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 Articles: Raymond Cottrell on Dr. Ford
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Exegesis of Daniel

by Raymond Cottrell


By October 27, 1979 Desmond Ford had given thirty-four years of exhaustive study to Daniel 8:14 by the most exacting and generally accepted principles of exegesis, and had found the traditional sanctuary doctrine with its investigative judgment inconsistent with the meaning the angel Gabriel and Daniel intended it to convey. Over those years he had discussed the problem in private with a number of church leaders, but never in public. On that day, at the request of several Pacific Union College faculty members, he did so publicly for the first time, before an audience not prepared to understand or to evaluate what he said, on the basis of its intrinsic merit. In view of the fact that a majority of Adventist Bible scholars more or less tend to agree with Ford, especially with respect to the problems he sees in the traditional interpretation, his real faux pas at Pacific Union College was to say what he did before such an audience.

Three retired ministers, two of them administrators, made an issue of Ford's Pacific Union College address, with the result that the General Conference convened 115 leading administrators and Bible scholars from around the world at Glacier View in August 1980 to determine whether Ford was in conflict with the official teaching of the church on the subject. Glacier View prescinded from any re-evaluation of the sanctuary doctrine with respect to the exegetical problems to which Ford called attention. Instead, its theological deliberations consisted of a more elaborate defense of the traditional interpretation, and dismissed Ford's allegations as, ipso facto, in error wihtout addressing them directly or objectively.

Within approximately two hours after adjournment of the Glacier View conference sine die administration confronted Ford with the alternatives of admitting that he was in error and renouncing his views publicly, or surrendering his ministerial credentials. Faithfulness to the sola Scriptura principle and his understanding of Scripture, a few weeks later he complied with the second alternative.

The issue Ford raised was by no means new. It had surfaced periodically for nearly a century, but the church had never faced up to the issue objectively and definitively. The traditional interpretation of Daniel 8:14 arose from use of the prooftext method, and does not stand up under an objective examination of the language, context, and salvation history perspective of the passages of Scripture on which It depends. The two methods are inherently incompatible and mutually exclusive. Glacier View followed the prooftext method; Ford was following the contextual-historical method.

The Glacier View conference of the Sanctuary Review Committee was based on the fundamental assumption that the traditional interpretation of Daniel 8:14, with its heavenly sanctuary and investigative judgment, is an explicit teaching of Scripture not subject to further evaluation or possible revision. It was also based on the idea that it was necessary to summon 115 top echelon administrators and Bible scholars from around the world to determine whether Ford's views were in conflict with the traditional interpretation, a fact he had made unambiguously clear at Pacific Union College and that everyone already knew. The only remaining question was, Could he be persuaded to recant? Why was it considered necessary to spend a third of a million dollars to convene the conference and to require three and a half years of the conferees' collective time to prove what everyone already knew and to reach a predetermined conclusion?

Evidently administration recognized that to act solely on its own initiative and authority against a person with an established international reputation such as Ford's would be to arouse a storm of criticism, especially among his peers, the Bible scholars of the church. The only rational explanation for inviting the Bible scholars to Glacier View, as "partners" with the administrators in reaching their predetermined verdict against Ford, was that they feared to do so alone. They were surprised to discover that a majority of the Bible scholars did not share their evaluation of Ford--as the two opinion polls, numerous remarks by the scholars, and the Consensus Statement made abundantly evident--and were reluctant to acknowledge the fact, even to themselves. Convinced against their will, they were of the same opinion still.

This accounts for the last-minute Ten-point Statement affirming the traditional interpretation, contrived hastily Thursday night and read Friday morning with the caveat that the conferees were neither to discuss nor to vote on it. This was intended to give the statement the appearance of being a bona fide conference document, and the conference the semblance of having achieved its predetermined objective--something the Consensus Statement did not really do. Furthermore, the official tape recording of the plenary sessions has never been released, apparently because it would give a different impression of the conference than later appeared in the Adventist Review, and especially Ministry magazine.22

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