by Erv Taylor
Can you imagine the following? The editor of the Adventist Review writes an editorial extolling the eternal truth of the Adventist Investigative Judgment doctrine. In the same Adventist Review issue, the Adventist Review publisher or chairman of the Review and Herald Publishing Association Board writes an article stating that the Investigative Judgment doctrine is clearly unbiblical and that the Adventist Church needs to declare publicly that it can no longer support this doctrine if it wishes to be able to claim that it follows the Sola Scriptura principle.
Or how about the president of the General Conference writing a piece which argues that the Adventist Church must support a literal interpretation of the Genesis account while in the same issue, the Adventist Review editor writes an editorial stating his opinion that such a understanding is both bad science and worse theology?
I’m sure that we would all agree that today such an occurrence would be totally impossible. Perhaps such a thing might happen in a hundred years time, but certainly not today.
However, at Adventist Today, such things have occurred and will continue to happen over and over again. This is how unique in Adventism, is the ethos that informs how Adventist Today operates.
As an example, the Adventist Today editor recently declared in his editorial that “the most important contribution Adventist Today can make is to help people find a relationship with Jesus . . .” I appreciate the theological perspective from which the AT editor is coming that would have him make such a statement. I will risk being misunderstood here, but may I respectfully disagree that this is not the most important contribution Adventist Today can make. There are many other venues where that contribution can be much better made, including the journal Ministry, which the current AT editor previously edited.
Let me make clear that, as AT editor, he has the absolute right to express his personal opinions on this and all other matters. At the same time, the recently retired Executive Publisher of Adventist Today has openly expressed in the pages of Adventist Today his strong opposition to the opinions of the editor on other topics. He will be submitting an article for publication in AT that opposes the position of the editor on this topic as well.
What’s going on here? Among other things, these kinds of exchanges can be viewed as modeling the kind of freedom of expression that should characterize all Adventist publications. It models the kind of academic freedom that professors at Adventist colleges and universities, including especially Adventist theologians and scientists, should, without question, enjoy.
Interestingly, these kinds of sharply divergent expressions of theological opinion were quite common in the early years of the Adventist Review. James White had no problem with including articles advocating highly divergent opinions in the journal he edited. On the other hand, his wife, Ellen White, who had become the charismatic visionary of “the little flock,” began to insist on theological unity. Ultimately, Ellen’s view won out, and open dialogue disappeared as the Adventist movement institutionalized and a grim and unyielding orthodoxy descended on the church dictated by a church leadership who created an oracle out of Ellen White’s writings. This regrettable situation lasted until the 1960s when strong, well-informed divergent voices began to be heard.
There is now an attempt to shut these voices down and impose a 1930s style orthodoxy on the Adventist Church. Adventist Today is positioned to oppose these attempts and, in its own internal operations, model the kind of ethos that could characterize a progressive 21st century Adventist Church committed to open and free dialogue at all levels.