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 Articles: Raymond Cottrell on Dr. Ford
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Exegesis of Daniel

by Raymond Cottrell

Benign Neglect of a Long-Standing Problem Leads to Crisis

Summarizing the experience of the church with the sanctuary doctrine over the preceding 130 years Ford concludes that it is

not the recurrence of problems within the church over our sanctuary teaching, but the failure to deal adequately with these problems [that] is the strangest feature of any historical review of the subject. While we have works which are exhaustive in treating objections regarding our views on the Sabbath and the nature of man, there is no parallel in the issue of the sanctuary. Instead, a silence confronts us.

According to many of our contemporary Adventist scholars, all our sanctuary apologetic works of this century are both inadequate and inaccurate.

Commenting on this strange omission, in 1934 W. W. Prescott, a participant in the hearings of Ballenger in 1905 and Fletcher in 1930, said:

I have waited all these years for someone to make an adequate answer to Ballenger, Fletcher and others on their positions re. the sanctuary but I have not yet seen or heard it.38

Some church leaders of that earlier time commented that E. E. Andross' A More Excellent Ministry, the official response of the church to Ballenger, contained more heresy than Ballenger's polemics it was intended to answer. F. D. Nichol once told Ford that "a definitive work on the sanctuary is our greatest need."39 The church, Ford says, has never dealt adequately and fairly with the exegetical problems; it has always responded with diversionary arguments that leave the problems themselves untouched. (This was as true of the "answers" to Ford at Glacier View as it had been previously.)

In his Glacier View document Ford expresses concern that unless the church faces up realistically to the problems inherent in the traditional sanctuary doctrine a major crisis will arise:

One thing is sure--unless the church works in this area with promptness and efficiency, the sanctuary doctrine as traditionally taught will become an increasing source of embarrassment, and a cause of loss of membership among both ministry and laity. With our increasing number of graduate students proficient in the original languages of Scripture and the tools of grammatico-historical exegesis, awareness of the problems under consideration is inevitably going to spread and multiply.40

In 1942 M. L. Andreasen, a Seminary professor and at the time dean of Adventist theologians, expressed similar concern in a letter addressed to J. L. McElhaney, president of the General Conference, and W. H. Branson, a vice president:

To the best of my knowledge and belief, there has been no official or authorized study since [Fletcher and Conrade left the church over the sanctuary question]. We shall be unprepared when another crisis occurs.

I doubt that we fully appreciate how much these heresies have undermined the faith of the ministry in our doctrine of the sanctuary. If my experience as a teacher in the Seminary may be taken as a criterion, I would say that a large number of our ministers have serious doubt as to the correctness of the views we hold on certain phases of the sanctuary. They believe, in a general way, that we are correct, but they are as fully assured that Ballenger's views [nearly forty years ago] have never been fully met and that we cannot meet them. . . . This is not a wholesome situation. If the subject is as vital as we have thought and taught it to be, it is not of secondary importance. Today, in the minds of a considerable part of the ministry, as far as my experience in the Seminary is concerned, it has little vital bearing, either in their lives or theology.

I dread to see the day when our enemies will make capital of our weakness. I dread still more to see the day when our ministry will begin to raise questions.41

On the last page of The Reasons for My Faith, published two years after he left the church in 1930, W. W. Fletcher had likewise warned against continuing obscurantism and neglect:

Seventh-day Adventists are in danger to-day of holding on blindly to a misinterpretation of prophecy, because they feel that so much of their past experience in the things of God must stand or fall with it. In this we have received our impressions from Sister White and the pioneers, a relic of similar impressions that led them to persist in a mistaken position some eighty years ago. Let us beware of reaping the results of their error, and passing them on to perplex the minds of our children, and to make faith difficult for them.42

As long ago as 1915 W. W. Prescott wrote to W. C. White lamenting that no special effort was being made to correct errors in her books he had been calling to White's attention for six or eight years, neglect by which we were "betraying our trust and deceiving ministers and people. . . . I think how- ever that we are drifting toward a crisis which will come sooner or later and perhaps sooner. A very strong feeling of reaction has already set in."43 To these expressions of concern over several decades Ford adds his own:

At the 1919 Bible conference church leaders, . . . while loyal to Ellen G. White, . . . stressed that a crisis would come if we did not inform our people on the true nature of her inspiration. That crisis now [1980] confronts us. In every discipline our scholars feel hamstrung lest their expressions of scholarly conclusions should seem to contradict anything in Ellen G. White. This is a deplorable situation, and the church will make little progress until the situation is remedied.44

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