Comment on Changing the Wording of Adventist Fundamental Belief #6 on Creation by Sean Pitman.
Sean Pitman: As I’ve already explained, the Virgin Birth Jesus, in particular, like the Resurrection, is not testable in a falsifiable manner. That does not therefore mean that it has been disproved by science.
Then the Flying Spaghetti Monster could be real. So could Santa Claus. And the Tooth Fairy. No one has ever disproved them. And no one has ever disproved abiogenesis or any of the main features of evolutionism.
So why don’t you believe in the Flying Spaghetti Monster or Santa Claus? – while you do believe in God? I’ve asked you this many times before, but you’ve yet to produce a universal basis for determining which miraculous being to believe in as “real” vs. all other competing options…
While Santa Claus or garden fairies may not be absolutely falsifiable this side of eternity, the reason why it is not rational to believe in these while it is rational to believe in the existence of God is because of the strength or weakness of the corroborating evidence.
Consider that the God-only hypothesis is testable in a potentially falsifiable manner. In other words, certain phenomena can only be explained by the existence of a God or God-like being as being responsible. This is not true for fairytale creatures like Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Flying Spaghetti Monster, garden fairies, and the like. There are no phenomena that can only be explained by any of these…
[The LDS claim that American Indians are descendants from the lost tribes of Israel] is no more impossible–or falsifiable–than the virgin birth or resurrection of a 3-day old corpse. The evidence is based only on a prediction of what we should see today, but DNA inheritance does not always follow expected rules. If mitochondrial DNA provided the basis for the evidence, then all we know is that all of the individuals tested (we know nothing about those NOT tested) were descendents from a single Asian-derived female. That hardly falsifies the possibility that many indians at that time, particularly men, were from Israel.
Many aspects of nuclear and mtDNA have been tested in American Indians, none of which suggest Jewish ancestry. This finding does in fact effectively falsify the LDS claim that the American Indians have Jewish ancestry. There is no LDS claim to the miraculous for the genetic structure of the American Indian. Such a claim would have actually been far better than simply claiming a natural Jewish ancestry for the American Indian – a claim which is quite clearly falsified by modern genetic analysis.
Contrast this to stories of Divine miracles described in the Bible as being the result of deliberate design by God. Such miracles of Divine design are not falsifiable by science in the same manner that the LDS claim is falsifiable…
Another explanation could be that Satan rather than God arranged for the evidence to appear as it does today. You can’t rule this out.
You can rule it out if you expect anything to be predictable – even those things which were not described as being designed by God or any other intelligent agent, Satan, human, or otherwise. That is why such demonstrable inconsistencies clearly undermine the credibility of the Book of Mormon for people who want something more rational than blind faith. The same would be true if the Bible were in the same boat as the Book of Mormon.
You have the same problem with flood geology/theology, which fails two central predictions: (1) that organisms living together were preserved together in the flood, and (2) that biodiversity today shows a dispersion pattern from Mt. Ararat. These are predictions that fail miserably.
Not at all. While unanswered questions do indeed remain, as already discussed, the Biblical model is far more consistent with the fossil/geologic records than is neo-Darwinism. Also, dispersion patterns are not inconsistent with a single point of dispersion within recent history – as we’ve discussed extensively before…
Sean Pitman Also Commented
The Bible makes claims about the future. It does not cause the future. It therefore is not “self-validating”. It’s just a book after all. It can be read, but it cannot itself act to perform any tasks. Therefore, it’s claims, if they are to be rationally understood to be “true” must obviously be supported by external evidence based on the historical sciences. In other words, its own claims regarding history are validated by external sources – based on independent evidence that comes from outside of itself. How is this concept not self-evident?
Let’s get a few things straight. I have not attacked the claims of scripture regarding the “the recent origin of all life on this planet, created within just six literal days, and the worldwide nature of the Noachian Flood.” All I did was point out that the physical evidence supporting flood geology has serious problems.
That is an attack on Scripture. When you attempt to undermine the empirical claims of Scripture as being contrary to the weight of empirical evidence, you are in fact undermining the rational basis for Scriptural credibility.
Don’t you recognize that in claiming that the weight of scientific evidence clearly favors the neo-Darwinian perspective, a perspective which is diametrically opposed to the Biblical perspective, you do in fact undermine the credibility of the Biblical account? Your faith-only approach, regardless of the evidence, simply doesn’t do it for many people. For many many people such arguments as you are presenting do in fact undermine the rational basis for their faith despite your own ability to be able to have faith despite the weight evidence. Many people see this as irrational – and for good reason.
Faith, without a need for a basis in the weight of evidence, is irrational by definition. It is blind-faith in that it cannot be rationally distinguished from a form of wishful thinking.
And you were the one, not me, who has asserted that the flood did not create all of the layers of the geological column.
Of course. I fail to see why this might be a problem?
By implication Nebuchadnezzar won the battle with Egypt – just as Ezekiel prophesied. Otherwise, it is unlikely that the Babylonians would have recorded the event…
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
Do you not understand what it is like in academia? Differences of opinion among scholars is not only tolerated, it is valued. I have nothing more to say concerning your accusations. Our church has no “official” stand on this issue, if by that you mean I am disavowing my membership in the church by simply believing that gays should allow ro get married to one another. That is not even how our church operates. I can point to many other church employees who openly disagree about certain issues of belief, including this one, and congregations that are fully affirming of same-sex marriage. They are a part of the SDA church just as I am.
My concern still is more about the tone and stance of your attacks. You are attacking fellow SDAs, some of them being the most vulnerable members of our church, and you seem to have no sense of the damage you are potentially doing to these individuals. By attacking me in the fashion you are you are also attacking all those for whom I am standing up. You may want to take Jesus’ words to heart:
But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea. Matt. 18:6
I know very well what it’s like to be involved in leadership positions within the church and within academia. My own father is a retired pastor and teacher. It’s one thing to publicly present and even promote various opinions that do not directly undermine the church or school one is working for. However, it is another thing entirely to directly attack the fundamental positions of the church while being a paid representative of the church. Such activity is not at all encouraged and is, in fact, unethical – a form of theft from your employer. Sure, there are many pastors and teachers who think to do such things anyway. That doesn’t make such activities morally right. It’s still wrong to do what you are doing.
Pacific Union College Encouraging Homosexual Marriage?
Dr. Bryan Ness just wrote (in the comment section of the Spectrum website) a response to the article I wrote here, as follows:
This saddens me more than anything. When someone who knows nothing about how or what I teach in my classes assumes they know. It seems that the assumption is that I am indoctrinating students into a belief about LGBTQ+ individuals that runs counter to SDA teachings, when I am doing no such thing. I say very little about same-sex marriage to my students, but rather take the approach recommended by the NAD in it’s very fine booklet “Guiding Families” and approach the LGBTQ+ students I come in contact with in the fashion described here (which is from the booklet):
“While it is tempting to focus on causation, I want to resolve this question up front: the origins of sexual orientation and gender identity are highly complex, multi-factorial, and likely rooted in both nature and nurture. For any one person, it can be impossible to know the exact cause. For this reason, we propose that we shift our focus from causation to compassion .”
I also encourage non-LGBTQ+ students to relate to LGBTQ+ students in this fashion. I also encourage abstinence in the LGBTQ+ students I know just as much as I encourage it among non-LGBTQ+ students. I encourage a compassionate and loving attitude and open acceptance of all individuals regardless their sexual or gender orientation.
I do not go out of my way to encourage same-sex marriage nor do I promote on our campus and so it baffles me that the headline of the article cited here says PUC is “encouraging Homosexual marriage,” whatever homosexual marriage is. Neither do I keep it a secret that I think same-sex marriage should be affirmed, which as far as I am aware is not a punishable offense in any setting. I know numerous pastors who believe the same way, some of whom will not say so openly because they fear the kind of judgmental and hateful backlash that an article like mine engenders in some people.
What seems to get repeatedly lost in these kinds of discussions and attacks is that people’s lives are at stake. Suicide among LGBTQ+ individuals runs several times higher than in the general population, and those that experience religious persecution around their sexual or gender orientation are especially seriously affected. If for no other reason than to show true compassion for such individuals, this kind of judgemental and angry discussion and attack should never happen. I think, as I repeat often, that we must take seriously Jesus’ words from Hosea, “I desire mercy, not sacrifice.” I fear that those who speak out so forcefully against our LGBTQ+ brothers and sisters are more willing to sacrifice these people than to try and understand and truly love them.
You just published a very public article expressing your position on this topic – a position that is in direct conflict with that of the Seventh-day Adventist Church (Link). Have you not, therefore, as a paid representative of the SDA Church, taken a very public position that is in fact in conflict with the position of your employer? That’s a real problem as I see it. How do you see yourself around the conclusion that you are in fact actively undermining the clearly stated goals and ideals of your employer? How is this not an ethical problem for you? How do you not see it as a form of theft from your employer?
As far as loving those who are homosexuals, I have friends who are homosexuals and I like and love them very much. However, how is it “loving” to tell them that the Bible says something that it just doesn’t say?
Yes, the Bible is clear. there is NO condemnation of homosexuals or homosexuality in the Bible. Our Prophet never said a word about it. Jesus never referred to it.
Really? How then do you explain passages in both the Old and New Testament that clearly point out homosexual activity as being out of line with God’s will?
As far as the argument that Jesus never mentioned it, He never mentioned a lot of things that are classified as “sins” in both the Old and New Testament. So, I’m not sure what this has to do with anything?
As far as your argument that Ellen White never mentioned it, she did in fact mention passages in the Bible that discuss homosexuality as a sin. Ellen White declared that Romans 1:18–32, which details a descent into illicit sensuality (including homosexual behavior), as especially applicable to the last days.
“A terrible picture of the condition of the world has been presented before me. Immorality abounds everywhere. Licentiousness is the special sin of this age. Never did vice lift its deformed head with such boldness as now. The people seem to be benumbed, and the lovers of virtue and true goodness are nearly discouraged by its boldness, strength and prevalence. I was referred to Romans 1:18–32, as a true description of the world previous to the second appearing of Christ” (EGW, CG 440).
Paul’s book of Romans, in particular, includes language declaring that the sexual relationships at issue are characterized by mutuality, rather than exploitation. The phrase “men . . . burned in their desire toward one another [allēlous]” uses the Greek term allēlous, which indicates a mutuality, a shared experience of desire. Moreover, the reference to “women exchang[ing] the natural function for that which is unnatural,” also reveals a concern with elements beyond exploitation or dominance. Lesbian relationships were especially known in ancient times for their lack of hierarchy, domination, or prostitution. Paul speaks of those who “exchanged natural [physikēn] intercourse for unnatural [para physin]” (Rom 1:26). But the word “natural” (physikos) here does not refer to what is natural to the person who practices it. Rather, it means what is according to the nature of things as God created it, and “unnatural” is that which is “against nature” as God ordained it from the beginning as the immediate context speaks of God’s “creation of the world” (Rom. 1:20, 26). Indeed, even in the larger Greco-Roman world, homosexual conduct of any sort was understood as being against nature. It is only the modern conception of “nature” that means whatever the human desires. Paul, conversely, held that human nature, being fallen and sinful, would be expected to have desires against God’s created order, commandments, and plans for humanity (cf. Rom 5:15–20; 7:7–23). However, Paul also teaches that an escape from “the body of death” and a new victorious life are given through the “Spirit of life in Christ Jesus” (Rom. 7:24; 8:1). Further, in the vice list of 1 Corinthians 6:9, Paul mentions the malakoi (lit. “soft men”), which likely alludes to men who are lain with as a man lies with a woman (see Lev 18:22 and 20:13). First Corinthians 6:9 also refers to the arsenokoitai “men lying with males,” and this term appears again in Paul’s vice list of 1 Timothy 1:10. Against those who see a Greco-Roman background behind Paul’s condemnation (and thus limit this term to something less than all same-sex intercourse), it cannot be overemphasized that this term never appears in the secular Greek of Paul’s day, but only in Jewish-Christian literature. The compound term points to the background of the LXX translators in their rendering of Leviticus 18:22 and 20:13, as they combined the words male (arsēn) and lying (koitē), corresponding to the Hebrew terms zakar (male) and mishkab (lying), to denote “homosexual intercourse.” The undeniable intertextual link between Paul’s use of arsenokoitai (1 Cor 6:9 and 1 Tim 1:10) and Leviticus 18 and 20, indicates that Paul is primarily referring to the OT Levitical background which forbids all samesex intercourse and not just issues of exploitation or orientation.
After surveying the evidence of both OT and NT, NT scholar Richard Hays summarizes well the biblical witness concerning homosexual practice:
“Though only a few biblical texts speak of homoerotic activity, all that do mention it express unqualified disapproval. . . . The biblical witness against homosexual practices is univocal. . . . Scripture offers no loopholes or exception clauses that might allow for the acceptance of homosexual practices under some circumstances. Despite the efforts of some recent interpreters to explain away the evidence, the Bible remains unambiguous and univocal in its condemnation of homosexual conduct.”
As far as your claim that only LGBTQ people can understand the claims of the Bible correctly regarding homosexuality, that’s just not true. Just because I may have motives to want the Bible to say this or that to support my own personal inclinations, doesn’t mean that the Bible actually supports what I may want it to support. The language is simply too clear and unambiguous to be misunderstood – except by those who are desperately looking for any way to make it say something that it just doesn’t say.
Now, you are certainly free and most welcome to strongly disagree with me in this great country of ours – as you obviously do. However, it is ethically wrong to try to force your beliefs on me or upon the church. It is also ethically wrong of you (and those like Bryan Ness) to expect to take money from me or the Seventh-day Adventist Church to support you as our paid representatives – while you continue your efforts to undermine those who pay your paycheck. That, my friend, is called stealing – an ethical wrong in anyone’s book.
Pacific Union College Encouraging Homosexual Marriage?
I wish you were right Floyd. However, unfortunately, I can’t see that you are right in your understanding of the claims of the Bible. I’m not sure anyone could claim in all seriousness that, “The Bible is quiet” on homosexual activity. The Bible has plenty to say when it comes to the expression of homosexuality. Now, having a sinful nature or sinful tendencies (which plague heterosexuals as well as homosexuals) isn’t, in itself, sin. Sin is the actual expression of sinful tendencies or propensities. On this, the Bible has plenty to say with regard to both heterosexual as well as homosexual activities that are not in harmony with God’s will.
I do not condone homosexual practices. Never did, never will… They were born stuck with a very troubling nature. Yes, biblically [they] cannot have homosexual practices, I always agreed to this. So, what they do? They have to stay celibate.
How are you saying anything different here from what I’m saying? It seems to me that we are saying exactly the same thing. I agree with you that sin itself is “hard-wired” into our genes. We are “naturally” sinful from birth. It seems as though we both agree on this. In fact, I’m having trouble seeing where you actually disagree with anything I’ve said on this topic?
The problem, you see, is that this is not what Bryan Ness and other professors at PUC are saying. They are saying that because homosexuality is “naturally inherited”, that it was designed by God Himself and therefore it is perfectly Ok, from God’s perspective, to practice the homosexual lifestyle within the confines of a monogamous marriage-style relationship. That’s where we disagree. From your comments here, it would seem that you also disagree with Bryan’s position on this topic… or am I reading you wrong?