Sean There seems to be an underlying assumptions in all your …

Comment on The Full History of La Sierra University vs. Louie Bishop by Sean Pitman.

There seems to be an underlying assumptions in all your writing articulated yet again in your last comment where you question me on my acceptance of the tenents of fundamentalisms that you do base your religion on the 5 Christian fundamentals
1] the inerrancy of the text of the canon (and writings of EGW).

There are errors in both the Bible and in the writings of Ellen White. However, these errors are not errors with regard to the basic concepts being presented and observations made. The Bible has proven itself to be extremely accurate and reliable in this regard. For example, the Gospel accounts seem to disagree as to how many times the rooster crowed before Peter denied Jesus three times. But, that is hardly relevant to the main point that Peter denied Jesus in no uncertain terms that that Jesus predicted this denial and that Peter realized what he had done when he remembered Jesus’ prediction of the rooster crowing… You get my point.

2] the virgin birth of Christ

Without the virgin birth of Christ, Jesus is not God and Christianity is pointless. The virgin birth of Jesus is a key element to the validity of the Christian Gospel message to the world. If you don’t believe in the virgin birth, you really truly aren’t a complete Christian regardless of what title you may go by and regardless of what other particular elements you may or may not accept.

3] Christs death was the atonement for sin

Again, this is a key element of the Christian Gospel.

4] the bodily resurrection of Christ

I know you don’t believe in a physical resurrection, but without the physical resurrection of Jesus, everything else is pointless. This historical event was the main central element that established the early Christian Church. Without it, there would have been no Paul and there would have been no Christian Church.

5] The historical reality of Christs miracles.

That’s right. If you don’t believe that God can act within our world with deliberate intelligence and design, there’s no point to Christianity or the Gospel message.

All of these elements are in fact “fundamental” to the Christian Gospel message.

I am happy that you can accept the fundamentalist perspective but none of these positions are addressed by conventional science based on methodological naturalism. Like many evangelicals and neo-orthodox I am happy to admit I accept most of these based on faith but do not seek evidentiary basis for them in science.

You accept most of these? Which ones do you accept and which ones do you deny? I only ask because you seem to reject the concept of a physical resurrection. . . claiming that carbon-based life forms could not avoid the natural order of things to include the cycle of life and death – and that death isn’t such a bad thing anyway (as you repeat again at the end of this post). Given this position, it seems like you must also reject the physical Resurrection of Jesus? You seem to also reject the idea that the death of Jesus was an atonement for sin. You also seem to reject that many if not most of the miraculous stories described in the Bible really happened as described. It seems, then, like you actually reject most, if not all, of these “fundamentals” you’ve listed.

What then do you accept as “fundamental” to Christianity? Do you really accept the truly “virgin” birth of Jesus? – because others, like Kenneth Miller for example, do not. Kenneth Miller refers to both the Virgin Birth and the Resurrection of Jesus as “allegorical”. What is your view?

As far as evidence is concerned regarding these fundamentals of Christianity from my own perspective, if there were no more evidentiary basis for these elements of Christianity, no more evidence for them than the existence of Santa Claus for example, again, why would I choose to put my faith in this vs. that? – just because of wishful thinking? That’s the very definition of fideism. This isn’t real Biblical faith as I read it.

I’m a Christian not simply because I’m desperate for the hope that Christianity claims to offer, but because of the evidence that I see in its favor. Lot’s of religions claim fantastic things. However, only Christianity has the detectable Signature of the Divine in support of its claims – evidences to include dramatically fulfilled prophecies throughout the Bible, general historical accuracy, the willingness of the Biblical witnesses to put their lives on the line for what they claim they saw, the consistency of the Bible’s claims regarding human nature and sin with my own experience of the same, and the consistency of the Bible’s descriptions of nature and its origin with what I myself see in nature. All of these elements come together to give the Bible’s Gospel message superior credibility.

Your wish for scientific validation and concomitant deprecation of faith means that you have invented both a distorted definition of science and idiosyncratic approach to faith. Your definition of science excludes the canonical writing and synthesis of models by scientists as the core knowledge of science and cedes the centre of scientific understanding to the masses of journalists and youtube videos. I cannot see why you feel compelled to do that but do see that it is entirely consistent with your reluctance to even try to engage with the process of science by writing for the peer reviewed journals.

Why build a strawman like this? I have nothing against scientific journals. I read them and use them all the time in my practice of medicine and in reference to other interests outside of medicine – to include the topic of origins. Of course, I do not consider scientific journals to be “canonical”, the very definition of science, because of the fact that many things get published which simply aren’t scientific – which are nothing more that just-so stories that aren’t testable in a falsifiable manner. This happens in medical journals as well as other fields of science. It seems to be part of human nature to want to tell some kind of story in an effort to explain some phenomenon – regardless of if the story can or cannot be tested.

Again, science isn’t based on publishing this or that story and calling it “science”. Real science is based on if your story can be tested in a potentially falsifiable manner so as to establish some kind of useful predictive value. If your story cannot do that, then it isn’t science, regardless of if you got it published in some “scientific” journal and regardless of your fideistic “faith” in the validity of the story.

I clearly have not articulated the question about Matt 17 well as you completely missed my point. I simply ask; to whom was Jesus words directed? In the context after healing a boy which the father described as epileptic and from whom Jesus cast out a demon he said;

“Because of your unbelief; for assuredly, I say to you, if you have faith as a mustard seed, you will say to this mountain, ‘Move from here to there,’ and it will move; and nothing will be impossible for you. 21 However, this kind does not go out except by prayer and fasting.”

The plain reading of this text is that Jesus as God was telling us that healing of epilepsy/demon possession is by pray and fasting. This is clearly the normative process for healing and He makes no mention of natural cause or therapy at all. Surely if there was a natural cause for epilepsy he would have revealed it at this point just like if Evolution was true he would have said so in Gen 1. Is that not logical?

No, it’s not logical for several reasons. One reason is that Jesus had to deal with the level of technology and medical understanding of the day in which He was living. Jesus could have revealed how to cure cancer or treat diabetes or deal with post-menopausal bleeding, etc. But, he didn’t. He lived with and dealt with the technology of the day, just as we must live and deal in our day.

The point Jesus made is that when we come to the limits of human understanding and creative power, we need to turn to God for assistance. Even in this modern age, there are cases of epilepsy which simply go beyond our modern ability to effectively treat, but no case is beyond God’s power to treat. And, when it comes to demon possession (which I believe was truly the cause in the case presented in Matt 17), no human power then or now or in the future is going to be able to deal with that. Such can only be dealt with by God. Our part to play in such cases is entirely dependent upon “prayer and fasting”.

In any case, Matt 17 is not an indictment against medical practice or human efforts to use medicines and various technologies to heal our fellow man. Not at all. Jesus also referenced the necessity of caring for the physical needs of others using what one knows about such care – such as the medical care given by the “Good Samaritan” to the wounded man along the road. Jesus is not suggesting that when we see someone injured or in need of care that we should just say, “I’m praying for you”, and do nothing more. That’s a ridiculous conclusion from the reading of the Gospels.

Plain reading of both Genesis 1 reveals a description of instantateous creation by divine fiat and a description of healing in Matt 17 by divine fiat. In both instances the process is described as supernatural or a miracle. I interpret both in the same way you interpret one and not the other. I see it as high level descriptions by inspired prescientific minds of natural process they did not understand and see that we now describe both healing and causes of disease as natural process and do not seek the divine as the normative response.

No natural disease process causes an insane person to say, when asked for his/her name, “My name is legion for we are many”, and then ask Jesus if they could go and invade some pigs after they depart from the man – and then, when Jesus gives His permission, the pigs run into the sea. That’s not a description of some natural disease process. That’s a description of true demon possession.

Also, it doesn’t matter if one does or doesn’t understand the underlying cause of what one is describing. Regardless, the description of what is being observed is still valid. As I’ve pointed out before, it doesn’t take a rocket scientist to notice that when it gets light and dark – as in a description of “evenings and mornings”.

You probably agree with me in the case of health care but clearly cling to a miraculous cause for speciation and origin of diversity of life forms. That you pray over your patients is commendable but how much effect has at the molecular level of a disease process I do not know. Certainly I can find no instances in the medical literature of clear evidences of divine intervention and do not think that you are confident enough in the plain reading of Matt 17 to forgo any evidence based interventions to rely entirely on divine intervention and prayer for the miraculous. I am sure you will present a whole raft of sophistry to say why we can use naturalistic medicine now but that comes down to interpretation.

I’m still at a loss to see how anyone could seriously reference Matt 17 as suggesting that we must only pray to help others in need – that we have no part to play in helping others with our own hands and our own God-given abilities to assist in healing and general medical care. Your suggestion that God is telling us to say, “I’m praying for you, but I’ve been told not to do anything else for you”, is utter nonsense. Jesus himself said to the lawyer, “Go and do likewise”, in reference to the actions of the Good Samaritan. The same is true today. We work with God. We do not expect God to do everything for us or to completely circumvent natural laws on a routine basis in this fallen world. If He did this, there would be no basis to distinguish between the natural and the supernatural, between the non-intelligent workings of natural law and the activities of deliberate intelligence manipulating nature.

As for salvation there are more than Anselm’s model of the atonement within Christian thought. Personally I prefer the Christus Victor model but that is a whole different discussion. The nature of the resurrected body is also not as clear as you suggest as I have yet to see a carbon based life form walk through a wall or be transported instantaneously from place to place. I also have to respect for Pauls writings 1 Cor suggesting we shall all be changed and interpret this as indicating a change beyond carbon based life which can only exist with death as an integral and essential component.

Then you do in fact reject the physical Resurrection of Jesus? – and the fact that He Himself claimed to have a physical body of flesh and blood after His Resurrection? Your notion that life can only exist with death as an integral component strikes at the basis of the Christian Gospel message of hope for a new world where death and suffering for all sentient creatures is no more. I’m sorry, but your vision and your faith are very limited in this regard – falling short of full Christianity.

Lest you monopolize neologisms I would suggest rather than mindless natural mechanisms I am a firm believer in mindful natural mechanisms.

So am I. It is just that mindful natural mechanisms, like human-level intelligence and creative power, comes at different levels. Just as human-level intelligence is “natural” to us, so is God’s level of intelligence and creative power “natural” to Him. It’s all relative. What is “natural” vs. what is “supernatural”, is all dependent upon one’s perspective.

Sean Pitman

Sean Pitman Also Commented

The Full History of La Sierra University vs. Louie Bishop
When I talk about the concept of science, I’m talking about how any new information is learned in a useful manner that is superior to wishful thinking (aka blind faith). One’s understanding of the Bible as the Word of God can be and I believe should be based on the weight of evidence that is currently in hand. Coming to the conclusion that the Bible is God’s Word requires work. It is not inherent knowledge, but must be learned based on evidence, not direct revelation.

“God is the foundation of everything. All true science is in harmony with His works; all true education leads to obedience to His government. Science opens new wonders to our view; she soars high, and explores new depths; but she brings nothing from her research that conflicts with divine revelation. Ignorance may seek to support false views of God by appeals to science, but the book of nature and the written word shed light upon each other. We are thus led to adore the Creator and to have an intelligent trust in His word.” – Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 115

“In the days of Noah, men, animals, and trees, many times larger than now exist, were buried, and thus preserved as an evidence to later generations that the antediluvians perished by a flood. God designed that the discovery of these things should establish faith in inspired history; but men, with their vain reasoning, fall into the same error as did the people before the Flood–the things which God gave them as a benefit, they turn into a curse by making a wrong use of them.” – Ellen White, Patriarchs and Prophets, p. 115

“God never asks us to believe without giving sufficient evidence upon which to base our faith. His existence, His character, the truthfulness of His word, are all established by testimony that appeals to our reason; and this testimony is abundant. Yet God has never removed the possibility of doubt. Our faith must rest upon evidence, not demonstration. Those who wish to doubt will have opportunity; while those who really desire to know the truth will find plenty of evidence on which to rest their faith . . .” Steps to Christ, p. 105;

Consider also that, “perfect assurance . . . is not compatible with faith. Faith rests not on certainty, but upon evidence.” Letter 19d, 1892, cited in The Ellen G. White 1888 Materials, pp. 1029, 1030.

“For since the creation of the world God’s invisible qualities–his eternal power and divine nature–have been clearly seen, being understood from what has been made, so that men are without excuse.” – Romans 1:20 NIV

“The heavens declare the glory of God; the skies proclaim the work of his hands.” – Psalms 19:1 NIV

God does not desire blind faith or blind obedience without the input of rational thought and understanding (which is also God-given by the way). Our faith in the Bible should be based on something more than some kind of internal warm fuzzy feeling or personal desire. Our faith in the Bible as the Word of God should be a rational faith that is based on the weight of evidence and its established predictive power – i.e., a form of scientific reasoning and understanding which forms the basis for a logical, rational leap of faith. It is in this manner that faith and science can, and I think must, walk hand-in-hand.

Sean Pitman

The Full History of La Sierra University vs. Louie Bishop
God (and Truth) never changes. However, our understanding of Truth does change over time.

We learn and grow in our understanding of truth – to include our understanding of Biblical truth. One is not automatically born with the knowledge that the Bible is the real Word of God or how, exactly, to interpret it and all of its statements and passages. On the contrary, this requires effort and careful investigation and rational thought on our part.

Again, there’s nothing to fear from subjecting the Bible to careful investigation against the weight of evidence. God is the author of the Bible and true science…

Sean Pitman

The Full History of La Sierra University vs. Louie Bishop
Hi Phil,

I appreciate your desire to uphold the Bible regardless of what the external evidence might say about it. However, I think this is a mistake. The Bible has nothing to fear from true science (vs. “science falsely so called”) or from a truly rational investigation into its claims. The Biblical authors always provide empirical evidence and rational arguments as a basis for faith (as does Mrs. White). We should not be like my LDS friends who believe in the Book of Mormon regardless of the weight of evidence against it. The Bible is to be believed because of the weight of evidence in its favor – because it is the most rational choice that the intelligent candid mind can conclude. Our faith need not be blind to the weight of evidence. Rather, faith and evidence can and should walk hand-in-hand.

Sean Pitman

Recent Comments by Sean Pitman

Pacific Union College Encouraging Homosexual Marriage?

“Essentially all the administrators, staff and faculty on our campus, including the pastors on our campus already know where I stand. I have never kept any secrets. I have to laugh when I see you say that I am upset because you ‘blew my cover.’ There was no cover to blow.” – Bryan Ness

You’re not the main problem here. I’d have no problem with you personally and what you personally believe at all except that you are a professor in an Adventist school – Pacific Union College.

It’s this school who presents itself as being in line with the primary goals and ideals of the Adventist Church, when it really isn’t. I have friends of mine who have gone to PUC and talked to the leadership about sending their children to PUC. They’ve specifically asked about the situation at La Sierra University and asked the PUC leadership and heads of departments what their position is on teaching the theory of evolution as “the truth” – and if the teachers at PUC support the SDA position on origins and other issues? They were told that PUC does not condone what happened at LSU and that the professors at PUC are fully in line with the SDA position on origins and all of the other fundamental positions of the church.

Of course, you know and I know that this just isn’t true. You, for one, publically speak and teach against the church’s position on origins as well as human sexuality. This reality is not being presented by the leadership of PUC to the parents of potential PUC students. This reality simply isn’t being advertised to the general church membership at all. What PUC should be advertizing to parents and the church membership at large is,

    “Yes, we do maintain professors who teach our students that the church’s position on various fundamental doctrinal issues is in fact wrong and should be changed to reflect the more popular secular position on these topics.”

That’s what it should be telling everyone, but this just isn’t what is being done.

I am attacking no one… Since when is a difference of views an attack on the church?

Since it was placed as one of the church’s “fundamental beliefs” by the church (Link). When you publically publish an article stating that the Church’s position is clearly mistaken and should be changed, that’s an attack on the church’s position.

And of all the issues facing the church, same-sex marriage hardly rises to the level of a “primary goal and ideal.”

The SDA Church has chosen to describe the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman as one of the “fundamental” messages to spread to the world – as one of the fundamental reasons for its very existence…

Now, you call what you’re doing, not an “attack”, but a “plea for compassion”. However, your plea for compassion is presented as a clear statement that the church’s position is absolutely mistaken – that the church’s position is not at all “compassionate” or even biblical. Now, you may be very honest and sincere in your views here, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not attacking the church’s position in a very real and fundamental way. The fact is that you are making a very clear attack on the church’s position while accepting money from the church as a representative who is supposed to be supporting the church as a paid employee.

Why do you want to cause such people so much pain?

That’s not my goal. However, if a person wants to know what the Bible has to say about what they are doing, I’m not going to pretend that the Bible has nothing to say when the Bible does in fact have something to say. If what the Bible says “causes pain” to a person living in what the Bible says is a “sinful” lifestyle, that’s between them and God. The very same thing is true of me and my own sinful tendencies. If what the Bible says about what I’m doing causes me pain, I can either respond to that by ignoring what the Bible has to say, or I can ask God for help in changing my ways.

Jesus himself said that He did not come to bring peace to those who are living in rebellion against God’s ideals for humanity, but a “sword” (Matthew 10:34). The denial of self and what we naturally want to do given our fallen condition, in order to follow God and what He calls us to do, is often quite painful indeed. That doesn’t mean it’s not the best path to follow. There simply can be no peace between God and those who wish to hang onto what God has said to give up. God does not condemn the sinner for being born broken, but He does warn those who refuse to accept His offer of help to escape their broken condition that, eventually, such refusals of help will not end well for those who are determined to follow their own way.

Pacific Union College Encouraging Homosexual Marriage?
Response from Bryan Ness:

Yet, these professors get very upset when their actions are made public – when they can no longer hide what they are doing from the church at large. – Sean Pitman

Uh, I have never hidden my support and affirmation for LGBTQ+ individuals, and any parent who wanted to know my views on the subject could easily look up what I’ve written, or they could just plain ask me. I openly acknowledge where I stand on these issues on social media too. Essentially all the administrators, staff and faculty on our campus, including the pastors on our campus already know where I stand. I have never kept any secrets. I have to laugh when I see you say that I am upset because you “blew my cover.” There was no cover to blow.

You have not simply let people know what I advocate, you have attacked me personally and impugned my motives and personal spiritual path. You are causing pain not just to me, but to the very people I am trying to comfort and encourage. Your words are not just being seen by the legalistic and judgmental people like yourself, but by parents of LGBTQ+ children and those LGBTQ+ individuals themselves, many of whom are likely already heavily weighed down with self revulsion and depression. And you are doing this for who’s good?

And you wonder why I might be angry and upset? As hard as it is for me to do, I have daily decided to pray for you and those like you that God would soften your heart and show you the grave wounds you are inflicting on God’s beloved. I pray God will help you find compassion and clearer spiritual insight.

Do you really think it’s a “little thing” when our own professors are attacking the primary goals and ideals of the church from the inside? – Sean Pitman

I am attacking no one. You act as if you have not even read my article. I did suggest in there that I think it is time for the church to change and affirm same-sex marriage, but that is not an attack, that is a plea for compassion, a plea that the church return and study this topic again, and I laid out the reasons I think it is fully warranted that we do so. Since when is a difference of views an attack on the church? And of all the issues facing the church, same-sex marriage hardly rises to the level of a “primary goal and ideal.” You are inflating the importance of this topic. the only place where same-sex marriage really rises to a high level of importance is when you are an LGBTQ+ person contemplating marriage, or are the parent, relative or friend of an LGBTQ+ person. Why do you want to cause such people so much pain?

Pacific Union College Encouraging Homosexual Marriage?
Posted by ArkDrey:

The purpose of the H.E. is not to wall people off by modifying curriculum of every subject to fit dogma. The dogma itself has to be enhanced with broader understanding of how to relate various perspectives to these fields of human enterprise.

Certainly, Adventist schools should by no means isolate students from popular ideas that are prevalent within secular culture. If anything, students educated in our schools should have a much better understanding of ideas like neoDarwinism or homosexuality than students educated in secular institutions. However, the education of students within Adventist schools shouldn’t stop here. Adventist education should also give students a reasonable explanation as to why the Adventist perspective on these ideas is actually supported by the Church – by professors who actually personally hold to the Church’s positions on these topics (like the topics of origins or homosexuality, etc).

Again, it is simply counterproductive to have a church school if professors in that school teach that the church’s position is not only wrong, but downright ludicrous, outdated, and completely opposed to the overwhelming weight of “scientific evidence”. Such teaching, by professors that are respected by the students, will strongly influence most students to be naturally opposed to the church’s position on these topics. Clearly then, this would not be in the church’s best interest. It would be far better, from the church’s perspective, not to form church schools at all than to have professors within their own schools attack the church organization from the inside.

But there is world of difference between presenting it as fact that the teacher believes, and a theory with problems. – @ajshep (Allen Shepherd)

I’m in total agreement here. Again, it is one thing to teach about a particular concept that opposes the teachings of the church. It is a far far different thing to then support this particular concept as “true” as compared to showing the students why you, as their teacher, don’t find it convincing.

That is why a teacher, employed by the church, is actually stealing from the church when they attack the church’s position on a given topic from within their own classroom or via a public forum. Such activity simply goes against what a teacher is being paid to do by his/her employer.

Pacific Union College Encouraging Homosexual Marriage?
From David1:

Your presumption and hubris are exactly what Jesus pointed out to those who brought the women caught in adultery. Have you learned nothing from the examples of what it means to be a Christian that you would indulge in such harshness and judgemental words and pronouncements.

Consider that while Jesus most certainly was very kind and gentle and forgiving to the woman caught in adultery (certainly one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible), that He did in fact tell her to “go and sin no more”.

I would say that the very same action and recommendation should be given to all who find themselves part of the LBGTQ+ community. God loves sinners and came to save all of us who find ourselves caught in the web of fallen and sinful lives. He doesn’t condemn us for being broken, but He does offer us a way out and tells us to “go and sin no more”.

In light of this, my problem with the efforts of Dr. Ness is that he is making the claim that there is no brokenness or moral problem with committed monogamous homosexual lifestyles – that the Bible says absolutely nothing in this regard and therefore there is nothing for God to forgive here. There is simply no need to say, “I love you, now go and sin no more”.

I’m also not quite sure why Dr. Ness draws the line with monogamy since he doesn’t accept the Biblical statements, often within the same passages as those discussing monogamy, that speak against homosexual activities? This seems inconsistent to me since it seems quite reasonable, given the arguments presented by Dr. Ness, that polygamy could also be argued as being even more consistent with God’s will and natural genetic mutations that God Himself designed. Upon what “scientific” or “religious” or “philosophical” basis does Dr. Ness draw the line at monogamy as being the clear Biblical standard where God draws the line? – when many have very strong and very “natural” polygamous tendencies?

Of course, I also have a problem with a paid representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, who is responsible for teaching our youth in support of the primary goals and ideals of the Church, publicly arguing that these goals and ideals are completely wrong – on the church’s dime. Such activity, even if one is totally convinced as to the error of one’s employer, is unethical since it is a form of stealing from one’s employer.

At the very least, parents who are paying a great deal of money to send their children to one of our church schools should be very well informed as to what they can expect their children to be taught at our schools and what positions the teachers at the school are publicly promoting. Providing this information to such parents is my primary purpose in responding to Dr. Ness’s publicly published article in public forum.

Pacific Union College Encouraging Homosexual Marriage?
Response from Dr. Ness:

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.