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  1. Elaine Nelson
    29 October 2013 @ 11:30 pm

    As an admirer of Bloom with his towering genius and wit, he has nailed it!  It always takes someone like him looking in from the outside to so accurately describe Adventism.  Who can argue with his perception?

    • Tom
      01 November 2013 @ 5:11 pm

      Yes, Bloom pointed out a lot of problems, but a lot of his ideas are based on false premises or a total mis-understanding of Adventism. But hey, we have made it that way over the post 100+ years, and in the meantime we have become more and more like the established churches, as if that is good? Don't think so. None of the great thinkers of the Enlightenment had much use for the established religions, or their prodigy the American thinkers, like our founding fathers, or the likes of Emerson, Thoreau, etc.
      One other thing, I get tired of all of these so-called liberals who are just as intolerant as any reactionary conservative, talking down to those who don't think like them, whether it be about religion or evolution. I remember when in college [non SDA, I was a Protestant Sunday keeper then,] watching debates on evolution between various scientists, some of the pro-intelligent design ones having multiple degrees coming out of their ears, and basing their beliefs on science!

      • Elaine Nelson
        03 November 2013 @ 6:02 pm

        Does anyone "outside" Adventism meet the approval of Adventists no matter how insightful his views?
        People do not like having their religion criticized, especially when it so much a part of their lives, and Adventism is far more pervasive in its believers in their entire lifestyle, unlike most other religions.

        Criticism is taken as a personal affront, rather than an objective view of a belief system.  For many,
        being Adventist is who they are, and anything either for or against is seen as a personal attack.

        • Doctorf
          05 November 2013 @ 12:12 am

          From what I read Bloom depicts SDA beliefs quite well especially the Investigative Judgement (IJ) where Jesus apparantly keeps statistics on individuals in order to determine if they are worthy of salvation. My textbooks bear out this statstical metaphor in the IJ. On that particular chapter there was a picture of an angel with a quill pen taking dictation and standing behind Christ. That book was written in the 50's or 60's. I asked the pastor leading the course in "Bible Doctrines" if the angel had moved up to the "IBM Selectric" typewriter? Bloom has it right with our belief system and our adherence to this nonsense that E White provides some type of "other light" as a companion to the bible. Yes, he does utilize some clever humor and we should not be offended. SDA's need to own what they believe and that includes that others may see our adherence to the ideas that SDA's are the remant, literal creation, world wide oblivion by flood and investigative judgment as odd and risible. 

          • Ella M
            07 November 2013 @ 7:24 am

               You are showing your age!  The 50s and 60s were dark times in the church. Most churches were in the same ultraconservative rut and cared little about social issues, let alone biblical understanding of salvation by Christ and His righteousness.  I took theology from some of the top scholars in the 70s and never heard anything like you describe. 
                 You are quite behind in your viewpoint  I think Alden Thompson has it right.  It is very difficult to judge a group, movement, or religion from outside as one fails to see its progress over time (or lack of it during some "medieval" periods).  Our nation in the 50s was an example of this as well. These were not "the good old days."

          • Elaine Nelson
            07 November 2013 @ 7:46 pm


            If "age" is such an important criteria for determining SDA doctrine, what is the solution when it has changed, but the church has never been honest in informing those who DID learn it just as doctorf wrote.  I learned it in the late '30s and '40s and if there were changes made (Des Ford tried), the church stood firm on its original concept of the IJ, 1844 began the cleansing of the sanctuary, etc.  

            When and what did you learn?  If very different, then it should be admitted that the church suffers from cognitive dissonance: saying different things about doctrines at different times.

            Who should  an objective writer read and question if he wants to write about Adventism?  Who is the authority on doctrine?  If there are several versions of SDA doctrines, surely that is not Bloom's fault, but the church  for being inconsistent.  This shows that the SDA church is like  the RCC:  they never recant on doctrine, merely like old soldiers, let it "fade away."

      • Elaine Nelson
        05 November 2013 @ 7:07 pm

        Is there any non SDA writer who has written an objective book on Adventists that has been well received by Adventistin general.  Mormons, who similarities in place and time of origin and is also a unique American religion, likely has not praised any of the books about that religion by non-Mormons.

        But how can the most astute researcher ever really know Adventism as it is defined and practiced very differently in various parts of the world.  As a few have mentioned here, the SS lessons, and perspecptions of their church is far different than that found in many other areas of the world.  So, the real question is:  "Who are Adventists and what do they believe"?

    • Ella M
      02 November 2013 @ 6:08 am

            I cannot see how he has "accurately" described Adventism.  He has described a characture of it as he understands it and compares it with his own subjective ideas about religion and from the viewpoint of mainstream Prostantism.  There are some things I cannot relate to from "inside."  But can understand that an observor might come up with these ideas. An observor cannot be accurate.  And there are so many different views within the church, it's difficult to stereotype them.  I doubt if he talked to many progressive and educated Adventists to come to his conclusions.

  2. Anonymous
    30 October 2013 @ 4:44 am

    Personally, I have never met anyone who was not born into the Adventist Church who has a good education that includes an understanding of the history of Christianity in general and of American religious history specifically to have any interest in Adventism as a reasonable brand of Christianity. Perhaps others may have and their reports would be interesting.

    Our convert class, i.e., those not born into the Adventist Church, typically comes from the other end of the socio-economic and educational spectrum. (There are always individual exceptions to this generalization under special circumstances such as being associated with a particular social or ethnic community network.). Historically, if their children and grandchildren move up the educational and socio-economic ladder, there is a tendency for the attachment of the succeeding generations to Adventism to become largely cultural if they remain members, which in increasing numbers is not happening, unless there is some economic or social incentive to do so.

    Adventism, Mormonism, Jehovah’s Witnesses, and Pentecostalism are America’s contribution to the complex mix of modern fundamentalist and populist religious groups that arose in the late 19th and early 20th centuries who continue to grow by appealing to the culturally or economically marginalized and those who are interested in a sensationalist, apocalyptic world view. 

    (The fifth historic made-in-America religious body, Christian Science, appears to be in numerical decline in the United States with a rapidly aging membership which is similar to the situation among Anglo Adventists in North America.)  

    • Bugs-Larry Boshell
      30 October 2013 @ 1:55 pm

      People with analytical, critical intellectual skills tend to bail from the de-orbiting craft of Adventism. Not only is the theology intellectually untenable, but concentration on strict Sabbath keeping offers only two choices for talented, upper mobile people. Either work for the denomination (as teacher, doctor, or minister), or move on.
      The result is a paucity of SDA members in leading roles in government, industry, politics, business, engineering, military, corporations, etc. The church is wounded by this brain drain on two levels. They aren't there any more for input into the SDA system and they don't provide identification of the church to the world they move to, resulting in the image of the church never moving beyond the cult perception.
      Yes, there are exceptions to my observation, but minimal.

      • Jim Hamstra
        30 October 2013 @ 2:54 pm


        Imagine my dismay to discover that I lack "analytical, critical intellectual skills" because I have chosen not to "bail" from the Mother Ship!  Imagine my further dismay to discover the demise of my career in engineering and management, because I have failed to join the "brain drain" from my wounded church!  And imagine how much happier and more successful I could have been had I not chosen to worship on Sabbath and return my tithe!

        How can I ever convey this dismal news to the many fellow SDA engineers (and their mathematical wives) in our local community?  Do not follow in my footsteps else you are doomed to personal and professional failure!  Prepare to abandon our curiously exceptional "island" or drown in the flood that will soon overwhelm us!

        If the SDA church spent as much money on its engineering schools as it does on its medical schools might we have a far greater impact in my chosen field of endavor?  Is it merely coincidence that there are more SDA engineers in the Northwest where we have a SDA engineering school?

        For several years I was commuting once or twice every month between Oregon and India.  I had a church family here and another one there.  I visited the local SDA college and hospital and academy and orphanage in my "second home" city in India.  The hospital (whose cornerstone was laid by a previous GC President) was still fairly modern and doing quite well.  While the academy was also doing well, the college was sadly deteriorated and probably beyond rescue.  While the high-tech economy of that city was booming, but I only met one SDA who worked in high tech.  The church in India has a history of discouraging its best and brightest from pursuing "secular" professions.  They have suffered the very "brain drain" you describe because they have not invested in technically proficient education.

        • Bugs-Larry Boshell
          30 October 2013 @ 6:00 pm

          Calm down Jim, temper your dismay! You are not disrespected by my post since I qualified it by the word "tend to bail." And, of course, you clearly are not short on analytical, critical intellectual skills, not withstanding your continued ride on the "mother ship!" I consider you a "minimal exception" (numbers, not intellect) along with your associates. My point stands unsullied, and you surely know it. Most top jobs require Saturday employment. The Adventist health system has grown mostly from the inside because it is the one place where Sabbath breaking is legal.
          Engineering schools tend to create employees whose jobs require Saturday employment, maybe one of the reasons the Adventist educational system has chosen to marginalize education in that direction. I'm guessing here, but another might be that scientific minds in face of current knowledge are critical of aspects of Adventist theology and church leaders prefer not to train people to go there. And another guess, even you, have had to "break" the Sabbath in your work on occasion.
          My critique address a far larger demographic than engineering. (Note: I was accepted into Walla Walla in quest of a degree in electrical engineering when I graduated from academy, got detoured into the ministry).

          • Jim Hamstra
            30 October 2013 @ 11:31 pm

            As I have previously stated on another Atoday page, I have been fired twice and reassigned once for not working on Friday evening.

            I could tell you many interesting stories about Sabbath keeping under various circumstances in various parts of the world.  I could tell you stories about other engineers who refused to trample on God's time and nevertheless "made it".  We each have to decide where and how to establish our personal boundaries.  I have found the Bible to be very helpful in this regard.

            I am not bragging about myself here – I am certainly a sinful person.  But I can tell you amazing stories about how God has blessed me and other Christians (even SDAs) that I know in the "cold cruel world" beyond the pale of SDA or other Christian institutions.

            Of course if you doubt that God cares enough to intervene in such mundane matters then these stories would only be modern myths and legends.

          • Jim Hamstra
            30 October 2013 @ 11:35 pm

            Maybe if you had stuck with EE you would not have found it necessary to bail from the Mother Ship?

            Walla Walla (not my alma mater) has a pretty good track record of placing its engineering grads.  One of the secrets to successful placements from any professional school is a network of internships and referrals and in engineering Walla Wall does fairly well.

        • Elaine Nelson
          03 November 2013 @ 6:10 pm


          You are demonstrating what has been previously mentioned:  A general statement about the intellectual state of SDA converts you have taken as a direct personal affront because you do not fit that general description.  Bugs was referring to "new converts."  Are you a new convert or were you born into Adventism.  Most who were born into Adventism  were taught that education was a goal to be pursued and Adventists are generally better educated through formal education in their own schools as public education is discouraged.  

          If the shoe doesn't fit, no need to try to force it on your foot!

          • Jim Hamstra
            03 November 2013 @ 9:02 pm


            Believe me – if I took any of this personally I would not waste my time here 8-).

            I seriously doubt that Bugs-Larry takes any of this personally either 8-).

            FYI – around the house I go barefoot.  When I leave the house I prefer sandals.  My shoes last for many years because I mostly save them for church, weddings and funerals.  Meanwhile like the Master I wear-out my sandals walking.

    • Anonymous
      30 October 2013 @ 3:42 pm

      I'm puzzled Erv…

      You usually seem so resistant to anyone defining you as "not Adventist." But here you are, using the literally vacuous argument, "I have never met anyone who…[sees] Adventism as a reasonable brand of Christianity" to presumably suggest that Adventism isn't even Christian, much less Protestant. You remind me of Pauline Kael, film critic for The New Yorker, who famously was quoted as having commented, after the 1972 landslide victory of Richard Nixon over George McGovern, "I can't believe Nixon won; I don't know anyone who voted for him." 

      Wow! Erv doesn't know any "qualified," "informed," "objective," observer who don't think just like he does on this topic. What a shocker! But rather than offer my benighted analysis of the narrow circles in which you must move, Erv, and the intellectual inbreeding that takes place within the cloistered temples of philosophical materialism where you worship, I have to ask a question: Why is it fine for you to assert, from lack of knowledge to the contrary, that Adventism is not a reasonable brand of Christianity, but it is offensive for conservatives on this website to assert that you are not an Adventist in any meaningful sense? Surely Adventism can lay a much more valid claim to being part of the Christian family than you can to being a Christian or an SDA. No? 

      I find it remarkable that liberals on the AToday blogs can so glibly and arrogantly flaunt slogans, labels and definitions that advance their ideological agendas and demonize their opponents. But whenever their opponents try to label or define them as not believing in or practicing a reasonable form of Adventism or Christianity, suddenly the labelers are being narrow-minded and intolerant. What gives?  

      • Anonymous
        30 October 2013 @ 4:51 pm

        As I kind of expected, my good friend Nate seems to have not read what I wrote, but what he thinks I should have written given my status to me as a "liberal." and since all of "our kind" utter "slogans, labels and definition in advance of thier ideological agendas," he reads what is not on the page but his projections of what he expected.

        I simply said, "I have never met anyone who . . ."  I did not suggest they did not exist, just that in my 50 years + of interest in this topic, I have never met one.  Has Nate?  I did not say that Adventism is not a reasonable brand of Christianity, but that the educated individuals with the background I noted, who were not born into the church, appear to view Adventism in that light.  Does Nate disagree?

        • Anonymous
          30 October 2013 @ 6:08 pm

          Yes, Erv, and I expected you to parse your comment and my words so that you would not need to answer my question. Pray tell, what is the relevance of your observation, if not to suggest that Adventism is not a reasonable branch of Christianity? Is it naive of me to think that, when you cite your lack of knowledge to the contrary as a critique of Adventism, you are inviting an inference that the critique is in fact valid? 

          I don't think I have ever met anyone, Erv, who is so quick to deny responsibility for what they said, or to parse its meaning, as you. Since you raised the issue of whether Adventism is a reasonable brand of Christianity, let me ask directly: Do you, or do you not, think that Adventism is a "reasonable brand of Christianity"? Let me challenge you with a prediction that I would love to have falsified. You will not directly answer that question.

          Suince I don't know how many people you have met, with the background you describe, who have opined to you that Adventism is not a reasonable brand of Christianity, and since I have never discussed that issue with anyone in my life, I have no basis to disagree with you. But I can tell you unequivocally that I know of no one with the background you describe – and I have met a few – who believe that Adventism is not a reasonable brand of Christianity. And I personally think it is an absurd contention, plausible only to those who are preconditioned with negative beliefs about both Christianity and Adventism.

          I have met many – and understand their thinking – who believe that Adventism is a cult. Whatever Adventism is, I don't think 21st Century Adventism can be easily reduced to one monolithic entity, culturally or theologically.

      • Jim Hamstra
        30 October 2013 @ 5:06 pm


        Well after the last presidential election, Republicans might well sing that same lament.  They could not believe that Obama won either 8-). 

        Seriously, in politics as in many other endeavors that involve various forms of persuasion, pundits who only listen to those who share their views are in their own way asking for major shocks.  The world around us changes.  Pudits who cannot accept change become curmudgeons.

      • Tom
        01 November 2013 @ 5:00 pm

        Well said Nathan, I come from a family of old time California liberals, or as my Mom used to say, "real Californian Bohemians". LOL
        But at the same time, like so many of us [7 generations of native Californios, and truth seekers who dabbled in may religious beliefs, starting off in New England as Unitarians,] and like my Great, Great Grandma, I found Adventism and it is a lot more reasonable then the Calvinism I embraced for a time [much to my family's horror] or other I'm saved Protestantism. Face it, the real cults are any religions that have central authority or leaders that can't be questioned, who use mind bending methods in school or worship to by pass the rational mind. In that case most churches, especially Catholicism, are cults, including our own church.

        • Jim Hamstra
          03 November 2013 @ 9:08 pm

          I am half Calvinist (through my mother's family) and half Arminian (fourth-generation SDA through my father's family).  I try to take the best from both of these great Christian thinkers, who actually agreed on far more than they differed.  Personally I have never met a Calvinist who thought (s)he was predestined to be lost.  If you thought you were predestined to be lost, why you want to be a Calvinist?

          • Elaine Nelson
            04 November 2013 @ 1:24 am

            "Why would anyone want to be a Calvinist"?  

            Maybe they don't choose, but are born into it like many Adventists,


    • Elaine Nelson
      30 October 2013 @ 5:05 pm

      Students who limit their entire education to Adventist schools are being short-changed.  I learned absolutely nothing about Christian history and too much about Adventist history (if 200 years can be called history).  Beginning with a degree from  Jesuit university and graduate degree in a "worldly" college I studied as much of Christian history possible for a Master's in Liberal Arts, writing a thesis on early Christian history, emphasis on Constantine's contribution to both Christianity and Western Civilization.

      Only those who have studied in non-SDA universities develop a well-rounded education and in reading regularly two blogs: AToday and Spectrum, it has become very evident that the aveage SDA college graduate is woefully deficient in the history of Christianity.  That also is seen too often even in seminary graduates.  

      • Anonymous
        30 October 2013 @ 10:00 pm

        I'm curious to know, Elaine, where you got the idea that folks who are educated in Adventist schools limit their entire education to Adventist schools. Anyone who limits their entire education to one source is short-changing themselves. I am also astounded that you seem to think that formal education is the primary source of learning in life, or the terminus of learning. What one does seem to learn very well in higher education is the bad habit of elitist condescension.

        Tell me, Elaine. Just how many SDA college graduates have you discussed the history of Christianity with on AT and Spectrum blogs? And what do you know about their general knowledge of Christian history? What does that tell you about the knowledge of the average SDA college graduate when it comes to Christian history? I submit that it tells you absolutely nothing, because you interact with only a tiny fraction of SDA college graduates on these websites.

        Do you have any idea what average college graduates know about Christian history who have gone to non-SDA universities? Do you know what fare is offered to graduate students at Andrews and La Sierra when it comes to the history of Christianity? Have you read The Genesis of Science: How the Christian Middle Ages Shaped the Scientific Revolution? If not, I daresay I know much about the history of Christianity that you do not. And I didn't need formal education to gain that knowledge. But the fact that you only know differently – not more or better – and that you really don't know what SDA higher education offers, or what the average SDA college graduate knows relative to others, is not going to stop you from knowing and bloviating, is it? BTW, what reference point, external to yourself, do you use for deciding whether someone has adequate knowledge of the history of Christianity? 

        Can't you see how you embarrass yourself by making self-referential, boastful, dogmatic assertions that you have nothing other than anecdotal personal experience to support? You have learned the SDA language of blessed dogmatic assurance well. Surely you must daily offer the contemporary version of the Pharisee's prayer: "I thank thee, godess of reason, that I am not as those poor benighted Adventists."

        • Elaine Nelson
          30 October 2013 @ 11:07 pm

          Nathan,  most of us have recognized that  you are not a careful reader.

          I plainly wrote: "students who LIMIT their entire education to SDA schools."  And your comment ignores my statement.  


          Yes, many SDA graduates further their education in public or private non-SDA universities.  Something you have not addressed.  I also agree that one's education is not, nor should be limited to formal education but a life-long process.  You continue to presume what I DID NOT WRITE in your effort to contradict your assumptions; assumptions that I did not make.

          All the rest of your diatribe is not worth any additional remarks.  I should have learned by now, as have others, that it is a losing task to engage you in conversation as you always distort what others have written.

          • Anonymous
            31 October 2013 @ 1:37 am

            Speak for yourself, Elaine. The generalized invocation of the authority of anonymous "others" who see things as you do is a particularly low and desperate form of argument.

            My intent was to address the issue, as you articulated it – the adequacy of the education college students receive when their entire formal education is limited to only Adventist schools. I assumed, and my questions assumed, despite the fact that I left out the word "only, " that you meant ONLY. I also suggested that students who go clear through SDA college, and get graduate degrees in religion and theology at Andrews and La Sierra may well get a fine education in Christian church history. Do you have any evidence to the contrary? Please point out which of my questions were predicated on an assumption of what you did not say. Your purpose was to denigrate an education that is limited to Adventist schools K-16. I took it that way, and my response, as well as my questions, addressed that very directly. The issue you raised, which you are now trying to dodge with meaningless accusations, is how adequate a job SDA schools do of providing a well-rounded, complete liberal arts education, particularly when it comes to an undergraduate understanding of Christian church history.

            Most of what you call a "diatribe" consisted of asking questions, particularly in my second and third paragraphs, none of which you answered. I guess calling questions a diatribe means you need not answer them. To the extent that I distorted your position, it was not by intent. Now that I am representing your position correctly, my questions still remain. Do you have any anwers?

      • Bugs-Larry Boshell
        31 October 2013 @ 1:37 am

        To some degree my experience harmonizes with your statement. I earned my Master of Divinity degree at a Methodist seminary and quickly became aware that Christians I encountered there had a very different religous understanding than mine. Foregoing a detailed explanation, religion seemed to be a source of comfort and hope for them. The difference wasn't so much about knowledge, but experience.

        • Ella M
          02 November 2013 @ 6:24 am

              That's interesting and subjective, because my peers seem to find comfort and hope in their faith. That may not hold true for some religious hobbiest, but have always found this a religion of hope.

    • Jim Hamstra
      30 October 2013 @ 7:28 pm

      Personally, I expect to meet in heaven people from every nation, kindred, tribe and tongue.  It will be very interesting to do a study of their life stories, education, accomplishments, religious affilitations, etc.  Generalizing here on earth about who is or is not a follower of God and the Lamb is a very risky business.

      There are places in the world where those from the SDA churches and schools are the best educated, the leaders in government in commerce.  There are other places in the world where it is quite the opposite.  We do not always find what we look for but we seldom find what we do not look for.

      If one wishes to do graduate study in early Church history, a Catholic university is probably a good choice because they have most of the records.  To generalize from that particular discipline that SDA schools are sytemically deficient is a bit of a stretch.

    • Ella M
      02 November 2013 @ 6:20 am

           If SDA education is so bad, why are we getting this recent publicity about it.  How come it consistently gets such good evaluation and PR?   It is certainly teaching better values.
          Nathan may get feisty, but he does corner the critics and points out their weaknesses and stereotyping.

  3. Jim Hamstra
    30 October 2013 @ 3:07 pm


    Were you the bright young man I met at Co-Op City in the early 1970s?  If so you had one proud sister and some very interesting parents 8-).

  4. abelisle
    30 October 2013 @ 8:28 pm

    Yes Jim. I'm the one. Refresh my memory. Under what conditions did we meet? 

    • Jim Hamstra
      30 October 2013 @ 11:14 pm

      Your sister was a friend of mine from college.  Once when I was in New York on business she introduced us at your home.  As I recall you were in high school at the time?  She thought we might be kindred spirits in many respects.  The SDA world is indeed an interesting place!

      • abelisle
        30 October 2013 @ 11:30 pm

        Strange – since I am the older sibling? As for the SDA church being a microcosm of heaven on earth, I think heaven will be a very closeminded place then.

        • Jim Hamstra
          31 October 2013 @ 4:42 am

          Did you have a younger brother or were you (like me) acting younger than your age?

          See elsewhere for my comments re microcosm.

        • Jim Hamstra
          31 October 2013 @ 4:45 am

          Those who find the SDA church boring or close-minded have not touched as many parts of the elephant as I have.  There are no shortage of boring and close-minded SDAs but there are also no shortage of the others all over the world.

    • Jim Hamstra
      30 October 2013 @ 11:19 pm

      Taking my different comments on this page together, to me the SDA church seems like a microcosm of heaven on earth.  I have accumulated an amazingly eclectic collection of friends and acquaintances from all over the world.

      Try explaining this to Harold Bloom.

      • Bugs-Larry Boshell
        31 October 2013 @ 1:11 am

        Darn. There I went, hightailed it out of the microcosm of heaven on earth many years ago, and now I can never go back! Then I read your second sentence and realized it is a social, eclectic paradise. Well, that changes everything. That's an aspect missed by Bloom who does not ignore the quirky (I'm being nice here) nature of Adventist history and theology, which is the main thrust of his discussion, and the reason for my departure on track 666 many moons ago.
        Are you sure, Jim, that friendship really trumps doctrine? Not a fair analogy, I know, but Himmler of Hitler repute could say the same thing for a rationale.
        If that really is your reason for staying with the "mother ship," that is fine with me. However, Bloom does pretty much identify the effluvia you are wading through, so holding ones nose must be an important aspect of friendship.
        I think I am question your motive here, probably not fair and may not deserve a reply!

        • earl calahan
          31 October 2013 @ 1:54 am

          Larry. methinks that Himmler & his ilk forfieted heaven for a then " bowl of porridge". Doubt he would wish to face those millions he consigned to the ovens. If one wishes for a fair representation of the scales of justice for every ungodly deed, they will be looking forward to "vengence is mine", sayeth the Lord. Poison or the noose is not sufficient for the unthinkable crimes of human torture and suffering.

          • Bugs-Larry Boshell
            31 October 2013 @ 1:02 pm

            Yeah, it was a bad choice of analogies. Those names should never be brought up for any reason.

        • Jim Hamstra
          31 October 2013 @ 4:25 am


          I am sure that friendship with Jesus trumps doctrine.  Any doctrine that does not teach you more about Jesus is worthless.

          I am also sure that many of my non-SDA friends from all over th world will be in heaven.  When we all get there we will understand more clealy why and how we arrived.  We will get to know Jesus as he really is – not just His dim reflections in our earthly mirrors.

          By my observations and comparisons the effluvia as you call it gets worse and worse the farther you get from the Mother Ship.  I think some people have been gone so long that maybe they have lost their sense of smell?

          PS – Still I would gladly welcome you back.  I have already invited you back twice, why are you waiting?

          • Bugs-Larry Boshell
            31 October 2013 @ 1:37 pm

            Thanks for the invitation twice offered. I think my seat on the mother ship has been sold to someone else! I have no anguish regarding my church history. In the first place, I just am not a "joiner." I have attended other churches, including the bad, bad, evil, papacy church with my wife–a trip honoring her, not the quirky (extending the same niceness as before) theology therein, but haven't come close to enrolling in any ecclesia . In the second place belief as a Christian without the barnacles of doctrine fits me perfectly. I would comfortably guest-attend your class and I would be polite, without violating any of my canons. But I think I would enjoy more just sitting down with you and having a great conversation.
            I do still have affection for the passengers on my early ride on the Ellen Ship. My experience with them is similar to my experience with my ex-wife, who enters my orbit at family events, whew, it is positively renewed, the reason, we are not together any more. Just not much in common.

          • Jim Hamstra
            01 November 2013 @ 8:14 pm

            Are you sure you were ever on the Mother Ship as opposed to one of those spin-offs – an eccentric orbiting coccoon?

  5. earl calahan
    31 October 2013 @ 12:58 am

    Jim, interesting your comment about SDA church being a microcosm of heaven on earth. With your world travels, meeting many people who are not SDA, do you really believe that? Like Alex, i believe the SDA envioronment to be very reclusive and stilted in it's area of influence, and belief it is the remnant church of Christ on earth, is almost Catholic in its acquired ownership of the 144,000, also the added non biblical FB's, and general closed society as it doesn't relate to other Protestants, but is outside and proud to be peculiar. Having said that, i admit the 20 year social season as an SDA was the most enjoyable period of my life. Also where is "heaven"? At resurrection, we meet Jesus in the air of planet Earth, but Jesus reigns here for a thousand years. When will we depart for heaven? Is it at the end of the earth domicile of Jesus? Jesus said He would never leave us. I assume He means through out eternity we will have access to Him, agreed? Do you think we will give thought and discuss the good ol' days on earth??  

    • Jim Hamstra
      31 October 2013 @ 4:36 am


      I certainly do not limit heaven to SDAs or even Christians.  I have many fine Muslim and Hindu friends that I hope to see again on the other side.  Not to mention JW and LDS and RC and Jews.  The Agnostics will probably have to wait and see.  Maybe when they hear the sound of the trumpet they will be wondering if they heard correctly and wait to see if there are any other trumpets that sound different?

      By microcosm I mean exactly that (with emphasis on the micro) – SDA church is very representative of the macrocosm of nations, kindreds, tongues and peoples I expect to see on the Sea of Glass.  But certainly not the entirety.  Revelation speaks of a multitude no man (not even the Office of Archives and Statistics) can number.  Surely that must be larger than our 18 million baptized members or 30 million "adherents"?

      In the 1840s when the church numbered a few thousand, 144,000 seemed like a large number.  Nowadays I would be disappointed with less than a billion, hopefully many more.

    • Jim Hamstra
      31 October 2013 @ 11:31 am


      Where is heaven? 

      Heaven is wherever Jesus is.  If Jesus is in your heart then you have heaven in your heart.  If He is not then you will have to wait for an answer until He returns to earth.

    • Jim Hamstra
      31 October 2013 @ 12:25 pm

      The microcosm of heaven on earth that I refer would include all who here on earth have Jesus in their hearts.  Many SDAs have already entered as well as many others.

      In the age to come I expect to see many people (billions?) who do not here and now have Jesus in their hearts.  Most people here on earth do not even know who He is so how can He be in their hearts?  They may be praying to Allah, to one or more of thousands of Hindu deities, to departed ancestors or saints, or to Whomever it may concern.  But when they see Him they will know Him because they desire to know Him – and He already knows them!

      Here we discover the sole legitimate purpose for evangelism.  Evangelism does not "save" people.  It invites them to partake of the blessings of the Kingdom here and now, in their hearts, rather than having to wait for the age to come.  Baptism does not "save" people.  It affirms that their sins have already been washed away in the death of Christ, and that they are now consecrated to serve Christ (their new master) rather than their old master of of Sin.  Obedience does not "save" people, but true obedience shows that God is working in them both to choose and to do His will (Philippians 2:12-13).

      How unfortunate that so many who have heard of Him are unwilling to know Him.  To these He will say with deepest regret, "I never knew you. Away from me, you evildoers"  (Matthew 7:23, Luke 13:27).  Jesus makes it clear that some who take His name here do not truly wish to know Him.  What a tragedy!  "Hell will be full of forgiven sinners" (A. Wallenkampf).  The second death occurs when God no longer knows them.

  6. Jim Hamstra
    31 October 2013 @ 4:40 am

    Lest you bystanders wonder what a SDA micrcosm has to do with thread, perhaps Alexander Belisle would like to comment on the microcosm of his own family 8-).

  7. Frank Allen
    31 October 2013 @ 11:01 am

    Irreconcilable differences within SDA’s: Creation-evolution positions; men-women ordination; Bible as case book-infallible; Code Sabbath keeping-culture accommodating; EGW nearly infallible-EGW just a historical inspiring leader. Can we live with our differences?    

  8. abelisle
    31 October 2013 @ 12:43 pm

    My microcosm of a family = Father – Belize, Mother – Latvia = a natural tan year round and the ablity to straddle both worlds of color and non-color alike.  LOL  But I see an SDA church that is devoid of indigenous "whites" all over the globe, especailly in North America and Europe. I see a church of color minus the white people.

  9. Elaine Nelson
    31 October 2013 @ 3:21 pm

    Babies want to stay in the warm womb and fear the outside world.  This is what many Adventists prefer:  a small, close family, isolated from the evil world outside, safe and secure in knowing they have the truth and have the ticket to heaven.  No need to get out with all the devilish enticements.  


    Then, OTOH, there are those who want to experience life in its fullest.  Enjoy it and the many peoples with new and different ideas that will engage the mind.  That's the difference between those who want to be safe and secure and those who are willing to risk and live.  Those inside never know what they might have missed.

    • Bugs-Larry Boshell
      31 October 2013 @ 4:55 pm

      Right on. I never enjoyed the artificial climate of the Adventist cocoon. And I wanted my preteen son and early teen daughter to cope and live in the real world. They are successful, one an airline pilot, the daughter in graduate school after raising two kids.
      As mentioned earlier by me, as a chaplain, a middle aged dying man lamented, with visible regret, he hadn't lived fully because he avoided taking chances. I determined that not to be me, I strapped a parachute  to my shoulders, jumped out of the Ellen Space Ship into the unknown taking my family with me and have had a wonderful life, never possible had I stayed on the safe, cloistered path I was on.

    • Jim Hamstra
      31 October 2013 @ 10:12 pm

      Some say that heaven will have special compartments for different groups of people who want to think they are the only ones there.  For my part I intend to roam all over the place.  Don't fence me in!

    • David
      02 November 2013 @ 1:49 am

      There are all kinds of experiences.  Some of us we were educated in the finest universities, giving us the background to be pioneers in our fields, making significant contributions to the advance of sciences.  We have been exposed to a wide spectrum of knowledge. We reached a confortable level of living and enjoyed the admiration of our pears. But still we felt that this life has something more to offer.  Our lives became more meaningful when we accepted Jesus as our Lord.  We are eternally grateful to that good SDA person that shared with us the joyful live found in Jesus.  Some of us we will easily identify with the song that says, “you can have all this world give Jesus”.  

      • Jim Hamstra
        03 November 2013 @ 10:47 am

        I love that song!

  10. Anonymous
    31 October 2013 @ 5:40 pm

    I am gratified by the complement that my good friend Nate confers in that he suggests I am one who is “quick to deny responsibility for what they said, or to parse its meaning, as you.” As I have been told that this is one of the defining characteristics of a successful member of the profession of which Nate is a distinguished member, I can only thank Nate for being so gracious in granting me one of his characteristics.
    On the other side, Nate continues to exercise his extrasensory ability to read the minds and motivations of others and know with certainty the “real” reason why they express certain views.
    But dealing with the question Nate poses and being so happy to falsify his prediction, let me respond to the query: “Do you, or do you not, think that Adventism is a "reasonable brand of Christianity"?” (Now Nate bolds his question, which I thought would be the same as putting it in caps, which I understand is not to be done on the AT web site, but I digress.)
    To be as plain as one can be (which, of course, violates the spirit of Nate’s complement), of course, I believe that Adventism is a reasonable brand of Christianity. It is one modern expression of a one of the important threads that permeates the New Testament, namely apocalyptic Christianity, the view that “the end of the world” is very close. Thus if by “reasonable”, one means (oh, oh, here I go parsing things again), is it reasonable from a historical perspective, then the answer is, of course, in the positive.  Now there are other meanings of “reasonable” but I’m sure that Nate would not want anyone to go there and so I will not.    

    • Anonymous
      31 October 2013 @ 9:47 pm

      Thank you very much for falsifying my prediction. Now my only question is why you bothered to cite, seemingly as authority, anonymous individuals, who have presumably discussed the subject with you, that do not see Adventism as a reasonable brand of Christianity. If you don't identify your sources, and you don't agree with them anyway, what's the point? If I said that I have never met a tithe-paying, regular church-attending Adventist who considers Erv Taylor to be an Adventist in any reasonable sense, Wouldn't you reasonably conclude that I am inferentially questioning whether Erv Taylor is really an Adventist? And if I then denied having suggested, by that allusion to anonymous sources, that you are not an Adventist in any reasonable sense of that term, wouldn't it kind of leave your head spinning?

      So while I do not purport to read minds, I do try to bring a degree of common sense to my reading of comments, and I assume that words and observations are intended to have some commonly understood meaning and significance (Sorry if that appears unlawerly of me). While I don't always adhere to my principles, I do believe that the purpose of words is to elucidate and clarify, not to obfuscate and give cover for plausible deniability. I appreciate your clarification that you disagree with the anonymous "authorities" you cited. Now I'm just puzzled as to why you referenced them at all.

    • Jim Hamstra
      01 November 2013 @ 12:21 am

      Ervin and Nathan,

      I fail to detect when, where or even whether you gentlemen compliment each other, but you do seem to complement each other very completely.

      Since I have no clue what is/were either of your professions, could you forgive me if I have trouble distinguishing between your compliments and your complements (or they both simultaneously)?

  11. abelisle
    01 November 2013 @ 12:08 am

    . . . and I'm curious as to why this personal, erudite and somewhat esoteric conversation is occuring in the comments section of my OP? Inspired by Bloom's genius – clearly not by my rhetoric? 😉

    • Jim Hamstra
      01 November 2013 @ 12:12 am


      They can't help it 8-).

  12. Anonymous
    01 November 2013 @ 1:05 am

    Point taken, Jim and abelisle.

    I question the assertion in this review that the SDA church would cease to exist in America were it not for ethnic minorities. I think it is probably safe to say that it would be on a similar trajectory to mainstream Protestant churches in America – i.e., a slow death spiral. But certainly its institutional network in the U.S. provides an enduring economic and subcultural foundation, despite the absence of the kind of commitment that will be necessary to sustain the identity of those institutions over the long run.

    I agree with most of the critique of Adventism as a cult. But in the NAD, Remnancy, the IJ, and the canonical authority of Ellen White are not central features for most large Adventist population centers. The fact that the church was born and nurtured in some bad theology has not altogether defined its nature and destiny for the 21st Century, a reality that Bloom seems to ignore.

    The church certainly cannot expect to thrive by copying mainstream Protestantism. Nor would those who like Bloom's analysis recommend that the church turn to evangelical Protestantism as a model. My brand of Adventism, and the brand believed in and practiced by most church going Adventists that I know, is very Protestant, because we don't accept Ellen White as an extra-Biblical source of authority, especially on issues like the Remnant and the IJ.

    I believe that the primary theological stumbling block for Adventism (one which I cherish) is deeply Biblical – the sanctity of the seventh day Sabbath. In a Sunday-keeping Christian world, this is very odd and inconvenient. I do not think it makes Adventism a cult. But it does limit the otherwise very attractive package of a Christ-centered, healthful lifestyle, service-oriented faith to being a boutique religion that doesn't fit well in the life structures that most North American Christians have built for themselves.


    • Jim Hamstra
      01 November 2013 @ 8:27 pm

      For myself I try to take my doctrines from the Bible.  But I must say that twice in my life an EGW book has had a profoundly positive influence.

      First (and I have previousloy described this on another page) was when I was in church school (grades 5- 6) suffering under an abusive teacher who used EGW for a club.  I went home and read the book Education, where I discovered that I was not the crazy one – he was.

      Second was in my early 20s when I was personally struggling with a lot of life issues.  A deep dive into Desire of Ages seriously elevated my view of God and Christ.  Nobody should read Great Controversy until they have read Desire of Ages (there may be a few exceptions to this generalization).   I read GC years before I read DA – bad mistake, raised as many questions as it answered.  No wonder Bloom got lost – somebody should have told him.

    • Jim Hamstra
      01 November 2013 @ 8:35 pm

      Forgot to add that only after you have signed the loyalty oath should you venture into the Testimonies, Spiritual Gifts, Spirit of Prophecy, etc.  There is a reason that colporteurs do not sell these books.  They were never intended for general audiences, only for devotees of the genre.  If you cannot make sense of Great Controversy then by all means steer clear.

      Disclaimer – Yes I have these books and have delved into them – but then again I have a lot of other books besides my many Bibles (Quran, Book of Mormon, Flavius Josephus, and even some of Alden's less popular writings 8-).

  13. Anonymous
    01 November 2013 @ 4:19 pm

    I also thank the author of this blog for reminding us of the original point of his blog.  Well taken.  And I also thank Mr. Hanstra for noting "compliment" vs. "complement."  My bad!

  14. Alden Thompson
    01 November 2013 @ 5:19 pm

    The Adventist Today email teaser to to Belisle’s review describes The American Religion as a “new” book.  It appears, however, that the 2013 Kindle edition of Bloom's book is simply a replica of the 1991 edition. Bloom is a highly respected author in his primary field of expertise. But his scholarly credentials fail him when he writes about Adventism. For a number of years on our campus (Walla Walla University) we have used his chapter on Adventism as a good example of very bad scholarship. According to his 1991 hard-copy edition, he says, "I have attempted to read Ellen White in some depth, with mixed success. I have gotten through The Great Controversy (1888), but bogged down in the multivolume Spiritual Gifts (1858-64) and Spirit of Prophecy (1870-84)."  

    He has read one whole book, and even that is not the latest edition (1911). If he wanted to make a serious contribution, he could have compared Spiritual Gifts, Spirit of Prophecy, and the "Conflict" series, noting the development of Ellen White's thought and experience. But he got bogged down. Case rests.

    • Elaine Nelson
      01 November 2013 @ 10:38 pm

      Is it necessary to read the entire published works of an author to make some conclusions?  Are you suggesting that he should have read all of her published works (who knows how many there are?) before he "understands" the intent and ideology of an author?  Her "Great Controversy" is one of the most recommended and an edited version was chosen to be distributed by the millions. You have only written that it was "very bad sholarship" on Adventism.  Is there anyone with similar credentials you would recommend for an objective perspective of Adventism?  Has there been one written to date?


      You have also written a number of books, is there one that you feel would pass a similar objective test by a non-SDA writer?  

    • Ella M
      04 November 2013 @ 2:51 am

      Thanks you, Alden.  I think this says it all.

  15. Trevor Hammond [22oct1844]
    01 November 2013 @ 10:00 pm

    Notable American Scholar, Harold Bloom, also has another notable side from what I have gathered – a reputation for untoward sexual behaviour involving female students at Yale.  The establishment, I have good reason to believe, covered up for fear of litigation it seems and allowed him to continue abusing his position in terms of sexually harrasing female students with the further possibility that he was having sexual relationships with them according to an article I saw.  If this is true then it is quite serious I would say and would make me rethink how I were to view his criticism of our church and Ellen White.  Of course the female student reporting this may have had ulterior motives and could be lying about this in order to discredit such a fine notable scholar as he.  Or perhaps there is another Harold Bloom at Yale which the student speaks of.  Perhaps!

  16. abelisle
    01 November 2013 @ 11:51 pm

    Thompson's analysis of Bloom's critique as "an example of very bad scholarship" has piqued my interest as to how Adventist scholars view Adventism? Was his critique of how the church functions and what it believes secondary to a literary critique of E. G. Whites writings? I'm curious. Without E.G. White, would there even be an Adventist church or can and should the Adventist church stand solely on the Bible?


    Not being a scholar in any field at all, I as a lifelong Adventist simply connected very deeply with his cogent and what I felt to be accurate observations of Adventism as practiced and believed  in our modern times. And considering that he is a non-Adventist, I felt that (from my personal experience) he nailed it.


    As for him being a "possible" womanizer, I don't see the connection with that behavior and the ability to make perceptive analyses of various American religions. History has shown us many scholars and great minds who had sexual issues. Even the Bible's wisest man had his peculiar quirks.

    • Jim Hamstra
      03 November 2013 @ 10:51 am

      Not to mention that Solomon learned his womanizing ways from his father.

  17. Alden Thompson
    05 November 2013 @ 1:55 am

    Bloom rightly senses that issues of judgment and salvation have loomed large in our history. But he doesn’t know Adventism, saying nothing, for example, of Desmond Ford and the painful but healthy tumult in the community since Ford’s famous 1979 attack on the investigative judgment. What Bloom does know comes from a curious selection of secondary sources. Why, for example, cite the evangelical Anthony Hoekema (The Four Major Cults, 1963) instead of Walter Martin who was heavily involved in the Questions on Doctrine discussions of 1957? In his Truth About Seventh-day Adventism (1959), Martin affirms Ellen White as “a regenerate Christian who loved the Lord Jesus Christ,” noting that he has read “almost all” her writings, including the Testimonies (p. 112). Martin’s stance is remarkable given his firm rejection of a number of Adventist doctrines. I think Bloom would have been less flippant had he read Martin.

    More recently, an intriguing assessment of Adventism comes from the Lutheran church historian, Martin Marty, in his “Foreword” to Douglas Morgan’s Adventism and the American Republic (Univ. Of Tenn., 2001, xi-xiii). Marty was Morgan’s University of Chicago doctoral supervisor. I should also note that a number of non-Adventist scholars are contributors to a forthcoming Oxford book, Ellen Harmon White: American Prophet, eds, Terrie Dopp Aamodt (WWU) and Gary Land (AU). Ron Numbers has played a key supporting role in the book.

    As for the assessment of my own books by non-Adventist scholars, my (atheist) PhD supervisor at the University of Edinburgh quite willingly contributed a positive endorsement for the latest edition of my book, Who’s Afraid of the Old Testament God? (2011), even though my acceptance of the supernatural is not something he would affirm. Clark Pinnock, well-known left-of-center evangelical, also wrote a positive assessment of my 1991 Review and Herald book, Inspiration: Hard Questions, Honest Answers (Spectrum, January 1994, p. 52).

  18. Elaine Nelson
    05 November 2013 @ 5:09 am

    Has a book about Adventism been written that Adventists would approve?  If Adventists wrote about Mormons, would it be sufficiently objective?  What were Bloom's sources and how many personal interviews did he make?  Martin's book on cults, devoted more than 100 pages to explaining the unique doctrine of the IJ and the sanctuary.  I fail to understand why it should be expected that he discuss Ford's contribution (?) since it was thoroughly rejected by the official church, as were similar ones in the past.  Has there been any change in the church's official position on that subject?  I agree that Ron Numbers is the most authentic writer of Adventism, but there will probably never be on that will meet with official approval.

    Mormons have a much more colorful history and have contributed to many writer's retirement incomes. Adventism is more bland in comparison.    

  19. Alden Thompson
    05 November 2013 @ 1:19 pm

    Good scholarship involves describing another’s position accurately even if one disagrees with it. In theology, one should be able to describe positions within the free will/divine sovereignty spectrum without appearing mean-spirited – unless, of course, one is describing the Calvinist impulses of someone who claims to be in the free-well tradition!  And that is the fascinating challenge of Adventism. One can argue that the debate triggered by Questions on Doctrine (1957) laid the foundation for Ford’s explosive 1979 attack on the doctrine of the investigative judgment.  Bloom, writing in 1992, cannot be taken seriously if he ignores the debate. Yes, the church officially “rejected” Ford’s position. Yet the debate has nudged the church toward clarity on righteousness by faith, even though the battle continues to rage in some circles. The current Sabbath School quarterly, for example, is completely free of perfectionist “last generation theology” – even though some church leaders still favor that position. The “official” position of the church represents only a small slice of “real” Adventism.

    The Questions on Doctrine debate brought out in the open the debate between  the sectarian and isolationist perfectionists – who do not want to adapt to contemporary theology at all – and the more Augustinian Adventists who are eager to adopt a stronger evangelical position on righteousness by faith. And here Walter Martin is blunt and effective. On pp. 43-46 of Truth he itemizes twelve EGW quotations from “the last three decades” of Ellen White’s life that urge cooperation with other Christians. His conclusion? “Adventists as a denomination have largely ignored what they themselves consider to be the inspired counsel of Mrs. White in this specific area” (p. 46).  

    But given my own interest in “inspiration” issues, I am intrigued that in spite of his “high view” of Scripture (inerrancy), Martin wants to undermine the authority of eleven full chapters in the Bible. Given his belief in the immortality of the soul, Martin seeks to negate the Adventist use of Ecclesiastes 9:5 (“the dead know not anything”) by arguing that eleven of the twelve chapters in Ecclesiastes are “worthless” for doctrinal purposes since the book “portrays Solomon’s apostasy.” “The conclusion of the Book alone mirrors the true revelation of God (chap. 12)” – Truth, p. 127, note #11. Scripture itself doesn’t even hint at such a conclusion. Indeed, in today’s skeptical age, those who struggle with faith can find in Ecclesiastes the hope that there is a place for them within the community of faith, even if they find God distant and faith difficult. Taking all of Scripture seriously suggests the potential for a breathtaking inclusiveness in Adventism.

  20. Elaine Nelson
    05 November 2013 @ 3:03 pm

    You have likely written the seminal book on inspiration as well as linking the two testaments, a problem recognized by the church for years, long before Adventists.  It is most difficult to believe that the OT should trump the NT or that what was believed by those much earlier writers should be the last word for Christians.

    It was not until late in Judaism that life after death was known, and the writer of Ecclesiastes was a very morose and depressed writer, IMHO.  Why should doctrine be supported by a writer who may have been the first existentialist?  It has always seemed incongruous to refer back to the beliefs of Judaism centuries before Christ as the basis for Christian doctrine today.

    No one knows what happens after death but many have written about it-but only from their imagined view.  Paul should be sufficient for giving us hope after death and it can only be hope.  Seeking evidence for faith seems to violate the well-known verses in Hebrews that there can be no evidence for      faith; whether called hope or belief.

    All of the Bible is useful; but not all should be used in exactly the same manner as it was never intended to be used as it is today.  It was a record of people's condition, thoughts, beliefs, and lives, and showing that humans have always had similar struggles and found ways of coping.

  21. Anonymous
    05 November 2013 @ 4:10 pm

    Thank you so much Alden, for your well-informed and thoughtful observations on this blog.

    I am always amused by the notion that observers who do not belong to a group or subscribe to its tenets are thereby more objective, and thus, more authoritative than "insiders." The Barna group like to poll how non-believers perceive Christians, as if that is some sort of objective mirror that should inform us of who we really are. And of course Christian pastors, youth workers, and educators love nothing better than polls and studies to whip up guilt and get the church navel gazing. I generally suspect that when Barna asks non-believers what they think of Christians, its a bit like asking non-Laker fans what they think of the Lakers. If they have an opinion at all, its a good bet they are fans of other pro basketball teams.


    Likewise, I think it is safe to say that most non-Christian scholars of Christianity subscribe to competing ideologies and validators. And even most non-SDA Christian scholars of other faith traditions, who study Adventism and find it wanting, are probably fans of "competing teams." So when full disclosure is made, I doubt that you will find many observers of Adventism who can be viewed as purely objective or particularly worthy of consideration. We all are prone to give undue weight to "authorities" whose conclusions validate what we already tend to believe.


    It may be helpful to know how we are viewed by those who don't think much of us, and what we could do to make ourselves more likeable or acceptable. But I think we need to be careful about our criteria for objectivity. In matters of morality and religion, objectivity is chimerical. And trumpeting the opinions of a critic as somehow authoritative, because of non-affliliation with the faith tradition being critiqued, is usually a tip-off that neither the trumpeter nor the critic are objective.

    • Jim Hamstra
      05 November 2013 @ 5:28 pm


      Might you be insinuating that some of the commenters here 'are probably fans of "competing teams" '?

      Personally I confess to being a fan of Jesus Christ and to hoping He comes back for the Playoffs sooner rather than later.  I am very confident that when He does come back He will win the Big Game and then we fans can have a huge victory celebration.

      When it comes to NBA I tend to be a fan of individual players and my team loyalties follow them around.  I confess to having been a fan of Wilt Chamberlain, Lew Alcindor (aka Kareem), Earvin Johnson (aka Magic), etc.  All "true Adventists" should be fans of Earvin because for many years his mother was a member of the SDA Church back in Michigan 8-).

  22. Alden Thompson
    05 November 2013 @ 5:47 pm

    I am not so interested in establishing doctrine from Ecclesiastes as in seeing the book as a personality type within the family of faith. While I firmly believe that Jesus Christ is the fullest revelation of God, the Old Testament displays a much greater variety in its authors than the New Testament. These books were part of Jesus’ Bible. We don’t have to be shy about claiming them as ours.

    As for Ecclesiastes 9:5, Adventists have used it as a key text to support the concept of soul sleep, and for that reason Walter Martin attempted to undermine the SDA usage. Remarkably, what Adventists originally accepted intuitively and on the basis of very limited formal knowledge has now been generally accepted by the larger scholarly world. Oscar Cullmann’s little book, Immortality of the Soul or the Resurrection of the Dead? (1956) was a turning point. Cullmann, a highly regarded New Testament scholar, argued that the idea of the immortality of the soul was a Greek intrusion into biblical thought. Resurrection of the body is the natural corollary for a good creation gone bad. The Greek idea of immortality of the soul assumed that the body was evil; the goal was to escape the material world. Christians believe that the material world was created good and deserves restoration.

    Walter Martin, of course, was a firm believer in soul immortality and an eternally burning hell. For someone so committed to a “high view” of Scripture, it is remarkable that he so readily excises eleven chapters from his Bible. I would argue that Ecclesiastes is realistic rather than morose. On the basis of 3:11-13, one could easily make the case that the author was a hedonist – at least on his good days! “God has made everything beautiful for its own time. He has planted eternity in the human heart, but even so, people cannot see the whole scope of God’s work from beginning to end. So I concluded there is nothing better than to be happy and enjoy ourselves as long as we can. And people should eat and drink and enjoy the fruits of their labor, for these are gifts from God”  – NLT.

    • Serge Agafonoff
      07 November 2013 @ 12:54 am

      Interesting comments, Alden, but it strikes me that if Ecclesiastes is a personality in the family of faith, then it is likely to represent the faith of a Sadducee.  They, too, seemed to regard enjoyment of this material life as a good thing, since it was the only thing possible in one's existence.  And unlike SDAs, they didn't excise v 6, which, if taken as literally as v 5, seems to support the Sadduceean position.
      6  As well their love, as their hatred and their envy, is perished long ago; neither have they any more a portion for ever in anything that is done under the sun. (Eccles 9: 5,6)

      But then come arguments about whether a recreated earth will orbit a sun, since Revelation 21.23 and 22.5 seem to suggest there will not be one.  Such is the nature of taking the Bible literally.  And since this blog is about Bloom's take on Adventism, and its apparent similarity to Gnosticism, the literal vs, say, mystical, debate is bound to happen.  (Stephen Ferguson makes a reasonable fist of outlining some of the questions below).

      This is germane to the blog because teh question of Gnosticism is not confined to the post-Christ era.  There is considerable scholarship which suggests that Gnosticism is very likely a Jewish phenomenon which evolved in the intertestamental period as a result of Jewish absorption of Greek philosophy.  In fact, Apocalyptic thinking generally might be one side of this gnostic coin.  

      I think it is possible, if not likely, that part of this mix includes teh early developments of Jewish mysticism known as Hekhalot and Merkabah which precede fully formed Qabalah.  Alan Segal, in Paul the Jew, points out the identity of this early mystical literature with Paul's account of his heavenly 'ascent' in 2Cor 12.  In fact, he says that Paul's is the first account of such Jewish mystical experience to be found.

      The relevance of this will become more apparent, but it is noteworthy here that the author of Ecclesiastes is genearlly attributed to be Solomon, who is also known as the author of Song of Songs, which is the primal text of Qabalah.  The surface reading of Song of Songs is only for those who lack insight into the deep, ineffable truth. (can't recall that poet's name, sorry.  Shelley? 'the deep truth is ineffable.'?)  So how can a single individual write two books which appear, on the surface, to hold such opposite and competing ideologies?

      You mention 'Jesus' Bible.'   Apart from his references to Isaiah and Daniel, there is at least one other occasion when Jesus makes specific reference to 'the scriptures.' Matt 22.29.  Interestingly, the context relates to the state of the dead and the living, post death.  He does nto appear to support SDA teaching of a recreated body.  Rather, he is clear that the state of eternal existence is 'as teh angels,' who are 'spirits.'  Is this a result of teh influence of Greek philosophy?  Did Jesus read Plato?  Unlikely, but when he refers this matter to the 'scriptures,' where is it to be found in the standard OT?  Simple answer, it is not.  It has been suggested that it is in fact more akin to teh sentiments of the Book(s) of Enoch, which is part of the large body of intertestamental literature which is apocalyptic in nature, and can show similarities to later Gnostic literature.

      There is at least one other reference in the words of Jesus which seems to support Cullman's thesis. Matt 10.28 clearly differentiates between body and soul in a way that would fit more readily with Martin's understanding than that of standard SDA teaching.  

  23. Anonymous
    05 November 2013 @ 6:30 pm

    Dr. Thompson's comment that Ecclesiastes as a book can be viewed as a "personality type within the family of faith" seems to me to raise a very insightful point.  When this model of understandng many theological differences as primarily personality types which have been expanded onto the theological stage, might I suggest that it can open up a discussion to produce some helpful insights.

  24. Stephen Ferguson
    06 November 2013 @ 2:08 pm

    ‘Harold Bloom is well-known as a literary critic and respected scholar, the author of The American Religion which centers on a particular Gnosticism he finds characteristic of faiths in this country, anchored in individual salvation and individual spiritual awareness…’
    I haven’t read Bloom book but fascinated how all these American religions are supposedly types of Gnosticism.  I read a good review of his book, where the reviewer said, “It is like tasting all types of exotic meat, and then claiming – they all taste like chicken!”
    What particularly fascinates me about what seems to be Bloom’s central thesis re Gnosticism is that I have always thought Adventists are in fact possibly the most anti-Gnostic denomination in Christendom!  I have strongly felt this ever since I read Jack Provnshar’s chapter on the origins of monasticism in his book ‘God with Us’ (I think that was the title) several years ago.
    I am willing to concede Adventism might possibly be Gnostic in the sense of:
    – The emphasis on salvation ‘truth’ – possibly also borne out in our emphasis on education;
    – Conservative views towards sexuality (although arguably no more so than most ‘orthodox’ brands of Christianity’);
    – The very ‘mystical’ and ‘symbolic’ aspects of our faith, especially concerning apocalyptic symbolism of Daniel and Revelation;
    – The idea of being in a select ‘elite’ of a special Remnant; and
    – The idea of personal (as opposed to more communal) salvation.
    However, the Adventist theological framework, which seems to embrace ‘Wholism’, seems very anti-Gnostic:
    – The affirmation that the Creator God is good (especially affirmed by our belief in the Sabbath); whereas, the Gnostics taught the Creator God Demiurge was evil or flawed.
    – The affirmation that the Fall was NOT a good thing (contrary to Bloom’s definition); whereas, the Gnostics taught the Fall was GOOD, because it was about mankind’s liberation from the Demiurge’s material capture, and where the Luciferian figure of the servant was actually an agent of the original good God En Sof.
    – The affirmation of the ‘orthodox’ doctrine of the Trinity, which does not pit the Creator God against Jesus; whereas, the Gnostics pitted the Creator God (who is evil or flawed Demiurge) against The Christ.
    – The affirmation of the life, death and physical resurrection of Jesus – especially the physical resurrection; whereas, the Gnostics embraced Docetism (saying Christ didn’t come in the flesh), and said Christ didn’t actually die on the Christ (it was Simon of Cyrene) or His good spiritual sould was liberated from flawed-evil material body.
    – The affirmation of the material and physical world, especially concerning principles of health; whereas, Gnostics taught that all matter (including the human body) was evil or flawed, leading to licentiousness or asceticism.
    – The affirmation of the unity of the body; whereas, the Gnostics affirmed the separation of evil flawed matter of the human body and the immaterial soul;
    – The embracing of conditional immortality (soul sleep), acknowledging no life outside the ‘material’; whereas, Gnostics embraced more Greek Platonic notions of the immortal soul.
    – The affirmation of a physical and historical future eschaton; whereas, Gnostics reject saw the End Times in a non-literal, non-material and non-historical manner.
    – Arguably Adventism is not a ‘solitary religion’ at all – it is actually a highly communal religion.  The Sabbath and health rules actually help foster that sense of collective identity – far more than other denominations, where one much more so has a ‘solitary salvation’.
    The Wholism of Adventism arguably makes us very anti-Gnostic indeed. I have often discussed it with one of my best friends, who is a practicing self-styled and proud Christian Gnostic.
    If there is a case to be made for Gnosticism, there is that of modern ‘orthodox’ Christianity, especially the ultra-liberal brand (particularly Anglicans and Lutherans) that embraces Kierkegaard’s Christian existentialism, Bultmann’s demythologization and Spong’s vision-theories of resurrection:
    – The rejection of the ‘simple’ and literal meaning of the Bible – like the Gnostics, ultra-liberal Christians embrace sophisticated historical-critical tools to find the deeper, secret meaning of everything. 
    – The rejection of the traditional Fall as taught in the Bible – like the Gnostics ultra-liberal Christians only see it in mythological terms.
    – Seeing everything in the Bible in mythological and symbolic terms, not possibly literal terms (e.g. Peter didn’t really walk on water, rather, it is a treatise about Peter leaving the Church, symbolised by the boat) – much like the Gnostics.
    – The rejection of the physical life of Jesus – like the Gnostics, ultra-liberal Christians only have time for the ‘proclaimed’ Jesus (not the historical Jesus).
    – The rejection of the physical and historical resurrection of Jesus (only see the resurrection as a mass hallucination) – like the Gnostics ultra-liberal Christians see the resurrection only a spiritual and symbolic event.
    – The rejection of the physical future Second Coming (embracing realized eschatology) – like the Gnostics, ultra-liberal Christians believe the Apocalypse isn’t really ever going to happen, but again just symbolic.
    – The suggestion that organized religion and religious institutions have had its day and should be replaced by a more individual experience – more like the Gnostics, it is arguable ultra-liberal Christians are the ones who in fact most embrace non-institutionalised religion. Just look at the most ultra-liberal contributors here – they typically are no longer part of a faith community.  
    So who is calling who Gnostic? 

    • Anonymous
      06 November 2013 @ 4:12 pm

      Extremely perceptive, Stephen! Your comment illustrates perfectly my point that the facts and logic offered in support of an argument are far more important than the perceived objectivity of the proponent of a particular conclusion.

      Adventism, even in its most fundamentalist forms, has always held, like orthodox Christianity, that there is an unbridgeable chasm between this order and the Kingdom to come. We cannot get from here to there without the incarnate God – the crucified, risen, Redeemer. The proposition that knowledge, as intellectual understanding, is the path to salvation has always been very alien to all Adventists except liberals, particularly the academic elites. Yes, conceptual belief has been a very strong theme. But it is a closed system of belief rather than the "open-ended," progressive, intellectual pathways of gnostic thought. Of course those within the "closed" system of fundamentalist Adventist belief think they are closer to Truth than anyone outside that system of belief. But they still readily acknowledge the enormous, unknowable, unbridgeable gap between humanity and divinity, a theme that permeates the writings of Ellen White. 

      Traditional Adventists, vis a vis NOOPS (not one of our people), are like the two barefoot campers in Alaska who see a bear approaching. One of campers starts lacing up his running shoes. The other camper exclaims, "Why are you doing that? You can't possibly out run the bear." The now sneaker-shod camper smiles and shouts over his shoulder as he sprints off. "I don't have to out run the bear; I only have to out run you."  Adventists know they can't out run the bear; One way or another, if they stay, the bear is going to get them. Gnostics think the bear may not be after them, and if it is, they think they can either hide from it or figure out a way to tame it.

      BTW, for those who love to hate on religion, and may be suffering from PTSDA syndrome, the bear in this analogy is not God; it's Evil.

      • Jim Hamstra
        06 November 2013 @ 6:37 pm

        PTSDA syndrome?  I love it !

  25. Alden Thompson
    08 November 2013 @ 10:12 pm


    Let me be more pointed with reference to your comment to Ella. You said that you learned the IJ doctrine in the late ̓30s and ̓40s. But then you note that if someone had learned anything other than that ̓30s/̓40s version, the church could be said to be suffering from “cognitive dissonance: saying different things about doctrines at different times.” That is nearly identical with the stance of the Calvinist ex-Adventists who are part of the Proclamation/Dale Ratzlaff community. These are the people who have told me time and again, “Don’t you tear down my Bible to save Ellen White.” They use all the critical tools to destroy EGW, but will not use those same methods on the Bible, a dangerous position to take if you want your children to go to university and still believe. In any event, the Proclamation crowd crystallizes Adventism at its worst – from their perspective – then claims that any departure from their crystallization is not true Adventism. Thus the “right” (fundamentalist) side of the theological spectrum reflects the same once-for-all-time perspective as the “left” side, left here, representing those who have distanced themselves from active involvement in the spiritual life of Adventism while retaining cultural ties.

    But if we move away from The Great Controversy as the definitive guide to Adventist thought, all kinds of exciting things begin to happen. The change in our understanding of the trinity is one example worth noting.  Rolf Pöhler has argued that all early SDA were Arian, believing that Christ was a created being. Writing in the Review in 1852, James White actually refers to “that old trinitarian absurdity.” But a striking change in Adventist belief was signaled in Ellen White’s Desire of Ages (1898). George Knight, in Search for Identity (2000, pp. 116-117), quotes M. L. Andreasen’s reaction to the statement: “In Christ is life, original, unborrowed, underived” (DA 530).  “Astonished,” Andreasen said. “We could hardly believe it.” He actually traveled to Elmshaven to see if Ellen White had written it. He found it “in her own handwriting.”

    But if, like Bloom, you think that reading one EGW book, The Great Controversy, and a haphazard selection of secondary sources, gives you a grasp of Adventism, you will fall far short of the mark. Furthermore, the “official” rejection of Des Ford’s view of the IJ doctrine, was only the beginning of a new era in Adventism. My own perspective on theology is quite different from Ford’s. But he did the church a great service by opening the discussion. In short, Bloom is a horrible guide to Adventism, but a stunningly good example of bad scholarship, one that we will continue to have our students read to help them recognize bad scholarship when they see it.

    • Jim Hamstra
      08 November 2013 @ 10:37 pm


      Your characterization of the absolutism of traditional Calvinists with regard to Scipture and the inconsistencies in their methods when approaching EGW, are absolutely correct.  I grew up with one foot in the Calvinist tradition (on my mother's side) and the other in the SDA/Arminian tradition (on my father's side).  (One of my cousins recently retired as the President of what used to be called Calvin College, whereas in my own immediate family are found several SDA employees and retirees.) 

      I can tell you that in our generation (and younger) many from the original Calvinist faith communities have softened their absolutist views.  How ironic that some from the SDA tradition have "stepped into the breach" in traditional Calvinism 8-).  These former-SDA neo-Calvinists (at least one is a friend of mine) are arguably now more absolutist than are the heirs of the traditional Calvinist faith community.

      • Jim Hamstra
        09 November 2013 @ 12:51 am

        Perhaps I should clarify the there are both "Seventh-day Calvinists" and "Seventh-day Lutherans".  Similar hermeneutical principles but slightly different conclusions.  An Arminian has to look very clarefully to see the differences.

    • Elaine Nelson
      09 November 2013 @ 12:11 am


      That Adventists learned differently about many of its doctrines is quite apparent on this and other blogs.  Which should they choose to believe:  what they learned originally, a later interpretation, or none?  I find no benefit from any, as they have no influence on my life today, other than many things I learned as a child that are no longer useful. I am not an atheist, but agnostic about religion and many things, questioning most.

      Your several times mentioning Ratzlaff, as an ex-SDA as influencing me is not applicable.  I read and studied myself out of Adventism without ever hearing his name until much later.  My interest in in the history of Christianity and how it has impacted the world and various institutions.  I find the history of the church and how the canon was chosen, and how much has been changed since its beginning.  

      As for the Trinity, it is a convenient symbol that the church developed after centuries; but certainly not originally part of its doctrine.  The addition of doctrines continue as years go by, and Adventism is a perfect example.  In 1933 when I was baptized, there were very few FBs, but each decade it seems there is another added, but to what benefit? 

      Personally, I prefer to view religions from outside and feel no need to be part of any.  For those who derive great benefit from religion, I am equally happy for them.  We all must follow our own path.


  26. Alden Thompson
    09 November 2013 @ 4:05 pm


    I am startled by your statement that I had suggested that Dale Ratzlaff had influenced you. I certainly never intended to give that impression. He and his colleagues are thoroughly Calvinist and theocentric. Your experience reflects the Arminian/anthropocentric tradition which often slips into agnosticism. Your experiences are radically different. But what both sides have in common is the continued attraction to Adventism, even though both sides have rejected it as a viable religious experience. Ratzlaff & Co. actually produce a substitute Sabbath School study guide and hold regular meetings for ex-Adventists. What holds their community together is their ex-Adventism. I believe it would be a much healthier situation if they could just leave Adventism and become something else. But Adventism stays with them like a chronic disease.
        Your continued and active involvement in Adventism is reflected in your participation with the various blogs connected with Spectrum and Adventist Today. My experience differs significantly from yours in that I am not only much intrigued by the exploratory and academic side of Adventism, but as an incurable pietist I am also actively involved in the religious side of Adventism. And both of those impulses are genuine for me. That makes me a rather rare duck in Adventism, and often a lonely one. As Erv Taylor once exclaimed to me: “Thompson, do you have any kindred spirits in Adventism?” A very good question, and the answer is, “Not many.” From Erv’s anthropological perspective, I am a curious specimen, one that he would like to understand (I suspect), but can’t really because by his own admission he is missing the “religious” gene. In many ways, I think his experience approaches that of the author of Ecclesiastes, a book in which there is no prayer, no praise of God, no hallelujahs. (I hope I am not telling tales out of school, Erv!)
        The tribal side of me would like to make the Adventist tent as big as possible and my study of the Old Testament and the writings of EGW points me in that direction. That’s why I am still a very enthusiastic Adventist, in spite of all the troubling features found in my community. But I have carried on this conversation longer than I intended, Elaine, because of your continued tendency to admire Bloom’s characterization of Adventism. That puzzles me. In the last few days I happened to mention this blog to a couple of colleagues with earned doctorates in English. They erupted with amusement because the carelessness and arrogance that I had seen in his essay on Adventism is apparently widely recognized as being symptomatic of his later work. He earned his spurs in the early days of his career when he was doing his own research on the romantic poets. But his later work is very uneven. One of my colleagues remembered the very passage in his SDA essay in which he claimed to have gotten bogged down in reading EGW. This is the Bloom, my colleague noted, who says that he can read 1000 words a minute. In short, he could have read more than just one of EGW’s books if he had wanted to.

    • Jim Hamstra
      09 November 2013 @ 4:58 pm


      I now see that I omitted the "Seventh-day Arminians" and "Seventh-day Agnostics".  I did not clearly distingush between these two branches until I read your comments to Elaine.

      PS – If ever you are feeling lonely among the flocks of SDAs in the Portland area, come stay with another rare duck on the "wrong" side of the river.

    • Elaine Nelson
      09 November 2013 @ 5:34 pm


      I have not read Bloom's book, but his comments about being "blogged down" in reading EGW, reminds me of Mark Twain's (?) observation on reading the book of Mormon:  "It is chloroform for the brain."

  27. Anonymous
    09 November 2013 @ 4:26 pm

    As usual, Alden is absolutely correct in his analysis. As I've noted several times in other places and a couple of times on these blogs, it seems to me that his view is that much of Christian theology in general and certainly Adventist theology involve human personality types written large into grand metaphysical systems (Alden, I hope I have stated that correctly.  Please correct me if that is not accurate). To me, that model explains a lot about Christianity and Adventism. The rest can be explained to a large degree on the basis of a version of the sect-denomination-church evolutionary trajectory.

    Since our personality types are largely genetic, this is the source of my suggestion that some of us have the "faith" gene and some of us to not. Alden exhibits a full or even doubled expression of that gene. I do not carry that gene and thus to quote Alden "no prayer, no praise of God, no hallelujahs."

    Now that brings us to the topic of free will or lack thereof . . .

    • Jim Hamstra
      09 November 2013 @ 4:47 pm


      Have you considered gene therapy?  I hear that Christ is very good at heart transplants 8-).

    • Elaine Nelson
      09 November 2013 @ 5:28 pm


      Now that you've given it a name, perhaps no longer will we be called "atheists" as against Adventism.  I surely must be missing the "faith gene" as I automatically reject the easy and simplistic answers so often given by those who inherited this gene.

      That  solves the problem that those with the "faith gene" could never comprehend:  how some of us could not so clearly believe what to them was transparent.  I have long accepted that many of my SDA friends had enormous faith, but they were often unable to comprehend the inability of those who lacked the same perspectives.  


      Why not write an article on this very subject as there are definite personality types in all the various religions that are magnets of attraction to some and have none for others?  Guaranteed to prove a busy site.

      • William Noel
        09 November 2013 @ 6:14 pm


        I don't think there is a "faith gene" in my body.  If there is a reason, real or imagined, for trying to doubt God, I've probably tried it or at least considered it.  No, my faith comes by experience with God.  Except it really isn't MY faith, but the gift God gives me.  It comes from things like looking back and seeing how He brought me through difficult times, how He has given me confidence to face challenges, and similar. 

        In Romans 10:7, Paul says "faith comes from hearing the message, and the message is heard through the word of Christ" (NIV).  The message Jesus keeps giving me is, "I love you!"  He has a thousand ways of telling and reminding me.