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 Articles: Raymond Cottrell on Dr. Ford
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Exegesis of Daniel

by Raymond Cottrell

Participants, Procedure, and Purpose of the Conference

Appointed by the GC to evaluate Ford's Daniel 8:14, the Day of Atonement, and the Investigative Judgment, 115 of the 125 members of the Sanctuary Review Committee met at Glacier View, Colorado, August 10 to 15, 1980. Committee personnel were more or less evenly divided between leading administrators and Bible scholars. In several instances Bible scholars were serving as administrators, and for this reason a clear-cut division between the two groups is not possible. A distinction based on function at the time of the meeting indicates that approximately three-fifths or so were administrators and two-fifths Bible scholars.

Each morning seven study groups consisting of approximately seventeen members each explored the topic assigned for the day, with administrators and scholars divided among the seven groups in approximately the same proportion as the committee as a whole. The two co-chairpersons of each group were General Conference officers, and each group elected its own secretary. Toward the close of the morning the secretary would prepare a consensus statement summarizing the morning's deliberations, which the group would discuss, edit, and vote. The group discussions addressed such topics as the nature of Bible prophecy, whether Christ might have returned at the close of New Testament times, when His ministry in the most holy place of the heavenly sanctuary began, and Ellen White's role In biblical interpretation.

The plenary session each afternoon began with the reading of the seven group consensus statements, and this was followed by a general discussion of the topic for the day. By popular request, on Tuesday, Wednesday, and Thursday afternoons the conferees had an opportunity to hear Ford and ply him with questions. The evening meetings were devoted to the reading and discussion of assigned papers.

The announced purpose of the conference was to determine whether Ford's views on the interpretation of Daniel 8:14, the sanctuary, and the investigative judgment as set forth in his defence document were in harmony with the official teaching of the church. Curiously, the document itself was seldom if ever mentioned, and there was little evidence that many had given it more than a cursory reading, if that much. The daily agenda set for consideration in the seven study groups each morning and the plenary session each afternoon was based on an administrative evaluation of the principal points at issue between Ford's views and the traditional interpretation. Ford's views, but not Ford himself, were to be on trial before the committee. That, administration reserved for itself.

A major error in the process of dealing with Ford was the lack of an opportunity for him to present his views before a group of his peers, the Bible scholars. As the only persons fully competent to evaluate his arguments objectively on their intrinsic merit, apart from the emotional bias so evident throughout the Glacier View proceedings, they could have provided administrators with a consensus of their informed opinion on which to base an administrative decision with respect to Ford. This would have assured him of a fair hearing by those best qualified to evaluate his views on their merits. One of the major flaws at Glacier View was a lack of objectivity--the fact that few if any of the administrators seemed to understand what he was really saying and why he said it, or even to care. For them, extrinsic subjective factors altogether unrelated to the theological issue or the biblical data under consideration made the conference confrontational and proved decisive.

Lack of a scholarly consensus prior to administrative involvement gave rise to a widespread conviction that the result of the conference had been predetermined, and that involvement of the Bible scholars at Glacier View was designed to give that predetermined verdict the appearance of credibility. Wilson's caustic reprimand to Ford Tuesday afternoon for--supposedly--"not listening" to his scholarly peers, the star chamber "trial" Friday afternoon, the barrage of protest mail Wilson received in the weeks following Glacier View, and the memorial a group of scholars assembled several months later in Atlanta, addressed to Wilson, tended to confirm that conclusion.8

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