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 Articles: Raymond Cottrell on Dr. Ford
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Exegesis of Daniel

by Raymond Cottrell

Chapter 22: Desmond Ford and the Sanctuary

Like an airplane unexpectedly entering a region of clear air turbulence, in 1945 Dr. Desmond Ford began to encounter exegetical problems with the traditional Adventist interpretation of Daniel 8:14, the sanctuary, and the investigative judgment, and set out on what proved to be a long quest for a viable solution.1 Unlike all who had preceded him in this quest,2 he eventually found a way by which to put all of the disparate pieces of the puzzle together in a coherent pattern that resolved the problems, that was faithful to sound principles of exegesis, and that left him a dedicated Seventh-day Adventist with complete confidence in the integrity of the church as an authentic witness to the everlasting gospel.

Over the next ten years Ford discovered that some of his contemporaries and others before him had wrestled with the same problems. In his definitive 992-page Glacier View manuscript, Daniel 8:14, the Day of Atonement, and the Investigative Judgment (hereafter: Daniel), he names twelve Adventist leaders with whom he had discussed the problems, in person or by correspondence.3 He devoted his master's and one of his doctoral dissertations to the subject.3 His published commentaries on the Books of Daniel and the Revelation total more than two thousand pages.4 He has probably devoted more scholarly study to the subject, and written more extensively on it, than any other person in history.

As head of the theology department at Avondale College in Australia, and then as a visiting professor at Pacific Union College, Ford's teaching and personal example inspired the lives of thousands of young people for Christ. Half of the ordained ministers in Australia received their training under his guidance. In both Australia and the United States he was always in demand as a speaker, and thousands testify to a clearer understanding and appreciation of the gospel as a result of his witness to it. His theme ever was--and is--salvation by faith in Jesus Christ. He never discussed the controversial aspects of the sanctuary doctrine in public--until October Z7, 1979 at Pacific Union College. Thirty-four years of silence surely reflect commendable pastoral restraint.

In 1977 Dr. Ford accepted an invitation to teach biblical exegesis at Pacific Union College in Angwin, California, as an exchange professor under the affiliation arrangement between the two colleges. In accepting this assignment he requested and was promised--by the General Conference person facilitating the exchange--an opportunity to participate in an in-depth study of the subject under GC auspices. "It was the enticement of at last being able to see the church come to grips with its central theological problem that was influential in Ford's decision to accept the American invitation."5

That promise never materialized. The obscurantist theological climate that pervaded the church during the Pierson administration precluded any pos- sibility of an objective corporate investigation of the subject.6

Desiring to hear Ford's view regarding the investigative judgment, Pacific Union College faculty members arranged with the local chapter of the Association of Adventist Forums for him to discuss the subject at an open Forum meeting October 27, 1979. "The presentation was positive on the providential role of Adventism and Ellen G. White,"7 but three retired ministers present detected what they took to be heresy and reported their version of his remarks to the college board and the General Conference (GC).

At the request of the Pacific Union Conference the new GC administration --with Neal Wilson at the helm--took charge. The GC gave Ford a six months' leave of absence from teaching and arranged for him to prepare a formal defence of his position, in Takoma Park where he would have access to documents in the Ellen G. White Estate and the GC Archives. It appointed a committee chaired by Dr. Richard Hammill, a GC vice president, to assist him, and a "Sanctuary Review Committee" consisting of 125 top-echelon church administrators and Bible scholars from around the world, in approximately equal numbers, to meet at the Glacier View ranch of the Colorado Conference, from August 10 to 15, 1980. Only 115 of the 125 were present to participate. Copies of Ford's ponderous 992-page document were mailed to them for preliminary study one month prior to meeting at Glacier View.8

Daniel consists of (1) 22 introductory pages, (2) six chapters (670 pages or 68 percent), and (3) a 300-page appendix consisting of 37 documentary sections (30 percent). The chapter titles are:

  1. History of Sanctuary Problems in the Seventh-day Adventist Church and Recognition of These Problems by Adventist Writers (132 pages).
  2. The New Testament Exposition of the Sanctuary Day of Atonement, as Found in Hebrews (116 pages).
  3. Daniel and the Day of Atonement (168 pages).
  4. The Book of Revelation and the Day of Atonement (24 pages).
  5. Rehearsal and Resolution of the Problem (66 pages).
  6. Ellen G. White, 1844, and the Day of Atonement (164 pages).

The Glacier View document defines its objectives as (1) "to make clear the doctrinal problem confronting our church," and (2) to "suggest a solution to the problem."9 In working toward his first objective Ford traces the turbulent and sometimes traumatic history of the sanctuary doctrine, reviews the consensus of contemporary Adventist Bible scholars with respect to it, and evaluates it by the accepted norms of the historical-contextual method. lie resolves the inherent dichotomy between the traditional Adventist doctrine of the sanctuary, and Scripture, by what he refers to as the apotelesmatic principle.10 With this resolution of the problem he reaffirms his own abiding confidence in the integrity of the Advent Message, the church, and Ellen White. The following analysis of Ford's views is based primarily on the Glacier View document.

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