Sean Pitman: Do you not believe …

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

Sean Pitman: Do you not believe this? – that faith can exist independent of empirical evidence and rational argument?


Then, you are a fideist. This is the very definition of fideism.

Have you not made this claim many times? that Faith may include evidence, on occasion, but is not dependent on it?


Again, this is a fideistic statement.

I don’t underestimate the Holy Spirit. You yourself have conceded that the Holy Spirit can bring about conviction.

I don’t underestimate the Holy Spirit either. However, I do happen to know that the Holy Spirit generally does not trump the need for human investigation and reason in order to determine the credibility of the Bible. The SDA Church does not support the LDS concept of a “burning in the bosom” as a basis of faith or that no research or investigation of Scripture is necessary, comparing it to the evidence available, in order to establish a rational faith in its claims.

How have I distorted your position? Do you not believe that faith must trump all forms of evidence?

I have stated that much of what SDAs believe is accepted based solely on scripture, not scientific “evidence.” I’ve stated that Adventists, including myself, prioritize God’s word such that, if evidence and God’s word diverge, we choose God’s word or, more accurately, our interpretation of it. That’s why we believe miracles happen in spite of all physical evidence to the contrary. We reject the empirical evidence that portrays it as impossible.

Again, this is a fideistic position. How do you think yourself somehow separated from the fideistic position on faith? How are your views non-fideistic?

That nothing, regardless of how rational or well supported by seemingly overwhelming evidence, can falsify faith?

I’ve never argued in favor of this.

You just did. Did you not say that, “If evidence and God’s word diverge, we choose God’s word or, more accurately, our interpretation of it.”

So, does this not mean that your personal faith in your own identification and interpretation of “God’s Word” trumps everything else? – all forms of evidence that exist outside of your own mind?

I have described my belief in God many, many times based on personal experience, the changes in people’s lives that I have witnessed, the conviction that grows when I read God’s word, the witness of prophecy, and the testimony of God’s 12 disciples. None of these constitute anything contemporary science would label as empirical (I know, to you everything is empirical), or as more scientifically credible than other belief systems. I arrived at my beliefs before I learned what the word “empirical” meant. Just as you did.

The witness of prophecy would be meaningless without the support of empirical evidence – without real data. The same is true about the witness of Jesus’ disciples – meaningless without historical data that strongly suggests that they actually existed and lived lives as described and actually died for what they said they saw. Such is based on historical science.

You don’t seem to believe that anything short of your oft-quoted “99.999999….% certainty” isn’t science. But that’s just not true. Science is based on the weight of evidence, not demonstration. The same thing is true of faith – faith outside of fideism that is.

I would take some comfort in your description of these evidences if it were not for the fact that you claim if any one of these evidences diverged from your identification and interpretation of the Bible, you will deny the evidence and accept the Bible. Therefore, you are still a fideist even when you cite various forms of empirical evidence – because of the fact that these evidences are not the basis of your faith. They are not required for your faith to exist. That is faithism, a form of faith that is not based on rational thought or argument as none is required for it to exist. It is, then, non-falsifiable – absolutely robust and unchallengable.

If all of this makes me fideist, then continue your joyous journey of labelling me fideist. I’m laughing.

Why are you laughing? Why do you deny that you are a fideist when you go around promoting fidestic concepts? Have you not looked up the definition of fideism? I don’t understand the difference between your views vs. those of a true fideist? Really truly I don’t. I honestly don’t see why you reject the label despite supporting what seem to clearly be the basic tenets of fideism. Please do explain…

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

Updating the SDA Position on Abortion
Again, most people, including most non-Christians, consider late-term abortions (abortions within the third trimester of otherwise healthy viable babies) to be murder. There is relatively little argument about this. One doesn’t have to know the “precise point” to know that, after a certain point, abortion is clearly murder. The argument that a baby isn’t alive or really human until the moment that it is born is nonsense in my opinion.

Of course, before the third trimester, things start to get a bit more grey and unclear. Some define the beginnings of human life with the full activity of the brain’s cortex. Others define it with the earliest activity of the brain stem. Others define it as the beginnings of fetal movement or the fetal heartbeat. I might have my own opinions here, but the question I ask myself is at what point would I be willing to convict someone else of murder? – and be willing to put them in prison for it? For me, I wouldn’t be willing to do this until things are overwhelmingly clear that the baby is functioning as a full human being and is viable (which would include full brain activity).

As far as rape or incest is concerned, the resulting pregnancy should be terminated as soon as possible within the first trimester. Waiting for the third trimester is simply not an option because, at this point, it would still be murder to kill a fully-formed baby regardless of its origin…

Updating the SDA Position on Abortion
I agree with you up until your last sentence. It seems very very clear to me that a baby becomes human before it takes its first breath. A baby born at 40 weeks gestation is not somehow inherently “more human” than a baby that is still inside its mother at 39 weeks gestation. At 39 weeks, such a baby is indistinguishable from a baby that has already been born. The location inside or outside of the mother makes absolutely no difference at this point in time and development.

I think, therefore, that we as Christians should avoid both obvious extremes here in this discussion. There are two very clear ditches on both sides of the road here. We should avoid claiming that a baby is not really human until it is actually born at full term, and, at the same time, we should also avoid claiming that full humanity and moral worth is instantly realized at the moment of conception…

Updating the SDA Position on Abortion
Most would agree with you that the baby John the Baptist, before he was born, was, at some point, a real human being who could “leap for joy” (Luke 1:44). Even most non-Christians would agree that a third-trimester abortion is murder. However, this isn’t the real problem here. We are talking about if a single cell or a simple ball of cells is fully “human” and if ending a pregnancy at such an early stage of development is truly a “murder” of a real human being. After all, when conception first takes place a single cell cannot “leap for joy” – or for any other reason. It’s just a single fertilized cell that cannot think or feel or move and has no brain or mind or intelligence of any kind. The same is true of an embryo that consists of no more than an unformed ball of cells for quite some time. Upon what basis, then, is it “murder” to end a pregnancy at this early point in embryological development?

Updating the SDA Position on Abortion
Then you have several different questions to explain. 1) How can a 6 month developed (but dead?), non-human being (from a human mother and father?) , being carried in it’s human mother’s womb, leap for joy because he (it?) recognized the mother of the World’s Savior? ”The dead know nothing, neither have they any more knowledge under the sun.” 2) How can anything dead even move? The opposite of alive is dead. Everything alive has life from God. Dead things don’t grow and they don’t move. Every SDA should know this. The Laws of God are not altered in order to justify killing unborn human beings that He has given life to.

Updating the SDA Position on Abortion
That’s just it. You say that, “The unborn think and feel”. However, an embryo in the earliest stages of development is just a single cell or an unformed ball of cells – with no apparent functional difference than a cluster of cells in my appendix. Such an embryo cannot think or feel or understand anything. There is no mind or intelligence at this point. If it isn’t murder to take out someone’s appendix, how then call it be truly “murder” to end a pregnancy at this point in time? How can you be so sure of yourself here? Based on what moral principle?

Also, people who are clearly “brain dead” need not be maintained indefinitely on life support. They’re just a shell of a body at this point and it is not “murder” to simply take them off the mechanical support of the empty shell of their body. This happens all the time in hospitals – and it is not considered to be “murder” at all… by most medical professionals (even most Christian ones).