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June 18, 2010

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Dr. Miller, do you speak of LSU, Conference, local church leadership, as well as members not looking into and addressing these concerns as the cause for the LSU origins dissonance? Isn't it the same ambivalence and lack of involvement by constituents/citizens that brought Rome to ruin? Not to equate the church to the Roman Empire but Christ says it succinctly when he states that a house divided will fall, a house built on sand will be swept away. It seems that the house of the Lord, His church, is built upon the faith of Christ . . . the oneness of our fellowship. Indeed divided, due to a lack of collective involvement, we are falling. Perhaps we need to take hold of one another by the power of the Spirit to find the unity of church.

Nick,

Thank you for coming directly to the heart of the matter and not pulling any punches. Your assessment of Ellen White's views on the matter as it related to teaching at Battle Creek College leaves no wiggle room for those who want to equivocate. She was crystal clear. We need to be as crystal clear today.

Edwin

Given that Battle Creek was the "Alpha" this evolution issue clearly qualifies as "Omega" candidate if not the Omega of apostasy itself.

Recall that 3SG 90-91 says that theistic evolutionism is the WORST form of infidelity.

A simple contrast between that confirmed "alpha" problem and this possible "omega" might be helpful.

1. Our schools today that do not tow the line in service to evolutionism - STILL have to teach evolution to the biology students at some modest level - just to inform them about the jargon, the mythology they will meet when they graduate and seek jobs.

By contrast - there was never any such thing as "teach the Living Temple basics to the students even though we don't believe them - because the whole world is using that system as a frame of reference". It simply was not there in the late 1800's.

2. In the recent U.S Presidential election - we had all the presidential candidates of one of the political parties asked "do you believe in evolution" on national television during a debate - and the few that said "no" were then pummeled by the press over the next week or two with demands that they recant combined with insistence that nobody could be president that did not "believe" in evolutionism.

By comparison - there was no such "you must believe in Kellogg's Living Temple or you cannot be elected to political office" nonsense in the 1800's or early 1900's.

3. In America - government grant funding is fully behind evolutionism as is the National Academy of Sciences. So anyone going into a field of research that might be remotely related to a field that evolutionists are interested in - will find a lot of jobs helping to promote an evolutionist agenda and none for Creation. Imagine for a moment that this were the case for Kellogg's "living temple".

The Comparison is astounding. So - do we get out of science? I don't think so. Well then where will this end up?

4. Acceptance of Evolution by the general public in Europe is reported to be well above 90% - and it has already destroyed Christian church attendance in Europe (it is down about 90% from what it was in the 1950's in terms of % of population attending services) and will soon reach that point in Canada, and American acceptance of evolution is on the rise.

By comparison - there was no such world wide momentum behind Kellogg's Living temple at the time the Adventists were dealing with it. Having all of society line up behind the mythology of evolutionism applies peer pressure at the grass roots level before students even get to college.

5. All indications are that "if time continues long enough" - almost all of our Universities will eventually fall on the subject of origins, if our denominational response to this crisis is no more "insightful" than what we have seen over the last 12 years.

So while it is true that some "Worse thing" could always show up in the next few years as the "omega" - this one is plenty bad enough to be an "Omega of a most shocking nature".

in Christ,

Bob

Yes, it is interesting that Nick Miller has to go back to Spiritual Gifts to find a supporting quote. Having read through all four volumes when I was in high school, I can see why most church leaders prefer to circulate the later versions of her writings.

The shouting, heresy-obsessed, pre-scientific worldview that is expressed in those early volumes are more significant as history than as strict guides on contemporary educational philosophy and science.

Interesting that Nick doesn't continue his Spiritual Gift quoting with this:

"Every species of animal which God had created were preserved in the ark. The confused species which God did not create, which were the result of amalgamation, were destroyed by the flood. Since the flood there has been amalgamation of man and beast, as may be seen in the almost endless varieties of species of animals, and in certain races of men" (Spiritual Gifts, vol. 3, p. 75)

Hmm. . .what could those post-flood amalgamated races be? Ellen White herself matured beyond these views. But it is telling that Nick has to go back to those early days to support his "infidelity" attack on contemporary Adventist education.

One can't read Science or Nature journals and not have some questions vis-a-vis the sort of enforced literalism presented above. But this small crowd is not interested in science facts, as they don't actually show up at science conferences and present research. This is just about politics, using power and extreme marginalizing rhetoric like "infidelity" because they can't keep up intellectually in the halls of Adventist academia.

"...they can't keep up intellectually in the halls of Adventist academia."

When La Sierra's brightest star is thinking theologically the most he can muster is a hackneyed recapitulation of Schleiermacher. That is, until he found the time to pen defences of evolution and homosexuality. Schleiermacher of course is that one theologian that hasn't kept up in the halls of non-Adventist academia but somehow still finds a home in liberal Adventism.

Carpenter's point will have some weight if the progressive crowd can muster the support of one theological faculty- let's say La Sierra's- to issue a statement embracing theistic evolution with words as muted as Geraty's letter which was recently published in Spectrum.

It is more than a little instructive that those who choose to embrace "belief" in evolutionism's counterfeit doctrine on origins not only reject the ministry of Ellen White but also show a distinct lack of understanding of the entire concept of inspiration and the Biblical gift of prophecy.

Darwin, Dawkins, Provine and Meyers all say that they took this belief in evolutionism to its logical conclusion when they rejected the Bible.

How much more obvious does this need to be?

in Christ,

Bob

Thank you for the well written summary of Ellen White's response to problems in the Battle Creek College. The parallels are thought provoking.
-Rachel

Well, Alex, where to begin? If you want to rule out pre-scientific sources, that really leaves us without any revelation on this topic. So that's sort of begging the question isn't it.

If you want to say that early EGW is more valid than late EGW, you still have to contend with what she 1904 (quoted above).

If you want to argue that EGW's statements on amalgamation force us to take what we like and leave what we don't, that ignores the principle of giving clear statements hermeneutical priority over ambiguous ones. Whatever EGW meant by "amalgamation," it's clear from her prior writing agaist slavery that she didn't consider any race sub-human.

Furthermore, as Nick has pointed out, it's also clear in her work that she did not consider our colleges to be worthy of unqualified support. Now while I reject Michigan Conference as an arbiter of right and wrong in our church, I do respect the right of our church leaders to call it like they see it. Especially when things get as far out of alignment with their purpose as they seem to have gotten at La Sierra.

Just to make myself clear: I have no problem with teaching scientific facts. I do have a problem with presenting theistic evolution as compatible with Adventism, which destroys hope in the soon second-coming. (I say this because I know of no Adventists who've accepted theistic evolution that emphasize the nearness of the second-coming.)

So to my point of view, there's two ways to cop out on this issue. One is to teach only those facts that agree with the Adventist position (often accompanied with wild hypotheses that purport to harmonize science and scripture), the other is to teach that we can incorporate evolution into our understandings of Gen 1-2 without damaging the rest of our theology. We need biology and theology profs with enough character and commitment to the truth to take a clear eyed view of both the scientific and biblical facts without rushing to prematurely resolve the tension. And we need church administrators who will give them room to work in that tension by not putting non-biblical strictures into our statement of beliefs.

Well, now I'm rambling, but that's how I see these things.

I hope you have a blessed time at GC.

Many interesting comments while I have been traveling, let me respond to a few:

David, I agree that apathy and sheer laziness can be disguised as the positive virtues of tolerance and non-judgmentalism. While many on the left are in favor of community, they often want to avoid the accountability that must exist to make community meaningful. Others of us are just too busy or distracted to put time into accountability, much as happened with the Roman citizens as their Republic waned into an Empire.

Jon, I agree with you that we are far beyond the time for action to be taken on this, but I think we need to be careful in assuming that the GC is the primary responsible party for taking it. There are things they can do to provide overall guidance, but the hard decisions have to be made at the local and regional levels. I would not want to solve the problem of liberal teaching with the implementation of a conservative dictatorship. Church history tells us that both extremes are damaging to the body of Christ. The solution needs to come from the body, in my view, and be implemented locally and regionally.

Bob, I'm intrigued by your proposal that Theistic evolution is the Omega of apostasy. The points you make are good ones, and I would add to them that the language used to criticize the first (Kellog's Pantheistic teachigns) is almost directly applicable to the second (pseudo-science undermining the Bible, etc.) Also, as the first made God co-extensive with His creation, the second removes Him entirely from the work of creation. There are probably others as we consider and reflect on it.

Alex, I'm always ready for a good history observation, but I'm afraid that your claim that Mrs. White shifted in her views on creation and evolution just does not stand up to scrutiny. Yes, I did quote from Spiritual Gifts (1864) as the original source of the statement, but the statement was republished in Signs of the Times fifteen years later (1879) and again in Spirit of Prophecy Vol. IV, five years later (1884). Furthermore, she made virtually identical statements regarding the creation week being literal days in the book Education (pp. 128-129) published in 1904. I am one who accepts that Mrs. White's personal views matured and even underwent change over the years, with these two caveats: 1. earlier inspired statements of truth are clarified, but not contradicted, by later statements, and, 2. that one must show evidence of the claimed change, not just assume it. You offer evidence of neither qualification. Until you do, I think that the halls of Adventist academia are unlikely to find your arguments either credible or meaningfully intellectual. (However, I appreciate them on my blog here, as you continue to cause us to think through our conclusions. :))

Thanks.

I am often amused when someone brings out that old saw about the Roman empire. I want to use it as an example of how rhetoric can be shaped by such ideas and offer a different critical perspective on the current discussion. Please bear with me.

First, I appreciate the spirit in which Nicholas usually writes, and wish that more bloggers showed his sense of balance and openness...

I say that because it needs to be said, and because I want to show my own ability to be fair, even when I am about to launch off one of Nicholas's remarks to deconstruct parts of his argument.

Now back to the Roman Empire. It's a casual throw-away remark we often read, as if it was meant to be widely known and accepted by everyone. However it is a myth... but like so many myths it is useful to make larger points. By myth I mean a useful story to ground a worldview or justify social behavior. Myths are good and necessary things.

There are over 200 theories as to why the Roman Empire disintegrated, not just one. (Go do the Google Search and come back....we'll still be here!) Every theory has a different ending point and location for the demise of the Romans, and proposes a different series of mechanisms: economic, meteorological, moral, military, even the rise of Christianity. They can never be a single cause for such an event because it was not an event at all... history just doesn't work that way on large processes. However, for a few hundred years we have been obsessed with theories of rises and falls, and the uses of history reflect our fascination with explanations and historical parallels.

If you can follow me so far, then here's the next step. Just as we can never know or agree why, how and when such large scale things as the collapse of the Roman Empire occurred, so we should be skeptical about the uses of history we see in scaled-down discussions such as the one about early Adventist colleges.

We are all capable of the same kind of repeated cliches as Nicholas used above, using them as illustrations and arguments, when they have no validity at all. They are rhetorical, meant to garner agreement, but useless as premises on which to build an argument.

The second rhetorical bit here is the use of Ellen White. Here is the quote: "... can there be any meaningful doubt about what Ellen White would have publicly said about issues at La Sierra University were she alive today?"

Again, it is the use of history that I am concerned with. The underlying analogy seems to be in three steps : Ellen White opposed X back then, so she would do so now, so we should do so now. Nicholas does a decent job of proposing the first step, but offers no justification at all for the second, and neither for the third. It's a rhetoric based on a construction of history coupled with an appeal to a dead authority, and very dubious conclusions.

So this is how history gets used. As myths about beginnings shape and express our ideals, so do myths about endings. It would be possible, for example, (here comes my third bit) to write an entirely different narrative of early Adventist education from the one Nicholas outlines, one that shows how Kellogg and other veered from Christian values--not simply by accepting Darwin's biological theories but by embracing eugenics (as I proposed at the recent ASDAH meeting in DC). In this narrative, then racism, apartheid, and physical perfectionism become the Omega.

So what? you might ask. This is a plea for slower, cooler, deeper, reflection on current events in our church and schools. (Who could argue with that?)

Ergo: At this time, we need language-clarifying moments by those who advocate both ends of the creation/evolution debate. We need people with BS detectors on all sides. And we need humility. Let's acknowledge that no one has the answers, and keep fellowship with all who contribute to the conversation--especially those with ideas who deviate from the accepted path. It is those from whom we can learn the most. A healthy church and educational system needs all perspectives, even that of secularists and saints.


I appreciate Nick's efforts in trying to bring some clarity and insight to the current creation issue based on the use of inspired historical precedence.

The more difficult question that now needs to be answered is "what next?" This is by far the hardest part of the issue that needs comment. Should we require a literal creation consensus statement that must be signed by all faculty who work at our educational institutions? What should be done with LSU, and what to do with the professors? Should there be a unified voice, not just one, that clearly sounds a warning as Ellen White did? Are we ready to do that?

What does it say about how the issue is perceived locally when a conference 2000 miles away is the first to pull their tuition subsidy for staff who send their children to the institution?

I fear this will be a very divisive issue and wisdom must be sought and foresight and patience exercised. I pray for our leaders as they deal with this issue, which I suspect will have some official discussion at the GC session.

While I agree with Nick's analysis historically, we need to be aware of the consequences of following through with our convictions on the matter and be ready to deal with the most probable outcomes. I would like to see Nick write another blog that deals not just with inspired historical precedence, but with the future implications for the church for acting on the suggested course of action implied in the blog. Let me add, the outcomes concluded from such a discussion should not scare us away from doing what we feel is right. Regardless, what has happened at LSU will have an impact on the future of the church.

Barton,

Ellen White was speaking against Adventism's most successful institution / member.

Where is Adventism today? Has it grown or not?

Your suggestion is as good now as it was then- not much! Adventist institutions should promote Adventist belief or cease being Adventist.

Hi Nick,

Forgive the delay in responding to your post.

All I can say is, "touché." I've made some more lengthy comments at my blog.

Hello Graeme, It is always appreciated to get lengthy and thoughtful responses such as yours. Just a couple of items in reply.

I would note that I did not initiate the Rome comparison, but was responding to a comment that had raised it. You are absolutely right in saying that large, significant historical events like the fall of Rome can never be mono-causal. One must consider a variety of factors when dealing with epoch changing developments.

Still, that does no mean that it is wrong or inappropriate to consider one of the causes of an event to draw a lesson from it. One does not need to read Cicero to know that many contemporary observers of Rome as it moved from Republic to Empire saw as a very real causative reason a loss of will to act upon the historic principles that made Rome a Republic rather than a tyranny. The lives of luxury and indulgence led by many Roman citizens became proverbial. The birth rate dropped well below the replacement rate, as Romans wanted to spend time and resources enjoying life rather than rearing a family. Rome is the number one example of Will Durant's insightful phrase that "nations are born stoic, and die epicurian."

We surely can draw a lesson from this, while not denying the many other factors in Rome's decline, including empire overstretch, involvement in too many foreign wars, growth of a welfare state at home, and fiscal corruption and irresonsibility. (Hmm, perhaps these other factors sound familiar as well, but a lesson on America's republican decline would take another blog, or two.)

Your second point that somehow the historical precedent of Battle Creek does not give us insight into current events and how Ellen White would have approached them mystifies me. You merely say that it is a dubious conclusion that does not follow. I say, read her quotes closely. She speaks to the identical issues facing La Sierra. She does so decisively, calling the promotion of long-age creation infidelity. Her Battle Creek messages leave no doubt as to how she approaches colleges who have followed such a path. How is this a "dubious conclusion"? Perhaps I will play your game of conclusory assertions. I will assert that the conclusion is not dubious, but perfectly sound. There, the ball is in your court! :)

Hi Don,

Your questions are good ones, basically summarized as, given our prophetic heritage on these issues, how do we move forwards practically in dealing with situations like LSU. Well, I think that events have overtaken us a bit, with the voting of the clearer, more detailed statement on creation at the GC, along with a vote to revise fundamental belief number 6 along these lines. This should provide the clarity needed to help our various University biology departments to help frame expectations of science professors in our schools. I would hope that in most instances science professors would agree not to undermine or criticize the church's position in their classrooms. Looking forward, we can make sure that in hiring new professors, that we will choose those who can not just stay neutral on origins issues, but actually be thoughtful advocates for the church's position. This does not seem so radical if you think about it. Finally, those professors that insist on promoting some kind of macro-evolution in the classroom just need to find a non-Adventist classroom to do so. I'm sure the conversation will continue on these important points. Let's say a part of it! Blessings.

3SG 90-91 was quoted by Ted Wilson (from the root source in Signs of the Times) several times at this last GC session. There Ellen White refers to Theistic Evolution as the worst form of infidelity.

I have to agree that Ellen White addressed both the Living Temple issue of her day as well as the T.E issue - explicitly.

How about the Historical Grammatical method at Andrews? Is that a point of debate?

in Christ,

Bob

Interesting that you should ask, Bob, about the historical/grammatical method. Our most recent blog post by Dr. Roy Gane is on this very topic. You can find it at http://www.memorymeaningfaith.org/blog/2010/07/highercritical-thinking-part-iii.html

I'm not sure in your comment if when you say historical grammatical method you actually mean historical critical method. The latter is the controversial, liberal approach to the Bible. The former is the more conservative approach to Bible study acceptable by most conservative Protestant theologians. Honestly, I don't think you will find many, if any, users of the full-blown historical critical method at Andrews. But as discussed in Roy Gane's article, some methods associated with the historical critical method can be used in a limited way by conservative scholars. Especially as Adventists, with the example of the ministry of Ellen White, we understood that inspiration allows for the use of pre-existing sources and editors. We should not be surprised to find that these elements existed at times in the writing of the Bible, and we should be open to examining them, as long as we treat the final version of the Bible as God's word. Anyway, read Dr. Gane's blog, and perhaps you can continue that discussion there.

Thanks.

I did mean Historical Grammatical and I was hoping that this is still the dominant view at Andrews. Elder Wilson listed this as one of his concerns as well.

I will take a look at Dr. Gane's blog for more details - thanks.

in Christ,

Bob

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Memory, Meaning & Faith is a blog covering Christian history in light of contemporary issues.

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