by Jack Hoehn
PLEASE NOTE: JACK HAS ASKED THAT THIS, HIS LAST BLOG ON THIS SUBJECT, BE ALLOWED TO STAND ALONE, WITHOUT COMMENT OR DISCUSSION. EARLIER THIS WEEK, THE COMMENTS WERE BRIEFLY ENABLED, BUT THAT WAS A TECHNICAL ERROR AND HAS BEEN CORRECTED.
Since 2011 I have been blogging on this Adventist Today web-site about how Adventists (and other Christians who believe Jesus Christ is a historical reality that they personally or intellectually have proved) can understand how Jesus created in a manner consistent with the physical evidence. I have suggested ways that the revelatory commentary on nature and science by Moses to Isaiah to John to Ellen White can be understood in new and perhaps more helpful ways in the 21st century than in previous centuries.
I have suggested that physics, chemistry, biology, geology, astronomy, anthropology, medicine, and psychology could be understood as explanatory to revelation. I maintain that instead of attacking solid and honest science, we could use scientific truth to refine our Biblical opinions on the details of creation.
I also believe that the Adventist Great Controversy teaching holds the theological key to understanding the true history of life on earth.
I think I have said enough to make the point that real Seventh-day Adventist believers who live an Adventist life style and value and support Adventism, can do so with an Old Earth Creationism that disagrees with a Young Earth Creationism being demanded by some of our Adventist administrators, popular speakers, and theologians. (Adventist pastors, educators, and scientists on the other hand are much quieter about this, due perhaps to more familiarity with the real world and the real evidence.) It is a question of chronology, it is a question of how to understand Biblical inspiration, it is a question of what to do with Ellen White’s inspiration.
Gentle Readers versus Not-always-gentle Commenters
Some of these blogs have had 100 or 200 responses from as many as 20 or 30 different correspondents. During this same time A-today website has had as many as 100,000 readers in a month (not all mine of course) but the point is that there is a large readership that are a silent audience.
Since many more read these blogs than comment on them, I am now, at the close of my articles, asking the silent reader audience to remember when they read that some of the comments to these blogs come from individuals who have been led far from basic Christianity by their acceptance of scientism or naturalism as a replacement for orthodox Christian beliefs. They still have an attachment to believers by tradition, or perhaps a desire to ratify their defection from the faith when others come to agree with them? Others are trying to be little saviors themselves and wish to rescue us from our folly. That may be kind of them, but really most Adventists do not want to be rescued from the real Savior. We are trying to understand Him, not dump him. (See endnote (1) for a funny comment on former-Adventists told to me many years ago by Adventist theologian Edward Heppenstall.)
A Theology of Fear?
On the opposite side as you read you will find comments that come from concerned SDA individuals (many who use pseudonyms) who suggest that all who try to reinterpret the Bible teachings will come to the same "Christ was a good teacher, but not God" end, “so don't go there.” This theology of fear has been the official teaching of the Adventist Review and our Sabbath School Lessons for over a decade. If you accept the teachings of science, you too will become an atheist, is the cry. I have tried to call back to these right wing Adventist voices, if you don’t accept the truths of science, you will be making atheists of many others!
Rigid dogmatism on the details of creation, a blind but selective literalism in reading the Bible, rejection of the facts of science instead of offering an alternative theology of science will destroy this church. You surely think you are defending Truth, or the Bible, or the Church from heresy, so we thank you for your good intentions. But in fact you are the Truth’s, the Bible’s, and the Church’s worst friends. Creedalism, Rigid Orthodoxy, Tradition is not the Adventist way. We were a movement called to oppose those tendencies. Making Ellen White to be infallible is idolatry! Making your understanding of the Bible and your preferred way of understanding Creation and the history of life on earth the obligatory standard for all, is not an exaltation of truth, it is an exaltation of self.
Trying to enforce your ideas on the chronology of creation by votes at the next General Conference or actions by institutional boards or by pressure on our institutions or the teachers in our schools, on scientists and biologists and geologists and physicists and physician members in our churches, by firing them or disfellowshiping them or censoring any mention of alternative ideas in our official publications is the spirit of popery. You have become the Jesuits you fear.
I do have an agenda. I close with it.
- Jesus Christ is the Son of God, the Creator of heaven and earth and all that in them is. He is the Savior of the world, and belief in Him is our only hope of rescue from eternal death.
- Seventh-day Adventist were called by God to come out of error and to promote truth. We did so in 1844 in a fallible and error-fraught way, learning subsequently from our mistakes. Truth is progressive and we are required to continue to move and adjust our understandings when newer views correct previous misunderstandings. God intended for Adventism to be the religion of the world, and not a narrow sect. It is not God who is encouraging us to become rigid and narrow in doctrine or practice. Adventism does not need to replace other religions, but we should be able to bless all religions, and make them better. There are 12 gates into the New Jerusalem. I highly value my Adventist gate into Heaven, and wish to keep it wide open and welcoming for others, but I have no desire to close the other 11 gates.
- The Bible is the inspired word about God and is true but not inerrant. These writings have been preserved for us, but were not written to us, and these books need to be understood in the context of the time and place they were written, and the talents of their writers and subsequent editors. Obviously-inspired Ellen White is not inerrant but she is consistently truthful even when she was not always accurate. Belief in the Bible or in Ellen White is not necessary for salvation, although belief in the God they testify to is. We are saved by faith in Christ, not by faith in Genesis or in Patriarch and Prophets.
- A simple chronology of creation is compatible with belief in God and acceptance of His plan of salvation. But so is a complex chronology of a longer-term creation. The Bible has no authority to dictate how God created or when. Ellen White has no authority to dictate how God created or when. The General Conference in session by vote has no authority to dictate how God created or when. Only God has the authority to create how and when he wishes and to reveal to us through physical evidence, logical inference, and inspired revelation clues to when and how He has created.
- We need Adventist theologians to be freed from dogmatism to explore better ways of expressing the doctrine of Creation. We need Adventist scientists to be free to explore alternative chronologies and mechanisms of Creation. We need Adventist schools and teachers to become seedbeds to nurture thought and reflection on larger ideas of creation in Adventist students. Our institutions should host Christian thought leaders including Theistic Evolutionists like: Francis S. Collins (2) and Keith B. Miller (3); Intelligent Design theorists like: Stephen C. Meyers (4), Michael J. Behe (5), or Casey Luskin (6); Old Earth Creationists like: Hugh Ross (7) and Fuzz Rana (8); and world Christian thought leaders like John C. Lenox (9) or Peter Hitchens (10); to engage in constructive Creation dialogue with our scientists and theologians. (These names in the footnotes also serve as an excellent introductory reading list for those willing to engage their minds in the Christian discussion of a broader Creationism than 144 hours a short time ago.)
- Please don’t agree with me until you are convinced by your own study and prayer that this is right. But please don’t try to stop the discussions in an open and vigorous Adventism, trying to move forward towards the truth as it is in Jesus. Let your leaders know that you do not want Creationism to be dogmatized by rewriting our fundamental belief # 6. Let your teachers know you want them to teach all the truths about creation to your children. Let them understand all the different Christian views on creation, and that the Adventist position is we move to a better understanding of truth, when it becomes clear to us.
Thank you for listening to me for these many months.
“And for Adventism’s sake stop being a fossil about fossils,” he concluded with a smile and a sigh…..
Jack Hoehn (11)
(1) In 1969 or 1970 Jack had a conversation with Dr. Edward Heppenstall who was then teaching at Loma Linda University, asking him why those who had left Adventism often hung around its edges sniping at it. “Jack,” he said in his lovely slow British brogue, “Jack, It’s like the policeman who was walking down the block when a small boy came running towards him crying at the top of his voice. He tried to catch the little chap, but missed him, so shrugging his shoulders the policeman continued on down the street. A few moments later the same little boy still running as fast as he could but crying out loud came towards the policeman again. This time he caught the child in his arms, and picking him up said, ‘Now sonny, what’s the matter with you?’ The little boy caught his breath and then sobbed, ‘I’m running away from home, but my mother won’t let me cross the street!’ “
(2) Francis S. Collins, “The Language of God” (A genetic scientist presents evidence for belief as a Christian Evolutionist. Not my favorite, but worth a hearing.)
(3) Keith B. Miller, “Perspectives on an Evolving Creation” ( Editor with multiple contributors. Puts more Christian into Theistic Evolution than others have.)
(4) Stephen C. Meyers, “Signature in the Cell” (DNA and the Evidence for Intelligent Design—We are not making these things up, no God of the gaps here.)
(5) Michael J. Behe, “The Edge of Evolution” (The Search for the Limits of Darwinism—ID Science at its best.)
(6)Casey Luskin et al, “Science and Human Origins” (The Discovery Institute Center for Science and Culture. I’m told Casey has an Adventist wife, absolute proof of his keen intelligence! His website is https://www.discovery.org )
(7)Hugh Ross, “Why the Universe is the Way It Is” (Reasons to Believe founder and most impressive proponent. Many, many resources at his website https://www.reasons.org )
(8)Fazale Rana, “Who was Adam?” (A Creation Model Approach to the Origin of Man, what to do with Humanoids, Neanderthals and Genesis.)
(9) John C. Lennox, “Seven Days that Divide the World” (The Beginning According to Genesis and Science, another Oxford Don in intelligent but sincere love with Jesus.)
(10) Peter Hitchens, “The Rage Against God” (How Atheism led me to Faith, unlike his more famous brother Christopher).
(11) Please contact Dr. Hoehn directly if you wish to ask questions or have personal concerns. John B. Hoehn, M.D., 176 Iris Lane, Walla Walla, WA 99362. E-mail– email@example.com
PLEASE NOTE: JACK HAS ASKED THAT THIS, HIS LAST BLOG ON THIS SUBJECT, BE ALLOWED TO STAND ALONE, WITHOUT COMMENT OR DISCUSSION. IF YOU WISH TO CONTACT HIM DIRECTLY, HE HAS GIVEN HIS CONTACT INFO ABOVE.