Academic Freedom Strikes Again!

Homage to Delacroix

Back in 2009 EducateTruth.com appeared online to fan a little breeze over a peculiarly fragrant petunia – theistic creation/evolution – being furtively nurtured in the Department of Biology hothouse at La Sierra University, an institution that, as a seedling, had been rooted upon Genesis 1.

Inasmuch as one of the principals (Dr. Pitman) was a scientist (medical), a hematopathologist, who had also intensely studied the evolution-creation conflict and concluded that the weight of evidence is for Creationism, I expected attention would center on the validity of creation, and also on whether deviation therefrom should be tolerated at a Bible-based institution. As it turned out the heaviest attention was not on heresy but Academic Freedom. Galileo was cited.

At mention of LSU and the Academic Freedom business, I perked my ears because I had graduated from said LSU (’48, then LSC, a College) with a major in biology, and am an old medical scientist (LLU school of medicine ‘53).

I noted that the posting protesters were not the scientists but science activists, and seemed to accept as a given that good science should operate totally without restrictions of any kind by anybody, ever. To hear them tell it, what EduTru was advocating was that the LSU scientists – most popular (if secretive), highly awarded, role models, – be shackled, chained, enslaved, gagged…by ecclesiastical authority yet. Evil had irrupted all right. It was not what the professors had taught, but that they were to be gagged. The heroes of freedom are not, say, Moses who had the courage to stand against Pharaoh, and the Reformation guardians of Mosaic scripture who once stood against the same ecclesiastical authority that Galileo faced, but the new revolutionaries who have the courage to reject it. The gagged Galileo is the patron saint of academic scientists, the gag being the magic carpet upon which he ascended to sainthood, like the chariot that wafted Elijah. The gag is to scientists as the Shroud of Turin is to relic-reverencing religionists – the symbol of their passion.

Scientists themselves know better. Galileo was a loner, but nowadays no scientist is a lab unto himself. All are ensconced in some science department in some institute or university, there to function under the university’s constraining worldview and funding, plus science’s Scientific Method, a bundle of rules self-imposed in the 18th century when science matured, whereby good science is recognized and fake unregulated science disgraced. The mother institution is itself funded by and thus beholden to multiple donors, foundations intrinsic and extrinsic, and loans governmental and local, besides the increasing number of regulatory government agencies that somehow have acquired
jurisdiction over everything from the earthworms in the campus lawn to the sexual orientation of janitors and scientists. Oh yes, individual research projects may be funded by grant money, assuming their experimental protocols (more rules) were approved, as I witnessed as a research fellow for a couple of years at Washington University. Behold this serried host, layer upon layer of increasingly heavy thumbs all bearing down on our essentially enslaved scientists, and that’s the norm.

Now then, behold LSU, tithe-funded and founded on the premise (a component of the Scientific Method) of God and Scripture, specifically Genesis 1 and teaching science accordingly, its Constitutionally guaranteed right, yet now somehow a violation of Academic Freedom. Just down the road the University of California Riverside, tax funded,
operating under evolved science, and accordingly teaching Darwinism – Darwinism, once a theory and now the law, which has evolved into the most implacable slave master of Academic Freedom on the planet, declaring itself tenured and immune to all censure.

Anyway, the storm abated. EduTru moved on to other matters, notably its overriding focus on the mounting scientific evidence for Creationism.

But now, 8 years after La Sierra University (LSU), the Academic Freedom storm has struck Adventist academia again. This is where we came in. But ground zero this time was not the science department but the School of Theology, the Seminary, the very heart of Adventist theology, at Andrews University. And this time coverage has been assumed by spectrummagazine.org, known for its disposition towards Philosophy emergent and ancient, analogous to the loyalty LSU feels Darwinian science warrants.

Apparently evoked by EduTru’s disclosure, the GC’s response to the science rumble had been measured and way short of shackles. But its response to the seminary revolt was vigorous, and the heavy equipment was rolled out, sirens blaring, cordially reported and spun by Spectrum. I’ve studied 3 Spectrum articles (Link, Link, Link). If articles in EduTru were no-nonsense scholarly and could have appeared in the American Journal of Pathology, for which EduTru had been spanked, Spectrum, to my ears, sounds like a London tabloid, to a standing ovation.

According to Spectrum, The IBMTE (International Board of Ministerial and Theological Education), A GC entity, as Spectrum took pains to point out, issued a 35-page sacerdotal bull requiring teachers of religion to sign a pledge – termed a “process of endorsement” — to work within guidelines, including “the 28 Fundamental Beliefs of Seventh-day Adventists,” the “Code of Ethics for Seventh-day Adventist Educators, Academic and Theological Freedom and Accountability,” and established SDA Methods of Bible Study. Also, teachers would be required to submit copies of all of their publications for review.

This deluge of paper simply added fuel to the inferno. As Spectrum reported, “The Presidents of Adventist Colleges and Universities in North America, in an unprecedented act of solidarity, unanimously voted a statement saying they are “fundamentally unable to support the proposed IBMTE endorsement process.” Stoking the fire, Spectrum adjudged the process “a stunning betrayal of Adventist Identity,” “Utterly Alien to the Soul of Adventism,” “corrupt and corrupting.” Not to mention Adventist Academic Freedom, and for good measure, Adventist culture, global culture, relevant mutant mores, throw in Galileo, multipurpose stuff routinely applied across the spectrum.

Backing off from the heat, the GC apparently ordained the seminary itself to issue its own regulation, the wording of which, as I read it, was rather less incendiary, perhaps a little diffident. Bearing the title, to Spectrum oxymoronic, “Delimitation of Academic Freedom,” it proclaimed that the regulations had been generated within the Seminary
itself, which “values and promotes academic freedom… our freedom,” but expects “firm support of and commitment to the beliefs and lifestyle of the Seventh-day Adventist Church.” This the faculty was invited, not required, to sign. Spectrum shuddered, seeing even the seminary’s delicate invitation to reaffirmation as enslavement, morally (and sinfully, only sin isn’t an academic property), not to mention academically, unacceptable. And so forth.

To me these two Revolts for Adventist Academic Freedom seem but vegetarian imitations, provincial and nationally ignored, of the big-time universally reported irruptions from UC Berkeley to the Sorbonne to Oxford, using such modalities of higher learning as childishly worded protest signs, megaphones, bricks, screaming, and fire.

But all such Academic revolts are sequels of the world’s first Freedom Revolt at the Garden of Eden, the first institution of higher knowledge, with the first visiting professor challenging the established paradigm, alas, successfully. Rolling his eyes and uttering the first Socratic questions, he asked, “Did God tell you that? Do you not catch it? He wants freedom for Himself, not you. For you He wants suppression! Suppression of a better knowledge by which you shall be like gods! Seriously, the scientific evidence is all against everything He told you. And I can prove it — on myself!” And he did. The megaphones and Molotov cocktails would come later.

Actually, the revolt for freedom, any crazy kind, began untold eons before that, in heaven itself, with Satan The Father of all Revolts-for-Freedom using the same arguments he would use in the Garden of Eden, U.C. Berkeley, LSU, Andrews U., and Zuccotti Park.

Adventists have had a trademark doctrine, to wit, The Great Controversy, (I see it as the Great Cosmic Academic Revolt), to be terminated only with the termination of the provocateur in the lake of fire. Only then can God-created, God-defined, untweaked and unmutated and unspun freedom – the freedom to listen to God without our conversation being jammed and scrambled – only then can that pure and honest freedom happen again.

That’s the Freedom I yearn for.

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37 thoughts on “Academic Freedom Strikes Again!

    • As I see it anyway, what’s going on is what’s been going on for a long time now in the Adventist Church. There is a popular belief that “academic freedom” should be embraced by the church and applied, not only to teachers within our own schools, but to our pastors as well. What is argued here, in a nutshell, is that pastors and teachers should be allowed to preach and teach anything that they want – regardless of the official position of the church itself on a given issue. For example, if a preacher happens to believe that the Sabbath is no longer relevant or binding for the Christian, that pastor should be allowed to preach this doctrine from the pulpit without reprimand from his employer – the church itself. Or, if a teacher working for an Adventist school decides that neoDarwinian evolution is the best explanation for the origin of life and its diversity on this planet, that the Biblical account of creation, viewed in the literal sense that the church is trying to promote, is nonsense – that teacher should be allowed to teach this without reprimand from either the school itself or the church that owns the school.

      At this point, Galileo is usually brought into the discussion since the Catholic church silenced Galileo when, clearly, Galileo was right and the church was wrong. Certainly, the Adventist Church would not want to make the same mistake! – right? Of course, few mention that the situation here is quite different than it was for Galileo. The Church in Galileo’s day was also the civil authority of the day. In other words, it wasn’t simply a matter of working or not working for a particular employer. One couldn’t just leave the Church back then and go work for someone else. The position of the Church was also a matter of civil law – a law which carried the death penalty if violated.

      This is not at all the situation we are talking about here. Rather, the current situation is more a matter of internal church order and government. The Adventist Church does not take on civil powers or authority for those who wish to leave the church or work for some other employer. However, as with any viable organization, if the Adventist Church is to survive, it must have internal rules and structure to defend and support its own unique identity and message. Otherwise, without any internally enforceable rules as to what it’s own paid representatives can and cannot do, it would soon crumble and dissolve into irrelevance or become indistinguishable from anything else around it – no longer unique.

      Originally, the founders of the SDA Church also had this high-minded notion that everyone within the church should be completely free to do whatever each individual saw fit. This worked for a while when the church was very small and those within it were driven by the same common goals and desires. However, as the church grew and expanded, the need for internal church order and government, for actual enforceable rules and internal discipline on paid representatives, in particular, was soon realized as a necessity for survival. In this line “cards of commendation” were issued to those who were recognized as being in line with the church’s teachings so that only those with such cards would be seen as official representatives of the church.

      Of course, those who did not accurately represent the views of the early Adventist Church did not receive “cards of commendation”. And what was the attitude of such persons? according to John Loughborough?

      Of course those who claimed “liberty to do as they pleased,” to “preach what they pleased,” and to “go when and where they pleased,” without “consultation with any one,” failed to get cards of commendation. They, with their sympathizers, drew off and commenced a warfare against those whom they claimed were “depriving them of their liberty.” Knowing that it was the Testimonies that had prompted us as a people to act, to establish “order,” these opponents soon turned their warfare against instruction from that source, claiming that “when they got that gift out of the way, the message would go unrestrained to its `loud cry.’ ”

      One of the principal claims made by those who warred against organization was that it “abridged their liberty and independence, and that if one stood clear before the Lord that was all the organization needed,” etc… Upon this point, when church order was contested, we read: “Satan well knows that success only attend order and harmonious action. He well knows that everything connected with heaven is in perfect order, that subjection and thorough discipline mark the movements of the angelic host. . . . He deceives even the professed people of God, and makes them believe that order and discipline are enemies to spirituality; that the only safety for them is to let each pursue his own course. . . . All the efforts made to establish order are considered dangerous, a restriction of rightful liberty, and hence are feared as popery.”

      When those who back in the “sixties” [1860s] witnessed the battle of establishing church order now hear persons, as conscientious no doubt as those back there, utter almost the identical words that were then used by those opposing order, it need not be wondered that they fear the result of such statements as the following: “Perfect unity means absolute independence, – each one knowing for himself. Why, we could not have outward disorganization if we all believed in the Lord. . . . This question of organization is a simple thing. All there is to it is for each individual to give himself to the Lord, and then the Lord will do with him just what he wants to, and that all the time. . . . Our only safety, under God, is to go back to the place where God is able to take a multitude of people and make them one, without parliamentary rules, without committee work, without legislation of any kind.” – General Conference Bulletin of 1899.

      Superficially considered, this might seem to be a blessed state, a heaven indeed; but, as already noted on a preceding page, we read of heaven itself and its leadings that “the god of heaven is a god of order, and he requires all his followers to have rules and regulations to preserve order.”

      It seems to me as though this same situation is repeating itself – along with the very same arguments against any kind of internal church order and discipline. Yet, without order and discipline, you can’t have a viable organization.

      Dr. Scriven, and many others of like mind, to include those usually writing for Spectrum or Adventist Today, make the mistake of thinking that any internally-enforced governmental structure is equivalent to the church taking on what Mrs. White refers to, in a negative sense, as “Kingly Power“. This is not the case. All viable organizations require the internal order and discipline of governmental structure, a certain degree of uniformity, where only those who would effectively represent the primary goals and ideals of the organization are actually hired to do so.

      Where the early Christian Church stepped out of bounds is in thinking to take on civil powers of authority over all people regardless of their wish to be or not to be part of the church. It is always wrong for any church organization to think to enforce its views on those outside of the church with the use of civil power – with true “Kingly Power”. It is for this reason that the Adventist Church has always been a very strong supporter of our constitutional separation of Church and State. All should be free to join or leave the Adventist Church, or any other church, free from any fear of any civil reprisals of any kind. However, this is not to say, therefore, that no internal governmental structure is required. Such internal order and discipline is required for any large organization to avoid internal fragmentation, splintering, and eventual collapse into chaos and anarchy. Such is not the will of God for His church.

      If there are those who cannot support the Adventist perspective on origins, on the reality of a literal 6-day creation week, such are and should be perfectly free to express their opinions on this matter – but not as paid representatives of the Adventist Church. If, on the other hand, the Adventist Church decides, as an organization, that the concept of a literal 6-day creation week really isn’t all that “fundamental” to the primary mission of the church, then it should make this new position crystal clear to all of its constituents. The current state of deliberate ambiguity simply isn’t honest when it comes to people who think that the Adventist Church decidedly stands for one thing when it really doesn’t. It isn’t fair to students and parents who often sacrifice a great deal to attend Adventist schools to obtain a distinctly Adventist education, who expect active support of the literal 6-day creation week from the curriculum, to be given something fundamentally different instead; such as the promotion of neo-Darwinism once they show up.

      Given such a scenario, as has been going on in some of our schools, like La Sierra University in particular, for several decades now (and even some of our churches as well), one might rightly accuse the Adventist Church of false advertising. Our membership deserves more than this. We all deserve to have such a historically-important Adventist doctrine (such as the literal nature of the creation week) either clearly and actively supported by the Adventist Church or clearly and decidedly removed from our statement of Fundamental Beliefs – one or the other. It can no longer be left in limbo – in the ambiguity that has existed since the unfortunate choice of language used by the Adventist Church since the 1980s.

      Let’s decide to be brave and take a clear and unambiguous stand for or against Biblical creationism, and other hot-topic issues that face the church, once and for all. Let’s either be hot or cold here. Let’s not stay lukewarm where no one knows what we really believe and stand for as a church – what we actually do consider to be “fundamental” to the church’s reason for existence (Revelation 3:16).

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  1. Wasn’t Eve (a woman) the first recorded human “scientist” to conduct an experiment? She was told a new idea and she thought it worthy to test out. Upon observing the results she went to Adam and even though he didn’t think it was a good idea he went along with a replication of the experiment. 😀

    Anyway, not all experiments and tests of paradigms (meaning you are “progressive” and open to playing with and testing anything and everything) are apparently worthy of interaction with. . . .

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  2. Well, any conservative and viable understanding of the situation will agree and at this point, it seems we have “moved on” as to what to do about it. The principle has been well established for at least a decade, but thus far, no viable discipline administered to affirm the validity of the principle. So, who’s to blame for that? Not the rebel groups who think the church has no right to define itself, but the leaders who refuse to act according to the principle stated.

    Some who have considered the reasons for this lack of discipline are convinced that the reason is politics, power, and money. We are talking about billions of dollars here. So even leaders who agree in principle are reticent to “do their duty” for several obvious reasons. It will split the church, no doubt. And while none of us hopefully desire for a church split, some at least recognize that a split is preferable to what has developed and will only continue to fester while deceiving more and more members who are not personally involved, and assume leadership is doing its duty and dealing with any and all situations that would be destructive to the integrity of church doctrine and teaching.

    At this point, it doesn’t seem likely they ever will and God will yet take a hand in dealing with this deplorable (can I use that word) situation. What we could hope for, in this case, is that every church member become aware of their individual responsibility and obligation to “get involved” and simply wait to see the final outcome. And even worse than any other factor is the many who have been deceived and the many more who will yet be deceived because they simply “trusted the church” with some vain assurance that all will come out as it should be in the end.

    And now we see the issue that was originally dealt with about evolution and its implications in our schools and church community, is only one issue and since no viable discipline was administered for this offense, all other offenses are now free from discipline and the church is “self destruction” by a false spirituality accepted and gendered as the major spirituality of the church today. We are loosing our definition and at least some of us know that in the end, the Sabbath is on the line. It has already surfaced here and there but will eventually become a major issue like all the others. We could wonder if this is the only way to expose the false spirituality that has moved in to a major degree and is destroying the SDA movement? If so, small wonder EGW has stated that many, if not the majority will give up the bible faith she and others built the church movement on. The devil has undermined the spirituality of the Sabbath, how then do we think people will “keep” it when they embrace a spirituality contrary to it? They won’t.

    So, we have clearly defined the problem and the spirituality that has created the problem. Maybe we would do well to consider the solution and discuss the solution as an ongoing repeat of the problem will not solve it.

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  3. Personally, I loved Wesley Kime’s article and also Sean Pittman’s. Both are well worth reading and highlight what seems to be the bedrock issue for me: do we believe and base our faith on the Bible or not? And are we willing to let liberal, pseudo-scientific theories continue to be taught in our universities with no real protest against them?

    Eventually, Sabbath holiness will become an issue. We are in the shaking time.

    Kudos to Wesley and Sean for making truth abundantly clear.

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  4. Thank you Wesley and Sean for time and effort at clear thinking and sounding an alarm. “What can the people do when the foundations crumble?” God’s prophet to His last church like Jeremiah gave some distressing Predictions!

    She predicted “Soon all our schools will be closed up.” In two places, RY91:3; 5T156.2. The context seems to be $$$ as to why. This may be the year we see these predictions start to happen.

    The truth of Jesus as Creator and re-creator has been the theme of my ministry. I Cheer the World Church Affirmation Sabbath Scheduled For May 20 In U.C.C. Could we join them and make it a NAD wide event?? Pray over this. We need a loud cry of support for our world Church for this VERY year. Isa.58:1 “Cry aloud” On our knees for His Wisdom.

    Sincerely retired Pastor Terry McComb

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  5. I am not sure why Spectrum keeps showing up as if they are some sort of authority that all SDAs must reverence. What difference does it make what Spectrum says unless it has been somehow certified as uber-Adventist such that all SDAs should defer to its views. I find this part confusing. What is ad populum among liberals is not of itself qualification as an authority or standard to be conformed to – by the rest of us. Why would the GC legitimize and affirm it – by accomodating its much-to-be-expected objections to Adventism??

    The SDA seminary at Andrews is above all a product of the Seventh-day Adventist church and has no right to go off-roading as if to fulfill its mission is a “shackle to be discarded”. A small number of our universities in the past went off road on the subject of blind faith evolutionism, but they did not do it without first having the endorsement of a key element in their religion departments. That seems to be the “pattern”.

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    • “I am not sure why Spectrum keeps showing up as if they are some sort of authority that all SDAs must reverence.”

      Well, Bob, the truth is “Spectrum” actually does represent a major spirituality in the SDA church of today. We may not like it, but that won’t change the facts of the matter. True bible spirituality is the minority by far in the church and any objective evaluation can and will confirm and affirm this clear truth by attending any church in the denomination and observe the format and message presented.

      So we keep an eye on Spectrum and Atoday as the two major influences that control the SDA church. Even if most church members are not aware of this fact, it is true none the less. And all you have to do is read the Review and Adventist World to affirm this truth as well. Little or no conservative doctrine and teaching is presented although Goldstein presents some creation material now and then. It is all the liberal format of “love” and “acceptance” with no reference to standards and discipline. Just as Spectrum and Atoday advocate.

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      • @Bill Sorensen: Bill you make a good point about the Review — (moved to Pacific Press and possibly stronger Pacific Union influence.) and Adventist World. If the focus is on what is being promoted in AR and AW – well that is understandable. If the idea is to point out an unhealthy connection to the Review or AW by Spectrum then by all means “turn the lights on”.

        But it is not at all surprising that already leftist Spectrum and AToday would have extreme positions. I doubt that the majority of SDA congregations present any material at all from AToday or Spectrum from the pulpit. But AR and AW have much better pulpit-access and since they are owned and operated by the SDA denomination we can do something about what we read there if it is a problem.

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  6. Sean Pitman: One of the principal claims made by those who warred against organization was that it “abridged their liberty and independence, and that if one stood clear before the Lord that was all the organization needed,” etc

    This is a great quote that exposes one of the key arguments at the heart of the issue. They claim “God approves it so that should satisfy all”. But “does the Lord approve it”?? They claim He does – yet anyone can claim that their speculation, their preference “is approved of by the Lord”. There is no end to the false teachings that could come into the Christian church by those making that same claim — as history proves. And there is “no end” to that sort of thing that “could be had” from independent groups like Spectrum or Atoday. It is a fountain with seemingly unlimited capacity.

    It is helpful to see how this played out historically in the early Adventist church when it surfaced in its various forms.

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  7. Sean Pitman: Let’s decide to be brave and take a clear and unambiguous stand for or against Biblical creationism, and other hot-topic issues that face the church, once and for all. Let’s either be hot or cold here. Let’s not stay lukewarm where no one knows what we really believe and stand for as a church – what we actually do consider to be “fundamental” to the church’s reason for existence (Revelation 3:16).

    Agreed. If our response to debate over acceptance of our doctrines is of the academic form — “I am ok with the topic no matter which way it goes – I just want to see how many details everyone can put on the table” we insult the Spirit that gave us these truths to start with. We demean the entire subject down to the level of an academic exercise. On the other hand we should also demonstrate that our views will hold up to honest inquiry/investigation.

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    • “Agreed. If our response to debate over acceptance of our doctrines is of the academic form — “I am ok with the topic no matter which way it goes – I just want to see how many details everyone can put on the table” we insult the Spirit that gave us these truths to start with. We demean the entire subject down to the level of an academic exercise. On the other hand we should also demonstrate that our views will hold up to honest inquiry/investigation.”

      Bob, this scenario came in because of the Ford challenge and apparently “the church” didn’t know how to define law and gospel with any continuity. To avoid a further fiasco of challenge and division, the leaders opted for “Pluralism.” Once you opt for this spirituality, you have no authority for discipline of any and all opinions. And this is where we are today.

      Contrary to this false spirituality the church opted for, God raised up the SDA church to be an articulate and definitive system of bible truth. Of course, this is not possible now. And the cry of “Academic freedom” is totally bogus in the context of a church fellowship. The church must define objective givens that are not negotiable and no “academic freedom” is acceptable when these givens are challenged.

      It is one thing to discuss the various doctrines and their implications. But a totally different issue when these doctrines are challenged concerning their basic and obvious meaning and application. But this is what those who cry “Academic freedom” contend for and it is a bogus application of the idea.

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      • @Bill Sorensen: Certainly I do agree that if we reduce our entire doctrinal statement down to “academic freedom” – then we get whatever wind is blowing, whatever is the soup of the day, whatever popular trend that happens to float past us. Ephesians 4 tells us that spiritual gifts (including the gift of prophecy) are specifically given so that we are not blown about by every wind of doctrine. If the church’s detractors held as high a value for the Bible and the work of the Holy Spirit in the gift of prophecy – as they hold “academic freedom” we would see more unity, less division, and more advancements in our finite understanding of infinite truths.

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  8. To Pard Wes

    “@george: Well, pard, if youall’s a-tryin to pull the blog outta the ditch, it’s fine. (For interpretation of this Wyatt Earp version of Luke 14:5, see Sheriff Sean’s comment”

    As Mr. Bumble said in Oliver Twist, ” the law is an ass.”

    Common sense and reason have always tempered undue legalism in doctrine. That’s why religions evolve, Pard. They kinda gotta make sense. When they don’t, humans will change them. That’s what’s causin’ the great divide between the conservative and progressive brands in your Adventist corral. Likely you are going to have a few more corrals the way things are goin’!

    Just moseying along out here on the high prairie….

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    • “Common sense and reason have always tempered undue legalism in doctrine. ”

      Excuse me, but “common sense and reason” are the foundation of the problem when it comes to bible spirituality. Man thinks his “common sense and reason” should stand above biblical revelation. So your “solution to the problem” is the problem.

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      • @Bill Sorensen: Excuse me for inserting that I note that Lonesome George used, whether by profound intent or inspired chance, the words “tempered undue…,” not “override without ado.” Wasn’t Paul including this matter when he admonished all men who “strive for mastery” to be “temperate in all things”? (1Cor 9:25 KJV)? But anybody who knows my opinions knows I’m as skeptical of mere chair-born reason as anybody can be. Thanks for the privilege of allowing me to, er, moderate this thread, if the web-site moderator approves.
        My opinion: http://www.parkbench.platonicdialogs.com/index.html

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    • @george: May I, er, temper this a bit (sans the Li’l Abner accent, but with a slew of KJV verses)? Human beings, led by Plato, led by Lucifer, have always been hellbent on changing religion, with or without reason (if there’s reason, fine; if not, so what), so that it makes sense, in the currently prevailing sense, or is otherwise suitable, to them. To me it’s always, always been, always will be, God first, then and next on the list, very high up, evidence (which isn’t, if you really quibble about it) isn’t exactly the same as reason in a glass museum box on a chair, and stuck there. I think of a text, believe by Paul (an exceptional scholar as well as inspired, to some an oxymoronic proposition, to me a transcendent fact): something like: “But the natural man receiveth not the things of the Spirit of God, for they are foolishness unto him; neither can he know them, because they are spiritually discerned.” Just downright foolishness! Foolishness! Meanwhile, “The fear of God, that is the beginning of wisdom,” and, something like: “The mystery of God is Christ, in whom are hidden all the treasures of wisdom and knowledge.” Now that, to Plato, to a Plato progressive, probably to you, my dear pard, is downright foolishness. But there’s evidence for it — in every backlit cloud, every orchid.

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      • Wesley, I think we agree. God does not bypass reason altogether and says, “Come now, let us reason together…..” So the issue is not reason from any and every perspective. The real issue is what comes first, reason or revelation?

        The bible presents the revelation of God by Himself to mankind. He also explains many ideas and concepts concerning Himself and who we are, and the relationship He has ordained for our fellowship. We are free to reason in the context He has stated and as long as we stay within the stated revelation, and not manufacture some agenda of our own, we can experience growth and enjoy a higher level of life that God intends for humanity.

        But sinful man begins to draw conclusions about the revelation and its meaning that God has already stated and then manufacture man’s own agenda far outside the biblical norm. So sinful man uses his “reason” to explain something he knows little or nothing about and since God’s revelation is beyond certain limits of human comprehension the answer God has stated is rejected and sinful man opts for an explanation that better suits his own basis of knowledge.

        Thus creation vs. evolution creates an enigma beyond the human mind, and faith in the word of God stands supreme for the believer. Things that God has revealed that are understandable, creates faith in what He has revealed that is not. And I think this was certainly a part of the issue that created sin in heaven as Satan demanded an explanation of things he could never have understood, even if God had explained it. So he then concluded this released us from any obligation to trust and or serve God since we could not understand all the reasons why.

        My personal conclusion for this enigma is this. While we can not ever understand everything in our relationship with God, we can understand enough to be held accountable for what we know and what we can find out as time continues. This means we will never have absolute knowledge, but will have adequate knowledge to build our faith even though there will always be questions that we can not know the answer as our minds are limited on many levels.

        “Canst thou by searching find out God?” Only on some limited level adequate to build a viable faith and trust Him implicitly about what we can not and do not know. Surely the book of Job demonstrates this principle and Job vindicates God’s challenge and test that Satan created by his false insinuation of Job’s loyalty. In this context, Job wanted to know why. A real legitimate question from his perspective. In this situation, we see that God could not tell Job why, or it would have destroyed the test. The principle remains on all issues. Do we still trust God by what we do know and not lose our faith by what we don’t? Did Job know enough to retain his loyalty to God? The answer is, yes. And this is and will be our final test as well.

        Those who demand absolute knowledge based on clear human reason will never maintain a viable faith and will stumble and fall when the chips are down. Hopefully, we will be as faithful as Job even if we don’t understand all the issues at any given time. But the final point is this, we must always let biblical revelation transcend human reason, for human reason can not “find out God.” But God will see that we have adequate knowledge and understanding if we will “seek and ye shall find.”

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    • @george: My first wrong move, in reaction to your fulsome question, was to recheck the dictionary definition of “fulsome.” I thought we done swore off discouraging words, out here on the range where never is heard…. Well, I trust you haven’t rechecked that pertic-a-lar definition lately, or if you have, your heart was in the right place despite it all, and you being a platonic person jess hankered to plug in another o them Socratic questions. Socratic questions always set off such questions, a-echoing around the badlands into the high plains and down into Death Valley, you know. Tha’s why ole Socrates invented it in the first place, isn’t it?

      But seriously, ole pard o mine, as to your question, sigh, here we go again. As you worded it, it’s not sinful to ask. Asking questions is never sinful, and there you go again plugging in tricky words, of which “sin” is prolly the trickiest.

      Sin is more correctly, and I refer to the Biblical rather than the urban Dictionary definition, definied, rather generally, as disobedience of God’s will. Socratically sinful? Does Socrates even recognize “sin”? If you’re asking about sin when you know there’s no such thing, you’re being, say, whimsical, maybe sarcastic (you? never!), I daresay sinful, to be sarcastic right back at you. But having asked about the sinfulness of asking such a question, and asked the question and asked the question and asked the question yet again while it echoes across the high plains and into the Sierras and back again rattling the formations cluttering Mono Lake, until the cows come home, until Socrates is blue in the face, while all the time ignoring the evidence that He does indeed, those backlit clouds and this here high plain itself and the Sierras, and show no sign of ever stopping the asking, just for the egg-nostic ecstasy of asking, now that’s a sin, downright sin. Might even qualify as the “sin against the holy ghost.” So you’ve got, oh, ah reckon maybe like 7000 more times to ask that very same durn question without sin, and then, finally, sigh, sin. Bingo, sin! Next question.

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      • It would seem, to me at least, that everyone knows something of God’s will even if the actual existence of God isn’t yet known. This is because God has planted a “conscience” into each one of us which reveals His will regarding our need to follow the Royal Law of Love. It is for this reason that God has left everyone without any valid excuse regarding His will on at least this fundamental level. And, it is for this reason that only one question will be asked in the Judgment (atheists and agnostics included) – “What did you do for the least of these?” (Matthew 25:40).

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    • In your estimation is it sinful to ask is there a God?”

      Of course not. We don’t know anything when we are born and questions are relevant and necessary to find answers. There are a lot of answer to this question. And a lot more answer as to who He is. But only the bible gives us the true viable information about this subject. As to the validity of the bible, we go to bible prophecy where God affirms Himself by telling the future. And then claims He is the only one who can do this accurately. So the validity of the bible is affirmed and thus, the God who inspired it is affirmed as well.

      So human reason is not negated, but always subject to revelation. Not to mention the importance of the Holy Spirit who alone can make truth dynamic and not just some theory.

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  9. For Wes

    Definition # 2, Pard 🙂

    ful·some
    ˈfo͝olsəm/
    adjective
    adjective: fulsome

    1.
    complimentary or flattering to an excessive degree.
    “they are almost embarrassingly fulsome in their appreciation”
    synonyms: excessive, extravagant, overdone, immoderate, inordinate, over-appreciative, flattering, adulatory, fawning, unctuous, ingratiating, cloying, saccharine; More
    enthusiastic, effusive, rapturous, glowing, gushing, profuse, generous, lavish;
    informalover the top, smarmy
    “he paid fulsome tribute to his secretary”
    2.
    of large size or quantity; generous or abundant.
    “a fulsome harvest”

    Origin

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  10. Gentlemen,

    Thanks for your responses to my query. Different but all interesting.

    Throughout, especially late, in her life Mother Theresa questioned the existence of God ( see link below). Apparently the Holy Spirit or biblical revelation was not revealing God’s presence to her. Yet can anyone, regardless of faith or lack thereof, question her humane works on behalf of those most disadvantaged? By anyone’s standards she was the epitome of human goodness.

    By Sean’s standards she won’t have to worry about a place in heaven, despite her doubts.

    Wes, if she asked 7001 times would she be sinning? How could God not reveal Himself to someone so good? She likely saw those very same back lit clouds but that feature of nature did not cry out the existence of God. Far more than just egg-nostic play here my friend. The Rational Mind wants to understand why it believes what it does and do observations of reality match that belief. Hence Science. Hence Dr. Pitman’s efforts through science to corroborate God as depicted through Adventist theology. Hence the rise of Intelligent Design as neo- deism. Hence our delightful pas de deux on the High Prairie.

    Cheers 🙂

    http://time.com/4126238/mother-teresas-crisis-of-faith/

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    • @george: If in 2009 I was surprised when the comments on this then-new blog veered from the putative subject and into Academic Freedom, now when the most recent topic, duly headlined, actually is Academic Freedom and another straying off has occurred, setting off a nice little stampede, the better vector, I’m not. Neither nonplused nor nettled. The Masked Man Strikes Again, a-rip-roarin’ into town a-firin’ his’n Socratic six-shooter ever which way, fer the egg-nostic helluv-ut!

      As to the emergent evolving topic, St. Teresa expressing agnostic questions, the diocesan tribunal in annunciating her beatification justly gave the greater weight to the divine principle of her doing miraculously so much for the least. To counter a question with a question, was her “journey” to be compared to that of St. John the Baptist who, having declared Jesus the very Messiah, in the darkness of the dungeon needed revivification? To that question I’ll not be surprised at any answer, nor nettled. I expect to be fulsomely (definition #2) delighted.

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  11. Re: Moral equivalency

    The Query:

    “As to the emergent evolving topic, St. Teresa expressing agnostic questions, the diocesan tribunal in annunciating her beatification justly gave the greater weight to the divine principle of her doing miraculously so much for the least. To counter a question with a question, was her “journey” to be compared to that of St. John the Baptist who, having declared Jesus the very Messiah, in the darkness of the dungeon needed revivification? To that question I’ll not be surprised at any answer, nor nettled. I expect to be fulsomely (definition #2) delighted.”

    The answer: ( which seems to reflect the good Dr. Pitman’s position as well)

    Matthew 25:40 – New International Version (NIV)

    40 “The King will reply, ‘Truly I tell you, whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.’

    The Utilitarian ethical rationale ( thanks for lobbing me the ethics softball on this one, Pard ; -)

    Lots of people martyr themselves for religious causes of all sorts. The worst examples are those that blow themselves up, or poison their flock with Kool – Aid, or burn their compound Koresh style, etc. for their God. A false equivalency? Perhaps ,but doing good transcends politics, religious belief and narcissism in my estimation. Those that do the most good and for the most others, especially when there is great self sacrifice, should be revered on earth and beyond…..?

    Don’t know if that response will either surprise or delight you but that is more an issue for Aesthetics rather than moral philosophy.

    Later good Pard.

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    • I agree. Morality isn’t based so much on an understanding or appreciation of God’s existence, but upon how much we actually love our neighbors as ourselves – according to the Royal Law that is written on the heart.

      Beyond this, however, it seems to me as though two mirrors have been provided to me to evaluate my own soul along these lines – mirrors that are similar on a fundamental level. One mirror is the conscience that has been implanted in each one of us from birth by Divine power as a gift to us all (Genesis 3:15). The other mirror is in written form as the Ten Commandments found in the Bible. And, both of these mirrors are based on the Royal Law of Love (James 2:8). There is a bit of a difference between these two mirrors, however, which is interesting. The conscience, which is “written on the hearts” of all mankind (Romans 2:14-15), only reveals one’s duty of love toward other human beings. It doesn’t reveal one’s duty toward God or even the existence of God. Ironically, it is much easier to know one’s duty of love toward other humans than it is toward God. It is for this reason that how one treats one’s neighbor is used by God as a proxy as to how one has treated Him (Matthew 25:40 and 1 John 4:20). Yet, for those who have been blessed by the written Words of God, found in the Bible, additional information is given as to how God wishes us to respond to Him and knowledge of His existence and character and sacrifice on our behalf. These wishes, on the part of God, are located in the first four of the Ten Commandments. So, if one accepts that it is contrary to the will of God (i.e. a “sin”) for the Christian to create and worship an idol or take God’s name in vain, then it only follows that God also wishes us to observe the 7th-day of the week as holy – as a token of our love for Him as well as for our own benefit – as a gift originally given during the time of innocence for mankind (Mark 2:27).

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