Comment on NCSE Report: Adventist Education in the Midst of a Sea of Science by Sean Pitman.
It is interesting to me that those who are most ardent in arguing that no disagreements within the church should be publicly aired or brought before the church body in general find themselves free to do the very same thing themselves – to publicly call me out, by name, as being responsible for grave wrongs and damage to the church. And, they do this without speaking to me privately about the issue or asking the church leadership to do so either (and usually without using one’s real name).
Come on guys, at least be consistent in your interpretation of Matthew 18… and consider also that Matthew 18 is talking about private personal sins – not the issue of pastors and teachers openly attacking the church from within on the church’s dime. Such activity was publicly address by Mrs. White, the other founding fathers of the early SDA Church, the early Christian church (St. Paul minced no words in this regard), the reformed Christian church (as in Martin Luther’s 95 theses being publicly nailed to the castle church doors in Wittenberg) and even Jesus himself who used some of the strongest language in the Bible to publicly address those who were destroying the church of His day from within (Matthew 23:27, Matthew 23:33, John 8:42-44, etc)…
Sean Pitman Also Commented
Again, I agree that the public confrontation of this website is not the most ideal method given any other more private method that would have actually worked. However, what else would you have done that has not already been tried to substantively address the long-standing and entrenched problem at LSU? I’d really like to hear some other reasonable approach to this problem that has not already been tried without any effect…
I’m sorry, but you guys seem to me to be more concerned about the reputation of teachers and institutions than you seem to be over the undermining of the faith of the youth of our church or the very long standing and determined attacks on various fundamental goals and ideals of the SDA Church – the SDA position on origins in particular.
Again, I ask you, why is it such a problem to publicly declare, in no uncertain terms, what parents and students can expect from our own schools? – especially given the great personal cost involved for most parents who send their children to our schools? Shouldn’t our primary concern be for them? How can such an effort to inform parents, students, and the church membership at large rationally be referred to as a “scorched earth policy”?
If our schools cannot proudly and publicly proclaim the honest truth of what they are teaching our young people, we obviously have a real problem. I don’t think it is right for individuals or institutions to hide behind arguments for Adventist privacy over what we actually teach in our schools while they attack the very fundamentals of Adventism, on the Church’s dime, for decades. It’s time for this sort of thing to stop.
If you have a better idea on how to get this done, I’m all ears…
As I’ve explained many times before, the maintenance of church order and government (i.e., only hiring those paid representatives who will actually represent what they are being paid to represent) has nothing to do with salvation.
These are not moral judgments. These are practical judgments regarding the maintenance of church order and government. One does not have to be SDA to be saved you know. However, one does need to be SDA to be an effective leader or paid representative of the SDA Church.
If you don’t believe in the SDA message, that Ok, just don’t expect to get a paycheck from the SDA Church while you go about undermining the basic goals and ideals of the church. Try working for an employer who has goals and ideals more in line with your own.
Also, no one is arguing for the exclusion of anyone from basic attendance and worship with us in our churches. Anyone who actually wants to fellowship with us is welcome. Many of my best friends are not members of the SDA Church, a number are even agnostic and a few are pretty ardent atheists. Yet, we get along just fine and occasionally these same friends of mine come to my church with me to support something I’m doing.
You see, the problem here isn’t over basic socialization or diversity in worship. The problem is over paid representatives of our church attacking the church on the church’s dime. That’s the main issue here. No organization of any kind can long tolerate such subversive activity coming from within…
I actually agree with you on one level. I most certainly agree that a public forum is not the most ideal place to air any form of the church’s dirty laundry. However, at some point for certain important issues one is left with little choice but to use less than ideal methods to address very important issues within the church. For example, I’m sure Martin Luther wished there were some less public way to effectively address the significant problems of the church of his day rather than to nail his 95 Theses to the most public forum available – the front door of the Castle Church at Wittenberg. Likewise, I very much wish there were some much more private and inconspicuous way to effectively address the active and long-standing attack on the church from within one of our own universities. Unfortunately, I was unable to think of any other way (which had not already been tried).
If you know of another way, by all means do share it with me…
You’ll have your reward one day.
You certainly sound gracious and Christlike to me 😉
How about at least giving me the benefit of the doubt as far as my motive and possible ignorance is concerned before passing moral judgment? How about at least pardoning me as far as Jesus did when He said, “Father, forgive them, for they do not know what they are doing.”? – Luke 23:34
But, perhaps, I’m beyond all hope? My doom is sealed? – for trying to protect Adventist young people in our own schools from the unending attacks on Adventism from within – from our own hired professors?
Oh, and by the way, while I get many anonymous E-mails and even hand written letters on occasion (which I do not read unless they are signed) I’ve only been privately contacted by a handful of individuals who’ve identified themselves and who’ve expressed concerns about the effect of this website. As far as the one’s who’ve actually identified themselves, all have been male (as far as I recall). So, I assume your private message must have been anonymous?
Also, you should know as well as anyone (and should explain to your friend in case she is not aware) that public comments to the articles posted to any discussion website like this do not necessarily represent the perspective and/or goals of the managers/owners of this website. The attitudes of many commenters certainly do not reflect my own positions or attitudes. What then should I do? – block all comments with which I personally disagree? – including yours?
Also, you’ve failed to respond to my most sincere question as to how the issue at LSU should have been dealt with? How would you have dealt with the problem? What, specifically, would you have done? I’m really interested in any useful advice along these lines…
Recent Comments by Sean Pitman
“Essentially all the administrators, staff and faculty on our campus, including the pastors on our campus already know where I stand. I have never kept any secrets. I have to laugh when I see you say that I am upset because you ‘blew my cover.’ There was no cover to blow.” – Bryan Ness
You’re not the main problem here. I’d have no problem with you personally and what you personally believe at all except that you are a professor in an Adventist school – Pacific Union College.
It’s this school who presents itself as being in line with the primary goals and ideals of the Adventist Church, when it really isn’t. I have friends of mine who have gone to PUC and talked to the leadership about sending their children to PUC. They’ve specifically asked about the situation at La Sierra University and asked the PUC leadership and heads of departments what their position is on teaching the theory of evolution as “the truth” – and if the teachers at PUC support the SDA position on origins and other issues? They were told that PUC does not condone what happened at LSU and that the professors at PUC are fully in line with the SDA position on origins and all of the other fundamental positions of the church.
Of course, you know and I know that this just isn’t true. You, for one, publically speak and teach against the church’s position on origins as well as human sexuality. This reality is not being presented by the leadership of PUC to the parents of potential PUC students. This reality simply isn’t being advertised to the general church membership at all. What PUC should be advertizing to parents and the church membership at large is,
“Yes, we do maintain professors who teach our students that the church’s position on various fundamental doctrinal issues is in fact wrong and should be changed to reflect the more popular secular position on these topics.”
That’s what it should be telling everyone, but this just isn’t what is being done.
I am attacking no one… Since when is a difference of views an attack on the church?
Since it was placed as one of the church’s “fundamental beliefs” by the church (Link). When you publically publish an article stating that the Church’s position is clearly mistaken and should be changed, that’s an attack on the church’s position.
And of all the issues facing the church, same-sex marriage hardly rises to the level of a “primary goal and ideal.”
The SDA Church has chosen to describe the definition of marriage as being between one man and one woman as one of the “fundamental” messages to spread to the world – as one of the fundamental reasons for its very existence…
Now, you call what you’re doing, not an “attack”, but a “plea for compassion”. However, your plea for compassion is presented as a clear statement that the church’s position is absolutely mistaken – that the church’s position is not at all “compassionate” or even biblical. Now, you may be very honest and sincere in your views here, but that doesn’t mean that you’re not attacking the church’s position in a very real and fundamental way. The fact is that you are making a very clear attack on the church’s position while accepting money from the church as a representative who is supposed to be supporting the church as a paid employee.
Why do you want to cause such people so much pain?
That’s not my goal. However, if a person wants to know what the Bible has to say about what they are doing, I’m not going to pretend that the Bible has nothing to say when the Bible does in fact have something to say. If what the Bible says “causes pain” to a person living in what the Bible says is a “sinful” lifestyle, that’s between them and God. The very same thing is true of me and my own sinful tendencies. If what the Bible says about what I’m doing causes me pain, I can either respond to that by ignoring what the Bible has to say, or I can ask God for help in changing my ways.
Jesus himself said that He did not come to bring peace to those who are living in rebellion against God’s ideals for humanity, but a “sword” (Matthew 10:34). The denial of self and what we naturally want to do given our fallen condition, in order to follow God and what He calls us to do, is often quite painful indeed. That doesn’t mean it’s not the best path to follow. There simply can be no peace between God and those who wish to hang onto what God has said to give up. God does not condemn the sinner for being born broken, but He does warn those who refuse to accept His offer of help to escape their broken condition that, eventually, such refusals of help will not end well for those who are determined to follow their own way.
Yet, these professors get very upset when their actions are made public – when they can no longer hide what they are doing from the church at large. – Sean Pitman
Uh, I have never hidden my support and affirmation for LGBTQ+ individuals, and any parent who wanted to know my views on the subject could easily look up what I’ve written, or they could just plain ask me. I openly acknowledge where I stand on these issues on social media too. Essentially all the administrators, staff and faculty on our campus, including the pastors on our campus already know where I stand. I have never kept any secrets. I have to laugh when I see you say that I am upset because you “blew my cover.” There was no cover to blow.
You have not simply let people know what I advocate, you have attacked me personally and impugned my motives and personal spiritual path. You are causing pain not just to me, but to the very people I am trying to comfort and encourage. Your words are not just being seen by the legalistic and judgmental people like yourself, but by parents of LGBTQ+ children and those LGBTQ+ individuals themselves, many of whom are likely already heavily weighed down with self revulsion and depression. And you are doing this for who’s good?
And you wonder why I might be angry and upset? As hard as it is for me to do, I have daily decided to pray for you and those like you that God would soften your heart and show you the grave wounds you are inflicting on God’s beloved. I pray God will help you find compassion and clearer spiritual insight.
Do you really think it’s a “little thing” when our own professors are attacking the primary goals and ideals of the church from the inside? – Sean Pitman
I am attacking no one. You act as if you have not even read my article. I did suggest in there that I think it is time for the church to change and affirm same-sex marriage, but that is not an attack, that is a plea for compassion, a plea that the church return and study this topic again, and I laid out the reasons I think it is fully warranted that we do so. Since when is a difference of views an attack on the church? And of all the issues facing the church, same-sex marriage hardly rises to the level of a “primary goal and ideal.” You are inflating the importance of this topic. the only place where same-sex marriage really rises to a high level of importance is when you are an LGBTQ+ person contemplating marriage, or are the parent, relative or friend of an LGBTQ+ person. Why do you want to cause such people so much pain?
The purpose of the H.E. is not to wall people off by modifying curriculum of every subject to fit dogma. The dogma itself has to be enhanced with broader understanding of how to relate various perspectives to these fields of human enterprise.
Certainly, Adventist schools should by no means isolate students from popular ideas that are prevalent within secular culture. If anything, students educated in our schools should have a much better understanding of ideas like neoDarwinism or homosexuality than students educated in secular institutions. However, the education of students within Adventist schools shouldn’t stop here. Adventist education should also give students a reasonable explanation as to why the Adventist perspective on these ideas is actually supported by the Church – by professors who actually personally hold to the Church’s positions on these topics (like the topics of origins or homosexuality, etc).
Again, it is simply counterproductive to have a church school if professors in that school teach that the church’s position is not only wrong, but downright ludicrous, outdated, and completely opposed to the overwhelming weight of “scientific evidence”. Such teaching, by professors that are respected by the students, will strongly influence most students to be naturally opposed to the church’s position on these topics. Clearly then, this would not be in the church’s best interest. It would be far better, from the church’s perspective, not to form church schools at all than to have professors within their own schools attack the church organization from the inside.
But there is world of difference between presenting it as fact that the teacher believes, and a theory with problems. – @ajshep (Allen Shepherd)
I’m in total agreement here. Again, it is one thing to teach about a particular concept that opposes the teachings of the church. It is a far far different thing to then support this particular concept as “true” as compared to showing the students why you, as their teacher, don’t find it convincing.
That is why a teacher, employed by the church, is actually stealing from the church when they attack the church’s position on a given topic from within their own classroom or via a public forum. Such activity simply goes against what a teacher is being paid to do by his/her employer.
Your presumption and hubris are exactly what Jesus pointed out to those who brought the women caught in adultery. Have you learned nothing from the examples of what it means to be a Christian that you would indulge in such harshness and judgemental words and pronouncements.
Consider that while Jesus most certainly was very kind and gentle and forgiving to the woman caught in adultery (certainly one of the most beautiful stories in the Bible), that He did in fact tell her to “go and sin no more”.
I would say that the very same action and recommendation should be given to all who find themselves part of the LBGTQ+ community. God loves sinners and came to save all of us who find ourselves caught in the web of fallen and sinful lives. He doesn’t condemn us for being broken, but He does offer us a way out and tells us to “go and sin no more”.
In light of this, my problem with the efforts of Dr. Ness is that he is making the claim that there is no brokenness or moral problem with committed monogamous homosexual lifestyles – that the Bible says absolutely nothing in this regard and therefore there is nothing for God to forgive here. There is simply no need to say, “I love you, now go and sin no more”.
I’m also not quite sure why Dr. Ness draws the line with monogamy since he doesn’t accept the Biblical statements, often within the same passages as those discussing monogamy, that speak against homosexual activities? This seems inconsistent to me since it seems quite reasonable, given the arguments presented by Dr. Ness, that polygamy could also be argued as being even more consistent with God’s will and natural genetic mutations that God Himself designed. Upon what “scientific” or “religious” or “philosophical” basis does Dr. Ness draw the line at monogamy as being the clear Biblical standard where God draws the line? – when many have very strong and very “natural” polygamous tendencies?
Of course, I also have a problem with a paid representative of the Seventh-day Adventist Church, who is responsible for teaching our youth in support of the primary goals and ideals of the Church, publicly arguing that these goals and ideals are completely wrong – on the church’s dime. Such activity, even if one is totally convinced as to the error of one’s employer, is unethical since it is a form of stealing from one’s employer.
At the very least, parents who are paying a great deal of money to send their children to one of our church schools should be very well informed as to what they can expect their children to be taught at our schools and what positions the teachers at the school are publicly promoting. Providing this information to such parents is my primary purpose in responding to Dr. Ness’s publicly published article in public forum.
Do you not understand what it is like in academia? Differences of opinion among scholars is not only tolerated, it is valued. I have nothing more to say concerning your accusations. Our church has no “official” stand on this issue, if by that you mean I am disavowing my membership in the church by simply believing that gays should allow ro get married to one another. That is not even how our church operates. I can point to many other church employees who openly disagree about certain issues of belief, including this one, and congregations that are fully affirming of same-sex marriage. They are a part of the SDA church just as I am.
My concern still is more about the tone and stance of your attacks. You are attacking fellow SDAs, some of them being the most vulnerable members of our church, and you seem to have no sense of the damage you are potentially doing to these individuals. By attacking me in the fashion you are you are also attacking all those for whom I am standing up. You may want to take Jesus’ words to heart:
But whoso shall cause one of these little ones that believe on me to stumble, it is profitable for him that a great millstone should be hanged about his neck, and that he should be sunk in the depth of the sea. Matt. 18:6
I know very well what it’s like to be involved in leadership positions within the church and within academia. My own father is a retired pastor and teacher. It’s one thing to publicly present and even promote various opinions that do not directly undermine the church or school one is working for. However, it is another thing entirely to directly attack the fundamental positions of the church while being a paid representative of the church. Such activity is not at all encouraged and is, in fact, unethical – a form of theft from your employer. Sure, there are many pastors and teachers who think to do such things anyway. That doesn’t make such activities morally right. It’s still wrong to do what you are doing.