Truth, Your Truth, and Cliff’s Truth
by Ervin Taylor
by Ervin Taylor
March 26, 2014
My good friend Cliff Goldstein’s “Cliff’s Edge” epistle in a recent issue of the Adventist Review (March 20, 2014) is vintage Cliff. Like a fine wine, you can really depend on him to provide a unique insight or “taste” of what dedicated, traditional Adventists are expected to think. And, if you want to keep up on what the current GC establishment wants Adventists to think, it's required reading.
He is a very polished apologist and point person for classical Adventism.(1) As an added benefit from reading his columns, one gets exposed to a lot of new words and the names of well-known thinkers. This week, the list includes Gottfried Leibniz, David Hume, Richard Dawkins, Charles Darwin, Christopher Hitchens, and Emmanuel Kant. It seems that if Cliff Goldstein didn't exist, contemporary institutional Adventism would have to invent him or someone very much like him.(2)
While the title of his recent piece is “The Reality of God,” I suggest that someone should have edited the title to better reflect what it is really about, perhaps something along the line of “My Definition of Truth.”
Now of course, he does not quite see it that way. In several epistles written several years ago, he insisted that his understanding of Truth (notice the capital “T”), classical Adventism’s take on Truth, and Truth itself are essentially the same. But that was when he was a relatively new Adventist and perhaps reflected a convert’s tendency to talk in those terms. Perhaps upon more mature reflection, he has modified that view. I certainly hope so. Or perhaps, he will insist that I continue to mischaracterize his understanding.
Given his comments this week, however, it appears that he still believes that or something very close to it. Let me explain. In his column, he poses a very interesting question: “With so many faiths, views and religions out there, how do I know Seventh-day Adventism is the truth?” [his italics] He says that his answer is a quote from an individual who was his initial contact with Adventism when he was converted to our small Protestant denomination 34 years ago: “Well, it’s certainly not unreasonable to think that with all those views out there at least one of them is true [his italics]. Cliff comments: “I so appreciated his answer then. And today, 34 years later, I still fall back on it.”
But, someone will say, that’s not an answer to the question. For purpose of discussion, let’s assume for the moment that there is “One Truth” and there is a way to know that “One Truth.” On what basis are the answers provided by Adventism for that “One Truth”? Cliff’s “answer” does not address that.
Much more interesting is his next comment, which I quote verbatim: “I can hear the so-called progressives scowl and protest about how arrogant, triumphalist, and narrow is the attitude that we have the truth. Oh, let’em squawk. [his italics] I’m used to the sad fact that in my 34 years in the church, I’ve faced more opposition to my faith from so-called Adventists than from anyone else.” Readers will note the phrases “so-called progressives” and “so-called Adventists.”
He does not reflect in this column on why he faces more opposition from inside his adopted faith tradition than from outside of it. But, of course, he would have to characterize that opposition as “so-called Adventists.” If they disagree with him, they can't be “real” Adventists. Or perhaps they could be “cultural Adventists,” a category of Adventist he particularly deplores. According to him, if he wanted to have a quality cultural experience, it would not be of the Adventist variety.
But back to the issue addressed in his recent epistle: I leave it for those who wish to comment to respond to the question: “With so many faiths, views and religions out there, how do I know Seventh-day Adventism is the truth?” Cliff’s column did not provide an answer. Who would like to take a stab at answering that question? Please do not “scowl” or “squawk” while you are responding.
1 “Classical Adventism” is here defined as the dominant American Adventism of the 1920s-1950s as represented by what was preached by American Adventist evangelists. It includes standard sectarian Adventist understandings of the prophecies of Daniel and Revelation with special focus on the highly inventive 2300 days/Investigative Judgment doctrine, the “Mark of the Beast,” the “Spirit of Prophecy”(i.e. EGW), and the “Remnant Church” concept.An optional characteristic would be a concern as to who the “King of the North” is. Classical Adventism would also include the traditional written and unwritten Adventist subcultural vocabulary (i.e., “in the Truth”), customs and values associated with Sabbath observance, diet, dress, and, my personal favorite, “adornment.”
2 My apologies to Voltaire:"Si Dieun'existait pas, ilfaudraitl'inventer." (“If God did not exist, it would be necessary for us to invent him.”)