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3 of 4)
78 -- SECTION IV -- THE SHAKING -- THE
HEPPENSTALL--FORD -- BRINSMEAD ERA: There
is no irony in that Geoffrey Paxton should entitle his 1978 publication,
"The Shaking of Adventism," as he did. And it is
fascinating that it came at the time that it did - in the 1970's.
Though it was done intentionally, Mr. Paxton could not have understood
the seriousness of that event, at least not from the "traditional"
Adventist point of view. The idea of the shaking was developed from
the writings of Ellen G. White and others foretelling of a separation
of brethren that would occur because some would not tolerate the counsel
of the True Witness.
The much-talked-about, long-promised "shaking"
or "sifting," was upon the church in Paxton's estimation.
What greater deception could be foisted upon the Adventist people
than for Satan to bring falsehood from within the church, when the
membership look for it to come from outside the church. How well has
the way been prepared for its reception by their being taught to depend
upon a system of religious organization warning them of its approach
and arrival, rather than encouraging them to look to the truths established
in the early years of the movement. Even then, in the final time of
decision the leadership was foremost in cautioning against any discussion
of the issues they believed were polarizing the membership. (See Review,
May 24, 1979.) They claimed that there was a great deal more made
of the issue than was called for; and if they, the leadership, were
allowed the time to decide the conclusion of the issue, all agitation
would die down. Their admonition of caution -- in reality silence,
on life and death matters is nothing short of crying, "peace
and safety." Matters designed to stir the membership into action
were not, as a result, heeded; and it was left to the leadership -
the "dumb dogs," "cruel and deceitful Hazaels," 11
"who never again lift up their voice like a trumpet to show God's
people their transgressions. . . " - to decide for the membership
what is and what is not the truth. (See 5T 77, 211.)
What was the most prevalent "issue" before
the people? First, the question must be asked, "what is the 'shaking',
and why is such a thing needed?"
11 -- "Who
knows whether God will not give you up to the deceptions you love?
. . . It may be that ere long all prophesying among us will be at
an end, and the voice which has stirred the people may no longer disturb
their carnal slumbers. When God shall work Ins strange work on the
earth, when holy hands bear the ark no longer, woe will be upon the
people." 5 T 77.
79 -- The shaking, in simple terms, is the
agitation that occurs between truth and error. It was necessary that
such a thing come in among God's people because: "The
fact that there is no controversy or agitation among God's people
should not be regarded as conclusive evidence that they are holding
fast to sound doctrine. There is reason to fear that they may not
be clearly discriminating between truth and error. When no new questions
are started by investigation of the Scriptures, when no difference
of opinion arises which will set men to searching the Bible for themselves
to make sure that they have the truth, there will be many now, as
in ancient times, who will hold to tradition and worship they know
arouse His people; if other means fail, heresies will come in among
them, which will sift them, separating the chaff from the wheat. The
Lord calls upon all who believe His word to awake out of sleep. Precious
light has come, appropriate for this time. It is Bible truth, showing
the perils that are right upon us. This light should lead us to a
diligent study of the Scriptures and a most critical examination of
the position which we hold. . . ." -- (5T, 707)
In examining the above statement, it appears that
1. God's people are in a
listless, self-satisfied condition, He allows falsehood to enter among
them. Scripture terms this condition Laodicean.
2. The effect of falsehood
is to stir those interested in the purity of Bible truth to actively
3. The result of the agitation
is a polarization between those who love truth and those who do not.
4. The agitation between
the two positions causes a "sifting" or "shaking"
which separates the membership into opposing camps - brother against
brother, the resolute stand by those who come to know and defend truth
contending with those in defense of the opposite.
In consideration of the above four points, another
question should be asked. What was the difference between the Ford-Brinsmead-Heppenstall
movement of the 1970's and the Brinsmead agitation of the 1960's?
The two seemed to be nearly equal in magnitude, though different in
objective. The Brinsmead agitation of the 1960's was, basically, a
reform movement within the Seventh-day Adventist denomination - a
movement vehemently opposed by the leadership. It sought to stem the
growing apostasy by encouraging individuals to stand on the platform
of truth established in the early years of the movement.
80 -- The Ford-Brinsmead-Heppenstall evangelical
movement of the 1970's and 1980's was a move within the church structure
to destroy confidence in the platform of truth
established in early years; and it embraced what they termed "gospel"
or "Reformation Theology."
During the early 1950's Brinsmead became aware of
certain doctrinal departures initiated by the leadership involving
doctrines mentioned in the last section, and those who saw merit in
Brinsmead's objection caused a torrent of material to pour forth which
exhorted adherence (with one notable exception) to the old doctrinal
positions established in the early years of the movement. The exception
was in the area of perfection
(maturing of the Christian). Briefly, traditional Adventist teaching
involves three things: 1. Justification,
(Christ's imputed righteousness) which pardons the repentant from
the penalty of sin. 2. Sanctification,
(Christ's imparted righteousness) which is a complete transformation
of character. "Born again means transformation, a new birth in
Christ Jesus." AH 206. And, 3. Glorification,
which occurs at Christ's coming, in that twinkling of an eye and separates
us from the physical presence of sin.
Brinsmead differed with traditional Adventist teaching
as to when perfection would take place. Both Brinsmead and the Adventist
leadership agreed that the traditional Protestant position of physical
and moral perfecting at the second coming of Christ was too late,
but the Adventist leadership in turn, opposed Brinsmead's hypothesis
because he placed perfection at the close of probation. By then it
would be too late, so said the church's leadership.
Even here Brinsmead could not find common ground with
the Adventists; for, as Paxton relates, the church's leadership did
an about-face and pounded on him - using the theology of Heppenstall,
Ford, and those churchmen who taught the impossibility of sinless
perfection ever being achieved in this life. (See Shaking of Adventism,
pp. 112, 113.)
Generally, the Brinsmead movement of the 1960's was
an attempt at reform within
the Seventh-day Adventist church by drawing attention to many of the
old teachings of the denomination.
The issues of the 1970's and 1980's on the other hand,
involving Heppenstall, Ford, now with the "new" Brinsmead
joining them, may not be new but are no less serious because of their
81 -- "The
1970's is the period when, for the first time, two consistent streams
of thought on the gospel emerge in Adventism. One stream carries the
Christological gains of the 1950's and the soteriological gains of
the 1960's to their logical end. The other stream retreats from those
gains into pre-1900 Adventism. This division brings Adventism to the
threshold of an unprecedented shaking. It is now our task to
trace the steps of this astounding development." -- Paxton, The
Shaking of Adventism, p. 121 - (Emphasis supplied.) TOP
The struggle between the denominational
leaders and the Ford-Brinsmead faction was not a struggle over doctrine;
it is true especially of the denominational leaders. If the leadership
were as interested in doctrinal correctness as they at times represented
themselves to be, they would not have continued to support and promote
the doctrinal changes arrived at during the Barnhouse-Martin meetings
of the 1950's, then condemn the Ford-Brinsmead camps for nearly identical
teachings. That is the classic definition of a "strawman"
- a person or object used to distract attention from the real issue.
One need only read the church's published material
during the 1950's and 1960's, culminating with the latest printing
of Movement of Destiny, to know that the doctrinal changes
initiated by the leadership then, and accepted without thought, were
but the embryonic stages of the Ford-Brinsmead defection of that era.
Clearly the struggle between the denominational leadership and the
Ford-Brinsmead retinue was, on the denomination's part, a struggle
for power. One must give the Ford-Brinsmead groups the benefit of
doubt in that these people, for the most part, seemed to be interested
in what they believed to be truth; and whatever effort they made along
these lines was motivated by what appeared to be a quest for the freedom
to announce these beliefs rather than a thirst for power.
On the other hand, the leadership have a history of
attempting to promote and preserve what they depict as "unity."
They have done it with little or no regard to doctrine, right or wrong.
Any move from what they determine to be the status
quo seems to be almost subliminally interpreted as a challenge to
What appears to be a dispute over doctrine on their
part is used many times as a convenient vehicle by which to create
the above-mentioned strawmen. As
12 -- This is
generally true, but there are a few individuals in institutional positions
who are interested in truth and who faithfully contend for the faith.
Such men appear from time to time only to "mysteriously"
disappear in the inevitable swirl of controversy that rises around
82 -- brought out earlier, the denominational
leadership entered into a series of discussions with Evangelical leaders,
Donald Grey Barnhouse and Walter R. Martin. The result was a departure
from the established positions on the human nature of Christ and the
Atonement. Christ's human nature was purported to be as that of Adam
before the fall. The atonement was considered finished at the cross.
The continuing work of Christ in the heavenly sanctuary was obscured
in such a way as to give the casual observer
the impression that there was nothing further to be accomplished apart
from the cross. Perfection, as a result, became something that could
not be achieved this side of the second coming of Christ. There was
essentially no difference between the denomination's new teaching
and that of the Ford-Brinsmead factions.
Regarding Christ's human nature, Brinsmead originally
taught that it was the same as Adam after the fall. He considered
the work of Christ in the plan of redemption continuing beyond the
cross. He referred to Christ in the sanctuary in heaven as ministering
the blood of His sacrifice in behalf of the repentant sinner in a
continuing work of atonement. Brinsmead believed that moral perfection
was not only possible, but necessary before the return of Christ.
And there was one additional notion that the denomination had never
taken into their doctrinal system, but Brinsmead had. In his thinking,
there existed in the character makeup of man a condition he described
at first as "sub-conscious sin." He believed that all Adam's
posterity are born with this condition - a condition which would result,
if left alone, in the death of everyone, even though they were to
live a life free of sin. Later Brinsmead described this condition
as "original sin."
It did not really matter what position Brinsmead took;
the Adventist leadership depicted him as an apostate and published
abroad that he was a source of disunity, and they set about on an
agenda of outright persecution of all who expressed even a casual
interest in what he had to say. The result of this persecution was
destructive - but not so much to Brinsmead and his followers as it
was destructive to the very heart of Adventist doctrinal belief. Ellen
G. White wrote in the Great Controversy,
SCRIPTURE WHICH ABOVE ALL OTHERS HAD BEEN BOTH THE FOUNDATION AND
THE CENTRAL PILLAR OF THE ADVENT FAITH, WAS THE DECLARATION,
'UNTO TWO THOUSAND AND THREE HUNDRED DAYS; THEN SHALL THE SANCTUARY
BE CLEANSED.' THE SUBJECT OF THE SANCTUARY
WAS THE KEY THAT UNLOCKED THE MYSTERY OF THE DISAPPOINTMENT OF 1844.
IT OPENED TO VIEW A COMPLETE SYSTEM OF
TRUTH, CONNECTED TO THE GREAT ADVENT MOVEMENT,
AND PRESENT DUTY AS IT BROUGHT TO LIGHT THE POSITION AND WORK OF HIS
83 -- As Brinsmead's point of focus centered
on the sanctuary, a condition of fear and intolerance made itself
manifest to the point that whoever might mention the sanctuary was,
for no explainable reason, immediately suspect of being a "Brinsmeadite."
This fear permeated the denomination to such proportions that all
who desired to appear loyal to the church refrained from anything
that smacked of Brinsmead -- whether it did or not. The tragic result
was, that to this day, all real, in-depth study of the sanctuary has
ceased in the churches.
The real position of the leaders was always a concern
over the threat Brinsmead posed to their own survival. To them Brinsmead's
"Awakening Movement" proposed the possibility of a shift
of allegiance from the organization to something that was alien to
their plans, programs, and manner of operating. A shift in allegiance
meant a shift in funds. Other things might have been tolerated, but
coexistence with a threat to the "getting of money" could
not be allowed. While the leaders worried about preserving the "status
quo," the real threat was what they themselves brought to it
- and, when the time came, that revelation came to light in the public
teachings of Desmond Ford.
Any discussion of the Heppenstall, Ford or Brinsmead position must
include the idea of "original sin." While these men were
at various stages of disagreement with each other, original sin was
the one thing fixed in all their teachings.
According to the church historian Neander, the idea
of "original sin," had its roots in the Latin mistranslation
of Romans 5:12: (pictured
below is actual script from manuscript)
the scheme of doctrine which prevailed among the Latins, it is important
to notice, that, in their ancient translation of the New Testament,
the words: efw pantes hmapon (Romans 5:12)
were rendered, 'in quo onmes peccaverunt.' This furnished some apparent
ground for the representation, that all mankind sinned in Adam; though
we by no means intend to say that the above erroneous translation
was the only ground on which such a doctrine reposed. The ground of
it doubtless lay still deeper than that, in facts and enigmas of the
moral self-consciousness [of those who formed the doctrine]. . . .At
all events, however, this erroneous translation was the means of bringing
it about, that the above representation of all mankind having sinned
in Adam should be universally revived as an undeniable foundation
of doctrine." -- Neander, History of the Christian Church,
Vol. II, p. 559.)
84 -- The church father Augustine is acknowledged
as being the one who developed this early teaching. An example of
how old the teaching is: "A
little more than fifty years had passed since the Roman Emperor Constantine
had recognized Christianity as the official religion of the Roman
State when the idea was being articulated by Augustine. However, two
men, Hillary of Poictiers, and Ambrose of Milan, preceded Augustine
somewhat in this thinking; and even before that the church father
Tertullian first brought out this doctrine in its most explicit form.
Therefore, according to Neander, Tertullian should be considered the
forerunner of Augustine in its development." -- (Ibid.)
"Original sin" rests on these basic points:
1. Because of Adam's sin,
all mankind stands guilty before God. 13
2. This guilt should not
be confused with the guilt of their own sinful actions. It is a result
of the sin of Adam.
3. It would avail an individual
nothing if he were able to live an entire life without sinning. God
has no other choice but to condemn such an individual, as he is deprived
of "sanctifying grace" in consequence of the sin of Adam.
4. The gospel makes no provision
for the eradication of this condition prior to the coming of Christ;
therefore, it is impossible to gain the victory over sin in this life.
Those who attempt to gain such a victory place themselves at odds
with the gospel. TOP
RALPH LARSON AND
THE ROOT OF THE PROBLEM: Ralph Larson, in
what he terms his, "consideration of the recent theological emphasis
of Dr. Edward G. Heppenstall," a study into what he determined
to be at the root of the theological questions agitating the Seventh-day
Adventist church at that time, pointed to the seriousness of the conflict
as being pivotal to correctly understanding the plan of redemption.
13 -- 0riginal
sin in this setting does not address the condition of sin inherited
from Adam but rather supposes a collective responsibility for the
guilt resulting from the first sin. The argument of Heppenstall, Ford
and Brinsmead's that the original sin into which men are born was
not guilt, however common sense will reveal the marked similarities
between their presentations and the idea of inherited guilt. Of course
all of this has a bearing on the human nature of Christ.
85 -- "So
the nature of the Lord Jesus Christ, the nature of man, and the nature
of salvation -- sanctification are the points under discussion; and
it is immediately apparent that these are not peripheral elements
in any church's theology. They are as basic and central as any elements
of theology can possibly be, since what Christ is, relates so closely
to what He does.
why it is felt that the present dialogue cannot be taken lightly.
It is supremely important that we be correct in our understanding
of these matters. The consequences are enormous. . . ." -- (Ralph
Larson, "Original Sin." P. 6.)
What, then, was the debate? Heppenstall, Ford and
Brinsmead represented it as being over the doctrine of righteousness
by faith. The denominational leaders seemed to be in a state of reaction
-- moving only when the activities of an individual became what they
considered "divisive" or "subversive;" doctrinal
position mattered little.
The so-called loyal pastorate, unaccustomed to diligent,
thorough study, prattled on Sabbath after Sabbath on the virtues of
remaining faithful to "God's church" while never actually
grasping the seriousness of the matter, and while a growing number
of their peers boldly espoused the wonder of the "new doctrine."
Those members who considered themselves loyal to the "church"
opposed Ford and Brinsmead for no real reason other than it seemed
to them that they were tearing down the thing they thought to be "the
church," while others of the membership, straining to be free
of the old confining Adventist beliefs, cast off all restraint to
jump aboard the Ford-Brinsmead bandwagon. A great separating, it seems,
was irreversibly in the making. Larson
then, is the present debate all about? First, let me make clear what
it is not about. The present debate is not about the
doctrine of righteousness by faith. . . .The present debate is
over the doctrine of original sin. The doctrine of original
sin is an ancient error which has historically had no place at all
in Seventh-day Adventist theology, or in the writings of Ellen White,
the inspired messenger to the remnant church. Nevertheless, some have
embraced this doctrine and are claiming that it makes the doctrine
of righteousness by faith more beautiful and appealing." --
Ralph Larson, Who Needs Original Sin? p. 5. TOP
ORIGINAL SIN: The two sides in the contest
were: 1. Those who
86 -- claimed moral perfection to be possible
prior to the close of probationary time which occurs when
the command is given, "take away the filthy garments" for
"behold I have caused thine iniquity to pass from thee, and I
will clothe thee with a change of raiment" (Zech. 3:4).
2. Those who claimed that perfection occurs
only at the second coming agreed with Edward
Heppenstall when he said: "If
sin simply means a deliberate, willful doing of what is known to be
wrong, then no Christian should commit this kind of sin. But if sin
includes also a man's state of mind and heart, man's bias toward sin,
sin as an indwelling tendency, then perfection presents a totally
different picture." -- Edward Heppenstall, "Is Perfection
Possible?" Signs of the Times, Dec. 1963.
And what did
Heppenstall say was the result of the "indwelling
tendency" to sin? "The
sinful nature is not eradicated until the day of the resurrection,
until ' this mortality shall have put on immortality'" Ibid.
What then did Heppenstall understand the "sinful nature"
are born into a state of separation from God. This is the original
sin, a state into which all of us enter the world. Not until the new
birth takes place is this condition reversed. This is the basic fundamental
of the gospel." -- Heppenstall, Perfection, p. 64.
Heppenstall's position was this: 1.
The sinful nature is eradicated on the day of the resurrection.
2. Not until the new birth takes place is the condition
The new birth and the eradication of the sinful nature at the
resurrection are synonymous -- that is, the new birth does not take
place until the resurrection; therefore, there can be no perfection
until then. According to Heppenstall, perfection was not sinlessness,
it was commitment to Christ. If Heppenstall actually understood the
matter himself, he was, at least, inept at explaining it. TOP
TO THE ADVENTISTS: The doctrine of original
sin, as Geoffrey Paxton noticed, is conspicuously absent in Adventist
teaching. Robert Brinsmead found the same to be true in the lengthy
process of formulating his position. Paxton
related Brinsmead's metamorphosis as follows: "Brinsmead
was troubled by the knowledge of original sin in very much the same
way as was Dr. Luther in the sixteenth century . . .
87 -- "As
already indicated, Brinsmead could find little help within Adventist
theology on the subject of original sin. In our investigation into
the theology of Adventism it has been almost entirely absent. Brinsmead,
therefore, turned to the Reformers for guidance.
that Brinsmead was the first within Adventism to develop and set forth
the doctrine of original sin in a systematic way.
answer to the problem of original sin became known as the 'Awakening
Message' - an inter-church agitation which disturbed Adventism during
the decade of the 1960's.
of original sin caused Brinsmead to reject the whole idea of reaching
a state of perfection in order to be ready for the judgment. Here
was a clear break from the general [church] view of sanctification
which we have encountered thus far in our investigation. For Brinsmead,
no amount of inward grace or 'imparted righteousness' would qualify
one to stand in the judgment. Christ alone had enough righteousness
to pass the final judgment; and, said Brinsmead, He stands in the
judgment as the Representative of the believer.
element in Brinsmead's theology was perfectionism. It will be remembered
that the Awakening adherents rejected here-and-now perfection. However,
Brinsmead was at this time too steeped in [M. L.] Anderasen's concept
of the final generation to deny that those who live in the ' time
of trouble' would be altogether without sin. In Brinsmead's own words:
at the same time we did not, could not, reject the hereditary Adventist
idea of being sinless in order to live without Christ's mediation
after the close of probation. As far as we were concerned, that part
still remained fundamental Adventism. We concluded that this final
unattainable experience would be a gift of our Judge's gracious mercy,
i. e., effected in God's people by the final atonement and latter
here, the pecular contribution made by Brinsmead was to see those
of the last generation as having original sin blotted out of them
in the pre-advent judgment. In other words, what orthodox Protestantism
saw as taking place at the second advent of Christ,
Brinsmead saw as taking place in the judgment that preceded the advent
in Adventist eschatology.
the opposition of the church leaders to Brinsmead's theology, it
appears that he made a lasting contribution within Adventism. There
emerged a small group of Adventist scholars who acknowledged the original
sin problem and who said it would remain until the coming of Christ."
-- Geoffrey Paxton, The Shaking of Adventism, pp. 96-104. (Emphasis
Theologically, where did Brinsmead end up? Earlier,
in 1964, he unknowingly predicted the course he would take when he
who teach that Christ took a superior human nature draw the logical
conclusion that it is impossible for the rest of mankind to perfectly
obey the law of Jehovah in this life. Everywhere today we hear the
pronouncements from pen and pulpit that God has not made provision
for man to live a sinless life on this earth. Those who accept this
'new-view' of the Incarnation logically take the side of Satan in
the great controversy over the law, claiming that God has not made
provision for us to perfectly obey it. 14
If God's people accept this delusion, then there
will be no third angel's message, no sealing of the saints, no finishing
of the mystery of God, no cleansing of the sanctuary, no community
of the saints prepared to live without a mediator, no first fruits
of the harvest, and no people ready for translation -- at least as
far as they are concerned.
White saw that God had three steps to the platform of truth. (Early
Writings p. 258) Satan has three steps down from the platform.
The first step is the teaching that Christ took the human nature of
man as it was before the fall.
This leads to the second step - to the teaching that man cannot find
the grace to perfectly obey the law of God in this life. This will
inevitably lead to the third step - giving up the Sabbath. This last
step must logically follow the original premise, for if it be conceded
that we cannot obey all the law all the time, then there is no point
in the Sabbath being a test question." -- The Incarnation
of Christ, "Adam's Human Nature versus Fallen Human Nature,"
pp. 7, 8. 15
14 -- 1f there
is any confusion regarding keeping the law, it is because it is viewed
as an external requirement. God's promise is that He will plant
His law -- the divine nature -- in the hearts and the minds of His
elect. See Jeremiah 31 and Hebrews 8. Obedience is possible because
He imparts His righteousness -- as reflected in His law -- joining
His nature with those whom He chooses.
15 -- The Incarnation
of Christ, Adams Human Nature versus Fallen Human Nature,
(24 pages) was one in a series of publications made available to interested
parties by Fred C. Metz, DDS, MD, of - (continued p.89) TOP
89 -- THE SDA LEADERSHIP
VS. DESMOND FORD: The "evangelicalization"
of the Seventh-day Adventist denomination did not make much progress
from the mid - 1950's through the 1960's; and it was not until the
early-to-mid 1970's that any public notice of significance was given
the issues involved in the changes taking place.
Some notice was given to the switch Brinsmead had
made. Edward Heppenstall remained remarkably untouched by the hierarchy
despite his radical stance apart from the basic tenets of the faith.
He was still considered to be a valued teacher and theologian. By
1967 many of the church leaders ( R. A. Anderson, T. E. Unruh, W.
E. Read, R. R. Figuhr, and others) who had either taken part in, or
given their blessing to, the Evangelical conferences held during the
mid-1950's had slipped into obscurity. But the groundwork for change
was accomplished. The new ideas needed only public exposure to solidify
the changes that had been advanced. Desmond Ford proved to be the
man for that undertaking.
In his book, Paxton reveals Ford's long history of
proclaiming the "Reformation Gospel": "One
theologian within Adventism in the 1960's who showed a steady reliance
upon the perspective of the Reformation was an Australian, Dr. Desmond
Ford. In examining the teachings of Ford, it must be said that he
showed a praiseworthy consistency in Reformation theology during a
period of change. As we have already noted, Ford was explicit in his
affirmation of the doctrine of original sin. He taught this consistently
through the 1960's and into the 1970's. Ford also strongly repudiated
perfectionism as being contrary to the gospel. Likewise, he maintained
the Protestant view of forensic justification and the Protestant stance
on the sinlessness of Christ's human nature. He not only espoused
the gospel aspect of the Brinsmead teaching of the 1960's (i.e.,
that Christ is our righteousness in heaven in the hour of the judgment),
but he did so along with a clear Reformation perspective on perfectionism.
Thus, it would not be far from the truth to say that, already in the
1960's Dr. Ford anticipated the clear Reformation stream that was
to emerge within Adventism in the 1970's." -- Geoffrey Paxton,
Shaking of Adventism, pp. 116, 117.
15 -- continued
-- Denver Colorado. It was dated September, 1964. That particular
issue compared Robert Brinsmead's position (then) on the incarnation
with the September, 1956 The Ministry article by its editor,
Roy Allen Anderson on the same subject.
90 -- There were a number of men who taught
similar notions even years before Ford, but the controversy surrounded
him. Why that happened may never be fully known, but when the time
was right, Ford was thrust to the forefront of the brawl. Like Heppenstall
and Brinsmead, he denied the old position that recognized moral obedience
(perfection) to God's law as being possible before the second coming
of Christ. He maintained that Reformation Justification made provision
for original sin, which, as stated before, held that there is an inherent
condition within each of us that prohibits moral perfection in this
Ford viewed the central issue of the Reformation to
be whether justification means "to declare righteous" or
"to make righteous." 16
He held that the righteousness of God is never
represented in Scripture as something wrought within
the sinner by God's Spirit. It is, he said, something done outside
of us, "set to our account and, therefore, not an internal work."
-- Ibid. p. 9.
What was said of imparted righteousness? Ford maintained
that because of the individual's remaining depravity (original sin),
imparted righteousness can never meet the infinite standard of the
law of God; therefore, it is not made part of the believer. There
is a process of internal transformation that is initiated but it can
never be concluded and it will not lead to perfection. Perfection
(sort of a "finishing" of the process) is a condition granted
the individual at the second coming of Christ. As a result the concept
of justification as an external
act, an act outside the individual supersedes everything. TOP
Because of the events involving Ford, PREXAD
--the General Conference President's Executive Committee, reviewed
his relation to the church on September 2, 1980, and voted to "recommend
to the Australasian Division that Dr. Ford be given the opportunity
to withdraw voluntarily from the teaching and pastoral ministry of
the Seventh-day Adventist Church." 17 Ministry,
October 1980, p. 15. So, what prompted PREXAD's recommendations?
Ford's trouble probably started with his coming to
the U.S. from Avondale College in Australia. His reputation preceded
him. Initially there were only
16 -- Documents
From the Palmdale Conference, "The Relationship Between the
Incarnation and Righteousness by Faith," p. 7
17 -- It was
during this period that Neal C. Wilson was calling for a halt in the
discussion of righteousness by faith and the formation of a general
consensus (by a select committee of church leaders) forming an understanding
of the doctrine. Codification of Adventist belief was accomplished
during the General Conference Session held in 1980. Ford collided
with all of this.
91 -- minor rumblings of dissatisfaction
among the membership at his hiring as a faculty member with the Theology
Department at Pacific Union College. Such rumblings were confined
to a few individuals who did not agree with his teachings. This minority
was later opposed by a larger number of the membership who rejoiced
at Ford's appointment and took it as the opening of providence. Those
who agreed with him took on a certain "bravado", which resulted
in open agitation of his views in the churches.
Teachings that had been, at least publicly, confined
to the Australian mainland then spread throughout the U. S. like wildfire.
The views of such church theologians as Edward Heppenstall, Taylor
Bunch, Ralph Watts, Varner Johns, who, with others, claimed that sin
will remain in the saints until the second coming, found the greatest
expositor of their views in the person of Desmond Ford.
The controversy did not reach its apex until October,
1979, when Ford took part in an Adventist Forum meeting held at Pacific
Union College -- a meeting that resulted in, as Paxton put it, a "shaking
of Adventism." Ford's trouble resulted in a leave of absence
to "research" his position, 18
which was, at its conclusion, to be reviewed by an arbitrary authority
assembled for the occasion by the denomination's leadership. In August
of the same year the committee came together at Glacier View, Colorado
and rendered an "evaluation" of his status with the church.
They found him to be immovable in his beliefs. A little more than
two weeks later, citing four points 19
which summarized their assessment of his teachings,
PREXAD recommended that he be relieved of any further responsibility
in the church.
The real reason for his dismissal can be seen in the
denomination's charge that, "he seems to have failed to sense
his responsibility for the effect of his speaking
18 -- in a letter,
dated August 26, 1980, Ford summarized his study of the Sanctuary
teaching in twelve points: 1. it is the little
hom, and not the sins of the saints, which defiles the sanctuary,
2. The cleansing of Dan. 8:14 has to do with
restoring the damage done not by the saints, but by the little hom.
3. The meaning of the key verb in Daniel 8: 14 is
not basically "cleanse" but justify, vindicate, restore.
4. There is no obvious verbal link between Daniel
8 and Leviticus 16. 5. The year-day principle
is not explicit in Scripture. 6. Hebrews 9
does draw on the Day of Atonement to illustrate that which Christ
did by His sacrifice. 7. "Within the
veil" applies to the second veil, not the first, and points to
access to the Most Holy Place. 8. Hebrews
does not teach a two-apartment ministry (or two phases)
9. Christ, not the Father, is the great judge in the final
judgment. 10. We should not speak of our Lords
heavenly ministry in terms of apartments, 11.
The New Testament viewed the second advent as imminent in its day.
12. Sacrificial blood purifies rather than defiles.
19 -- A list
of the four points were listed in Ministry, October 1980.
92 -- and his widely distributed writings
and recordings, which have caused divisive controversy within the
church on several continents." And that "he has repeatedly
declined to disassociate himself openly and specifically from certain
activities considered to be subversive to the well-being of the church."
-- Ministry, Oct. 1980.
But Ford's teachings were not at all new to the leadership,
and it is a stretch of the imagination to say that in the length of
time that Ford was employed by the denomination no one in a responsible
position, in either the Australasian Division, or, later in the North
American Division, ever knew what the man taught.
Early Brinsmead publications refer to Ford's peculiar
views. (Sanctuary Restored - 1968.) In 1976 a formal protest
was lodged by a large number of Australian ministers, church elders,
and members against him for teaching opposing views of the third angel's
message, (Watchman Press, Beecroft, N. S. W.) There was also
the Clifford and Standish publication, Conflicting Concepts of
Righteousness by Faith, again, from the Australasian Division
which point by point refuted the theology of Ford. In the United States,
a church elder from Southern Oregon, Paul Miller, compiled a document
entitled, "Dr. Ford's Dangerous Doctrines." Several
thousand copies of that document were circulated throughout the denomination.
Knowing this, it is difficult to say that Desmond
Ford was an obscure teacher from Australia. It is equally difficult
to imagine that during his time at Pacific Union College he maintained
such a low profile that his views were kept private until the 1979
Adventist Forum address. Why was he invited to join the faculty at
Pacific Union College if his theology was so opposed to the "church's"
teachings? Obviously his teaching did not matter much until he became
prominent to the point of creating what was seen as a divisive atmosphere
by "drawing followers to himself."
Whether he drew a following to himself or not was
not the question. When his theology agitated the church to the point
that it "rocked the boat," then and only then did it become
an issue and served as a convenient contrivance to rid the "church"
of a personality that had become so visible that he was a cause of
schism. "Rocking the boat" would affect the denomination's
ability to take in money. Money, not doctrine, was the real cause
of Desmond Ford's dismissal. TOP
93 -- SECTION V -- THE GOLDEN
SOME ELDERS OF ISRAEL VISITED ME AND WHILE THEY WERE SITTING WITH
ME, THE WORD OF YAHWEH WAS ADDRESSED TO ME AS FOLLOWS, SON OF MAN,
THESE MEN HAVE ENSHRINED THEIR FOUL IDOLS IN THEIR HEARTS AND PLACED
THE CAUSE OF THEIR SINNING RIGHT BEFORE THEIR EYES.
WHY SHOULD I LET MYSELF BE CONSULTED BY THEM? SO SPEAK TO THEM; TELL
THEM THIS, "LORD YAHWEH SAYS THIS: EVERY
MEMBER OF THE HOUSE OF ISRAEL WHO ENSHRINES HIS FOUL IDOLS IN HIS
HEART AND PLACES THE CAUSE OF HIS SINNING RIGHT BEFORE HIS EYES, AND
WHO THEN APPROACHES THE PROPHET,
GET THIS ANSWER FROM ME, YAHWEH, AS THE MULTIPLICITY OF HIS IDOLS
DESERVES, AND IN THIS WAY I HOPE TO WIN BACK THE HEARTS OF THE HOUSE
OF ISRAEL WHO HAVE ALL BEEN ESTRANGED FROM ME BY THEIR FOUL IDOLS."
ORGANIZATION IN THE 1970'S -TOWARD
"A church which proclaims the priesthood
of all believers but does not, in fact, provide ways for the general
priesthood to express itself, will teach not initiative but docile
obedience as the Christian stance." -- Every Believer A
Minister, Rex Edwards, p. 76
The slide into apostasy, hesitant as it was in the
1960's, had developed by the 1970's into a head-long rush to bring
the church to meet a popular standard. As in the various departures
from the original Seventh-day Adventist truths of the past, different
individuals arose from time to time to protest those departures, desiring
that things be set right. The 1950's and 1960's were no exception.
These periods too saw their protesters, but by the 1970's the climate
had become much different: Although in the past a certain amount of
free expression of beliefs and ideas was tolerated, by the 1970's
the church had come to allow no such thing.
As a departure from truth increased, the leadership
sensed a need to maintain control, which was accomplished by strengthening
the grip that the Organization had over the church as a whole, with
a plea of "unity" as a catalyst and as a cover for their
actions. The centralization of the past has been buttressed , this
time with repressive measures to silence all dissent.
No longer would the voice of caution and rebuke be
heard from those who were Organizational employees. No longer did
the shepherd's voice teachings that were true and sound. They had
been reduced to the level of automatons -- droll extensions of union
and local conference officials, fearful for their jobs, afraid to
94 -- vary from prevailing policy, extolling
the flock on the virtues of loyalty and unity -- not to God, but to
church and organization.
faithful, firm, and true have departed. Their offer of the gospel
of peace to the unthankful churches is heard no more and the churches
occupy the position of Meroz, neither for nor against, neither cold
nor hot and the destroyers, trained under the hand of Satan, speaking
with the voice of the false prophet cry, peace, peace, when the Lord
hath not spoken peace. The voice of truth that has stirred the people
these many years, no longer disturbs their carnal slumber. God has
begun His strange work on the earth; holy hands no longer bear the
ark and woe is coming upon the people." -- EGW 5T 77.
Such is the present condition of the church.
An article published in the Review clearly
expressed the move toward greater control by the Organization. The
question was asked, "What are the characteristics of a 'real'
Seventh-day Adventist - the prime qualities without which a person
cannot be considered a genuine, dedicated member of the church in
good and regular standing. . . ?" The author related one of six
points in the following manner: "One
product of this vital, living, personal relationship (with Christ)
is an abiding conviction that the Advent message, as Seventh-day Adventists
proclaim it, is, indeed, God's message for the world in our time.
Acceptance of membership in the church implies the presence of this
conviction, otherwise why should a person submit to the modification
in lifestyle and the sacrifice of time and money the church expects
of its members? Apart from such a conviction, a person has no valid,
logical reason for becoming a Seventh-day Adventist." -- Review,
Jan. 6, 1977, p. 13
A living, vital relationship with Christ is foremost
in importance. Christianity would be ineffectual and meaningless without
it. Adventists should also have an abiding conviction that the Advent
message came through the leading of the Spirit, and it is for the
world at the present time. But, what if that message is not the one
Seventh-day Adventists at the present say they are proclaiming? It
can readily be demonstrated that it is not the present Adventist message;
and since "the message" is the determining factor of what
is and what is not, "Seventh-day Adventist," it follows
then, that most Adventists are that in name only, as they have little
or no knowledge of the foundation principles established after the
passing of time in 1844. Those principles determine who is and who
is not a Seventh-day Adventist.
95 -- Is it valid that the "church"
expect a modification of lifestyle and the sacrifice of time and money?
Must a person be firmly convinced of their relationship to what is
termed the "church," or have no reason for becoming a Seventh-day
Adventist? If a person is converted to and baptized into the "church,"
as so many are today, the church may rightfully expect these things;
and there should be no reason to expect anything different than the
present condition of the membership. But, if an individual is converted
and baptized into Christ, who is the real church, all things will
follow as a matter of course with no need of a dictum from "the
church." The article continues: "Acceptance
of church membership also implies a fixed purpose to participate in
the appointed mission of the church to the world. In its plans the
church makes no provision for the non-participating members, who,
in effect, play the same role that drone bees do in the bee world.
Seventh-day Adventists are 'saved to serve' - to contribute of their
time, ability, and strength to the objective of the church. An army
cannot accommodate volunteers whose objective in joining is merely
to reap the benefits that accrue from military service without functioning
essential characteristic of a genuine Seventh-day Adventist is loyalty,
in spirit and in conduct, to the church and its leaders, as it and
they speak and act for Christ. The church is a team; and every
member of the team will play with the team and its leaders, not against
them. The church and its earthly leaders are human; sometimes they
make mistakes. This they themselves would be first to acknowledge.
But as a member of the team the genuine Seventh-day Adventist will,
even under such circumstances, continue to work in a positive way
with the team and cooperate with its leaders," -- Ibid.
How like Roman Catholics have Adventists become. Consider
the following: "Infallibility
is another of her claims, for the principal office is that of teaching;
and in this office, as God teaches through her, she cannot err . .
. This infallibility does not imply that individual members of the
Church may not err, much less that they will not sin; but that the
teaching of the Church in faith or morals is certain." -- Lectures
on Christian Unity, pp. 132, 133.
What does Rome teach? It is shown in the New Saint
Joseph Baltimore Catechism, page 79, that:
96 -- "By
the authority of the Catholic Church is meant that the Pope and bishops,
as the lawful successors of the apostles, have power from Christ Himself
to teach, to sanctify, and to govern the faithful in spiritual matters.
Authority is the power to command others. All authority is from God,
and He gives it to the Church in spiritual matters. To refuse to obey
the authority of the Church is to refuse to obey Christ." --
New St. Joseph Baltimore Catechism, p. 79.
Centralization is a child of Rome; it is hostile to
truth. It is the totality of human authority and control. As the authority
of God through Scripture is set aside, the authority of men through
the "church" speaks and acts -- not for Christ, but for
themselves in the place of Christ. The Catholic hierarchy states plainly
that which the Adventist hierarchy hints at. Both claim to speak and
act for Christ, and to refuse them is to reject Christ.
LANDMARKS, THE FORMATION OF A CREED: The
high handed power that has been developed through control by the centralized
Organization has created such an atmosphere of disgust for human jurisdiction
that an undercurrent of murmuring has settled in and has resulted
in a loss of confidence in the management, even of the few faithful
men remaining. 20
"It is selfishness
also that prompts the feelings on the part of workers that their judgment
must be the most reliable and their methods of labor the best, or
that it is their privilege in any way to bind the conscience of another.
Such was the spirit of the Jewish leaders in Christ's day. In their
self-exaltation the priests and rabbis brought in such rigid rules
and so many forms and ceremonies as to divert the minds of the people
from God and leave Him no chance to work for them. Thus His mercy
and love were lost sight of. My brethren, do not follow in the same
path. Let the minds of the people be directed to God. Leave Him a
chance to work for those who love Him. Do not impose upon the people
20 -- An example
of this can be seen in the mumbled remarks of "cover-up"
and "whitewash" in regard to the recent (1998-1999) Robert
S. Folkenberg financial scandal. Regardless of his guilt or innocence,
confidence in general is not just lacking, it is gone, throughout
the denomination. One might ask, " where is the outrage? ",
because of the action of the select committee investigating the affair
which condemned Folkenberg for his questionable association with a
convicted felon, then in the same breath, praised him for his farsighted
leadership. There is no outrage because the people are no longer able
to distinguish between what is morally right and what is morally wrong;
and if by chance they find themselves able, they are unwilling to
do anything about it.
regulations, which, if followed, would leave them as destitute of
the Spirit of God as were the hills of Gilboa of dew or rain."
-- 5T p. 727
While the above described condition can be observed
throughout the church, it is more prevalent in its institutions, especially
in the gospel ministry (yes, that too, is an institution) and in the
schools. Control has, in turn, fostered a state of defiance that has
no parallel in the history of the denomination. The leadership senses
it and greatly fears it. What has been sown in the past is being reaped
in a manner that is both disconcerting and perplexing to those who
fancy themselves to be in positions of authority. Loss of control
or the sense of it gives rise to attempts at even greater control.
The rebellion in the 1970's of so-called liberals
in Loma Linda and Andrews University, and in the denomination's colleges
and medical institutions, in part, prompted the leadership to formulate
certain guidelines by which the church would be able to determine
whether or not its employees, or prospective employees, would loyally
serve the Organization, its leaders and their policies.
The Review of May 26, 1977, featured an article
by Willis Hackett, a General Conference Vice President, in which he
presented the Organizational spin in its push for "certain guidelines"
by which loyalty to the denomination could be determined.
open can the church afford to be? How deviant should the church allow
a member's viewpoints and lifestyle to be and yet consider him a part
of the fellowship? That the line must be drawn somewhere, everyone
recognizes; for if it isn't, the church eventually loses its identity.
founding, the church has insisted that the Bible and the Bible only
should be its rule of faith and practice. It has opposed a creed.
It has recognized the writings of Ellen White as focusing on the Bible
and as instructing members how to live by the Bible teachings."
-- Review, May 26, 1977
Hackett continued by stating that in the beginning
the church fixed certain landmarks of truth that, ever since, it has
held to be non-negotiable. But, in adding new members from time to
time it is necessary to spell out clearly, and in contemporary terms,
the basic landmarks that give the church reason for its existence.
Other churches, he related, facing similar situations have lost their
identity by an imperceptible decline in the thrust of the gospel on
the part of
98 -- those who claimed to be it's supporters.
A loss of the original identity is often irreversible. 21
us would like to see the Adventist Church travel down this road. Nor,
if it should be nudged down this road, would we wish it to awaken
too late to take remedial measures.
"Is the Adventist
Church doing anything to forestall possible tragedy? Yes. It is preparing
carefully formulated statements on what it considers to be its fundamental
will be presented to a large circle of church leaders and scholars
so that there may be wide input. After the input is pooled, these
statements will be published in the church's papers, as well as in
The areas in which the church has been challenged
are: Science; Unity of the Bible; Mission of the Remnant Church; the
Advent; the Sanctuary; Place and work of Ellen G. White; Standards
of Christian living; and so on.
spelling out of what the church believes to be the basic tenants of
faith, not as a creed but simply as the current majority understanding
of the 'Bible and the Bible alone' principle, administrators, church
leaders, controlling boards, and leaders at all levels of the church
will find it easier to evaluate persons already serving the church,
and those hereafter appointed, as to their commitment to what is considered
basic Adventism. Thus, the church will be protected against the subtle
influence of those who have become unclear and doubtful as to God's
self-revelation in His Word and in the counsels of the Holy Spirit."
-- Ibid. Willis Hackett (Emphasis supplied)
The leadership seemed anxious that what they had set
about to do would not be viewed as their establishing a creed - a
thing the Advent forefathers were loath to do. So the question follows,
what is a creed?
Webster's Encyclopedic Unabridged
21 -- Loss of
original identity is always irreversible, is there a single instance,
in the whole history of mankind, when any organization - religious
or not - that departs from its original premise ever gets back to
what it started as? There are many examples of attempts at reform
but the original always maintains its drift while spinning off splinter
groups as it goes along. Change is in the nature of things. It is
the result of generational perceptions and social mores. Attempts
at preservation are folly because preservation, as an absolute, is
impossible. It is, at best, temporary and should not be feared if
as it is evolving, it isgrounded on truth.
99 -- Dictionary defines a creed
as: "A specific statement of religious belief accepted as authoritative
by a church." And what was the leadership preparing? "It
is preparing carefully formulated statements on what it considers
to be its fundamental beliefs." --Hackett, Review, May
26, 1977. For what reason were these "carefully formulated fundamental
statements" being prepared? The reason is secondary to the fact
that, though the oxymoronic Hackett said that these basic tenants
of faith are not being prepared as a creed but as the majority understanding
under the Bible and the Bible alone principle, they are indeed a creed
in definition and intent!
As with all creeds or statements of fundamental beliefs,
or however one chooses to tag them, it allows the few to rule the
many with Pharisaic zeal and to preserve the status quo regardless
of Scriptural authority. What will the Adventist creed be used for?
"Leaders at all levels
of the church will find it easier to evaluate persons already serving
the church, and those hereafter appointed, as to their commitment
to what is considered basic Adventism." -- Ibid.
One need not ponder long the fate of the lowly church
member who might find himself at variance with the new statement of
beliefs or, even worse, the denominational employee at odds with his
superior. What right do the few have in choosing what they
consider to be correct for the many? Where was the Spirit of God in
all of this? How were hearts to be prepared for the Kingdom when the
candidates are bound by man-made rules and regulations?
How much room is left for God's Spirit to write God's
law in hearts that are cluttered with the writings of men? How is
God to work when "thus saith man" is of more importance
than "thus saith the Lord?" And by making a creed, these
men purpose to do that which is God's sole prerogative:
thou that judgest another man's servant? To his own master he standeth
or falleth. Yea, he shall be holden up: for God is able to make him
stand." Romans 14:4.
dost thou judge thy brother? Or why dost thou set at nought thy brother?
For we shall all stand before the judgment seat of Christ. For it
is written, As I live, saith the Lord, every knee shall bow to me,
22 -- The Seventh-day
Adventist pioneers would find it impossible to be in compliance with
at least one of the new church doctrines. Fundamental beliefs #2,
codification of the Trinity teaching would prevent their becoming
members should it be strictly applied. They, generally, agreed that
the doctrine was papal heresy. What good is doctrinal "law"
if it is not applied.
every tongue shall confess to God. Let us not therefore judge one
another any more: but judge this rather, that no man put a stumblingblock
or an occasion to fall in his brother's way. Romans 14: 10-13.
What greater stumblingblock is there than setting
man's word before the people as the Word of God?
the Lord said, Forasmuch as this people draw near me with their mouth,
and with their lips do honor me, but have removed their heart far
from me, and their fear toward me is taught by the precept of men."
must hold every worker, and must guide every worker. Men are not to
make rules and regulations for their fellowmen. The Bible has given
the rules and regulations that we are to follow. We are to study the
Bible, and learn from it the duty of man to his fellowman. 'The law
of the Lord is perfect, converting the soul.'" -- EGW, 1903
General Conference Bulletin, p. 87.
Creeds have a number of undesirable effects. An order
of things is put into motion that overrides personal sympathy and
compassion; creeds blind the eyes to mercy, justice and the love of
God. Moral influence and personal responsibility are crushed under
foot. Faith in God is destroyed; souls are separated from Him, and
the latitude His Spirit needs to develop His people is restricted.
(See TM 363-366) But all of this is gladly sacrificed for the
sake of so-called unity and harmony of action, and, above all, for
the preservation of the Organization -- which serves solely to require
compliance with itself. TOP
INTO THE ABYSS-- FOLLOWING THE
IS THE SACRED RESPONSIBILITY OF CHURCH LEADERS TO COOPERATE
WITH HEAVENLY AGENCIES TO ENSURE THAT THE GOOD NEWS OF THE GOSPEL
IS PROCLAIMED TO EVERY PERSON ON PLANET EARTH, AND
THAT NOTHING BE PERMITTED TO WEAKEN THE WITNESS OF THE CHURCH."
--NEAL C. WILSON, REVIEW, MAY 24, 1979.
In Neal Wilson's Open Letter to the Church,
the message is loud and clear that the discussion of "righteousness
by faith" that was taking place in the 1970's had approached
the point where the leadership considered it schismatic. Since nothing
was to be permitted to weaken what Wilson considered the witness of
the church, he announced decided steps to prevent further debate and
controversy over the matter. Much of this had to do with the subject
101 -- Heppenstall, Ford and Brinsmead.
As was said earlier, Brinsmead especially dwelled on what he termed
"Reformation Righteousness by Faith." Wilson continued:
has also been said about Reformation History and its impact on terminology
and doctrine. Included in such discussions have been related theological
concepts such as the nature of Christ, the nature of man, the nature
of sin, perfection, and the question as to whether it is possible
for a Christian to live a sinless life." -- Ibid.
Wilson perpetuated the tradition set into motion by
A. G. Daniells and those who supported his policies in the early part
of 1900's. Righteousness by faith was strung on a string, as A. T.
Jones put it, with other doctrines. It has, since then, been kept
in the realm of the "theological" and has not been presented
as A. T. Jones determined it to be, as life from God in the
literal sense. According to him, the message must first come to the
individual in such fullness that it not only guides the life, but
of a necessity, sets first into motion its reformation.
If an individual was so ordered in this manner, then
he would, as a result, relate to his brethren in a way that would
be in harmony with the expressed will of the Creator. The disputes
and the corruption present then, and which are now so prevalent in
the Organization, would not exist, because all would be looking to
Christ and lifting Him up rather than grappling for position, power,
and notice among themselves.
As long as the message of 1888 is thought of as a
doctrine along with other doctrines and debated as a matter of "theology,"
it will never be understood for what it is. Any confusion, polarization
or bitterness in the debate about it comes because of opposition to
what is capable of being done because of it. If it caused the furor
it did when it was first given, can anyone, with their cognitive powers
intact, expect it to bring about a purifying influence without causing
even greater sifting at the end of the gospel age?
Because of the "open debate and unhappy controversy"
was it necessary to attempt to halt all public agitation over the
matter when it had the very appearance of God's doing? Was it the
by God to prod a rebellious denomination to an awareness of the abyss
it was about to forever step into? Was it safe to follow the leaders
in their plan to minimize or better yet, end the church's inquiry
when inquiry may have sparked an unconcerned membership into an investigation
of a life and death matter? The people must have a clear
102 -- understanding of the message before
they can follow its instructions. By the spring of 1980 time would
run out for the denomination.
True to form, Neal Wilson asked the membership to
allow the leadership to decide the truth of the matter, and then accept
their findings as final. The plan, revealed in the Review,
was as follows:
are proposing that each member and believer earnestly study the Bible
and the inspired writings of Ellen G. White in order to understand
better the great truth of salvation by grace. We also suggest that
our teachers and ministers, in their work and preaching, lift up Jesus
in Christ-centered messages that will fill hearts with the assurance
and joy of salvation and inspire our people to share the good news
of His pardoning and redeeming grace in a great evangelistic thrust.
are requesting that we refrain from involving ourselves in public
presentations of the fine points and controversial aspects of the
theology of righteousness by faith. We believe that all of us could
use our time and knowledge more profitably by winning souls who are
not part of our spiritual family at this time. We are suggesting that
in any discussion of subjects that touch the question of salvation
in rallies, workers' meetings, retreats, special series, or major
discussion groups, great care be exercised to avoid that which is
too often not only barren and fruitless but divisive and spiritually
We should all seek to diminish the flood of cassettes, brochures,
books, and miscellaneous documents, for it is possible to keep talking
among ourselves -- to ever be learning and never coming to a knowledge
of the truth -- when on the contrary we should be talking with others
and ever be sharing the love and redeeming grace of our Saviour."
-- Neal C. Wilson, Review, May 24, 1979
All was to be done without public discussion of the
message, or as Wilson put it, "discussion of the fine points
and the controversial aspects of the theology of the message,"
when the message, and an understanding of it, was basic to doing points
1, 2, and 3.
But ah! Hope was on the horizon! "Consequently,
the General Conference will appoint a representative group of lay
persons, pastors, evangelists, theologians, church historians, Biblical
scholars, editors, and church administrators to survey and study difficult
theological issues, and to share with the church at large
approaches that will help to heal and bind and keep us together and
united." -- Ibid.
"We are appealing
to the church today to accept our proposal, refraining from further
agitation of the subject of righteousness by faith while helpful guidance
for the future is being developed by a representative group of spiritual
leaders." -- Ibid.
In this course of action, Wilson believed that he
was operating on precedent in the example of the early church and
the apostles in dealing with problems that arose at that time. The
instance he refers to was presented to the apostles and elders, and
their decision regarding the matter was as the Spirit of God would
the discussion, because the voice of the highest authority had spoken.
The question was not submitted to the entire body of Christians for
a vote. The apostles and elders, men of influence and judgment, framed
and issued the statement, which was thereupon generally accepted by
the Christian churches. Some were unhappy with the decision and murmured,
criticized, and tried to pull down the work of the men whom God had
ordained to teach the gospel message. 'From the first the church has
had such obstacles to meet and ever will have till the close of time.'"
-- Ibid. (Wilson)
Even though he admitted that the committee to provide
guidance would not have inspiration in the same way as the apostles
and elders, Wilson nevertheless suggested that the council then, and
the committee now, have somewhat the same authority in deciding the
truth of an issue; and after that truth is disclosed and presented
to the church, all are to keep silent and accept the committee's decision
Wilson was wrong in considering the apostles and the
present leadership as differing little in authority. The place of
the apostles was unique. In the church as a whole, they stood in a
position which corresponded to their peculiar mission in the development
of the early church; and for that very reason, their position could
not be transferred to any individual or group. They alone were the
chosen witnesses of Christ's personal appearance and ministry. They
were to testify of His resurrection and ascension to a glorious state
of being. Their testimonies were the intermediate links by which the
whole church was connected with Christ. Their relationship to the
church as a whole was grounded in the very nature of the historical
developement, a developement which could not be repeated. There can
be no valid comparison, not even the slightest comparison , between
the apostles then and the committee now.
This Book is Continued
Which Banner - Part 4 of 4