Comment on La Sierra University won’t neglect creation teaching, president, chairman vow by Sean Pitman.
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 Godâ€™s word. If scripture and empirical evidence conflict, the faithful SDA is going to choose Godâ€™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 weâ€™ve read much about here, and at least one SDA physician, who prioritize science and empirical data ahead of a simple â€œThus saith the Lord.â€
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 Also Commented
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 Seanâ€™s claims to the statement of Ellen White:
â€œBY 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.â€ 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) â€“ 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 Greenlandâ€™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 Godâ€™s word, or would you tell him to use his reason and all available empirical evidence to recognize the sheer absurdity of Godâ€™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 Noahâ€™s urging to join him and his family in the ark? Would you have listened to Noah (Godâ€™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.
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.â€
– 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, 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.
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
Dr. Aseem Malhotra: From Pro-Vax to Anti-Vax
Freedom of choice and being opposed to vaccines are two different issues. The fact is that Dr. Malhotra is strongly opposed to the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19, claiming that they are far more harmful than beneficial. That clearly makes him anti-vax. He’s not just arguing for personal freedom here, he’s directly arguing against the vaccine itself as being dangerous since he claims that it caused his own father’s heart attack. The problem is that the weight of scientific evidence doesn’t support Malhotra’s anti-vax claims.
Now, I’m happy to support your personal freedom to believe and do whatever you want to believe and do – as long as it does not substantially increase the risk of those around you. However, when it comes to spreading falsehoods and outright lies against the mRNA vaccines, I’m going to speak out against that and call it what it is – sensational nonsense being spread by those who are opposed to vaccines based on nothing more substantive than personal emotions. That’s just not a good basis for determining “standard of care” for medical practice.
Dr. Walter Veith and the anti-vaccine arguments of Dr. Geert Vanden Bossche
Natural immunity is great! In fact, natural immunity alone prevents approximately 10% of the population from becoming ill from all of the variants of COVID-19. The problem is that for a great many people, especially people older than 50, natural immunity just isn’t enough to prevent serious sickness and even death. The claim that the mRNA vaccines make people “more susceptible” simply isn’t true. While one can still get infected after vaccination, mRNA vaccines have clearly proven their ability to dramatically reduce the risks of serious illness from infection with a dramatic reduction in the rate or percentage of those who are vaccinated being hospitalized or dying (compared to those who are not vaccinated). Also, those who are vaccinated suffer much less severe long-term effects from infection.
In short, the overall risks of getting infected by COVID-19 are significantly greater, regarding any type of serious risk, as compared to getting vaccinated with the mRNA vaccines against COVID-19 – and these benefits of vaccination become greater and greater with age since natural immunity naturally declines with age.
Dr. Aseem Malhotra: From Pro-Vax to Anti-Vax
The strong anti-vaxx stance of many Adventists has been a big surprise to me as well! I just don’t get it. We’re supposed to be strong supporters of good cutting-edge advances in medical science…
Dr. Aseem Malhotra: From Pro-Vax to Anti-Vax
I think it’s even less common than that. However, when my boys were vaccinated, we did have the techs pull back on the syringe both times (Link). Myocarditis occurs about twice after every 100,000 injections. On top of that, research shows it’s typically mild and resolves quickly (Link).
Dr. Aseem Malhotra: From Pro-Vax to Anti-Vax