by Jack Hoehn
by Jack Hoehn, October 25, 2014
Advent Review & Sabbath Herald
This article is not about the timing or the duration of Creation. It is about freedom of conscience, freedom to think, freedom to disagree and freedom of religion promoted by Seventh-day Adventists, versus manipulation, thought control, and domination of thought by the coercion of powerful religious leaders long opposed by Seventh-day Adventists.
Adventism has a magazine known as “The REVIEW,” recently moved into the offices and control of the administrators of the General Conference of Seventh-day Adventists. It was the child of James Springer White and inspired wife, and has been the main voice of Adventism throughout our century-plus of existence. I have been published in its pages, and have been a subscriber or reader all my life. In 2012 I began writing and commenting for Adventist Today instead of the Adventist Review. But I still subscribe to the paper Review and read its online edition.
My wife has been disturbed with the unprecedented prominence in the REVIEW of the activities and opinions of the present General Conference President. She has developed the habit of scanning the pages of each issue for a news article, opinion piece, or other account of Ted N. C. Wilson, and remarks if there ever is an issue that does not mention his name. To her it has begun to feel like a political magazine dedicated to advancing candidates.
If one goes to the REVIEW website and searches for “Ted N. C. Wilson,” you get 1,130 hits in 0.24 seconds! (“Jack,” on the other hand, got only 174, including BLANCO, PROVONSHA, and DANIELS! “Hoehn” got 16 hits, most from my non-relative, Pastor Jim Hoehn.)
Here are some articles from two eras of the REVIEW, 2014 and 1896 (with emphasis added).
|“GOD’S AUTHORITATIVE VOICE”—TED N. C. WILSON
“IT CANNOT BE REINTERPRETED”–TED N. C. WILSON
|August 18, 2014 ,
August 25, 2014.
|“If one does not accept the recent six-day creation understanding, then that person is actually not a “Seventh-day” Adventist…”||[Elder, this has never before been the definition of Seventh-day Adventist.]|
|“The precious Biblical truth of a recent literal creation … is even being dismissed by some who claim to be Seventh-day Adventists. Do not believe them or participate in this manipulation of Biblical truth regarding creation…”||[Avoiding and silencing a fellow believer is an attack on the person, not on their ideas.]|
|“As teachers on the campuses of Seventh-day Adventist academies, colleges and universities, and leaders in God’s church, through God’s power, hold firmly to a literal recent creation…”||[“Literal” and “creation” are not issues with any Adventist. It is only the chronology of creation we don’t all agree on.]|
|“A church employee who teaches theistic [God did it] or pure [it happened by itself] evolutionary theory should not even exist in a Seventh-day Adventist school or church pulpit.”||[But you know they do, and there are other opinions not “evolution” called ID that you refuse to consider.]|
|“The honorable thing is, and I say this with all kindness, for a person to resign from their position…”||[“Kindly” stop caring for your family, abandon your life-long commitment to your church, and your convictions about truth?]|
|“It puts an individual above the plain approach of the Scriptures and gives inappropriate license to decide what he or she perceives as truth based on the resources and education of the critic. Reject this approach, which is self-centered and inspired by the devil.”||[God has given all church members “license to decide” what is truth. No human is permitted to think for others. The devil tries to dictate what to believe.]|
|“We are a direct creation of God and not from deep-time evolutionary or theistic evolutionary process. …The wording of the fourth commandment is so plain. It’s so direct. It was obviously intended to counter any other alternative explanation.”||[“Deep-time” seems well established in this universe. “Very Short Time” seems quite questionable.]|
|“It’s obvious…When we indicate we are Seventh-day Adventists, we stand for a literal creation and global flood. It cannot be reinterpreted in any other appropriate way.”||[Of course it can. What you call “obvious” isn’t obvious to your fellow SDAs.]|
|“reject the false teachings of evolution, theistic evolution and any other false aberrations that are products of false gods…”||[Well at last he admits there are possible alternatives to “evolution.” But sadly he takes no time to think about them.]|
|“Don’t let anyone undermine your biblical beliefs in a private or public setting or wherever you may be.”||[Thinking even in “private” about alternative chronologies is forbidden? Does the word “thought-police” enter your mind?]|
|“You may not be able to scientifically prove all things, but you can see the results of God’s creative power in nature and also, very importantly, you can see the results of God’s power in human nature — God’s power to re-create a new heart and life.”||[The question is not about “God’s power.” The question is what power uses force and manipulation to dictate to God’s children what they have to think about the timing and duration of Creation.]|
|“It is vital that every employee — whether an administrator, pastor, teacher, or whoever — should strongly believe in the fundamental understanding of creation as the Seventh-day Adventist Church enunciates it. To continue to be employed and hold a view other than that would not be compatible to the very reason for the existence of the Seventh-day Adventist Church. As far as church members in general are concerned, it’s a personal matter that they need to discuss with the Lord in earnest.”||[Elder Wilson is an employee. Why is he behaving as though he is the boss of thought of other employees? Creation is a fundamental belief. The timing and duration of Creation is one possible interpretation.]|
|“Don’t break out with hives”—Michael L. Ryan||August 25, 2014|
|“Now I am going to ask that the theologians don’t break out with hives, and to grant me a little hermeneutical leeway.”||[Elder, we’re itching to hear what you have to share.]|
|“We do not come to the subject of creation in neutral. Some may think that we have come to define, adjust and re-shape our creation theology. No.”||[Defining, adjusting, reforming our understanding of doctrine is a constant Christian duty.]|
|“We believe in a short chronology.”||[Yes, the argument is over chronology not over Creation.]|
|“We believe that the world was created in six literal contiguous days.”||[You could believe in six literal contiguous Heavenly Days, if you wanted to. Or six literal but not contiguous days. Or six YOM as the Bible says, which can mean eras or eons. Or 6 days of organization of the earth. You do have choices here.]|
|“We believe that the denial of the literal reality of Genesis 1-11 leaves this church with a compromised message and a mission house that is built on sand.”||[Sand would be an interpretation of the Bible not sustainable by evidence. The Rock is Jesus Christ; all other chronological opinions are “shifting sand.”]|
|“Now, I probably should have spoken clearly so you’d know how I really feel.”||[So enough with the facts we have already decided; let’s talk about how we feel now.]|
|[Job was tempted but didn’t] “… jump into the cesspool with a collection of riff-raff mythical gods.”||[Here come the feelings, about alternative interpretations. He “feels” everything else is in the gutter.]|
|[Moses was also] “… surrounded by a blizzard of academic swagger and buried in Ivy League pomp and arrogance…”||[“Feeling” continues to warm up over “those intellectuals.”]|
|[Teachers who don’t agree with my chronology] “You’ve met them. They say they will work in the vineyard but they never show up. Worse yet, they want to plant weeds in the vineyard and call it “so doing.” … They want to have it both ways. They want to be big shots in the vineyard but they don’t believe in the vineyard.”]||[Feel it now, teachers, if you disagree with my interpretation, you are likely lazy, and “weed planters,” who just “want to be big shots.”]|
|“Their self-worth and standing requires a cluster of smug companions who envision themselves as mavericks, liberated thinkers, enlightened beyond faith and the Word. Criticism is an essential talent if they are to be credible, card-carrying members of the Weed Planters Union. Oh, how thrilled I am that there are none attending this conference. But they have been known to attend Bible and Science conferences.”||[It appears that any possible criticisms of the pre-decided conclusions were carefully “weeded out” by the organizers. Elder Ryan has now constructed a straw man of those who differ with him and shared his anti-intellectual “feelings” about those who might dare think out of his tiny “literal, contiguous, recent, global” box.]|
|“Do you think saying this in a sermon gives me any joy? I am weeping inside.”||[Me too, brother, me too.]|
Now I wish to present, in contrast to the above articles, a different article from a different era, when the founder of the Adventist Review and Sabbath Herald was still living, and then some advice she left behind for today’s Review writers and editors. I limit my comments to headings and bolding key thoughts of the selections below.
I understand that Ellen White accepted and supported the short chronology of Creation she found in the margins of her Bible from Bishop Ussher. But I also understand that she taught that this kind of questions would be solved by discussion and reason, not by manipulation and coercion. Prophets are human and make mistakes. But Ellen White’s understanding of the God-given right of freedom of conscience, not to be trampled upon in the name of politics or religion, was not one of them.
ADVENT REVIEW & SABBATH HERALD–1896
|“The Kingdom of Christ” – Mrs. ELLEN G. WHITE August 18, 1896|
“Christ found the kingdoms of the world corrupt. After Satan was expelled from heaven, he erected his standard of rebellion on this earth, and sought by every means to win men to his standard. In order the more successfully to gain the allegiance of the world, he put on the garb of religion.
“In striking contrast to the wrong and oppression so universally practiced were the mission and work of Christ. Earthly kingdoms are established and upheld by physical force, but this was not to be the foundation of the Messiah’s kingdom. In the establishment of his government no carnal weapons were to be used, no coercion practiced; no attempt would be made to force the consciences of men. These are the principles used by the prince of darkness for the government of his kingdom.”
“He planned a government which would use no force; his subjects would know no oppression. The symbols of earthly governments are wild beasts, but in the kingdom of Christ, men are called upon to behold, not a ferocious beast, but the Lamb of God. Not as a fierce tyrant did he come, but as the Son of man; not to conquer the nations by his iron power, but “to preach good tidings unto the meek;” “to bind up the broken-hearted, to proclaim liberty to the captives, and the opening of the prison to them that are bound;” “to comfort all that mourn.”
“In the eyes of the world, Christ was peculiar in some things. Ever a friend of those who most needed his protection, he comforted the needy, and befriended those shunned by the proud and exclusive Jews. The forsaken ones felt his protection, and the convicted, repentant soul was clothed with his salvation. And he required of his subjects that they give aid and protection to the oppressed. No soul that bears the image of God is to be placed at the footstool of human power. The greatest possible kindness and freedom are to be granted to the purchase of the blood of Christ. Over and over again in his teaching, Christ presented the value of true humility, showing how necessary it is that we exercise helpfulness, compassion, and love toward one another.”
“How long God will bear with the heartless indifference shown in the treatment of men toward their fellow men, we cannot determine. But “whatsoever a man soweth, that shall he also reap.” “This earth is his purchased inheritance, and he would have men free and pure and holy.”
|DOCTRINAL ENFORCEMENT—ELLEN G. WHITE,
(Compiled from Counsels to Writers and Editors.)
"There is no excuse for anyone taking the position that there is no more truth to be revealed, and that all our expositions of Scripture are without an error. The fact that certain doctrines have been held as truth for many years by our people, is not a proof that our ideas are infallible. Age will not make error into truth, and truth can afford to be fair. No true doctrine will lose anything by close investigation…
“Shall we drive our stakes of doctrine one after another, and then try to make all Scripture meet out established opinions?…Long-cherished opinions must not be regarded as infallible…Those who sincerely desire truth will not be reluctant to lay open their positions for investigation and criticism, and will not be annoyed if their opinions and ideas are crossed. This was the spirit cherished among us forty years ago. We have many lessons to learn, and many, many to unlearn. God and heaven alone are infallible…
The Rebuke of the Lord Will Be upon Those “Guardians of Doctrine”
“When our schemes and our plans have been broken; when men who have depended upon our judgment conclude the Lord would lead them to act and judge for themselves, we should not feel like censuring, and like exercising arbitrary authority to compel them to receive our ideas. Those who are placed in authority should constantly cultivate self-control. The rebuke of the Lord will be upon those who would be guardians of the doctrine, who would bar the way that greater light shall not come to the people…
“As real spiritual life declines, it has ever been the tendency to cease to advance in the knowledge of truth. Men rest satisfied with the light already received from God’s word, and discourage any further investigation of the Scriptures. They become conservative and seek to avoid discussion. The fact that there is no controversy or agitation among God’s people should not be regarded as conclusive evidence that they are holding fast to sound doctrine…
“Agitate, agitate, agitate! The subjects which we present to the world must be to us a living reality. It is important that in defending the doctrines which we consider fundamental articles of faith, we should never allow ourselves to employ arguments that are not wholly sound. These may avail to silence an opposer, but they do not honor the truth. We should present sound arguments that will not only silence our opponents but will bear the closest and most searching scrutiny…
“The present attitude of the church is not pleasing to God. There has come in a self-confidence that has led them to feel no necessity for more truth and greater light…
We Must Not Become Set in Our Ideas: No Living Man Should Think for Us
"You may question matters with yourself and with one another, if you only do it in the right spirit…There was no dissension, no enmity, no evil-surmising, no misjudging of brethren [in 1844]. If we but knew the evil of the spirit of intolerance, how carefully would we shun it!…
“We must study the truth for ourselves. No living man should be relied upon to think for us. No matter who it is, or in what position he may be placed, we are not to look upon any man as a perfect criterion for us. We are to counsel together, and to be subject to one another; but at the same time we are to exercise the ability God has given us to learn what is truth. Each one of us must look to God for divine character that will stand the test in the day of God. We must not become set in our ideas, and think that no one should interfere with our opinions…
“If a brother differ with you on some points of truth, do not stoop to ridicule, do not place him in a false light, or misconstrue his words, making sport of them; do not misinterpret his words and wrest them of their true meaning. This is not conscientious argument. Do not present him before others as a heretic, when you have not with him investigated his positions, taking the Scriptures text by text in the spirit of Christ to show him what is truth. You do not yourself really know the evidence he has for his faith, and you cannot really clearly define your own position…
“Hear before you condemn…Refusing to hear because you are prejudiced against the message or the messenger will not make your case excusable before God. To condemn that which you have not heard and do not understand will not exalt your wisdom in the eyes of those who are candid in their investigations of truth. And to speak with contempt of those whom God has sent with a message of truth, is folly and madness.
“If our youth are seeking to educate themselves to be workers in his cause, they…are not to make up their minds that the whole truth has been unfolded…If they entrench themselves in the belief that the whole truth has been revealed, they will be in danger of discarding precious jewels of truth that shall be discovered as men turn their attention to the searching of the rich mine of God’s word.”
I find two different attitudes presented in the Review of 1896 and the Review of 2014 under control of the present officers of the General Conference. Who is an Adventist, and what is an Adventist is as much about the spirit and methods being used, as it is about the ideas being discussed. We cannot claim to be doing the Lord’s work if we are using the devil’s methods to enforce one Biblical interpretation against another.
1All emphasis in quotations in this article has been added.