Christian Theology" by Fernando Canale. In this book, he attempts to construct a distinctly Sola – Scriptura (which he believes will also be a distinctively Adventist) hermeneutics approach. I haven't read much of the book yet, but I'm taking the class from him, so I have a pretty good idea of the approach. I don't know that I agree with all of it, but he's definitely quite thought provoking. The debate between progressive Adventists (and I don't mean in the standards sense, I mean in the broad theological sense) boils down to a debate about hermeneutics. If we don't understand each other on that then we're just talking past each other because we have different foundational principles.  

          • Ervin Taylor
            17 October 2011 @ 10:12 pm

            I have been remiss in not having immediately noted the excellent observation that Mr. Mark made that the "debate betweeen progressive Adventists . . .boils down to a debate about hermeneutics."  I would very much agree.  He continued "If we don't understand each other on that [point] then we're just talking past each other because we have different foundational principles."  Well put.  This is why I share Mr. Mark's interest in Dr. Canale's views and why I published a review of one of his books.  One question that this observation generates is what happens in a faith community when you have members who make different assumptions about these foundational principles.  If these differences can not be reconciled, what should happen?  I would very much like to known Mr. Mark's view of this.

          • John Mark
            22 October 2011 @ 12:10 am

            Dr. Taylor,

            I read your review of Canale's book which is part of why I brought him up. I look forward to his response. He attacks liberal theology and classical theology on its timeless ontology, which is a realm conservative Adventist theology, to my knowledge, has not ventured into before. I would be interested to see the liberals and conservative dialog on this deeper level.
                   Your final question leads to a question of identity. That is, what makes a person a Seventh-day Adventist. The question as I see it, is: why is there a Seventh-day Adventist denomination. If one's beliefs go against that reason for existence, then it makes more sense to leave and fight against the organization than stay and try to change it. So I would say one's hermeneutic needs to at least fit within the purpose of the church. I don't yet have a full answer to what that purpose is, but it certainly seems like it would include central doctrines of Protestant Christianity plus the Seventh day Sabbath, soon Second Coming, and Sanctuary doctrine.

            I should make it clear that I don't favor purging the church of those who don't agree with our identifying doctrines. I think that is mostly a straw man. People like Goldstein, I think, are mostly just puzzled as to why these people choose to stay. I do think the Church should make these core beliefs a requirement for ministers, as it would not be honest to spend the money of faithful Adventists to support a non-Adventist message. It also makes sense to require belief in our identifying beliefs in order to become an Adventist.  However, I don't know if that is a terribly important issue, since there really is very little reason one would want to join the church if they didn't believe the message – and that is one reason why I don't see liberal theology succeeding in the church.

  16. Gregory Matthews
    08 October 2011 @ 11:06 am

    Joe: It is good to welcome to this web site my High School friend, former college roomate and one who is a distinguished scientist in his field. Was this your first post? This one is my second.

    As to "eternal torment:" I would not want to accept a god who preserved people's lives so that they could be tortured. Well, enough of that. I hope to read more of your comments.

  17. Elaine Nelson
    08 October 2011 @ 4:42 pm

    Seminary Student:

    The belief that each of us has "free will" is a complete fallacy.  We are all subject to our parents and training, education, national origin, and much more.  Are you contending that the slave "boy soldiers" in the horn of Africa have free will to choose or reject their being conscripted into the army?  Does a underage girl in Afghanistan have free will to choose NOT to marry the man her family has chosen?  There are hundreds of like situations were free will is a hollow concept devoid of practicality.

    • Doctorf
      08 October 2011 @ 11:41 pm


      Well said and I might add there is a genetic component to behavior that we are just starting to understand. When further illumiated the "free will" discussion will get to be very controversial.

  18. Doctorf
    08 October 2011 @ 9:18 pm

    Well Gailon preachy comments as usual. I re-read Dr Taylors summary. It is intended to evoke a serious discussion and is not an attempt to declare himself of "superior" intellect. Just because Dr Taylor does not reinforce your faith position he denies the existence of the most high? Where do you get that from?

  19. Doctorf
    08 October 2011 @ 11:44 pm


    Indeed, but I don't need Dr Taylor to discredit Dr. Goldstein. Goldstein does that all by himself. I read his SS quarterlies for yrs until I finally just threw them into the fire. Actually they are good for something.

    • Trevor Hammond
      09 October 2011 @ 12:43 pm

      Doctorf Sir,
      You address me yet as you can see I have no other posts on this blog 'sides this one…

      • Doctorf
        09 October 2011 @ 7:33 pm


        I see your point. I was responding to a comment that said Mr Joy has a right to his opinions. Yes he does. My point was after reading the OpEd offered by Erv and reading most of his OpEd's I do not get the impression that he uses the forum to impress anyone with his intellect. 

        • Trevor Hammond
          09 October 2011 @ 8:01 pm

          Ah yes, Doctorf – I have forgotten again, that the pen is mightier than the sword: but the censure is even mightier…☺.  By the way, phobia of the Sabbath School Lesson by many cultural Adventists isn't really warranted.  Just take a look at this quarter's study on Galations.  I would humbly suggest that it may not be necessary to through the baby out with the bath water.

          • Trevor Hammond
            09 October 2011 @ 8:03 pm

            oops typo – throw the baby out…

          • Doctorf
            09 October 2011 @ 9:30 pm


            I suspect that these lesson quarterlies are useful to some but I have outgrown them. I know what Adventists believe and my journey has become more of a quest to understand why people of particular faiths believe the way they do. Getting back to the point of the OpEd posted by Dr. Taylor, Cliff says we are not to trust sight as its subjective and temporal, we are to have faith. I do not understand for the life of me why if one is skeptical of the senses why they would not apply the same skepticism to faith as it too is subjective and temporal.

          • Trevor Hammond
            10 October 2011 @ 5:38 am

            Hey Doctorf – Sir,
            So would it be too much to ask for maybe just 3 good reasons for thrashing the SS Lesson.

            Here are some good reasons why I enjoy the SS lessons:
            1] It has drawn me into a closer walk with God in Christ Jesus.
            2] It encourages personal daily bible study and searching of the scriptures
            3] Keeps me out of mischief and provides a daily systematic structured study which we can share and thereby edify one another during the weekly discussion, especially when a humble, teacheable and pleasant atmosphere prevails during classes.

            On the other hand, what then would you suggest?  That we publish a cultural Adventist study guide customised for the average culturalist guru?  It could contain but not limited to issues like:

            • evolution, thiestic evolution, death before sin, homosexual activity ain't sin, humanism is the way, liquor is slicker for the believer, adornment enthusiasts, affuenza positive persons, once saved always saved cheap grace supporters, tithe is for non-thinkers approach, turf the IJ-Sabbath-SOP-1844-Sanctuary-faith-based-biblical-historical-approach to Adventism and go for a free for all atoday approach (albeit with censureship for Tradventists).  Not forgetting the Cliff Goldstein is public enemy no. 1 for culturalists study guide…☺


          • William Noel
            11 October 2011 @ 6:17 pm

            You illustrate the contrasts in how differently people view the quarterly.  I am glad you find it useful.  Personally, I find it too boring to give more than a glance.  I get a far greater blessing from sitting down with my e-concordance and doing topical searches to see how things are described or used through the Bible.  I've discovered some real gems that way. 

  20. Ervin Taylor
    09 October 2011 @ 2:00 am

    The reasonable ones among us will be able to consider the source of the denigrating comments and understand the mind set of the person saying it.  Perhaps we really should feel sorry for them.  "Doctorf" is smart and very able to evaluate the views of my good friend Cliff Goldstein without any help from anyone and especially from me.  However, I must say that  I am a little surprised that "Doctrof" still reads the SS quarterlies.  Everyone I know has quit reading them a long time ago.  Using them to start a fire on a cold winter morning has possibilities.  I still skim them quickly to keep up on what the church establishment thinks the average "Adventist in the pew" is supposed to think and believe.  (PS Cliff does not hold a doctorate as yet. But as I said he is smart enough and he would have no trouble getting one from a good institutiion.  Perhaps back at Johns Hopkins where he got his MA.) 

    • Doctorf
      09 October 2011 @ 7:50 pm


      You are correct, they are not on the top of my reading list. I get them sent to my home and not quite sure why I am on the mailing list. Maybe my dad put me on the mailing list in 2007 before he died as kind of humorous reprieve. I also get the PUC recorder always on time and never requested it but receiving the A-Today hard copies is a little more capricious. Sometimes I get them and sometimes I do not :). But, I will get that worked out.

      From reading Cliff's comments on this blog and other things he has written he is no doubt an intelligent word smith and I can understand why the SDA review utilizes his talents. Cliff has very concrete views with regards to who is and who is not an SDA and I appreciate his honesty. With Cliff you always know where he stands. I suspect I would have a great time with him discussing theology and religion over the dinner table. I wish I could have the opportunity to meet him. 

      With regards to the concept of "fallen humans" I do not understand the theology because there is no clear frame of reference as to what the original state of human existence was in the "beginning." I certainly subscribe to the notion that we are "flawed" as biology is not perfect. In addition, if God is offering grace for our flawed condition I am in no position to reject such grace. When General Patton was paralyzed and in a hospital a catholic priest came to minister to him and the generals aide reminded him he was "not catholic." The General responded with "hell, look at me, I will take all the help I can get, please come in father." Thus, like Patton, if Gods grace extends to my flawed condition, I will take all the help I can get.

  21. songbird
    15 October 2011 @ 1:10 am

    I think many on here might find the magazine "Proclamation" very interesting.  The last issue had an article called "The Great Controversy Worldview" that I found not only interesting, but riveting.  Of course the writer of the article and the publication formed the original charter, Former Adventist Fellowship.  The website talks a lot about what I see on here.  Colleen Tinker was the author's name of that amazing article.

  22. Seminary Student
    15 October 2011 @ 2:30 am

    Interesting commments ,  I would like to know if our friend Ervin is so against almost everything that the church teaches . what would you like to see in our church ? should we get rid of the name ?  I know  in your view  six literal creation has to go , Sabbbath ? IJ . What would you like to keep if anything . 

    • Ervin Taylor
      18 October 2011 @ 2:39 am

      "Official" Adventism can proclaim anything that the church's political system can decide defines "official" Adventism..  But don't expect many of us to accept the "offical" party line. In practice, each local SDA church determines what "Adventism" means for the group of people associated with that church.  In some Adventist churches, inidividuals must hide their theological objections.  In other Adventist churches, such as one I attend, there is no need to hide your views as everyone is free to accept or not accept "official" Adventist theology,i.e., there is freedom of expresssion and belief.  No one worries about what others believe.  Would not everyone wish to belong to such an Adventist Church?  

  23. Ella M
    15 October 2011 @ 3:17 am

      I think most of you realize on an intellectual level that the SS lessons are written for the world field and for people so varied in education, understanding, age, and mindset, that it would be impossible to meet all their needs.  I think they do a great job considering the diverse readership.  One doesn't have to use them, but they give the feeling of a global family.
      You mentioned something important:  "I think some neurological explanations for human behavior are adequate ….. With regards to evil behaviors I suspect they are genetic as I do not think people necessarily choose to be evil. For example Aspergers syndrome where a person may be an intellectual genius but have no "social intelligence."

       I agree with the roots of "bad behavior" in those who are mentally ill–it is like having a physical illness which may be inherited. For example those with ADD have a difficult time being organized or disciplining themselves. It can be a life-long struggle like Paul's dilemma.  But God's grace is sufficient for one to live with it and still be a success in their sphere of influence.  That is why we can't always judge one's Christianity by their behavior.
         I once corresponded with a serial killer in prison. Voices told him to kill, and he felt he had no choice.  In prison he became a Christian, and took medication.  He said that the voices were still there, but they no longer bothered him–he ignored them and became a Christ follower. He repented and was forgiven. He no longer had evil desires triggered by the voices.
        What I am saying is that God will save anyone who turns to Him and does not reject His spirit. ( I tend to believe in universal objective justification.)  Being "good" doesn't mean we are not "fallen" (theological term–find another one if you don't like it–try "selfish").  Whether one believes the Adam and Eve story to be myth or not–it is truth in a story. It means that God will find a way to save us in spite of our wrong choices.  I believe He did that through His Son, Jesus, and they planned it before the foundation of the world so that all might be saved. 


    • Doctorf
      30 October 2011 @ 7:40 pm


      Sorry to respond so late. I have been so consumed with grant writing, teaching, papers to write etc. So I don't know if you will see this. With regards to your pen pal, serial killers are not common and is linked to paranoid schizophrenia. Although this man was "converted" he also took the medication which is very effective in putting the "voices" aside. So I am not sure if it was the "conversion" or the "medication" which amelorated the desire to do such misdeeds.

      I really enjoyed reading your view on A&E story. Your description is much like Marcus Borg's view in Reading the Bible Again for the First Time. The "truth" and counsel is within the story. That is God did not intend for such a state of affairs that we have today to be the norm. I whole heartedly agree.

  24. Elaine Nelson
    15 October 2011 @ 3:24 am

    "I once corresponded with a serial killer in prison. Voices told him to kill, and he felt he had no choice.  In prison he became a Christian, and took medication."

    It was a combination of becoming Christian and taking medication, wasn't it?  Having some reason to change his life and the medication made all the difference.  Prayer works best when used with good medical advice.

  25. Philip Law
    15 October 2011 @ 4:17 am

    At the base of this dialog lies the question of how imperfect beings get to know Truth.  Does the notion that there is such a thing as Truth in itself a flawed cognitive exercise of futility?
    Physics deals with relatively idealized simple objective realities perceived by imperfect minds including Newton, Maxwell, and Einstein, etc, its relative simplicity offers an interesting platform as a model to get at Truth.
    Commonality of perception of physical phenomena irrespective of any single observer constitutes objective states of the physical world.  Theories governing such phenomena are attempts to formulate the underlying working principles or Truth of the physical World. 
    A great assumption is the physical universe is comprehensible.  The logic circuitry of imperfect human mind is capable of fathoming the working of that Universe. Hence the first step a physicist takes in studying physics is his assumptive faith that he can get at albeit in increasing degree of proximity to how the universe operates or the Truth of the Universe.
    Conflicting theories are put to the test by experiments. The falsification of a theory gets at crucial deciding tests of competing theories.  The outcomes of those tests are the ultimate deciding evidence of reality.  The theory that best predict the state of our world at one space-time point from another point wins. It is Truth up to that moment.
    Thus physics evolves from a gross descriptive of ancient time to the absolute rigid space and time Universe of Newton.  Einstein extended Newton’s Universe to  a relativistic space-time continuum framework of our Cosmos. 
    The Quantum phenomena resulted from one of Einstein’s postulates had the Grand Master perplexed for ‘God does not play dies.’ Nevertheless the quest for Truth in Physics marches on. On this point I argued that our God does not need an infallible Scripture to reveal His Truth.  Only lesser gods require infallible scriptures to affirm their ‘truthfulness.’  As an extension to that assertion is there is hope that fallible human being can know the Truth just as Heisenberg’s Uncertainty Principle had brought human observation threshold to unprecedented precision.
    Now the Truth of God includes but transcends the physical realm into the Spiritual realm.  I like to open up that discussion to the Spiritual quest for Truth.  Any taker?

  26. Ervin Taylor
    15 October 2011 @ 4:49 am

    Mr. Law suggested that " . . . God does not need an infallible Scripture to reveal His Truth.  Only lesser gods require infallible scriptures to affirm their ‘truthfulness."  This is a very interesting point.  I wonder if he would consider expanding on it.  I think I agree but would like to make sure I understand the context..  

  27. Philip Law
    15 October 2011 @ 5:15 pm


    I should have used the more conventional 'inerrant' rather than 'infallible'.  Some obvious discrepancies of Scripture had caused some ex-belivers to throw out the baby with the bath water and turned atheistic or agnostic.  

    My thinking of our God not needing an inerrant Scripture arised from a dilema of teaching a Sabbath School class to a group of junior high students by using parallel gospel accounts of an event and ran into the problem of how to explain to them about obvious descrepancies among the Gospel accounts.  Unlike adults, junior youth tend to see things more black and white.  

    While comtemplating the dilema I thought of the apparent inprecision of a fuzzy ball picture of the electron cloud surrounding a proton as the quantum mechanical picture model of the hydrongen atom being a more accurate protrait of the atom than the exact orbit of an electron around the nucleus.  The wave equation of the s-orbital is exact but the location of the electron at any moment is probabilistic.

    In stead of resorting to explaining away discrepancies due to translation or other 'alabis' I told the students that God is so great that He does not need inerrant accounts to affirm His Truth.  Eye witnesses account of an accident scence is a sufficient paradim to establish His Truth since He used fallible human agents to write down Spirit inspired Words of God in contrary to other religion or insecure Christians claiming inerrancy of  'scripture' in its original toungue. I did allure to the probabilistic model of the electron orbital. They were very receptive to the idea.  

    It seems profound but it is just that simple.


    • Ervin Taylor
      16 October 2011 @ 4:13 am

      Anyone who seeks to explain theological topics that the most learned minds of Christian history have had trouble explaining to other learned minds and do a reasonable explanation of these topics to a group of contemporary junior high and high school students in an Adventist Sabbath School should be lauded and given some type of award.  My hat is off to anyone trying to be intellectually honest while explaining traditional Adventist theology with a straight face before any teen age audience.  (Now I know that those heading up GYC do this, but there are serious questions about their actual success rate in convincing their audiences of the logic of their arguments.  They base their arguments on authority. But that is another topic)
      I would think that there are many who would appreciate the approach that says that God does not need an inerrant Scripture.  One might mention to these students (and adults who may not be aware of the fact) that the idea that the Bible is inerrant or infallible is not a Biblical concept at all but was an idea invented by apologists in post-Biblical times and mostly in the 19th century).  Instead of explaining away discrepancies, accept them as the natural result of human fallibility.
      I’m going to have to think a little more about the analogy between the concept of probabilistic model of an electron orbital and statements in scriptural narratives about certain events and concepts.  My gut reaction is that this analogy has real possibilities.  What do others think?        

  28. Elaine Nelson
    15 October 2011 @ 5:37 pm

    Whether inerrant or infallible, how does that relate to the common definition of the Bible as "The Word of God," something that cannot be found in scripture?  For those who confidently believe that every word is the "Word of God" it poses a dilemma, yet is so commonly used as to be considered a doctrine.

  29. David
    16 October 2011 @ 2:47 am

    Some in AT admitted openly their reservation to the Bible, to the level that is “another book”.  Well this is not the first time that heard that (the secular atheism systematically attacked the Bible for centuries) what surprised me is the ones in AT, at one point of their lives were or are SDA, that is SAD.
    Honestly I ask my self what happened?  It’s possible that they never experimented the saving power or the Bible?  “The word of God is alive and active. Sharper than any double-edged sword, it penetrates even to dividing soul and spirit, joints and marrow; it judges the thoughts and attitudes of the heart”.  My prays go for you that you can experiment the transforming power of the word of God.

  30. Joe Erwin
    17 October 2011 @ 4:10 pm

    I suspect that my personal experience with God was as direct, profound, and valid as that of anyone else. As I've mentioned before, I eventually could not honestly sustain that experience. Subjective experience, regardless of how profound it may seem, is not a reliable substitute for authentic evidence.

    For those whose subjective experience is sustaining, fine, far be it from me to discount your beliefs. But, for me, it just is unconvincing as a basis for accepting all that accompanies it. It somehow seems just immaginary.

  31. Elaine Nelson
    17 October 2011 @ 4:44 pm

    Subjective experience is just that:  it cannot be transferred or taught to someone else.

    The Mormons get a "burning in the bosom" which is their subjective experience; Pentecostals also experience a highly demonstrative expression of the Spirit of speaking in tongues.

    Many Protestants have such an experience with the Bible.  Catholics get it in their adoration of the Cross or the Virgin Mary.  Whatever floats your boat.

  32. Joe Erwin
    17 October 2011 @ 5:25 pm

    Yes, and some people have overwhelming emotional reactions to rock and roll….

  33. Joe Erwin
    17 October 2011 @ 7:01 pm

    But surely there must be something more reliable than the subjective experience. I am not a denier of subjective experience, I've had wonderful subjective experiences, whether attributable to something spiritual, visual beauty, ecstatic sex, the warmth of human kindness, or whatever. I think it has to be more than "whatever floats your boat." There is an element of self-deception and wishful thinking that creeps in if we rely too heavily on subjective experience. On the other hand, I can accept subjective experience as private and personal–and fascinating and unreliable, especially if asserted as EVIDENCE. The "I believe it because I feel like it is true" phenomenon.

  34. Elaine Nelson
    17 October 2011 @ 7:26 pm

    Joe, are we not in agreement that subjective experience is all that there is?  You have described them.  It is when such experiences are considered to be "taught" or the normative where most of the problems arise.  Can one "order" such an experience?

  35. Joe Erwin
    17 October 2011 @ 7:57 pm

    Elaine, of course, "experience" implies private awareness that is exclusive to the person having the experience. As with any other kind of knowledge, there are big gaps between the actual phenomenon and the interpretation that is made of it.

    Private knowledge differs from that which can be sensed by more than one person. Of course, one's interpretation of private experience can be reported, and the reports of private experience can be the data which are studied scientifically.

    More on this later….

  36. David
    18 October 2011 @ 4:44 pm

    Being trained with rigor in research and medicine I can go any night to my bed and smile knowing that my pioneer work is saving at least 400,000 lives of newborn per year around the world. Two other original innovations already are also showing great results.  So I know first hand what “evidence base is”.
    Been an adult and after tried almost every single think, I was privileged to experience (if you wanted to call subjective experience that is fine with me) the saving power of God. Nothing compares to that, the internal peace and serenity, the joy of sharing, and many other positive experiences. You are right the subjective experience is very personal is only between you and the Creator.  Is like pain or love no matter how well is described it will never be understood until is tried.  No wonder the blind man in John 9 stated "I Was Blind, But Now I See”

  37. Joe Erwin
    18 October 2011 @ 10:08 pm

    David, I'm pleased to know of your good work, and I am not in the least inclined to argue with your personal experience. It is possible that I would not understand or explain the experience in the same way as you do, but, it is also possible that I would–if I had the same experience.

    Could it be that my countless earnest hours of what I thought were sincere prayer, along with years of scriptural study, spritual surrender, deeply felt belief, were just not enough? I never really believed in predestination, but perhaps what I had to offer was just a Cain's offering–not what God wanted. Could it be that many are called, but only a few are chosen? Regardless of what they say or do or believe? Perhaps my belief and surrender were too naive, or maybe, not naive enough….

  38. David
    19 October 2011 @ 12:48 am

    Probably as you I tried almost all and I meet all kind of people (intelligent, brilliant, beautiful, millionaires, celebrities, presidents, poor, sick, comedians, etc) and I never wanted to change places with them.  The only time I desire that, it was when I meet with a person several years ago.  By the standards of this world she was not much, but she had a life full of joy, action and serenity.  She introduced me to the Bible and to the Lord. When I decide to pray and ask for forgives, an overwhelming joy and peace came to me. Is difficult to describe but that was best experience I had. I learned the essence of Christianity (summarized by Paul. Faith Hope and Love) is practical. Maybe for some people this is an illusion but for me is a reality. This reality is contagious, some of friends even my wife also experimented the same.   Don’t give up.

  39. Joe Erwin
    19 October 2011 @ 11:57 pm

    David and others, please do not be offended by what I am about to say. I do not intend to influence you to alter your faith experience in any way. If you are happy, good for you. Celebrate that, be joyful, and share love with everyone. Do, please, reject hatefulness and bigotry and live up to the teachings of your faith.

    The experiences I had 45-55 years ago included great joy and peace, along with agonizing and soul searching over how to maintain that within the context of the church and its restrictive teachings that seemed to me to be somewhat at odds with the good news of salvation. Fortunately, I gave up on what I came to believe was a deceptive illusion. Even while my faith experience was strongest, I found the threat of everlasting torment versus the reward of eternal paradise to be disingenuous. I felt that the Christian life itself was terrifically rewarding, and I did not see how rewards or punishments had any place in the order of things. I found the endless hand-ringing over minutiae that is so common among adventists very unseemly and trivial. I feel so fortunate to have escaped all this guilt and sin and trivia. Instead, I have lived a full and rich and mostly joyful life with very few regrets. I'm so glad I did not spend my life avoiding wine and cheese and milk and various delicious foods. I'm so glad I did not spend my life trying to figure out how to avoid understanding the abundant evidence that amplifies understanding of our origins and environments. 

    I guess I check in here from time to time to see if I missed anything. My impression is that I did not miss much. The same discussions are going on here as at PUC 50 years ago. The world is a wonderful place, with all its beauty and diversity. How sad to judge people who have different orientations or perspectives, rather than loving and valuing them for who they really are.

    Kendra, thank you for writing an important essay. Some in the church will agree with you. Others, especially those whose expressions of holiness are strongest, will claim you are being a tool of the devil. Don't let their hatefulness discourage you. Your message is far closer to the message of Christ that is that of the homophobes.

  40. Ervin Taylor
    20 October 2011 @ 2:23 am

    What Mr. Erwin has said is totally on target, especially the last paragraph.  We should all look forward to his continued enlightened comments.  I also hope that Kendra will continue to write these types of essays.  As long as we have holiness-orientaed individuals evoking God as their authority, there will be a need to provide a balance that points to a larger perspectrive.  

  41. David
    20 October 2011 @ 3:14 pm

    Joe because your post was referring also to me here is my reply.
    My faith is founded in a solid conviction. My acceptance of Jesus as the Christ somehow was done with extraordinary events comparable to the ones of the apostle Paul. Already passed several years and I don’t regret my new life of faith hope and love. I don’t have time to duel in restrictions because my focus is doing positive things. My life has been blessed in every single aspect and I was able to accomplish more that I could imagine. Still I have 25-30 years more of productive professional life and I plan to make count every single minute. I prefer to engage in positive projects trying to alleviate to the much suffering that exist in this planet full of diseases. I’m glad the days of thinking that we are product of random event are long gone. Also I don’t miss my past habits including the vine that once almost literally kill me with pancreatitis. Again joyful I can say, “I was blind but now I see” 

  42. Joe Erwin
    20 October 2011 @ 9:49 pm

    David, I am pleased for you, and am especially glad that you are committed to doing positive things, motivated by faith, hope, and love. You have already accomplished much, and over the next 30 or more years will surely do much more. The time will pass quickly. Take it from me, at age 70 I look back and wonder where the time has gone. Thanks to great collaborations and partnerships, much more has been accomplished than I could have dreamed possible. It seems quite wonderful to me that you and I can converse in a positive way, each with differing points of view, and that we can both be joyful and celebrate our lives, and each feeling that our own epiphany provided life changing insight. We share the experience of feeling that we once were blind, but now we see–that we have found new freedom in amplified knowledge. That we can simultaneously experience joy and tranquility with very different world views speaks well of the wonderful diversity of life experience. Live and be well.