La Sierra University won’t neglect creation teaching, president, chairman vow

Educate Truth shares the following article from the Adventist Review as a service to readers.

By Mark A. Kellner

In an open letter welcomed by many Seventh-day Adventist Church leaders and members across North America, La Sierra University on March 9 acknowledged serious problems in its teaching of origins over the last several years, and apologized for not having adequately communicated Seventh-day Adventist beliefs about creationism to its students.

“We found that only 50 percent of the students surveyed agreed or strongly agreed that our Adventist view of creation was presented, and only 40 percent agreed or strongly agreed that our Adventist view was supported,” LSU President Randall Wisbey and LSU Board Chairman Ricardo Graham wrote in the open letter.

The letter accompanyed the release of a Board-approved report on the controversy that has focused on the Riverside, California, campus for nearly two years.

“This is not acceptable, and we apologize,” the two leaders added.

Dr. Lisa Beardsley, Education director for the Adventist Church world headquarters, called the statement “a step in the right direction.”

“My prayer is that Adventist education at La Sierra University will grow and acknowledge its redemptive purposes,” Beardsley said.

Larry Blackmer, vice president for Education for the church’s North American Division, also saw promise in the university’s letter.

“I am so pleased with the board and administration’s openness in addressing the issues that have concerned the church for the past few years,” Blackmer said. “I found their statements to be sincere, looking to do what is right.
“This issue has been a controversy regarding the university for the past two years, and I hope with strong administrative follow-through, with monitoring by the board of directors and a continued commitment to the core values of the church, that this chapter can be closed and we can focus on the many wonderful things that are happening on the LSU campus,” he said.

A team from Adventist Accreditation Association (AAA) — which recently conducted a site visit at La Sierra — concluded that, subject to AAA approval, the university “should receive the maximum accreditation possible under AAA guidelines.” La Sierra announced the team’s findings online on February 8, but has since removed the statement from the university’s website.

The full board of AAA will vote next month on a final accrediting recommendation for the school.

In its place, La Sierra has posted “An Open Letter Regarding the Teaching of Creation,” in which the school states its apology, adding, “Instruction at the university, while being strong in many areas, has not adequately presented the denomination’s position on the subject of creation.”

“There is some evidence that students have not always been respected for their belief in the Biblical creation position,” the La Sierra statement said.

In 2009, one LaSierra student said he’d felt that lack of respect. Louie Bishop told Adventist Review he was placed on “citizenship probation” by the school for circulating letters opposing the teaching of evolutionary concepts and for posting notes of a professor’s classroom lecture online.

Following consultation with its Board of Trustees at a Feburary 10 meeting, the university announced, “The Board adopted, and directed campus administration to implement, the following measures:

* Accept and implement the recommendations from the Adventist Accrediting Association.
* Develop faculty workshops regarding the challenges of teaching controversial topics such as those in biology.
* Continue the work in progress, (as identified [elsewhere in the statement]).
* Conduct regular follow-up surveys of biology students.
* Provide the Board with ongoing candid and prompt reports of both progress and challenges in dealing with this issue.”

Moreover, the school said, “The university president and provost identified steps to address this issue that have already been taken or are currently in progress. These include:

* Ensuring that all biology students discuss key documents relating to our Adventist belief regarding origins, including Fundamental Belief #6 [and] the 2004 Annual Council Reaffirmation of Creation, and Genesis 1 and 2.
* Increased participation by the Church’s Geoscience Research Institute in planning the General Biology Seminar.
* Ongoing refinement of the General Biology Seminar, based on student exit surveys and other input.
* Attendance of biology faculty members at the Geoscience Research Institute summer workshop.
* Continue the lecture series that presents a range of Adventist views on the integration of faith and science.
* Establish dialogue with biology professors from sister Adventist colleges and universities.”

According to the statement, La Sierra’s “biology department specifically commits to:

* Faithfully present the Seventh-day Adventist Church’s position on creation.
* Respect every student’s religious beliefs.
* Help students learn how to grapple with issues of faith and science in faith-affirming ways.

In conclusion, the statement said, “La Sierra University is committed to being an institution that does not just present the Church’s view of creation, but fully supports it. We pledge our commitment to work prayerfully and diligently to ensure that our mission to provide a rigorous and faith-affirming Seventh-day Adventist education is carried out on behalf of our students and our Church.”

Daniel Jackson, president of the church’s North American Division, expressed hope at the news.

“I appreciate the expression of the La Sierra University administration and the Board in terms of their stated determination to promote the teachings of Scripture, in particular creation,” Jackson said in a telephone interview.

“My prayer would be that God would give them the commitment and resolve to see this matter through in a way that will be a blessing to students, faculty and the constituency at large,” Jackson said. “La Sierra University has had a reputation as an excellent institution.”

David Asscherick, the Adventist pastor and evangelist whose open letter to church leaders in 2009 brought attention to the concerns at La Sierra University, also expressed optimism.

“I’m happy to see the university affirm the reality and seriousness of these issues, and I look forward to observing the implementation of their plan,” he said during a March 10 visit to the Adventist Church headquarters.

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48 thoughts on “La Sierra University won’t neglect creation teaching, president, chairman vow

  1. The following observation by the AAA [Adventist Accrediting Agency] is key to the much of the problem that exists at LSU regarding the Evolution/Creation controversy:


    A number of faculty in biology appear to make a sharp distinction between science and religion, with Creation not a matter of science but the domain of personal belief and course in the School of Religion. For them, integration of faith and learning within the science classroom and content area seems to be fundamentally incompatible, except for devotional reflections or prayer that might be offered.

    See LSU’s “Memorandum” report: Link

    This idea that there somehow exists a sharp distinction between science and religion, that there really are two very different paths when it comes to finding the truth about God and his handiwork in nature, has caused a great deal of confusion. If God exists and God is in fact the author of nature, then the study of nature can in fact lead one to a better understanding of the author of nature – i.e., God.

    Yet, the LSU board actually references the book The Prism and the Rainbow by Joel W. Martin, Ph.D. where he says:


    1. Religion is not science and should never masquerade as such
    2. Science is restricted to observing and testing phenomena in the natural world around us and should never be used to argue for or against a particular faith or set of religious beliefs.

    By definition, then, these two areas of human endeavor, science and religion, address different issues, each using distinctive methods of inquiry, and there should be no ‘debate.’

    And yet there is debate precisely because people intuitively know that if religion has absolutely no basis in empirical reality then it isn’t really worth very much – not much more than believing in Santa Claus or fairytales in general. Again, it is perfectly reasonable to suggest that the works of nature do in fact say something about the author of nature. Therefore, the study of science is actually the study of the very Mind of God – as Sir Isaac Newton put it.

    How then can it be said that science “by definition” says nothing about religion or one’s view of God, his existence, and even his nature? The Bible itself declares that the study of nature reveals important religious truths regarding the existence and character of God.


    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

    Of relevance for SDAs in particular, Ellen White has also written:


    The book of nature and the written word shed light upon each other. They make us acquainted with God by teaching us something of the laws through which he works’ (Education, p. 128).

    Who is to say then that by “observing and testing phenomena in the natural world around us” that one cannot use the evidences discovered to effectively “argue for or against a particular faith or set of religious beliefs”? – to include very strong arguments for the existence of a God or a God-like intelligence at play in our universe that cannot be distinguished by humans as having all the powers generally attributed to the God of the Bible? Are these not religious arguments? – based on science?

    If you think I’m the only one proposing that science has religious implications, you’re mistaken. Some of the most prominent scientists today are saying the same thing. For example, Australian astrophysicist Paul Davies makes the following argument along these lines:


    The temptation to believe that the Universe is the product of some sort of design, a manifestation of subtle aesthetic and mathematical judgment, is overwhelming. The belief that there is “something behind it all” is one that I personally share with, I suspect, a majority of physicists…

    The force of gravity must be fine-tuned to allow the universe to expand at precisely the right rate. The fact that the force of gravity just happens to be the right number with stunning accuracy is surely one of the great mysteries of cosmology…

    The equations of physics have in them incredible simplicity, elegance and beauty. That in itself is sufficient to prove to me that there must be a God who is responsible for these laws and responsible for the universe.

    * Davies, Paul C.W. [Physicist and Professor of Natural Philosophy, University of Adelaide],”The Christian perspective of a scientist,” Review of “The way the world is,” by John Polkinghorne, New Scientist, Vol. 98, No. 1354, pp.638-639, 2 June 1983, p.638

    Charles Hard Townes, winner of a Nobel Prize in Physics and a UC Berkeley professor noted:


    “This is a very special universe: it’s remarkable that it came out just this way. If the laws of physics weren’t just the way they are, we couldn’t be here at all….
    Some scientists argue that, “Well, there’s an enormousnumber of universes and each one is a little different. This one just happened to turn out right.
    Well, that’s a postulate, and it’s a pretty fantastic postulate. It assumes that there really are an enormous number of universes and that the laws could be different for each of them. The other possibility is that our was planned, and that is why it has come out so specially.”

    http://www.berkeley.edu/news/media/releases/2005/06/17_townes.shtml

    This effort of LSU’s board and many others to draw a sharp distinction between science and religion therefore seems just a bit misguided, but does shed some light on why this issue has continued unchecked at LSU for so many years – decades in fact. They didn’t see a problem because they didn’t, and evidently still don’t, see any significant relationship between science and religion. Why then should they be concerned for anything that is said in the science classrooms that may or may not be supportive of the SDA position on origins? After all, the SDA position is just a “religious” position, not a “scientific” position – right? Why then should it matter if they don’t agree since science and religion don’t really overlap in any significant way?

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  2. Well it is now clear that the fox is in the hen house. So… lets just educate that fox to present to the chickens that he just wants a dialog to ensue before lunch. The chickens will buy it, will the owners of the hen house believe the fox has changed its ways? Stay tuned…




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  3. Sceintists have hidden the truth too long. A pure look at nature screams that there is a God. Today the evidence of DNA has removed all doubt about the myth of cross species. The monkey has been blown out of the box as man’s ancient parent and it is clear that God created each unique with unique DNA. No tumbling of bones can override the pure light of this discovery, yet some old fussils would keep us in the dark ages of Sceince. Virus can be shown to mutant it DNA to a new Virus but not to any other single cell organism. DNA is unique to every known species and the conclusion has to be, God made it that way. Darwin saw similarities, but he failed to look deep enough to find truth. Just ask a farmer about mixing apples and oranges, it does not work.




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  4. From my reading of the reports and “letter”, it appears that there will be an outward change in the teaching of biology at La Sierra. Everyone is reporting that there will be some attention paid to presenting the Biblical account of creation. Since this is a “religious” school, that is good.

    Everyone who is reporting seem content with this new requirement and acceptance by the school. Why is everyone content when it is obvious that at least one of the instructors and others do not believe the Biblical account and will continue to present evolution as truth. At least I have not seen anything in the “letter” or reports that would indicate a change in this abominable teaching. It is not good enough to just present creation and leave the lie being taught to our young people. If one wants to see the result of such a teaching, look at some of the leaders, professors, and the past president of La Sierra. The age of the earth and other contradictions to the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy are absolutely believed by many involved with this school. Take a close look at the student survey and there we also see the results of such teaching. Many La Sierra students are quite happy with the existing teaching that was in opposition to creation.

    Unless there are restrictions placed on the teaching of evolution as truth, none ought to be happy about the present arrangement at La Sierra. Why would the church leave the teaching of evolution untouched in these reports and agreements? The problem extends beyond the one professor who we know is dead set on presenting this lie to our young people. And the world knows just as much as we do about the attitude at La Sierra. Other denominations who accept Bible truth in regards to creation are watching our response to this abomination at La Sierra. They have eyes to see, just as I do. Unless something more is done, we are following in the path of many other universities such as Harvard and Yale that began as Christian institutions and are now disengaged from their churches. In these two schools none are allowed to lecture on creation. It would be just as much an abomination to them as is the teaching of evolution is an abomination to us.

    May the Board of Trustees at La Sierra which includes many ordained conference presidents provide the leadership that God requires of them. This is a line drawn in the sand. There is no middle ground on this matter. Change is needed at La Sierra. Say “no” to the teaching of evolution and that the earth was created in more than six literal days. Don’t allow the seed of unbelief to be planted in the minds of our young people.




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  5. Dear Sean

    You are on the right path my friend. Empiricism drives Man’s rational understanding of reality. You and I may disagree on the conclusions, but not on the methodology of empiricism. Science is a key instrument, not the only one, in that noble pursuit.

    I want to thank Prof Kent for eloquently setting out the difference between the Historical Critical vs. Historical Grammatical, methods of SDA biblical interpretation. That helped me understand the SDA context of the interpretation of creation with a great deal more depth.

    As an agnostic I am suspect of intellectual authority of any kind that precludes independent, critical thought. That is why I applaud the SDA challenging the tenets of evolution, especially Dr.Pitman trying to do so scientifically. Evolution is no sacred cow; I say that thinking it provides the best explanation/theory, to date, for the origins of life on earth.

    While I now understand and respect the context for: “Thus saith the Lord” does that mean that one needs to suppress one’s critical, independent faculties to do so? In a nutshell is this now perhaps what the LSU apologetic is attempting to do? Is that not laudable?

    As a secular person who has studied religion all his life, I have no problem whatsoever with the teaching of biblical creationism as a matter of faith. I like the fact that the SDA church has taken steps to empirically prove it through the GRI, Dr Pitman’s work, etc. That certainly made me think far more critically about the topic than if I just blithely dismissed biblical creation as a rehashed Sumerian legend. And, if I am truly open minded, I will leave myself open to being rationally persuaded that biblical creation is the most rational explanation for our origins. But it won’t be because “Anyone saith it is so”; it will be because to me it makes the most rational sense. Evolution is no sacred cow but freedom of mind surely is for all of us.

    I greatly respect that many of you, most of you?, have been raised as devout Adventists being taught from the earliest years that biblical creation is the only acceptable explanation for Man’s origins. That is your right and privilege. What concerns me – I have pointed this out to Dr.Pitman on a number of occasions – is that if faith becomes a polemic or a prism to rationally inquire about reality, then objectivity suffers. Dr. Pitman has been very persuasive in arguing that all individual inquiry has some subjectivity and bias to it. On sober reflection I think he is right. But I think the collective, ongoing, objective beat of rational, scientific inquiry overcomes these individual roadblocks in time. The world is not flat and laws of gravity apply.

    I am so glad to see Educate Truth active again! Good intelligent minds work here and I hope we are all making progress in a better understanding of the nature of reality. I know I am.

    Thanks to all
    your agnostic friend
    Ken




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  6. The moment someone quotes an imbecile like David Asscherick with any credibility, who even Wikipedia states became a pastor without a college degree, you know they’re just pushing an anti-Science agenda and should lose all credibility.

    It’s unfortunate that La Sierra has buckled under the ridiculous attacks that wreaked of McCarthyism. Off I go to non-Adventist colleges to get a REAL education! It’s too bad, really, I was seriously considering La Sierra.




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  7. @Adventist in High School:


    It’s unfortunate that La Sierra has buckled under the ridiculous attacks that wreaked of McCarthyism. Off I go to non-Adventist colleges to get a REAL education! It’s too bad, really, I was seriously considering La Sierra.

    Since you really don’t believe in Seventh-day Adventist fundamental goals and ideals, why wouldn’t you want to go to a non-SDA or even a secular university? It’s not like SDA schools were ever built to educate people with a secular mindset to begin with. SDA schools were specifically built to give people who wanted a more biblical perspective behind their children’s education to have some place to send their kids. – 1 Corinthians 2:14 NIV

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  8. Personally, I would have liked to see Adventist in High School attend La Sierra, where s/he would have rubbed shoulders with truly spiritual people who might have had a more positive experience on him/her than what s/he is getting here, or would get a public university. Regardless of whether s/he graduated from La Sierra an Adventist or not, I would like to see him/her feel loved by the Church, appreciate the good in us, pardon the wrongs, and speak well of us the remainder of his/her life.

    Adventist in High School: please know that many of us are truly sorry about the negative experiences you have had. If I knew you personally, I’d love to have you visit my home, and we would have much to talk about. I would treat your views with respect. You would be welcome to sit beside me in Church, and I would bristle if someone from the pew rubbed Bible verses in your face.




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  9. @Professor Kent:


    Personally, I would have liked to see Adventist in High School attend La Sierra, where s/he would have rubbed shoulders with truly spiritual people who might have had a more positive experience on him/her than what s/he is getting here, or would get a public university.

    Personally I would like to see anyone who actually wants to attend and learn of the Biblical world view in one of our SDA churches or schools to do so – by all means. However, if one does not wish to learn of the Biblical perspective or the Gospel message as seen through the eyes of the SDA Church, if all one wants to do is to hear more of the secular story of origins or learn more of secular goals and ideals, then why go to an SDA church or school? There are plenty of secular universities (and even other churches and church schools) that will give such a person exactly what he/she wants along these lines.

    Our Church and church schools should be different from the rest. We should not be like these secular institutions or even other types of church schools that have already bought into the secular mindset on origins and other such popular ideas with the secular community…

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  10. Dear Adventist High School student,

    Which of the 12 disciples graduated from college or even the equivalent of such thing? What grade school did Ellen White graduate from? Since when do you need a college degree to do the Lord’s work?




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  11. Re Ethan’s Quote

    “Dear Adventist High School student,

    Which of the 12 disciples graduated from college or even the equivalent of such thing? What grade school did Ellen White graduate from? Since when do you need a college degree to do the Lord’s work?”

    Dear Ethan

    Does this beg the question as to whether the SDA needs schools at all? Isn’t this exactly the ignorance that Dr. Pitman is trying to combat, by demonstrating that there is a scientific basis for creationism that requires teaching? Or should the SDA abandon any pretense of teaching science at all, as you seem to suggest?

    Regards
    Ken




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  12. @Ken:


    Does this beg the question as to whether the SDA needs schools at all? Isn’t this exactly the ignorance that Dr. Pitman is trying to combat, by demonstrating that there is a scientific basis for creationism that requires teaching? Or should the SDA abandon any pretense of teaching science at all, as you seem to suggest?

    While higher classical education is often an advantage in life and is worth obtaining, it is by no means the only way to become very educated and well versed in a given field of study. Jesus himself was called out for not having attending the official schools of his day (John 7:15). This doesn’t mean he was uneducated – far from it. One could say that he had an excellent “home school” program.

    The same is true of the likes of David Asscherick who is very very well educated and extremely bright and well-read even “without having ever learned” in the usual standard way. Those who like to refer to his lack of standard education as a reason to hold him up as ignorant or opposed to the Church’s education system simply haven’t spent much time listening to him and considering his surprisingly extensive wealth of knowledge and insight given his relatively young age.

    So, when a high school student, of all people (or anyone else for that matter), refers to someone as naturally gifted, hard working, and thoughtful as David Asscherick as an “imbecile”, who comes away looking really foolish?

    Sean Pitman, M.D.
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  13. Dear Sean

    Your point is well taken

    My father, who does not have a university education, is one of the most well read, knowledgeable men I ever have met. Yet he is not qualified to teach evolution or intelligent design, nor would I take a course from his in this regard.

    I agree that it is wrong to label Mr Asscherick an imbecile, but does he have the academic competence to teach a science course on origins? Society, including the SDA schools, have academic teaching credentials for a reason. It provides a common denominator for competence and expertise in a given area of study. That was my point in my response to Ethan.

    Perhaps then the question is whether the teaching of biology is God’s work?

    Regards
    your agnostic friend
    Ken




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  14. Well it is now clear that the fox is in the hen house. So… lets just educate that fox to present to the chickens that he just wants a dialog to ensue before lunch. The chickens will buy it, will the owners of the hen house believe the fox has changed its ways? Stay tuned…

    Well stated Marcel!!!




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  15. Sean Pitman wrote:

    However, if one does not wish to learn of the Biblical perspective or the Gospel message as seen through the eyes of the SDA Church, if all one wants to do is to hear more of the secular story of origins or learn more of secular goals and ideals, then why go to an SDA church or school?

    My answer is simple: because we offer much more than these things. I understand that a high proportion of students at La Sierra and Loma Linda are not SDA, and are not particularly interested in our theology. Why are they paying big bucks to attend these institutions? The answer is obvious even if it escapes you: we have MUCH MORE to offer the world than our version of the Gospel message and our take on origins–including the medical training of selfless service that you yourself received from Loma Linda.

    We have been instructed to “go ye into all the world,” and what a blessing it is that many come to us instead. It’s all a part of the Church’s heritage and mission; surely you recognize and appreciate this.




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  16. @Sean Pitman:


    This effort of LSU’s board and many others to draw a sharp distinction between science and religion therefore seems just a bit misguided, but does shed some light on why this issue has continued unchecked at LSU for so many years – decades in fact. They didn’t see a problem because they didn’t, and evidently still don’t, see any significant relationship between science and religion. Why then should they be concerned for anything that is said in the science classrooms that may or may not be supportive of the SDA position on origins? After all, the SDA position is just a “religious” position, not a “scientific” position – right? Why then should it matter if they don’t agree since science and religion don’t really overlap in any significant way?

    Amen!!!! My brother could not reconcile his belief in evolution and the blind faith it seemingly took to believe in the story of creation. He wanted to believe in the Christian faith but evolution destroyed that faith. As the Bible says,” can two walk together unless they be agreed”. Amos 3:3

    Pastor Ron Cook




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  17. @Professor Kent:


    we have MUCH MORE to offer the world than our version of the Gospel message and our take on origins–including the medical training of selfless service that you yourself received from Loma Linda.

    To be honest, many secular schools do just as good a job if not better at educating students with regard to those non-religious elements of education. The primary purpose of our schools has always been to equip our young people with the Gospel message of hope and a solid basis for that hope so that they can then go out and effectively spread this message to the world. The additional skills learned in our schools, skill which help the student become better able to care for the physical and emotional needs of people, only play together for the purpose of more effectively spreading the Gospel message of hope to the dying world.

    If one is in fact not interested in the Gospel message, and the rational basis for accepting this message, there are actually better and less expensive schools, to include a number of state schools, when it comes to the high level secular education one is looking for…

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  18. The moment someone quotes an imbecile like David Asscherick with any credibility, who even Wikipedia states became a pastor without a college degree, you know they’re just pushing an anti-Science agenda and should lose all credibility.It’s unfortunate that La Sierra has buckled under the ridiculous attacks that wreaked of McCarthyism. Off I go to non-Adventist colleges to get a REAL education! It’s too bad, really, I was seriously considering La Sierra.

    By what criteria do you judge David Assherick to be an “imbecile?!” Because he preaches God’s Truth? Because he isn’t afraid to stand up to heresy and apostasy in our SDA Church? Are those criteria for an “inbecile?” If so we have a LOT of “imbecile” pastors that we need to put out to pasture! The Hope Channel and 3ABN need to remove just about their whole staffs!




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  19. Sean Pitman wrote:


    To be honest, many secular schools do just as good a job if not better at educating students with regard to those non-religious elements of education.

    I take exception. In my opinion, private schools generally offer a better education than public schools. The reasons include a more favorable student-to-teacher ratio, and a greater emphasis on teaching (not that research is important, but many of the better teachers/researchers at major universities have their time with students protected).

    I don’t understand why you are so negative toward SDA schools when you are a (not so proud?) product of them. According to the internet, you attended Southern Adventist University and Loma Linda University. Are you telling us that these schools did a poor job of teaching you the non-religious elements?




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  20. Pastor Ron Cook wrote


    Amen!!!! My brother could not reconcile his belief in evolution and the blind faith it seemingly took to believe in the story of creation.

    What a shocking revelation. We now have an employee who rejects Sola Scriptura and the official SDA hermeneutic in favor of the superiority of human reason and empirical evidence. Ellen White and the official SDA Church position are unambiguous: we accept the Genesis account strictly on faith, without the supposed benefit of science and human reason.

    Just how deep does Sean’s heterodox theology run in our Church? Are we going to allow this to continue? Are these people fit for continued employment within the Church when they undermine the most fundamental of our fundamental beliefs?




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  21. @Professor Kent:


    I don’t understand why you are so negative toward SDA schools when you are a (not so proud?) product of them. According to the internet, you attended Southern Adventist University and Loma Linda University. Are you telling us that these schools did a poor job of teaching you the non-religious elements?

    I think the education I received at Southern College (now SAU) and Loma Linda University was excellent indeed. I have no complaints. However, if I were not a Seventh-day Adventist or deeply interested in the religious aspect of education, I dare say that I would not have perused Adventist education so aggressively… and neither would my brother.

    My brother Shannon, for example, scored so high on his SATs that he was offered a free ride, everything included, like no tuition fee, free room and board and a personal computer, to universities like Harvard and Yale, and a stack of similar letters from other such universities that was about a foot thick… all for free. Yet, he chose to pay a large amount of money to go to Southern and then again to Loma Linda University for medical school even though he scored a 36 on his MCAT (~97th percentile). In medical school, he scored in the top ten people in the country on his board exams and had the pick of residencies throughout the country. Yet, he chose to go to an Adventist residency program in Kettering, Ohio. He did this specifically because it was an Adventist program and he values the religious aspect of Adventist education more than anything else.

    See what I mean?

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  22. I do see what you mean. He chose to attend Adventist institutions that are, according to you, inferior in instruction of non-religious elements, because he values the religious aspect of Adventist education more than anything else.

    I can’t speak for your education at Southern College, now Southern Adventist University, but I like the “To make man whole” motto at Loma Linda University, where I occasionally get medical treatment for myself and my family. I admire what they do there. I’m not convinced that a superior education can result when the spiritual aspect of wholeness is neglected.

    I still don’t see your point for denigrating SDA education. If one values private education, La Sierra University is a less expensive option than some other nearby institutions, including Redlands University and the Clarement Colleges.




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  23. Adding more, La Sierra University is probably reasonably close in cost to nearby California Baptist University, but has much better science programs in my opinion. I would not criticize a student seeking an education at La Sierra who disagreed with its Adventist or even Christian teachings. I don’t understand why you are so eager to find fault in institutions, people, and the choices people make.




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  24. @Professor Kent:


    I would not criticize a student seeking an education at La Sierra who disagreed with its Adventist or even Christian teachings. I don’t understand why you are so eager to find fault in institutions, people, and the choices people make.

    It’s fine with me if someone wants to attend one of our schools for whatever reason. My point is that our schools should not give up on the primary reason why they were set up to begin with – i.e., to be truly SDA schools that actively promote SDA ideals in all of their classrooms.

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  25. @Sean Pitman:
    Sean, Certainly science can inform us and unveil to us better understandings of God. But both theologians and scientist would do well to take a more humble stance acknowledging that whatever they believe, observe, or measure that informs about God, it is only a shadow of the infinite reality, and might even be incorrect beliefs, skewed observations, or mis-measures. A healthy dose of “our best research seems to indicate” creates less dogmatism and might make for friendlier conversations as we remember that the opposite of faith is not doubt but certainty. Now we see through a glass darkly–eventually we will see face to face. Hopefully our schools will be places that clearly teach and define the arguments that support SDA beliefs and also thoroughly acquaint students with why others find validity in different conclusions. We teach that way with theological belief systems and hopefully do so in other disciplines to form good liberal arts educational experience for our kids biased toward Adventism. Andy




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  26. Sean, I agree with you that our schools should not give up on the primary reason why they were set up to begin with – i.e., to be truly SDA schools that actively promote SDA ideals in all of their classrooms.




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  27. @Andy McDonal:


    Sean, Certainly science can inform us and unveil to us better understandings of God. But both theologians and scientist would do well to take a more humble stance acknowledging that whatever they believe, observe, or measure that informs about God, it is only a shadow of the infinite reality, and might even be incorrect beliefs, skewed observations, or mis-measures.

    Indeed. This is why the SDA Church takes its position on the concept of “Present Truth”… recognizing that we do in fact “see through a glass darkly” and cannot know “The Truth” with absolute perfection or assurance.

    We are subjective creatures and are therefore subject to the very real possibility of error in any beliefs we may hold about the nature of the world and universe in which we live… to include our own interpretations of the Bible or any other text we may or may not consider to be Divinely inspired. It is for this reason that religion or religious ideas need to be based on a component of scientific or empirically-based reasoning in order for them to become practically useful as a basis of a rational hope in the future.

    It is only in this way that one is able to admit that one’s religious ideas are actually subject to the potential for falsification given additional evidence. Blind-faith positions are the truly dogmatic positions which cannot be changed regardless of the evidence or “rational” arguments presented. After all, faith that is not based on any form of empirical evidence or rational thought cannot be changed or altered via the presentation of any kind of empirical evidnece or rational argument. There is really nothing that can be said to change the mind of such a person – as Jesus himself explained several times.

    Empirically-blind faith is therefore based on emotion rather than an intelligent understanding or appreciation of the evidence. This is why those with blind faith find it extremely difficult to even consider the possibliity that they might be wrong in their beliefs or understanding of reality.

    I think Biblical Christianity takes a more humble approach to the abilities of humans when it comes to our ability to approach Truth.

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  28. Sean, what is going on?

    [Edit – I’m sorry, but your posts on the topic of the “faith vs. science” will no longer be posted unless you decide to seriously address the questions presented to you. Simply reposting the same types of statements on this issue, while refusing to seriously consider or comment on the counter points presented to you, is excessively redundant and does not serve the purposes of this site. – sp]




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  29. Re Sean’s quote

    “Empirically-blind faith is therefore based on emotion rather than an intelligent understanding or appreciation of the evidence. This is why those with blind faith find it extremely difficult to even consider the possibliity that they might be wrong in their beliefs or understanding of reality. ”

    Out of the dark of mysticism and into the wispy dawn of empiricism. Through the clearing fog, the glass darkly, Mankind sees reality a bit more clearly.

    Here here Sean.

    Humbly
    your agnostic friend
    Ken




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  30. I suspect most SDAs would regard a belief system based on blind faith as extreme, and one based purely on empirical data as equally extreme. Surely most SDAs would consider themselves somewhere in between.




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  31. I love empirical data myself, and engage in collecting or analyzing it on a regular basis. I think it can illuminate much about scripture. However, it cannot be put on equal footing or higher than God’s word. If scripture and empirical evidence conflict, the faithful SDA is going to choose God’s word regardless.

    Unfortunately, there are certain SDA university faculty we’ve read much about here, and at least one SDA physician, who prioritize science and empirical data ahead of a simple “Thus saith the Lord.”




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  32. Professor Kent:

    I love empirical data myself, and engage in collecting or analyzing it on a regular basis. I think it can illuminate much about scripture. However, it cannot be put on equal footing or higher than God’s word. If scripture and empirical evidence conflict, the faithful SDA is going to choose God’s word regardless.

    One cannot determine if Scripture is in fact likely to be God’s Word vs. other options without rational thought – rational thought that takes into account the overall weight of available evidence. Emotion-driven religion need not be based on rational thoughts or arguments or evidence of any kind; but emotions are also not a very reliable basis for much of anything.

    For example, the founding fathers (and mother) of the SDA Church believed at one point that the Bible clearly said that Jesus would come in 1844. Well, Jesus did not come on 1844. The empirical evidence overwhelmingly falsified their Biblical interpretation.

    The only reason why they did not give up on the Bible entirely is because the clear reading and interpretation of the Bible had proved so reliable in so many other instances where it could be tested against empirical reality. If all or even most other Biblical interpretations concerning empirical reality had failed just as miserably, no rational person would long be able to take it at face value as being the Word of God with any kind of reliability or predictive value with regard to any kind of truth whatsoever.


    Unfortunately, there are certain SDA university faculty we’ve read much about here, and at least one SDA physician, who prioritize science and empirical data ahead of a simple “Thus saith the Lord.”

    Anyone can say, “Thus saith the Lord” all day long. That phrase doesn’t mean anything by itself. It isn’t some magical chant. Prophets and all kinds of “Scriptures” claim to be from God. Yet, there are false prophets and false Scriptures and even false interpretations of true Scripture. How does one tell the true from the false? How is the Bible detected as being the one true ultimate revelation of God’s will? by which all other “revelations” can then be tested?

    If one wishes to have a rational religion that is based on something more than wishful thinking and warm fuzzy feelings inside, one is forced to use one’s brain at least a little bit – i.e., to actually evaluate and test the Bible to “see if it is good” – to see if it is in fact what it claims to be. The Bible itself invites such empirical tests. It actually challenges its readers to put its own claims to the test and see if they are not true. The Bible bases its own claims on testable empirical realities that are open for all to investigate.

    The truth really has nothing to fear from being put to the test. If God is the Truth, then He has nothing to fear from being put to the test either…

    God knows and understands our subjective nature. That is why He does not judge us for being confused or making honest mistakes at times. We are only judged for making deliberate decisions against what we know to be true…

    Sean Pitman
    http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  33. Sean Pitman wrote:

    One cannot determine if Scripture is in fact likely to be God’s Word vs. other options without rational thought – rational thought that takes into account the overall weight of available evidence. Emotion-driven religion need not be based on rational thoughts or arguments or evidence of any kind; but emotions are also not a very reliable basis for much of anything.

    You are mistaken. We are clearly instructed to interpret scripture based on scripture to avoid the emotions that accompany human reason. You are conflating simple trust in God with emotion, and inappropriately separating emotion from human reason.

    Satan appealed to Eve’s rational thought, which was influenced by her emotion. And she chose to trust her own reason and emotion rather than God’s simple word. You are condoning her decision-making process.




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    • @Professor Kent:

      Interpreting the meaning of Scripture is not the same thing as determining the credibility or reliability of what Scripture is saying. A novel or a fairytale can be internally consistent and its meaning clearly understood. A very well written internally consistent text claiming to be the Word of God doesn’t mean it actually is the Word of God. Bald claims simply aren’t enough to establish reliability because many falsely make such claims. Therefore, one must be able to make a determination between the false and the true based on some external reference – i.e., some actual external evidence that verifies the claim of a given individual or text.

      Your argument that one must simply trust God doesn’t explain how one determines who, among many claimed representatives of God, is actually the true representative (such as the case of Elijah on Mt. Carmel). Upon what basis does one decide to trust one and not another? You have yet to seriously address this question.

      Satan’s appeal to Eve was not based on the weight of empirical evidence. The weight of empirical evidence available to Eve was strongly in support of what she had been told by God. It was God, not the serpent, who had given abundant empirical evidence of his love, care, and creative power to both Adam and Eve. Eve wasn’t tricked for a lack of the clear weight of empirical evidence. She was tricked because she let her emotions overcome her higher reasoning capabilities. Satan appealed, not so much to her mind, but to her emotions.

      In fact, it would have been wrong for God to punish Eve had He not already provided her with the abundant weight of evidence with regard to his own character and nature. The sin of Eve was in knowing who God was and His love for her, yet rejecting His love in an effort to selfishly try to acquire something that was not hers. In other words, she tried to steal from God in the full light of the empirical knowledge of God. She deliberately broke the Royal Law of Love.

      She could not plead innocence due to ignorance or she would have done so. If she had truly been ignorant of the Royal Law, of having acted contrary to love for the One who had demonstrated overwhelming empirical evidence of His love for her, she would not have felt shame nor would she, together with Adam, have tried to hide from the face of God…

      This is the danger of empirically-blind faith in anything. Such faith is emotion-driven. It isn’t based on God-given reasoning abilities to discern truth based on the weight of empirical evidence that he has provided to appeal to the candid mind.

      “God gives evidence, which must be carefully investigated with a humble mind and a teachable spirit, and all should decide from the weight of evidence. God gives sufficient evidence for the candid mind to believe; but he who turns from the weight of evidence because there are a few things which he cannot make plain to his finite understanding, will be left in the cold, chilling atmosphere of unbelief and questioning doubts, and will make shipwreck of faith.”

      – Ellen White, Testimonies Ibid., vol 3, p. 255; Ibid., vol. 5, p. 675., vol. 4, pp. 232, 233; Ibid., vol. 5, pp. 675, 676.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  34. She was tricked because she let her emotions overcome her higher reasoning capabilities. Satan appealed, not so much to her mind, but to her emotions. – Sean Pitman

    Come on, Sean…you’re making my point. Our higher reasoning can be highjacked by emotions. If we cannot reason independent of our emotions, then what are we left with?




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    • @Professor Kent:

      God has given us the ability to put our emotions under the control of our minds. Emotions are not to govern the mind. Rather, the mind is to govern the emotions. We therefore need not and should not let our higher reasoning abilities be “hijacked” by our emotions.

      There was no valid reason for Eve to have been tricked into sin. If there was, she would not have been guilty of sin. She had the clear weight of empirical evidence favoring the reliability of God’s love and His word.

      For Eve to then act contrary to this weight of evidence because she personally desired for the words of the serpent to be true was therefore an act of selfishness – an act contrary to the love of what she knew to be true.

      That, by definition, is sin – a deliberate rebellion against the Royal Law of Love. No one is really truly tricked into sin. Sin must be a deliberate rebellion against what is known to be true in order for the act to be sinful. After all, wasn’t it Jesus who said, “If you were blind, you would not be guilty of sin”? (John 9:41 NIV)

      Professor Kent: “>You wrote in another post:

      Oh really? How was the empirical evidence available to Noah any different than what we have today?

      When was the last time you talked directly with God? When was the last time you went to the Garden of Eden and saw, with your own eyes, an angel with a flashing sword guarding the way? Have you lived several hundred years and experienced innumerable answers to prayer that could only have been the result of the miraculous hand of God? Noah could say yes to all of these questions. This is why Noah, even without the Bible, could rationally believe the Word of God as actually coming from a God who would bring to pass what he had promised – as He had done for Noah so many times before.

      God knows that He must provide evidence of who He is before He can be rationally believed and trusted. God does not expect us to blindly follow all voices (or texts) claiming to be from God. He provides actual evidence that appeals to the candid mind. It is only in the rejection of such evidence that we fall into sin for deliberately rejecting what we rationally know to be true.

      Let the reader compare Sean’s claims to the statement of Ellen White:

      “BY FAITH Noah, being warned of God OF THINGS NOT SEEN AS YET [therefore lacking empirical evidence of validity], moved with fear, prepared an ark to the saving of his house; by the which he condemned the world, and became heir of the righteousness which is by faith.” Hebrews 11:7. While Noah was giving his warning message to the world, his works testified of his sincerity. It was thus that his faith was perfected and made evident. HE GAVE THE WORLD AN EXAMPLE OF BELIEVING JUST WHAT GOD SAYS.(emphasis supplied) – EGW, PP chptr 7

      Indeed. But, he believed based on the evidence, the empirical evidence, that he had experienced with God prior to building the Ark. He wasn’t following the direction of some strange voice coming to him out of nowhere. He had extensive experience with God that included abundant empirical evidence that God was someone who could be trusted and who was immensely powerful.

      Sean, what would you advise Elder Neil Wilson if he announced that the SDA Church was going to engage in a massive fund-raising campaign and construction program to erect a massive dam around the entirety of Greenland’s coast, because, he claimed, God had appeared to him personally and instructed him to do this to save the planet from global warming, which the glacier ice melt would facilitate? Would you tell him to stick with trust in God’s word, or would you tell him to use his reason and all available empirical evidence to recognize the sheer absurdity of God’s instruction?

      I would hope that he had been given a clear sign that what he heard was in fact the voice of God. Again, many voices falsely claim to be the Word of God. You have to be able to tell the true from the false. How is this done? Via the establishment of empirical evidence that appeals to the rational higher mind. Otherwise, you have no real basis for accepting one voice that claims to be the voice of God over any other voice claiming to be the voice of God.

      And one more question: what would YOU have done if you were an antedulivian and heard Noah’s urging to join him and his family in the ark? Would you have listened to Noah (God’s word), or relied on your reason, your knowledge of scientifically based empirical evidence? After all, the world had never seen rain or a flood, much less a massive boat built far from the coast.

      The entire world had seen an angel guarding the Garden entrance. Also, the entire world was show the miraculous sign of the animals going into the Ark via an unseen hand that should have been clear evidence of Noah’s connection with the Divine. Also, the entire world was well aware of the evil state of the world and that the words of Noah in this regard were empirically true. Because of this, the citizens of Nineveh who repented at the preaching of Jonah will stand up in the final judgment and condemn the antediluvian world who refused to repent at the preaching of Noah…

      You seen the Antediluvian people were not destroyed so much because they didn’t get on the Ark. They were destroyed because their thoughts had become evil continually and they refused to repent of what they knew were their evil ways at the preaching of Noah.

      Sean Pitman
      http://www.DetectingDesign.com




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  35. Sean, you have essentially written enough about this to publish a book, which you ought to do, exhorting SDAs to abandon Sola Scriptura and rely exclusively on empirical data, which surely will be a best seller among neoconservative SDAs.




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  36. One of the strategies of liberals in our SDA Church is to “put off” and stall. Several of the proponents of liberalism have actually stated a specific strategy that they believe might work, which is to wait until the “conservatives” die off or retire!

    Ryan Bell expressed this on a podcast in Nov. 209 and Hyveth Williams said essentially the same thing on LLBN’s “Intersections” show today (3-31-11)when speaking about women’s ordination.

    The problem with this strategy is that the SDA Church is gatherering most of its new members in more conservative areas of the world, i.e. outside the NAD.

    I think LSU may have a similar strategy in place. Wait, stall, put off, and continue to slowly undermine our SDA beliefs, as we see going on in the area of “evolution as fact” until a new set of leaders are elected or appointed,or the conservatives simply “die off.”

    This strategy may work, at least short term, as conferences such as we see in the Pacific Unions simply “do their own thing” no matter what the world church believes, knowing that the so-called leaders, even the “conservative” ones, will do nothing to stop them. It’s working so far, as we see at LSU!




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  37. Sean Pitman: Yet, the LSU board actually references the book The Prism and the Rainbow by Joel W. Martin, Ph.D. where he says:

    1. Religion is not science and should never masquerade as such
    2. Science is restricted to observing and testing phenomena in the natural world around us and should never be used to argue for or against a particular faith or set of religious beliefs.
    By definition, then, these two areas of human endeavor, science and religion, address different issues, each using distinctive methods of inquiry, and there should be no ‘debate.’

    And yet there is debate precisely because people intuitively know that if religion has absolutely no basis in empirical reality then it isn’t really worth very much – not much more than believing in Santa Claus or fairytales in general. Again, it is perfectly reasonable to suggest that the works of nature do in fact say something about the author of nature

    1. First we contrast the quote about observations in nature never being used to reveal some fact about a religious POV – to Romans 1 – where God insists that observations in nature – leave mankind “without excuse” when it comes to the invisible attributes of God.

    2. Second – (and this is key) – IF the Bible had said nothing about origins or God’s actions “in nature” then whatever an atheist chose to observe “in nature” would have no implication at all on the text.

    For example if the we had a “tiny Bible” text so downsized that it had ONLY said “Love your neighbor as your self and love God with all of your heart”… nothing observed “in nature” could have been used by atheists as a “science argument” against the text.

    The same goes for a “tiny Bible” that only said “God loves you” or that “God did stuff in some way that you will never be able to observe” — then again no atheist observation in nature would have argued for or against the text.

    The only way for there to be a problem is for the Bible to actually make claims about things IN NATURE – regarding their origin, the time frame in which they came to be, the fact that they appear in fully formed complex mature state within a real 7 day week.

    All the “inconvenient details” that our T.E friends like to ignore.

    As it turns out – the “tiny bible” fictional case is not the reality that we must deal with today – much to the dismay of some T.E’s among us.

    in Christ,

    Bob




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  38. Ron Stone M.D.: One of the strategies of liberals in our SDA Church is to “put off” and stall. Several of the proponents of liberalism have actually stated a specific strategy that they believe might work, which is to wait until the “conservatives” die off or retire!
    Ryan Bell expressed this on a podcast in Nov. 209 and Hyveth Williams said essentially the same thing on LLBN’s “Intersections” show today (3-31-11)when speaking about women’s ordination.
    The problem with this strategy is that the SDA Church is gatherering most of its new members in more conservative areas of the world, i.e. outside the NAD.

    I would argue that their strategy ” is sound” for effectively undermining the doctrines of the Adventist Church.

    Compare the inroads inside our teaching institutions of belief in evolutionism today – to what it was 40 years ago. There is no question that a certain someone has “stolen a march” while we all slept.

    Now it is so firmly intrenched that even an extreme case like LSU is not benefitted by access to the same “solution” that was available for those at Walla Walla a number of years ago.

    And I firmly believe that if the full extent of this were to hit the light of day we would find promotion of evolution among our teachers and thought leaders in almost every school we have in North America.

    (With a few exceptions of course).

    Now lets compare this to Battle Creek’s pantheistic “living temple”. The church could easily cut off and isolate that problem because you did not have a fire storm of pantheism raging outside of Battle Creek at the level of national Institutes of science and education, law, public education and politics.

    The error of belief in evolutionism may soon rival to some degree the error of immortality of the soul – for public acceptance and belief in it.

    in Christ,

    Bob




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  39. Eddie: Sean, you have essentially written enough about this to publish a book, which you ought to do, exhorting SDAs to abandon Sola Scriptura

    The either-or fallacy suggested above is contrary to Paul’s teaching in Romans 1 where we are told that observations in nature even among atheists and pagans — is sufficient to argue the case for God.

    Romans 10 anyone?

    in Christ,

    Bob




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  40. Professor Kent: Satan appealed to Eve’s rational thought, which was influenced by her emotion. And she chose to trust her own reason and emotion rather than God’s simple word. You are condoning her decision-making process.

    You are arguing Gen 3:1-4 against Romans 1:18-23.

    You argue that we must pursue blind-faith to the extent of ignoring the point of Romans 1 — if we are to avoid the error of Eve in Genesis 3.

    Your either-or logical fallacy is not as compelling as you may have at first imagined.

    in Christ,

    Bob




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  41. Richard Myers: Everyone who is reporting seem content with this new requirement and acceptance by the school. Why is everyone content when it is obvious that at least one of the instructors and others do not believe the Biblical account and will continue to present evolution as truth. At least I have not seen anything in the “letter” or reports that would indicate a change in this abominable teaching. It is not good enough to just present creation and leave the lie being taught to our young people. If one wants to see the result of such a teaching, look at some of the leaders, professors, and the past president of La Sierra. The age of the earth and other contradictions to the Bible and the Spirit of Prophecy are absolutely believed by many involved with this school. Take a close look at the student survey and there we also see the results of such teaching. Many La Sierra students are quite happy with the existing teaching that was in opposition to creation.

    This is a good point.

    Right in the tiny spot or two where the LSU board is willing to admit to some problem – the “sacrifice all for LSU” constituents were in prior days swearing allegiance to the wonderful work being done in those very areas claiming that evolutoin is the best and brightest idea to come along and “inform us” about the real truth regarding the origin of all complex genomes seen on earth today.

    in Christ,

    Bob




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  42. BobRyan: The either-or fallacy suggested above is contrary to Paul’s teaching in Romans 1 where we are told that observations in nature even among atheists and pagans — is sufficient to argue the case for God.

    Bob, you cite Romans 1:19-20: “Because that which may be known of God is manifest in them; for God hath shewed it unto them. For the invisible things of him from the creation of the world are clearly seen, being understood by the things that are made, even his eternal power and Godhead; so that they are without excuse.”

    It helps to be selective in what you observe in nature. How would “observations in nature” explain the case for the existence of God to a man whose house was just destroyed by a tornado, killing his wife and kids? Or when an ichneumonid wasp paralyzes a tarantula, lays its eggs in it, and after the eggs hatch the larvae feed on the paralyzed tarantula, gradually killing it? The empirical evidence from “observations in nature” aren’t always pretty, but of course our planet is fallen so we know who to blame.

    But who is an astronomer to blame for violence beyond our fallen planet when he observe comets and meteorites crash into other planets besides ours, supernova explosions violently spew matter at a tenth of the speed of light, and black holes devour neighboring stars and even their light?

    I’m not arguing against the existence for God. Just asking some tough questions and hoping you have some helpful answers.




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  43. Eddie – I agree that nature after the fall has a very ugly side to it as Paul points out in Romans 8. Nature itself is subjected to corruption, death and decay.

    The law of tooth and claw reveals a kind of carnage destruction of life that is most shocking to the observer.

    But at the same time – it should be noted that atheists prior to Darwin’s successful efforts to popularize evolutionism, sufferred the slings and arrows and abuse by people who believe in God precisely because there was no other way to explain “Life” if all you have to start with is “rocks”.

    It was clear to everyone – even atheists that nobody was demonstrating how to produce an intelligent mind “from rocks” nor even a single flower.

    Romans 1:19-20 does not say that the atheist – the pagan, the “barbarian” as Paul identifies them in Romans 1 – will “see the 7th day Sabbath” in nature or that they will see the rule “love everybody”.

    It says that they will see God’s “eternal power and Godhead” in the “Things that have been made”.

    But this first invovles admitting to “design” to “intelligent design” and the “making” of the “things that have been made”.

    This is very basic observation that God says even atheists and pagans are “without excuse” when they try to ignore the glaring evidence before their eyes.

    in christ,

    Bob




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