AToday: QUESTION #18 -
Since Glacier View, the Church has attempted to promote
its 27 fundamentals as a representation of Biblical truth and duty for
the Advent community (see: www2.adventist.org/beliefs/).
Today, I think it is fair to say that less than a majority of the Church’s
membership would support all 27 of these supposed "fundamentals." However,
it should also be noted that the Church officially recognizes that the
"revision of these statements" may be in order when the "Church is led
by the Holy Spirit to a fuller understanding of Bible truth." In fact,
"revisions" may be allowed if "better language" is employed "to express
the teachings of God's Holy Word." My question is this, what changes would
you make to this list of "fundamentals" and why?
Dr. Ford: In Article 1 -
The Holy Scriptures, I would insert the word "only" before the word
infallible. The Bible is the only infallible guide for mortal man.
In Article 2 - The Trinity,
I would echo what many orthodox theologians have said and put in the sentence:
"As seen and known God is three; as seeing and knowing God is one; He is
three persons in Himself, but one person to Himself." Because SDAs have
traditionally given Christ a sinful human nature that needs to be corrected
in such a way that the wayfaring man, though a fool, need not err therein.
The article should say that Christ's human nature, as well as His divine,
was immaculate, holy, undefiled, separate from sinners. "In Him was no
sin", "He knew no sin."
For Article 6 – Creation,
it should be said that Genesis 1 is an inspired interpretation of the mystical
work of creation set forth in anthropocentric terms. It is not intended
as a scientific statement as the Bible is concerned with showing us how
to go to heaven, not how the heavens go. The Genesis 1 statement is perfect
for its purpose, but its purpose is not one purely designed only for post-Darwinian
generations. It was inspired in such a way as to make sense for all generations
most of whom could not even read and who learned chiefly by narrative forms.
Had Genesis 1 been inspired in purely scientific terms, we would not yet
understand it. It would probably be only an equation and useless for all
practical purposes. The Bible does NOT teach that the world is only 6000
years old. That view is certainly wrong and does great harm to our young
people who are pursuing a higher education.
Ellen White rightly said that the
Bible was given for practical purposes and was not intended to satisfy
all of human curiosity. The view expressed above in no wise robs the Sabbath
of its place in the cosmos. Christ could take bread and use it as the symbol
of His body. Similarly, He has taken the week and used it as a divine symbol
of the divine creative work and its cessation and all this was done for
Article 10 - The Experience of
Salvation: Traditionally, Adventists have erroneously placed sanctification
within the scope of the Pauline "righteousness by faith." It is now time
for a clear change to be made to correct that error. We should follow the
decision made at Palmdale Conference, which I attended in the 1970s and
which was written up in the Review as concluding that righteousness
by faith meant justification only, though sanctification was always its
fruit. This will safeguard the precious doctrine of Christian assurance.
Article 11 - The Church,
we should follow the example of Ellen White who said clearly in Acts
of the Apostles that from the beginning of time, all faithful souls
have constituted the church. The distinction should be made as Questions
on Doctrines made, between a movement and the church. All who know
Christ as Saviour and Lord are members of His church, regardless of whether
they be Catholic or Protestant, dispensationalist, or nondispensationalist,
charismatic or noncharismatic.
Article 12 - The Remnant and Its
Mission: This should follow Questions on Doctrines which rightly
pointed out that the remnant is yet to be developed and will consist of
all faithful Christians in the last days. I heard F.D. Nichol say at the
Seminary (in the 1950s at Potomac University) that "it was a puzzle to
him that SDAs recognize the woman at the beginning of Revelation 12 as
the church invisible but by the 17th verse they had made her remnant very
Article 13 - Unity in the Body
of Christ: This definition should point out that unity is not uniformity
and that true unity is only possible where Christ's words about leadership
are taken seriously: "he that would be first let him be servant of all."
Article 17 - The Gift of Prophecy:
This needs rewording. The gift of prophecy has always been in the church
and was not reserved just for the remnant yet to be developed. If I remember
rightly, our early pioneers, including the Whites, interpreted Revelation
19:10 more broadly than we have in recent decades. I think the word, "authoritative,"
should be removed as it implies infallibility which Ellen White rejected.
For the 18th article, The Law
of God, the second sentence should say: These commandments "as interpreted
by Christ and his apostles" express God's love, etc.
In Article 19, The Sabbath,
it should be clearly said that whereas legalistic observance of the Sabbath
is an abomination to God, those who know it as a parable of the gospel
will find it a delight. They will observe it not as a fetish but according
to the principles taught by Christ in his Sabbath healings. This article
must stress that mere rest on its own is valueless. Unless the Sabbath
observer has ceased to depend on his own works and is trusting fully in
the completed work of Christ, his or her Sabbath-keeping is not acceptable
Article 20 - Stewardship:
The New Testament has no law about tithing. However, the Apostles clearly
taught the principles of good stewardship. See 2 Corinthians 9:6-11 and
my discussion in, "Right With God Right Now," pp. 310-311. This article
should state that the New Testament takes for granted that if Old Testament
believers, with their limited privileges, could return one tenth of their
increase, the New Testament saints should be giving much more as their
privileges are greater. Again, legalistic observance should be warned against.
Article 21 - Christian Behavior:
This should say that whereas since the cross, there is no recognition by
heaven of ceremonial uncleanness and that therefore the Old Testament regulations
regarding the mingling of different types of cloth, agricultural prohibitions
regarding the yoking together of diverse animals, and the outlawing of
certain foods are not to be enforced on the world wide church. Yet each
set of laws has something to teach us still. Inasmuch as part of the reason
concerning the prohibition of certain meats was for health reasons, Christians
will freely follow the hint still, without enforcing it as law upon others.
Similarly, where the environment permits, the nearer one gets to the diet
of Eden, the more one can glorify God in health and service. The New Testament
offers principles of behavior and we should not move beyond those principles
in instructing others, except by way of pointing to ideals.
Article 22 - Marriage and the
Family should say that though God hates divorce today as always, yet
in some situations divorce may be the lesser of two evils. The overruling
guide is always mercy and not sacrifice. Those who misuse this loving principle
are known to the Searcher of hearts. SDAs have had church leaders with
wives suffering from incurable insanity who have sacrificially chosen celibacy
as a way of life for decades. In view of Paul's words in l Corinthians
7, it should be recognized that there are some situations that break a
marriage as surely as adultery. Christ merely pointed out what was the
characteristic sin of His time without trying to cover all moral bases.
The article should stress that the Sabbath and Marriage are the two great
pillars of society and whatever strengthens them, blesses the world, and
whatever weakens them, curses the world.
Article 23, Christ's Ministry
in the Heavenly Sanctuary was rejected decades ago by most Adventist scholars
and should be rewarded in harmony with Hebrews 9:8,12,23,25; 10:19-20.
The date 1844 should be omitted as quite unscriptural and yet a providential
date in God's timetable for raising up the Advent movement. It should be
stated that the pre-advent judgment is the matter of a moment as Christ
closes his priestly ministry (see Revelation 22:11,12). The judgment of
Daniel 7 and Revelation 14:7 is judgment upon the wicked, not the saints.
Compare Revelation 18:10, which uses the same words as the earlier verse,
in one hour is thy (Babylon's) judgment come.
AToday: QUESTION #19 - As one looks more
closely at the "27 Fundamental Beliefs," it becomes painfully apparent
that the Gospel did not make the list! There are specific statements regarding
"The Law of God," "The Sabbath," "Creation," "The Gift of Prophecy," and
so on, but there is not one statement whatsoever on the gospel! Moreover,
rather than correctly explain the Gospel anywhere within these "fundamentals,"
there is only a confused and unbiblical attempt, as noted in your criticism
of Article 10 entitled, "The Experience of Salvation." I will also note
for the record, that the word "gospel" appears only four times out of the
4,000 words that comprise the entire 27 articles of faith (see numbers
11, 20, 22, 24). Are we to conclude from this glaring omission that SDAs
are not very Gospel-oriented?
I note that it has been more than twenty years since the "Righteousness
by Faith" debates and your attempt to promote the Protestant Gospel to
the Adventist community. It is obvious that the leadership still can’t
seem to comprehend or clearly promote this primary doctrine. Why do you
think the Denomination is so hesitant to proclaim the true gospel? Is it
just an attempt to protect the law and the Sabbath? Or is there some sinister
"anti-gospel" plot that has been put into effect years ago? Whatever happened
to the Palmdale resolution that was passed back in the Spring of 1976 that
correctly defined the Gospel? How many more decades must pass before the
SDA Church realizes that Gospel reform is the only answer for both a dying
world and a dying Church? This is very troubling and confusing to many.
Please help us understand this.
Dr. Ford: The pragmatic guiding star for many busy and
threatened administrators is to keep the ship from rocking. The urgent
continually crowds out the important. There are wonderful exceptions—men
like Duncan Eva, Robert Frame and others. I think Jan Paulsen will be faithful
to the primacy of the gospel. He is a very dedicated man and I do not think
he will compromise.
No, there has
been no sinister "anti-gospel" plot, though men like the Standish brothers
have worked hard to silence the truth about Righteousness by Faith. I believe
the administrators have done it honestly, out of ignorance, not out of
viciousness or malevolence. (The Standish brothers are not primarily administrators,
though they have an independent work including the school at Hartland,
I begged Duncan
Eva not to let anything happen to the Palmdale resolutions. He replied,
"Over my dead body." But literally, it has happened. He is dead and the
Palmdale biblical discoveries have been lost. The doctrine of original
sin helps to explain many mysteries including ecclesiastical ones. Because
of sin, every institution has been corrupted to some degree and the church
of every age has found the gospel like quicksilver—hard to hold. To really
understand the gospel means to distrust oneself and all things human and
to depend on God alone. To be fully dependent on God means to be wholly
independent of all else and everyone else. That's a hard hand to play unless
one has been broken and learned to look only to Jesus.
It may be,
that as the Church disintegrates more and more—which in the western world
will happen as the generation of tithe payers born before World War II
die out—that in desperation, both leaders and lay people will cry out to
God and the One who hears the song of the sparrow may graciously attend
to us with showers of blessing.
AToday:QUESTION #20 -
Although you have been exiled from the Denomination
for almost twenty years now, it is apparent that you are still an Adventist
at heart. For decades now, you have strongly supported and defended the
historic fundamentals of the Advent movement such as the Gospel, the Second
Coming, the Sabbath, Bible Sanctification, the Judgment, the State of the
Dead, etc. In fact, few men today can defend the mission and articulate
the message of Seventh-day Adventism as eloquently and passionately as
Moreover, I note that you have
been—and still are—a member in good standing of the Seventh-day Adventist
church ever since Glacier View. My question is this: under what conditions
would you accept the return of your ministerial credentials so that you
could preach and teach for the Denomination? Would the confusion about
the Gospel and the Investigative Judgment have to be officially repudiated?
Would the 27 fundamentals have to be revised as you have indicated? Or
would the Church have to go even further and make a major re-organizational
change to a more biblical, congregational model? Unfortunately, I do not
mean to imply that there is any such reform in the works, but as Christians
we do believe in miracles, don’t we?
Dr. Ford: Charles Watson, former
G.C. Vice President, asked me the same question some years ago. "What does
the leadership have to do?" My answer was, "Be honest." But, today, I would
be more detailed.
I would want to say that I have little
confidence in many of our administrators and committees. Repeatedly, since
Glacier View, move after move has been calculated by expediency and the
results have been catastrophic. Gladly, I acknowledge the presence of godly
men among these same committees. But it does seem that their counsel rarely
prevails. It is not that Adventist leaders are worse than other men—it
is rather, that they are no better. The biblical doctrine of depravity
gives cogency to Christ's warning "Beware of men."
So long as the Church fails to heed
the warnings of the Spirit against all forms of hierarchicalism, the Denomination
shuts away from itself the blessing God so longs to bestow. Christ made
it clear that it should not be among his followers as it is with the pagans
who enshrine kings to dominate the less powerful. We were instructed to
follow his example: "I am among you as one that serves." We have never
taken seriously the gospel admonition that he who would be first, must
be servant of all.
An example from my own division is
the tragic loss of over 180 ministers in the ten years after Glacier View.
That exodus certainly cannot be wholly blamed upon the administration but
there is sadly little evidence that the administration greatly cared for
these men before or after their exodus. Thus hundreds of dedicated people
suffered terribly and their greatest pain was just that—that nobody seemed
to care. In many instances, sheer ignorance, prejudice and administrative
brutality was responsible for the loss (see the documented Ph.D. thesis
by Harris Ballis on this topic printed some months ago).
Secondly, the Church does not seem
to know how to repent. Rarely does it acknowledge its doctrinal or administrative
errors. So, how can there be forgiveness where there is no confession and
restitution? Where are the plain statements acknowledging that the Church
taught error on the nature of Christ for over one and a half centuries?
That it misrepresented righteousness by faith for just as long, despite
the advice of the Palmdale committee? That its own scholars repudiated
the Investigative Judgment half a century ago in response to a questionnaire
authorized by F.D. Nichol? That the action taken at Glacier View was based
on a ten-point statement not authorized by those present and not acceptable
to many including the writers? I listed over fifteen cherished errors of
the Church in a public session at Glacier View. After all these years,
these errors continue to be ignored rather than unveiled and addressed.
My own "defrocking" was illegal, according to the chief denominational
legal adviser in Australia, because I was not invited to be present as
the law required. (The Church rejected the advice of its lawyer on this
point and, therefore, I could have sued the Church successfully).
More recent pronouncements by the
Church regarding Ellen White are made as though all the research of Walter
Rea had been disproved when the opposite is the case. See, for example,
Herbert Douglass' recent work, The Messenger of the Lord, which
as Alden Thompson pointed out in his Spectrum review (Winter, 1999),
ignores the scholarship of the church itself on this matter. I quote Thompson:
"Messenger's handling of Rea strikingly illustrates the deliberate plan
to ignore the critics." How right Thompson is, and woe unto us!
Decades ago, James Denney in his
classic, The Death of Christ, wrote: "Nothing is more characteristic
of churches than their attitude to assurance, and the place they give it
in their preaching and in their systems of doctrine" (p. 288). While Ellen
White could write, "It is insanity not to know that we are children of
God," as a Denomination, we have been scared of this gracious gospel truth.
Our teaching on the judgment and perfectionism has haunted scores of thousands
of conscientious Adventists, while others equally conscientious have given
up the fight and left the Church. This indeed is something to be repented
of, but I see few signs of sorrow and confession by leadership.
What about the calamitous neglect
of the youth in our Church? Unlike the Adventists, Southern Baptists in
this country pay close attention to their youth ministry. We lose most
of our young people in the West and usually the most talented. We have
followed Nineteenth Century methods in this area as in almost all other
areas of significance. Much of our behavior suggests that we belong to
history and the ecclesiastical archives rather than the end of the 20th
century. Where is the spirit of self-sacrifice so often characteristic
of our pioneer days? When the laity hear of the salaries we give to some
of the administrators in the health arm of the Church, they are rightly
We refuse to learn from other church
bodies, as we should. While key denominations of Protestantism often give
lay people at least fifty percent participation in denominational decision
making, our laity’s contribution is barely a whisper and too often decisions
have been agreed upon before it has ever been presented to a committee.
The Lord says: "Shall I not visit for all this?" And visit He will!
My wife (Gill) and I are members
of the PUC church but our primary membership is with the church invisible—the
one bride of Christ made up of all those who know Christ as Saviour and
Lord regardless of denominational affiliation. I would do anything I could
to help the Seventh-day Adventist church move towards the gospel, but just
as surely would I be glad to assist any other body of Christians striving
to exalt Christ and His truth.
No, I would not accept denominational
ministerial credentials unless determined efforts were afoot to correct
such Church cancers as the above. And while I agree with you that as Christians
we believe in miracles, it may be that I am not quite as optimistic as
you are about the possibilities in this instance. May God grant—and I pray
for it fervently—that I am wrong in this instance.
AToday:AToday: Dr. Ford, I want to thank you for taking time to answer our questions.
We will post this interview in its entirety on the Adventist Today
forum website. No doubt, the Adventist Today audience will have
a number of follow-up questions. The best of these will be forwarded on
to you for further comments. We will then post both the additional questions
and your response to them on the Adventist Today website.
In addition, I would like to personally
thank you for your many years of promoting and defending the gospel and
Adventism. You have done this in the face of great opposition and challenge
and you should be commended. May you, your family, and your Gospel ministry
be richly blessed.